Friday, July 24, 2009

An oasis of cool

We are at a
dispersed camp site in the Sitgreaves National Forest, off Arizona 260 (map). We are right on the Mogollon Rim, at about 7,600', and it was a downright chilly 65° when we arrived yesterday around 5:30. We slept with most of the windows closed last night for the first time in weeks.

I had expected that we would stay on US-60 after Show Low, descending rapidly to Globe and spending the night somewhere in the Tonto National Forest. That was the route recommended by Street Atlas on my computer, and since we are now under a little time pressure, I was just going with the "fastest route" recommendation.

When we plugged Westworld into the Garmin GPS, however, it recommended we divert in Show Low onto Arizona 260, which will connect in Payson to Arizona 87 and bring us in from the north. In addition to being some 20 miles shorter, this route keeps us at much higher elevations for more of the distance, and so we were able to spend the night at this wonderfully cool spot.

There are quite a few forest roads off AZ-260, and we might have chosen any of them, but our Days End guide talked about this one specifically. I suppose the fact that it is well-enough known to be in the guide should have told us it is a popular spot -- we can see seven other rigs from our spot here, and a little exploration yesterday evening reveals that there are dozens of rigs, and even numerous tent campers here. We, clearly, are not the only ones escaping the heat. I can only imagine it will get even more crowded this evening, with the onset of the weekend.

We actually selected one of the closest sites to the highway, since we are just passing through. If we were going to spend a week or two (which would be lovely right now), we'd make our way another couple miles deeper into the forest, where I would expect the camper density to be much lower. Where we are sitting right now is much more like a free campground than the true dispersed camping we love so much.

Our niece's first performance is this afternoon, so as pleasant and cool as it is here, we nevertheless must get underway no later than noon, so as to be settled in quarters at Westworld in plenty of time to get the scooters out and head over to the rink. The forecast says it will be 103° when we arrive, climbing to 106° tomorrow, 110° on Sunday, and 112° on Monday should we elect to stay until then -- likely, since we have scheduled some follow-up work on the turbocharger in Mesa. We'll see how we feel on Sunday after our nieces leave -- we might come right back up here to the cooler elevations.

No matter what, we will be at Westworld until at least mid-day on Sunday. If we stay in the Phoenix region beyond that, we will move over to one of the Elks lodges, where power is a bit less expensive. Today I expect we will have a lovely drive down through the forest. Yesterday's drive through the high country was magnificent as well; US-60 is lightly traveled and the landscape is naturally beautiful and mostly devoid of civilization.

Opal, not looking much like an oasis of "cool."

"Yo! Cats are way cooler than dogs."

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