I didn’t expect to come home a day early, reeking of coffee. But that’s what happened.
Lessons learned on this trip:
1. Just because you can, does not mean that you should.
2. It is very easy to get lost on Forest Service trails! That could be dangerous. Really. Kind of like cute woodland creatures, just because it’s pretty doesn’t mean it’s safe.
3. Take the time to highlight the route on your paper map. GPS will take you the shortest or quickest route, but often it is not the best route (and on the forest road, can be a dangerous route, or just end you up in the middle of nowhere cuz it got confused).
4. Just because someone gives you directions, doesn’t mean they are correct. Same with their coordinates. Double check on your own map and highlight the route.
5. Bring extras of essentials. Like turnbuckles that will strand you if they break.
6. That goodness for those brown Forest Service signs. But don’t count on them to be there!
7. Do one thing at a time. And when things start going wrong, slow down. (I did those! )
I started this unexpected three-day weekend with a visit to a friend in Flagstaff. My plan was to pop-up in his driveway, but he had a guest room! Fancy! The dogs had a grand time. His pup and Argos are pretty evenly matched in size and age, so they romped for hours.
Pugsly got a chew to gnaw!
Thursday morning started with a “meh” breakfast at a restaurant en route. But it filled me up, and because they had forgotten about me sitting outside with the pups on their patio, my waitress didn’t charge for my coffee. I gave her a good tip.
My first plan of action was to drive up to Cottonwood Canyon, UT to scope out a possible location for a Fall campering gathering. I headed up toward Page and stopped at the atrocity known as the “Glen Canyon Damn”
It wasn’t too much further to the turn off for Cottonwood Canyon. I saw a number of vehicles on that dirt road while I was on my trek. I didn’t realize it was so popular.
That’s Paria River there. River. Yah. Welcome to arid land.
I keep forgetting to take pictures of this little guy, but he’s the fourth* doggie on these road trips. Doesn’t have a name yet tho.
*Pugsly, Argos, the stuffed dog inside the camper Dumpling who has traveled with me since 4th grade, and this guy
After arriving at the location where our coordinates led, I wasn’t impressed. There was only room for one or two vehicles, and heavy power lines lined the road up further. (Apparently, according to Trip Advisor I should have kept going. Although, while lovely, it doesn’t look like there are any larger areas to set up group camp.)
I backtracked to check out an area that I’d passed that looked promising. Hard to get perspective, but there’s a fire ring up behind my truck a short ways. Perhaps….
It would have been ideal to camp there. I really like the open spaces, and the stars are probably amazing there, but temps were hovering in the 90’s and felt like it was getting hotter. Too damn hot. And Pugsly, the snug-nosed, is definitely not fond of the dry heat. So, we skedaddled to my Friday night planned location. I figured, if it was nice, I’d just stay there til Sunday.
I don’t know when this fire happened, up in the Kaibab forest East of Kanab, but it was huge. Not much in the way of Aspens still.
The Forest Service roads out to the North Rim Crazy Jug point weren’t supposed to be too difficult. This is where the lessons at the top kick in (pretty much all of them). I ended up paying attention to my on-board Navigation instead of re-reading the directions I had written down (which were actually two roads more than necessary, I found on my way out this morning).
Looks pretty and fairly benign, right?
Instead of taking NF 22 NF 206 NF 425 NF (something else I wrote down takes ya to the point), I ended up on NF 214, which turned out to be a crazy 4×4, with occasional need for Low, super narrow at times, unproductive 15 miles round trip waste of around 2 hours. (that said, it would have been fun if I hadn’t been focused on gas and not getting lost)
I didn’t get a lot of photos, because I was concentrating on driving and not getting lost.
Got our share of “Arizona Pin-striping”… oh, I guess it’s “Utah Pin-striping”!
I also picked up a branch later on!
Good thing that layer of dirt is protecting my paint!
I went round trip on that road. Wish I’d gotten some pics of the more harrowing areas. There was also one darker section that was so buggy, I had to roll up the windows. I felt like I was in that scary forest in The Wizard of Oz where we first see The Flying Monkeys.
After backtracking the whole way, I considered just going to find a pay campsite at that Park Service sanctions site off of Hwy 87. Then I saw a sign for NF 22… It was wide and nicely graded… so I decided to give it a shot. I think I was past the logical thinking part of the day.
