Still stranded for another day, we packed up everything and we continued our way North, keeping with our original plan... roughly.
Breakfast time.... before packing up and hitting the road again.
|Shelf stable milk (doesn't need refrigeration) and blueberry granola cereal packed from home in a re-purposed heavy plastic container|
Because Chiricahua didn't have bathrooms, showers, etc. and didn't allow solar showers either, I had previously booked 1 night tent camping at a campground in the Grand Canyon so we could use their pay showers. ($2 for 8 minutes) which would have been our only shower that week. That reservation was still in place, but not until Wednesday evening so we had Monday and Tuesday to travel, look for another camp site and to do the cave exploration we had planned.
Our drive was completely open with no plan except to head northwest to get north of Flagstaff to where the cave was. Having never really 'visited' Arizona before (we've driven through it... but it's never been an actual destination before) we had no idea where to go or what to see (since at this point the original plan had been to be hiking and camping in the Chiricahua area...).
What a surprise we had... The Tonto National Forest. Breathtakingly beautiful. We had no idea the colors could be this vivid... seriously. No filters or color enhancers. Most of these pictures were snapped on my cellphone, and others on the camera as my daughter took some pictures - while we were driving. As in... through the window. Still so incredibly gorgeous.
We didn't have time to stop long - we actually wanted to hike to see the cliff dwellings in that area but we would be pushing it as we had to get a few hours north yet and try to find a place to make camp.
Good thing we didn't dwaddle. We had a rough time finding a place to make camp and sleep. We traveled some insane forest roads, saw supposed 'dispersed' camping spots only to see they were literally a tiny asphalt pull out about 2 feet off of a busy road. Found non-existent lakes that were dried up prairie land, endured dust storms, fire alerts and fire hazard conditions... we finally found a place to call home for the night.
This is actually our 'least' favorite camping spot of the whole trip. It was fairly busy with a lot of other campers in the area and it was rocky and uneven. The deep (deep!) ruts in the road were difficult to maneuver with the car as some were almost 2 feet deep - and the sharp, large rocks in the area also made it difficult to manage. But we chose this site in part because it was getting late and needed to set up camp and didn't have any better options at the time - and because of the view.
We decided waking up to the view in the morning with our hot coffee would be worth it. (And it was... I guess.)
But the other thing about the site that I saw AFTER I had pulled the car up, parked and started to set up camp.. the glass and nails. What kind of stupid-ass losers do this!? Seriously. It's like the idiots sat around their campfire and threw an entire case of beer bottles on the ground just to watch them explode, left them there, then threw a couple handfuls of nails in the pathway of the cars just for fun. And maybe they did. But boy was I pissed. Some of those shards of glass were 2-3 inches big - mostly embedded in the ground just enough to hold them tight in place with the sharp edges pointed up to puncture a tire. And if the glass didn't get ya, the nails would. Now, I could see if morons had brought in some pallet or used wood to burn that had nails in it (Ok - stupid, but whatever) but then the nails would be IN the firepit. But they weren't. So they would have had to pull them out of the fire ring and toss them in an 8 foot long radius right where a car or truck would pull in to set up camp.
So... a big 'fuck you' to the people that do that.
Anyway! Where was I? (On my 4th cup of hot, strong, black coffee this morning so I might be prone to getting off topic... it's just the coffee talking again.)
One thing we didn't know - cattle roam the national forests in these states. So we obviously didn't know what the noises were in the middle of the night (the deep, dark, pitch black, cold night) when I heard someone walking, then many 'walkers' and then heard something LARGE right next to our tent - and it start to 'chuff' and snort. Talk about terrifying. There are bears, cougars, bobcats, etc. in these woods... so at the time I had no idea what was outside the tent. Remember it was pitch black outside. You couldn't see anything at all; and when I was peeking through the zipper of the tent I still couldn't see even with the moonlight. It was all 'noise' in the deep, dark of night.
I listened as a large group of something passed literally through our camp - within inches of our tent - and then crossed to the almost-dried-up 'lake' across from us; which apparently was their watering hole. I was thankful to hear them slowly moving on about an hour later. In the morning we were greeted with prints in the dirt within inches of our tent, and many fresh cow pies near the waters edge.
Our own private bathroom set up.
I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again. Before this trip I'd never bothered with a portable camp toilet or privacy tent. I bought it this time and debated right up until the last second if it was worth packing and taking with us, as I debated the space needed for every little thing we packed.
OMG YES. This thing ended up being AWESOME to have with us.
It's fairly cheap, folds up pretty flat, doesn't weight much and we said over and over again
how absolutely happy we were that we decided to invest in one this time.
It's a MUST HAVE on our car tent camping trips from here on out.
(Links to some of the items I bought are at the bottom of this post)
Reliance Products Fold-To-Go Collapsible Portable Toilet
We set up camp just in time to make dinner...
So... it went down to about 33 degrees that night. Our toes were numb. LOL.
You might be interested in these affiliate links to the items related to this to post that I purchased for this trip. You might be able to find some of them locally but if you can't, I bought mine through Amazon and as of this posting they are still available:
Boshen Portable Privacy Tent Shelter Bathing Fitting Room with Window and Carrying bag(Green)
Reliance Products Fold-To-Go Collapsible Portable Toilet
Biodegradable Poop Bags | XL Cat Litter/X-Large Dog Waste Bags, Vegetable-Based & Eco-Friendly, Premium Thickness & Leak Proof, Easy-Tie Handles, Supports Rescues
Reliance Double Doodie Toilet Waste Bag 6 Pack
Cleanwaste Mini Bulk Poo Powder Waste Treatment - 55 Scoops