Miracle of Miracles
Pulling into NF-535 well south of Flagstaff did not look promising as far as finding a full-sun campsite goes. Heck, finding any campsite still available looked impossible. Every niche in the woods and every open-air site was packed with rigs or groups of rigs, as well as all the tents and canopies you could hope to see in a lifetime. That’s Memorial Day weekend, I figure. Still, I pressed onward and upward, literally.
By the time I reached what I like to call the upper plateau where the sites thin out, impressively large clusters of the Hispanic community were encamped, and youngsters on ATVs were roaming the trail to relieve the boredom of a long camping weekend with parents. Camps were set up in legal areas as well as beside water tanks, down closed trails, way more than 300′ from the road, and who knows where else. I imagine that the Rangers just give up on holidays like this. I passed three inoperative ATVs beside the gravel road in less than two miles, their owners and circles of friends trying to diagnose the problems. One father was trying to nurse his ailing mount back to camp, his two small daughters sitting behind him completely unconcerned. Thing is, all their small and simple ATVs looked like more fun than the big enclosing cages of the fancy ones back at Cinder Hill. Wherever you wander here, this is an ATV weekend.
When I finally got to the primo site I previously stayed at, it was inhabited by a vehicle and a tent, which was not surprising. To this point, I had not seen a single campsite (that I was aware of) uninhabited. Amazing. I turned down 536A, which is a more challenging, narrower trail, my hope dimming somewhat, but not extinguished. As the Intrepid lumbered over a cattle guard a half-mile further, viola! The open area was completely vacant! O happy day!
There’s a forlorn-looking fire ring there, and I rolled off the road and across an expanse of thin grass and dried mud to get out and tread carefully amongst the aging cowpies, rabbit pellets and shattered shards of dry wood. My intent was to set the rig to face into the wind, as well as to maximize sun exposure, but the wind seemed to shift from one moment to the next, so I settled for a reasonable orientation with as little morning tree shade as possible. For whatever reason, the wind here (forecast at 25 MPH) is not as strong as at Cinder Hill, so that’s another plus. There have been occasional Jeeps and ATVs cruising up and down the road, but not nearly enough to dampen the basic solitude of this site.
There are two notable cautions on this spot. The first is that any significant rainfall would make getting in or out of this site a tricky affair. The nature of the dirt here makes that obvious. The second is that the cellular Internet connection here is present but so slow that you can nearly hear it creaking. You might get away with watching online videos, and you might not. I was able to upload the two small photos in this post with some difficulty, and to type this out, but the signal itself comes and goes. Not the place to try to make a living from the Internet. GPS: 35.050982, -111.802911. Elevation 7,174′.
A pleasant place to camp? I think so. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t! After the dust binge at Cinder Hill, I made it a point to take on enough water to wash the fabric wall and hopefully get all of it off before it can grind its way into the surface. Given the sun and perfect temperatures, staying here until the new batteries arrive in town should not exactly be a trial!
[Update: The other part of the joyful bizarreness is that my recalcitrant Dometic compressor fridge/freezer, having been left off for a week, has been operating like Day One since it was turned on again. It now uses normal thermostat settings, reaches temps promptly even with a fresh load of groceries, and cycles normally. Go figure. That saves me quite a bit of angst and money. These are good days indeed.]