I took NF22 the 10.5 miles my original instructions said, found NF 206 and turned onto it for a mile. I had to backtrack and actually put NF425 into my Navigation – and it found it! A half-mile back… NF425 was pretty long, and I was running the mantra “this better be worth it” over and over in my head, while keeping an eye on my gas level.
Hey look! A sign! Holy cow, I was super surprised that this was actually going to work out. I’d thought perhaps I could ask someone at some point, but I hadn’t seen another person since I left closer to the paved, where there were a few campers parked back in amongst the trees. (I wish I’d gotten a pic of the weird painted green school bus that had found it’s way reasonably far in. It was painted with “Yawway”(sic) and a few other religious words. I’m glad I wasn’t camped near them. Talk about creepy)
It was a little tricksy finding a spot. Out at the point itself were signed tacked to trees declaring “No Camping Here”. At first I was tempted to just set up, because it’s a pretty out-of-the-way place. But I thought better of it, when I considered that a Forest Ranger might just come knocking at my door after dark and scare the crap out of me… and my bear spray….
There was a ‘four way’ where four forest roads met. Obviously, I took one in, one went to the Point, and the other two? I explored down one and found a pull-in with a fire ring.
So, I set up camp there. It wasn’t level, and after trying various variations of levelers and angles, I gave up. Turned out to be pretty okay, if a bit angled towards the back. But side-to-side was level.
Fatigues is dangerous and also something to be very aware of (difficult if you are the fatigued person!) I put rocks under the tires (I’m still paranoid about rolling off the edge of cliffs when I camp at them), got the camper popped up, set up, and the dogs inside… and I kept misplacing things. Like my water bottle that I just had in my hand. Or the dog food lid I’d just taken off and set down.
Even though this was my view from my campsite, I started to get anxious and the Fear was starting to creep in “alone… twisty roads… cliff… alone….”
and out my camper window!
I had gone past hungry, but knew I needed to eat. I had a little chunk of Trader Joe’s Blueberry Goat’s Milk Cheese (http://www.traderjoesreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/blueberry-vanilla-chevre.jpg ) and crackers (seriously, if you haven’t had this cheese, go out to your TJ’s right now and get some. It’s delicious and it keeps the existential heebie jeebies at bay) I also made some minty tea and felt a bit better.
There was sagebrush near my door, so I breathed in a few huge gulps to clear my senses of the days stress.
Hey! There’s the fire pit. And that’s how close to the North Rim I was camped! Whoa!
My Four Wheel Camper in North Rim glory
The dogs weren’t as impressed.
My view from reclining position after sunset. Not too shabby
Since I had a lovely view of the not-so-spectacular sunrise, but could see the amazing sunset last night peeking through the trees, I decided to check out another potential campering spot just up the road and around the bend. Before I did that, it was time for breakfast! This is where lesson #7 up there comes first into play. I had too many things going on: feed the dogs, make coffee, make breakfast, clear dishes…. And that’s when the full cup of beautifully dripped dark, steaming, delicious coffee got knocked over and spilled into my stove, and cascaded down onto the floor. I got it all cleaned up, learned my lesson, and started all over – one thing at a time. I ate, put the various food stuff away, then made my second cup of coffee.
Before breaking camp, I did my Good Campering Maintenance and checked the turn-buckles. Imagine my surprise when the rear left turnbuckle itself was loose (driver’s side, the one that had previously had a dramatic loose fastener and I put blue Loctite on it a few weeks ago) and imagine my Fear when I found the left front one completely off! Of course, it was the difficult to reach one. I got down on my belly, not realizing that coffee had spilled on the carpet… and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out why the fastener kept slipping off when I thought I’d hooked it?!? Finally, in a stroke of pure mechanical genius, I decided to take the turnbuckle out and see what the heck.
This was what the heck.
and I immediately remembered my not-done shopping list that was still stuck to my dashboard.
I went to lesson # 7 again. Okay, who knows when this broke. I could have been driving lopsided for a while. I had no cell signal and a SPOT but hell if I was going to Alert for this! Not while the camper was still on the truck! (ahem)
I gathered my wits, made an assessment, made sure the remaining three turnbuckles were tight, and decided to leave. It’s Saturday. As much as I wanted to say, “hey, it ain’t gonna fix itself, might as well just enjoy this spot and stay over again” … it’s Saturday. Which means tomorrow is Sunday. I wasn’t going to risk a store being closed cuz I was stupid enough to stay over at this pretty place for another sunset. I got packed up and started to head out.
