Wish You Were Here!
As the snap above reveals, my current campsite is magnifique. You can click on it to get a larger image. I had gone exploring on the e-bike and passed by a van parked in the trees near the intersection of NF-536 & NF-536A, a lengthy stub. GPS: 35.057183, -111.804945. Elev 7,129. Not far down 536A, I passed a lady walking her small mutt on a leash. After I asked about whether she’d noticed any campsites on her walk, she asked whether my bike was an e-bike, and seemed inordinately interested in e-bikes in general. Long past the time when she should normally have gone comatose from the info I was spewing, she was still asking questions. So I offered to visit their camp (at the van) on my trip back, to let them try a ride if they liked, and she said that would be great. Mind you, I’m in full regalia with an external leather shoulder harness for the Glock .40 with clips, and my Pentax DSLR on a shoulder strap. She seemed completely at ease. In Arizona, all the social justice warriors stay in university towns like Flagstaff.
The trip down 536A revealed half a dozen great, seldom-used campsites as well as long spans where slope and boulders make camping impossible. A half-mile in, there was a beautiful open area bordered by trees that I planned to camp at once my resupply trip to Flagstaff was done the next day. There are additional sites if you’re not fixated on fire rings, but you need to be able to notice faint paths and gaps in the trees. Once I hit the limit of the MVUM-approved area, I began to feel uncomfortable with the terrain, which to my suburban lore wisdom looked like classic mountain lion habitat, so I turned back. Wind that day made the use of bear spray unlikely, and while the .40 can be effective, you’re pushing its limits with that large a critter in close proximity. So far, I’ve found that a pretty high percentage of the people who regularly camp out in such areas stow a pistol somewhere in the rig, in the unlikely event that it might be needed. Their focus is in dealing with the occasional crazies, thieves or meth-heads, while mine is in dealing with belligerent furry beasts. As tent campers and hikers in Yellowstone can attest, it’s not good to feel/be helpless should the unlikely actually occur. Thus it pays to approach any remote camp with due process. It’s a respect thing.
This I did, and the couple welcomed me with a big wave in. What a very nice couple, and easy to talk to! Their interest in an e-bike was based on age, and the guy had trashed his hip in a bad car accident and had been told he’d never walk again. But there he was. Still, the $6 garage sale bicycle he had wasn’t cutting it, and he needed a strong power assist. He’d previously owned an electric scooter and a gas-engine cruiser bike conversion, but he was as hesitant about stowing leaky, venting gasoline containers onboard as I am, and gas bikes are more suited to flat terrain. His bride was simply feeling the detriments of the aging process, and they both basically wanted to do what I was doing that day: leave camp to explore a bit. Neither would actually try the Aurora bike for fear of damaging it in a mishap, but I answered every question they had before departing. The woman had mentioned that her dogs (2) normally bark and growl at strangers, but were completely nonchalant about my presence both on the trail and in camp, which goes to show you that dogs can often be poor judges of character.
Turns out they were just about to break camp to head back to Flagstaff, and recommended their site to me. Given that spectacular view, it didn’t take much deliberation on my part to get back here once my provisioning errands were done the next day. Really, the aura here in all directions is supremely inviting, and that goes for the entire area. It’s a Wow. The cellular signal here is 2 of 4 bars (workable but slow), and the sun is limited to 9AM-4PM due to the trees.
I’m having a mystery situation with the Dometic/Waeco compressor fridge feeling duty-bound to stay running for very long periods and being inconsistent with its thermostat, so the only questions about this site are about how much sun is enough sun, and is there a thermostat setting that strikes a balance. So this site is an Official Strolling Amok clipboard and lab coat test to see if I can avoid breaking out the ground panels – though I have to admit, the other wide-open site a quarter-mile away down 536A is just as pleasant despite the relative lack of view. If I can find a workaround for the fridge weirdness in a timely way, I can avoid a distinctly unpleasant visit to a service center in Flagstaff.
Back to topic, the roads to get here are in quite good shape, and there’s no point in having 4WD unless it’s been raining a bunch. What can get you here is vehicle overhang. There are several water flow dips along the way, the worst of which cleared the cargo box by half a foot. Trailer setups vary so much in ground clearance that, while the Defiant wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance, a modestly-sized high-clearance trailer probably would. Motorhomes won’t make it, no. Wherever you wander on this network of trails, I highly recommend tracking your location with an interactive MVUM on a smartphone or tablet equipped with a GPS sensor. There’s no point in risking a citation outside of approved areas, since many former campsites that look good are now invalid. Rangers do patrol here. There’s a stringent fire warning in effect, as previously mentioned, and that even extends to no target shooting, so it’s very quiet up here. Current highs are mid-sixties, my favorite, with forecast lows in the mid-thirties, which is not. But it’s so darn pleasant here that I don’t particularly care. Did I mention that it’s nice here?