Maybe it’s the arrival of the monsoon season. Or, it could be the relaxed pace of the dog days of summer. Either way, there’s no mistaking that the Arizona State football team will soon begin preparations for its annual trip to Camp Tontozona in the Tonto National Forest near Payson.
The Sun Devils, under the direction of second-year head coach Todd Graham, will visit Camp Tontozona from Aug. 12-17. The camp will culminate with the annual scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 17.
The ASU Athletic Department spearheaded the successful “Return to Camp T” campaign one year ago that resulted in the Devils’ first trip to the mountain retreat since 2008.
Upon arriving on the Arizona State campus, it didn’t take Coach Graham long to recognize the importance of Camp Tontozona to Sun Devil fans. “I’ve stated many times that I love the traditions of college football,” said Graham. “Camp Tontozona for ASU is one of those iconic traditions. I want to take my teams to Camp T because that is where the tradition and the season begins. Coach Frank Kush had a vision and it worked out very well. I want to perpetuate that tradition.”
It’s easy to understand why ASU fans have a special place in their hearts for Camp T. Pine-covered mountains skirt the camp, contributing much of the beauty to the area with clear-running Tonto Creek just a moment’s walk from the practice field. The bubbling springs on the camp property have long been a natural spot for a cold drink or a refreshing whirlpool after practice. Waterfalls and swimming holes in the creek are also popular with Sun Devil players.
Wildlife is another prominent aspect of the Tontozona experience. Deer, bears and skunks roaming the surrounding country are not uncommon. Just minutes away by car are other attractions such as Zane Grey’s cabin, the site that inspired many of the famous author’s Western novels, the spectacular Mogollon Rim and its breathtaking view, and countryside that provides a haven for many types of outdoor activity.