Remember that four-way forest road intersection I mentioned a short while ago? Well, I got there and couldn’t remember which way I’d turned in my fatigued state. Fatigue can screw you up at the time it’s happening, and even the next day! I felt an adrenaline rush and The Fear started to creep in. Oh fcuk. Oh fcuk. I knew it was about 25 miles back to pavement of Hwy 67, and wasn’t sure how far to the cute North Rim Country Store I’d passed the previous day. I pictured myself, afloat at sea, stranded on some random FR10365, out of gas, and with no one in sight.
I had pulled out my Kaibab Forest map, but wasn’t able to find these roads at all.That goes back to Lessons # 3 and 4. I shoulda pulled that map out with a highlighter marker or at least some marking removable tape (so I could use map again) before I left the house.
I took a few breaths and remembered that I’d put in FR425 into my Navigation yesterday and it had found it nicely! I searched my history, plugged it in, and skeptically followed it’s lead. Since it had led me so far astray yesterday, I was still nervous that I would end up stranded… but it led me right to a nicely graded FR425! WOOT! I wasn’t going to have to SPOT call in the cavalry! YAY! WHEW! Whoa. Be better f-ing prepared, Dawn! I thought I was… but I was not.
The sign itself was not blurry. This is where I had a decision to make. Go the 18 miles to the paved Hwy 67 and hope the Country Store was close, or take dirt the 33 miles(!) to Fredonia where there was a gas station?
I’d been crawling along at about 3 – 10 mph for an hour at this point. Every bump making me worry about the camper sliding off my truck. I stopped and checked the three turnbuckles every ten miles, to be certain. The right side ones were solid (!) and that poor one on the left needed tightening frequently, but was holding. (in retrospect, and after reading about turnbuckle tightening on the FWC site, I wonder if I should have moved that one to the front left – closer to the cab?)
I opted for pavement. I figured that at least if I run out of gas there, or if something more drastic happens with the camper, I’ll be where other people regularly travel. I hated the thought of getting stranded on the FR roads. (I did see two trucks – loaded with quads – on FR22 a few miles later.)
Oh! My tree branch! It decided to come along for a ride. Argos was a bit confused by it.
Come to think of it, I think there’s still a piece wedged in behind my awning. Will need to remember to get that out.
Turned out the North Rim Country Store was a few steps away from where I eventually exited FR22! Only took me about 1.5 hrs for the 30 miles (better than my 2 hrs for 15 miles yesterday!)
I gassed up at $2.80(!) and talked to the nice folks working there. They told me that my best bet was to go back to Kanab (some 62 miles backtracking). They told me where to find the True Value, and if they didn’t have what I needed there was some other hardware store just up the road. That seemed to be my only option, so off I went back to Kanab.
Luckily, it was an uneventful drive back and I easily found the True Value. They had different turnbuckles, but who was I to argue? Unfortunately, the hook part is smaller, so I can’t just interchange parts.
Funny story. Many moons ago, a boyfriend was using my tools and lost my 16mm shorty from my set. I told him it was fine as long as he replaced it. He never did.
I also never replaced it because in reality, it was rare that I needed a 16mm shorty….
Neither True Value nor the hardware store just up the road had a 16mm shorty, so I tightened it the best I could with an adjustable, and set out for ?
I was considering camping over near Lake Powell on a beach area that a friend of mine had recommended. He said that it was lesser used (but still often quite crowded), pretty, and had a big Lone Rock in the middle of the water. Perhaps up a Utah mountain? And I vaguely considered going over to my beloved Valley of the Gods… But the dogs didn’t seem happy about the heat – especially Pugsly, she doesn’t do good in heat – I decided to head back towards Flagstaff, see how we were all feeling, and make a decision then. There are a bunch of spots up in that neck of the woods (so to speak) that are nice, higher elevation, camping areas. But by the time I got to gassing up in Flag, I decided to just get us home. I wasn’t convinced that the new turnbuckle was going to hold (it did) and that nagging my mind made me not want to try more ‘adventures’ right now.
There is time for more adventuring – with spare turnbuckles and better pre-mapping any remote locations.