29 July 2010

Big Lake Arizona: Easy

You've got to start your own family traditions in life.  You've got to find your own favorite places.

I thought when I moved to Arizona I had left behind the mossy, wet, boggy, lake filled land of Northern Wisconsin I had vacationed to in youth with mom and dad.  I thought I had left behind the pristine Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota and Canada I'd taken canoe camping trips to over the years totaling 7 weeks in that rugged wilderness.  I thought I had to travel days to get to wide grassy alpine valleys with herds of elk and Ponderosa Pine and Aspen topped mountains like I had camped in Eastern Oregon.  I thought I had to be in Vail Colorado to see a mountain sheep strut choppily across the road.  I thought I had to be on Isle Royale in Lake Superior I backpacked solo 20yrs ago to hear wolves chanting yowls late at night.  All of these places are miraculously summed up in the Eastern White Mountains of Arizona; the areas surrounding the towns of Eager, Showlow, Pinetop and Greer.

I'm still in disbelief.  For ten years I've traveled through the western segment of the White Mountains through areas like Payson, Prescott and Jerome.  I'd describe those forests as arid pine.  Widely spaced white pines with few water features.  At the same latitude in New Mexico north of Silver City along the Gila river:  arid pine.

I and Jane's mission was to explore.  Our long range plan, once we finish with our house, is to save and start building a cabin in the mountains.  Somewhere close that we can take weekend trips to during the hot summer here.  That paradise studio cabin writers and artists wish for.  For us desert dwellers, a high temp of 70 and low of 50 degrees was paradise.

We took a chance on group camping at Big Lake. When you don't know an area, you need to start somewhere.  The campsites were widespread, we had a lake view, 10 pm quiet time, ice and firewood at the harbor store, toilet facilities, and if we wanted, hot showers at the special 'gated community' campground.  Most people were out to fish.  It's only trout in this lake.  Apache, Lake, Cutthroat Trout.  I won't bore you with all the wildlife I saw but I did see an amanita muscaria mushroom whose top must have been 10 inches in diameter.  I thought it was a stranded red frisbee from afar.

I think we may have the only Toyota Scion that ever made the trip to this lake.  15 miles of gravel road.  Well maintained road you don't need 4WD for (chuckles inwardly.)  Everyone had giant diesel pickups or hardier SUV's.  On the drive home, we could gauge how close we were to civilization by how many sedans we spotted.

Anyway, it was great fun and really easy camping.  Lot's of open space for the dogs to run around, great facilities but lot's of rain.  Be prepared for that if you go this time of year, it pretty much rains everyday (never bought firewood in my life, had to this time, everything in the woods was soaked to the bone.)  Big brilliant thunderstorms that creep up on the 9000 ft altitude quickly.  My most magical moment was late at night in the field near our campsite, full moon glowing behind the clouds so I could just make out my dogs frolicking silhouettes and the strobe-light lightening of a passing thunderstorm periodically lighting up everything like day.

Just a note:  my 100th blog since 11/20/06

No comments: