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Camping with Friends Near Payson

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Payson


For the last few weeks I have been wandering around northern Arizona and camping with friends near Flagstaff. The friends I have been camping with are basically all ladies. Some of them became friends at the women’s RTR and some of them met when they joined one of the caravans that formed after the RTR. It works out well to travel in a group. It allows you to have companionship, learn from each other about this lifestyle, and feel a certain amount of safety. The group is always in a state of flux with people joining and then drifting away to do their own thing. I’m not sure how I became part of their tribe but you can imagine the teasing I get from my siblings being the only male in a group of females. I can assure you that we are all just friends and enjoy each other’s company.

Two weeks ago I moved over to Winslow to camp at McHood City park and do a little kayaking. I spent a week there and went kayaking several times. McHood Park is basically a parking lot campground with only a few small trees. There is however dumpsters for trash and flush toilets. The main draw is the Clear Creek that cuts a beautiful gorge across the landscape and creates a fun place to kayak for three miles. The river is dammed below the campground so the water is still and peaceful.

After a week at McHood Park I heard from a couple of the group that they would like me to show them where I camp in Payson. Payson makes a good location to transition from the cool summer altitude in Northern Arizona to the warm winter climate in Southern Arizona.

The Tribe

There are a lot of people that like to camp near Sedona this time of year. Several places near Sedona and Cottonwood that we used to enjoy for dispersed camping are being closed down. It only takes a few people that leave piles of trash and set up homesteads in the camping areas that spoil it for the rest of us. With so many people trying to squeeze into the remaining spots, we figured that exploring another place would be worth a try.

There are two places near Payson where I like to camp. Neither of them are large enough to hold the whole group that plans to come, so I explored a forest road northeast of town and found two campsites next to each other. The area is not as pretty as the tall pines around Flagstaff and some of the sites have trash left in them, but with slightly warmer temperatures, it should work for a few days.

Pictures to come when I get a better connection.

Solar Shower

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Woods Canyon Lake above Payson.

One thing I miss while boondocking in the summer is a nice warm shower any time I want. I don’t like to light my hot water tank every time I want to use a little hot water, and mostly I don’t like to burn propane to heat that water. Propane is one of the remaining luxury’s I can’t seem to give up in my quest to becoming completely independent of fossil fuel while I’m camped. My stove, fridge, and furnace all use propane, but the biggest use in the summer is my hot water heater. I could probably increase my solar capacity and eliminate the gas burning appliances by switching them to electric but for now I keep looking for practical ways to be a little more green.

For a few years I used a solar shower bag to heat water free with the sun. It worked ok but the bags didn’t seem to last very long and I had to put up and store the bag and tubing after each move. I wanted something more permanent that I could leave on the roof and connect up quickly. I was watching YouTube one day and saw how some people had used large plastic pipe on the roof of their vehicles to heat water in the sun for a shower. I decided to make one.

Black pipe really draws the heat from the sun.

Most of the projects were made with 4” pipe but I calculated that 3” would give me plenty of capacity for what I needed. They also used air pumps to pressurize the water for a forceful spray. I thought that gravity from the roof of my RV would be adequate.

My 10 foot pipe holds a little over 3.5 gallons. I pump the water up to the pipe from a fitting on my outside shower faucet. After a couple hours the water is hot enough for a nice long shower. Right now I run the hose down into my bathroom shower but I could run it outside if I was in a place without people around. It was working great with one exception- if I left the water in the pipe too long it would become scorching hot in the Arizona sun.

Mixing hose from my RV shower.

I solved the overheating problem yesterday by connecting a hose from my house shower to the solar shower with a mixing T. Now if the water gets too hot I can bleed in a little cold from my pump. I also installed a valve where I can catch the overheated water for dishes and washing out a few articles of clothes.

So far it seems to be working fine. It is definitely not for drinking as who knows what chemicals are in the pipe. If I leave water in the pipe for a couple days it takes on the smell of plastic. I have not installed anything permanent yet because I’m still experimenting with locations and setup, but I’m confident it will work.

Forest Living

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Willard Springs campground

Not long after Donna traveled back to her home in Mesa, I drove over to northern Arizona and settled in the Coconino National Forest west of Flagstaff. I knew a couple other people that camped there and it wasn’t long before we greeted each other and made plans to take some morning walks. There are quite a few places near Flagstaff that many boondockers spend their entire summer. It becomes an art to move to different places before attracting attention and not overstaying your welcome. The limit is 2 weeks in one place and we try not to push the good nature of forest rangers too much.

I had only been at my camp a few days when I received word that my older brother, Richard was having medical problems and was being transferred to the VA hospital in Phoenix. For reasons not completely known his lungs were not working right and contributing to major health problems. I decided to drive down to Phoenix and stay with Daryl and Donna and help out any way I could.

Richard became very ill and he gave all the family quite a scare. For 9 days he lay in an induced coma on life support as they pumped oxygen into his lungs and medicated him through tubes. Through a strong will and modern medicine he fought back and was eventually able to breath on his own.

His recovery has been miraculous. He continues to improve every day. It will take a lot of work and rehab but we are all positive that he will be able to do the things he did before. He may have to make some adjustments to his lifestyle but we all have to do that as we get older.

