September 9, 2011

Woods Canyon Camping Weekend

This is our third summer in Arizona. During our first summer, we went back into hibernation after a month or so of enjoying the daylight hours of May and June and withstood the hottest summer ever with only a one day respite in Woods Canyon Lake because we had just moved in the spring. We escaped for a month last summer visiting friends and family in the east. This summer, we took two extended weekends in the north, where the higher elevation means much cooler temperatures. For four days in July, our family spent four days at Woods Canyon Lake camping in our brand new "Big Agnes" tent. Yes, after about a year of discussions and prayers regarding whether to save up for an RV or not, we decided 'not' mainly because it would involved buying a second vehicle with actual towing capability. After seeing how cramped everything and everyone was on just a four day stay, however, the plan to get a bigger vehicle is back and we are just biding our time for the right vehicle at the right price.

Woods Canyon Lake is about 2 hours from the Phoenix metro area. The lake was made, like pretty much all lakes in Arizona, by damming a river. Poor river. It hovers on the edge of the Mogollon rim, which is part of the Colorado plateau several thousand feet above sea level. Because it is so close to Phoenix, it is a very popular day trip and is pretty noisy and crowded around the lake on the weekends. There are about three or four hiking trails in the area, so if that is your interest, you might want to go somewhere else for anything but a long weekend. The main ctivity encouraged, really, is fishing.

Our kids, before the trip, LOVED fishing, causing us to get fishing rods for everyone except me, who does NOT like fishing, at Walmart. However, after an hour of fishing on the first day with no results, most kids lost interest. Fortunately, there are a lot of crawdads also in the lake, which are an invasive species. They are more gullible than the fish and will go for anything that looks remotely like food and, as an added bonus, like to stay near the edge of the water, which means a piece of hot dog placed on a skewer in the water near the edge is sufficient to catch a crawdad. This activity entertained the kids for a long time. Kyle was the resident expert as he had just spent a day at Boy Scout camp catching crawdads and "helped" his siblings get good at catching crawdads. The crawdads were not turned into dinner, however.

The two hikes we made that weekend were a ranger-guided hike one morning and a three mile walk around the lake the next afternoon. The ranger-led tour was pretty short, but entertaining. Ranger Bob knows his stuff. He pointed out peaks of interest and other topological features and then took us around to look for native plants, talking a lot about the Ponderosa Pines that cover the mountains, as well as other native plants. He also runs tours along another trail that we attended two years ago. The second day, after lunch, we walked completely around the lake, which involved a brief thunderstorm and a detour around an eagle's nesting grounds. It also involves tender, green grass which is non-existent in our neck of the desert. The kids were great on both hikes.

The weather was gorgeous. Every morning was bright and sunny and cool enough to need a light jacket. Every afternoon, it stormed. Rain doesn't seem like a great thing to those living in the Midwest or, especially now, the East Coast. However, to someone living in the desert, rain is beautiful and getting wet is a luxury. The rain would end just in time to start a fire for the night so we could have s'mores.

We stayed at Aspen Campgrounds, which has sites for both RVs and tents. If you need to take showers every day, this is NOT your cup o'. All they have are pit toilets, though the cleanest and least smelly pit toilets I have EVER encountered. I rarely even saw a bug, though one lady told me that a mouse was crawling around during her first visit. Water spigots are very conveniently located Many tent sites had shower tents set up along with the eating tents and sleeping tents. Because it was so cool in the mornings and evenings, we just made do with washing our feet, which became very muddy with the rain--the only downside.

When we were at our site when it wasn't raining, the kids were playing among the boulders. I brought knitting and knitted a washcloth while we were there. Elizabeth crocheted. We played "The Dilbert" card game one afternoon in the tent while waiting out a storm. My favorite memory is of John waking me up on the last morning just as daylight was blooming to use the pit toilet. As we walked the 100 yards or so, I happened to look around and found seven deer checking out a nearby campsite. The closest one was about 10 feet from us. They all paused to eye us warily, but didn't run away when they saw us continuing to move away from them. By the time John and I had both used the facilities, the deer had disappeared.

NOTE: This was delayed because I have been trying to get a "movie" I created by Picaso uploaded and have been frustrated. If I get it working, I will post it separately.

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