|The Raven (L) with a friend, Marble Canyon AZ|
I’ll have to admit that though I’ve got a new vehicle, I’m still counting from the beginning, but I hope you'll indulge me.
I started camping this way almost nine years ago now, when I had had enough of cold nights in the back of my SUV. As my friend Chuck Turner (who travels in a Four Wheel Camper) once said, it’s the best piece of photographic equipment I’ve ever had.
I recently noted the 400th night in my journal, staging near Blue Ridge Reservoir in the Coconino National Forest here in Arizona for kayaking. I launched from a deserted boat ramp last Monday morning at about 6:00AM and watched the fog animate morning light on a flat-calm lake.
After three hours of paddling, I spent most of the rest of the day in a hammock at my campsite, gazing over at least 20 miles of forest. I think I’d earned some laziness.
Of these last 100 nights, 68 of them passed outside campgrounds (mostly alone in the quiet), and 39 were in completely new locations. Now that my husband has finished building our new home, my unaccompanied trips are less frequent. Just 18 of the last 100 were solo.
There were some standouts.
I have fond memories of the campsites stumbled upon, like a spot near Bear’s Ears in Utah which we found when we’d been looking so long that I was wondering whether we’d be stealth camping in some parking lot. Another notable was a camp found down a random Forest Road near Grand Junction Colorado during a fall color trip in 2020.
Unforgettable stories popped up, too. There’s the time a determined packrat rode up to Flagstaff with me and just wouldn’t get out of the vehicle. He didn’t do well when I ended the trip with an event in Phoenix in August. Then there was the fist big trip in the Sprinter, an epic 10-day adventure into northern California in December. Though there are lots of memories, mostly I remember rain. Relentless rain. The vehicle and its diesel heater did great.
We were the recipients of lovely hospitality in what I like to call driveway camping. We imposed on generous friends in Northern California, Santa Fe, and Ajo, Arizona. Marco did such a great job with the solar and battery storage that we don’t need to run a power cord into the house any more.
Marco has become an avid fly fisherman, so we’re looking for locations which serve us both. Favorites so far are East Clear Creek in the Coconino Forest and the San Juan River in Northern New Mexico.
There were some photographic projects which lent themselves well to camping. The ability to conveniently shoot sunset and the following day’s sunrise while sleeping in my own bed is such a gift. There was work on Arizona Highways’ State Park issue at Alamo Lake and Deadhorse Ranch, as well as a scenic drive in Mogollon Rim Country.
Disappointments were few, though revisiting an old favorite called Fire Point at Grand Canyon’s North Rim after a wildfire was heartbreaking. I’ve also been gravitating more toward spots tucked in the forest there and in the nearby Kaibab National Forest because of the crowding, trash, and human waste problems at the prominent viewpoints. Overlanding seems to have reached its peak popularity now, so I have high hopes that the situation will improve.
There’s more to look forward to, with any kind of luck.
Thanks for riding along.