I’m leaving out a lot of detail in the story of my time with family in Phoenix but that’s ok. There were a lot of emotions that we all shared while Richard was so gravely ill, and even more as he pulled through.

Watermelon party.

Once things returned to somewhat normal in town I headed back up on the Mogolllon Rim to get out of the heat of the Valley. Temperatures at Daryl’s and Donna’s were climbing to 110+ degrees and my lifestyle consists on migrating in search of 70 to 80 degrees. At 7000’ feet in the forests near Flagstaff, I have been quite comfortable the last couple of weeks. The camping spots I found are very pretty, and I have met up with some of the same people I was with before. Life is good.

On My Own Again

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Camp in Cibola NF

After six weeks traveling together in New Mexico, Donna left this morning for her home in Arizona. It’s been a lot of fun having someone to camp with me and share adventures in and around western New Mexico. Having spent part of last summer exploring New Mexico state parks, I thought I would have seen most everything there was to see. But we found all kinds of new places to visit and see. One day we even drove up into Colorado to check out the tourist town of Durango.

I won’t go into detail of all the places we went and all the things we saw because Donna writes a much better synopsis of our travels, and it seems redundant for us both to tell the same story.

We spent time at five different state parks and only three days boondocking while traveling between them. A lot of our camping was in Navajo Dam State Park, a favorite of Mom and Dads in their retirement years. We have had many days this spring that have been cold, wet, and windy, and Navajo was a good choice to ride out the bad weather. We even paid for electric sites the first week we were there.

I’m camped in the Cibola National Forest about twenty miles from Bluewater Lake State Park. My plan is to go to Bluewater tomorrow and use the rest of my State Park Pass. The pass expires this month and I think I will travel back over to Northern Arizona for this summer instead of buying another one.

Thanks go out to Donna for the company and companionship this last 6 weeks. She did a lot of the driving when we went places and she always had marshmallows for s’mores at evening campfires. It seemed she was sometimes challenged with cell signal and TV reception so she had to do a lot of reading. I feel bad that we had so many bad weather days for her trip, and now that it is over, she will return home just in time for 100 degrees.

Where’s Summer?

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Camp at Navajo Dam

We were hoping to move north through New Mexico and stay one step ahead of the hot weather, but we may have moved too fast. Every since we left the Truth or Consequences area we have had little warm weather. Spring is having a hard time coming to the southwest this year.

When we left Percha Dam State Park it was starting to edge towards 90 degrees so we looked forward to nice weather at Bluewater State Park. The road to Bluewater was a little more than we wanted to drive in one day so we made a stopover at a free campground across from Pie Town, New Mexico. While there we saw the VLA site down the road and bought pies from a cafe across the street. I have stopped at the VLA several times but never bought a pie in Pie Town. The Pie was good but I don’t think I will ever buy another there – it was way way more expensive than my Pie budget allocates.

The next day we continued on up to Grants New Mexico and stocked up on groceries for our camp at Bluewater State Park. We only stayed a little over a week at Bluewater. The weather turned chilly and it seemed the wind always blew. We did get a few hikes in while there and even found a windless afternoon for a campfire and roasted hotdogs.

Bluewater is over 7000’ and a good place to find nice weather in the middle of summer, but we decided to move north for a couple different reasons. Straight north of Bluewater is Navajo Lake State Park. Even though Navajo is further north it is 1000’ lower and thus a little warmer. We also were sure that the area had cell service and TV signal for Donna, something that was almost nonexistent at Bluewater Lake. Perhaps the best reason we wanted to visit Navajo was the fact that Mom and Dad spent several summers there and we wanted to experience the nostalgia.

On the trip to Navajo Dam we made an overnight stop at a place called Busti/De Na Zin, a wilderness area in the Navajo Reservation. The camping area is nothing more than a parking lot but the picturesque landscape draws many photographers trying to capture the colors of the eroded formations.

We have been here at Navajo for almost two weeks. There is very few non electric sites here this time of year so we both paid for hookups. There is another campground area above the main area that is non electric but is not open until May 15. It’s probably a good thing we paid for electric sites because it has been chilly and raining. With electric we can turn off most things in our rigs that use battery and propane. There are nice bathrooms here with hot showers so we get to save that way too.

Ruins

Donna at Aztec Ruins

We have been exploring the area some. One day we went to Aztec to see the ruins the Pueblo Indians built around 900 A.D. We wanted to travel to Chaco Canyon to visit the ruins there but were scared away by reports of a nightmare road to the site. We have been to Farmington a few times to shop. I have been looking for another lawn chair and Donna has been exploring the idea of switching cell carriers. I found a chair at Target but Donna ran into a roadblock when she found out her cellphone is not compatible with Verizon.

It has been raining off and on for the last couple days and temps mostly in the 50’s. We plan on heading to Heron Lake State Park on Monday. It probably will not be any warmer there, but unless we drive several hundred miles south, it is the only option we have. We will only have to stay 6 days before we can come back here. The campground above us will be open by then and we can stay free with our passes.

I haven’t gone into a lot of detail on the places we have seen. It is kind of Deja Vu for my New Mexico summer last year but I see something new everywhere I go. It’s been nice having Donna and Hanna to share this New Mexico adventure. Now I’m caught up. To see more detail and photos of places we have been go to my sisters blog http://driveonup.blogspot.com/