It’s getting hot! Bertha’s thermometer showed 90 degrees the other day when I ran into town for chores. Several people have already left the BLM area here at Ehrenberg, AZ for cooler climes, and others will be pulling out within the next day or two.
It’s time to move on. Evening walks are getting to be a problem. I’m having to start later and later in the day and can’t go far before running out of sunlight. Today I opt to take a morning walk instead.
My feet carry me to the three wrecked RVs near the entrance to the BLM area. When walking around one, an old Pace Arrow, I spot a yellowed paper tucked in among the garbage.
The title page says “Homeless in the Desert”, and I wonder if this newspaper was applicable to the former occupants of this class A. There are belongings scattered about too. A woman’s pink sneaker, a Christmas ornament, a VCR tape of “Call of the Wild”. Wherever these people are now, I hope they’re safe and happy.
February 27, Saturday
Last night a large group of RVers moved in with ATVs and Jeeps. They played loud music until after midnight with fireworks for accompaniment. Although I could see them from my camp, they were far enough away that it wasn’t horrible.
Today I see the sign sitting out in front of their camp: “Ironwood State Prison Desert Run”. There doesn’t seem to be any running going on, but they do race their ATVs for a good part of the day. Luckily the wind is such that the dust they kick up is being blown away from me.
Tomorrow I’ll be leaving, so today is for getting ready. In the morning I haul my laundry into town, shower, and hop on the free WiFi at the laundromat to research tomorrow’s route and camping options.
In the afternoon, the heat forces me out of Cas to my patio where I watch the wispy clouds drift on by. I should be writing, but I can’t concentrate when it’s that warm and I can’t write outside because it’s too bright. I should have gotten a laptop with a matte screen instead of a shiny one. Even then, not sure how well it’d work outside. The weekend warriors are to the south, so in the shade on the northern side of Cas I still have an unimpeded view.
When hitching up in the evening, I discover a scorpion underneath the wood block my tongue jack is resting on. This is the first one of these I’ve seen all winter! It’s small and matches the sand. I get a picture, and gently nudge it out of the way so I can finish getting ready, as the sun sets I say goodbye to those still here.
February 28, Sunday
Today’s a big day! This’ll be my first time finding a boondocking spot all by myself. Yes I’m a little nervous, but I have several options based on yesterday’s research.
By 8:30 I’m on I10 heading east. Quartzsite has emptied dramatically, only a couple RVs are visible on Dome Rock Road. I suppose they all wanted to avoid the heat too. Knowing what to look for, I spot Saddle Mountain from a distance, but I drive past the turnoff for there too.
My route happens to take me past a Walmart, and that’s too good of an opportunity to pass up. I pull off in Buckeye to stock up on groceries, then continue heading east.
Right into Phoenix. It being Sunday morning, the traffic is reasonably light, which is what I was hoping for. No congestion, no accidents, it’s smooth sailing. I think the major arteries going through Phoenix are in about the best condition I’ve seen of the major cities I’ve driven through. I can drive 60 mph while towing and not have to dodge potholes and roughness, it makes the city driving experience so much better.
Somewhere in there, I exit off of I10 and onto Highway 60. It starts out as an eight lane freeway, but becomes smaller after being spat out the east side of Phoenix. The contrast between the desert here and at Ehrenberg is hard to overstate. Grass grows in abundance, creosote bushes are now in the minority with a lot more palo verde and other trees growing rampant, not just in the washes. Prickly pear cactus are a common sight and cholla grow taller than I do. Over all of them tower the saguaros, larger and more numerous here than farther east. It’s hard to believe less than 200 miles separate the two.
Past the last signs of development, the speed limit drops to 45 mph, cones block off a lane of traffic and a patrol car flashes it’s lights. It’s not construction, nor is it an accident. It’s the renaissance festival.
This is why I chose to come here. I worked at the Georgia Renaissance Festival near Atlanta in the spring of 2014 as a performer, and made a lot of friends there. Many people who work festivals travel from one to the next in a circuit that follows the seasons, the Arizona Renaissance Festival runs from Feb. 6 to March 27th and I know several people here. I’m planning to attend next weekend, and my goal was to find a boondocking spot within a reasonable distance.
How fortuitous that Tonto National Forest is so close by. Hwy 60 starts climbing, and the Tonto NF sign welcomes me to slightly cooler temperatures. Not by a lot, only a couple degrees, that’s going to be the difference between the 80’s and the 90’s, so I’ll take it.
My first choice for making camp is not listed on freecampsites.net. I learned of it from another blogger who explored the area, they didn’t stay there but saw there were a few sites. Less than a mile west from Boyce Thompson Arboretum on 60 is a turnoff on the north side of the highway for forest road 357. The highway is under major construction here with the west bound side completely blocked off, I’m worried 357 will be closed too, but no, a corridor is maintained to allow traffic through.
I turn onto it and cross a cow grate in a dip. It’s not a big enough dip to be a problem for my rig, but it might not be suitable for larger RVs. An opinion that seems more and more true the more I see. Right after the cow grate is a large parking area, several vehicles are parked here with ATV trailers. It still being the weekend, there is a fair amount of ATV traffic.
Two spur roads come off of that parking area, paralleling the highway, and here is where I’m told the dispersed camping spots are. I park Bertha and Cas near the entrance and walk down both spurs. Because of the construction, some of them are blocked off, but down the spur heading east I find a little area with 4-5 camping spots. The national forest rules state that dispersed camping has to happen in established spots, you can’t make a new one. There are fire rings here, so I know they’re legit.
Nobody else is camping here. I eye all the heavy machinery parked on the highway. The road noise isn’t too bad, but there’s the potential that when that equipment gets going tomorrow that this won’t be a fun place to be. I’ll stay here tonight, but I won’t unhitch in case it’s loud. I’ll also need to call the nearest ranger station in the morning and see if I need something called a Tonto Pass to camp here. The FS website was a bit vague on what areas did and didn’t need one.
I choose the site farthest back from the spur road for the sake of privacy. I need two of my Lynx leveling blocks to make the trailer level side to side, but luckily it’s level front to back without unhitching. None of the sites here are very level, one of them could possibly fit a larger rig but I think it might not be possible to level it.
Birds sing, butterflies flutter past, and small purple flowers grow in the grass. It’s beautiful here, everything is so amazingly green. I guess it really is spring after all. And it’s free! I’m going to count this first experiment in finding my own boondocking spot as a win. Assuming all goes well in the morning, I’m going to enjoy my week exploring the area.
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