If you live in the Phoenix area like I do, sometimes the summer heat can be oppressive. Recently my family and I decided to drive a couple hours north and discover the Mogollon Rim area. We made some memories that my kids will remember always.
I have always loved camping and fishing. We have owned a tent for many years. Back in Indiana (6 years ago) we would use it on occasion to camp at a local regional park. My wife has a strong fear of the Arizona wilderness. She was not a fan of the idea of sleeping on the ground. After all, you should always be aware and on the look out for the following creatures: Bears, Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, Spiders, Wolves, Coyotes, Javelina, Turkey Vultures, Crows, Elk and Moose among others. So, I bought a camper. I knew that this would alleviate her fear a little and enable us to get out and explore Arizona.
I love Phoenix, especially in the winter months. But as you know, the summer heat can wear you down quickly. Getting a break even for a long weekend is something that I highly recommend. While the Mogollon Rim stretches nearly 200 miles we decided to visit the portion just northeast of Payson Arizona. Payson is just a 2-hour drive from Phoenix. It is a quaint little town full shops and artistic fair. Once you pass through Payson, it is just another half hour or so up to the Rim.
The change in elevation is extreme. Our campsite was at 7,000 feet. The sight of the giant pine trees amazed my kids. There were no cacti to be found. We stepped out of our truck wearing shorts and flip-flops. It was immediately time to put on our jeans and sweatshirts. There was a 35-degree temperature change from our home. It did warm up in the following days, shorts and t-shirts did just fine in the afternoons. We set up our camper and got ready for our 4-day stay in the forest. We had some friends and their daughters coming to stay at the site with us as well. My daughters were super excited to camp with their friends. That night we made a campfire and had smores. We told ghost stories, one of which even scared me and I was the one telling it. It involved a homicidal Yeti, much different from the cuddly guy who stayed with the Henderson family.
On day 2 our friends arrived, we were excited that they were joining us. Since it was Memorial Day weekend, we had to show up a day early to make sure we could get a campsite. There were only 5 left when we got there. Our friends had a U-Haul trailer full of everything that you need to do some camping. Their tent was the size of my living room but we had them set up and ready to camp in no time. My friend Dave owns a chainsaw. This is awesome because it means we wouldn’t have to buy any more firewood. The forest is full of old trees that had fallen. We found a few to our liking over the next few days and had our fire going nearly all the time. We would extinguish it with water if we ventured out anywhere. That day we all hiked over to Woods Canyon Lake. It is just a mile or so from our campsite.
On day 3 we went fishing at the lake. Boat rentals were surprisingly affordable. We heard from another camper that the lake was recently stocked with Trout. Unfortunately 4 hours of fishing only yielded a handful of very small Bluegill. It didn’t matter, we still had fun on the lake cruising around. That night we at Gumbo that our friends brought for dinner and relaxed by the fire. Towards dusk a large female Elk wandered into our campsite. We were amazed at how close she let us get and take pictures.
On day 4 we hiked to the Rim. It was about 3 miles from our campsite to the Rim. The parks dept. installed a beautiful trail to follow all the way to the edge. The drop off is straight down several thousand feet. It almost induces vertigo to stand near the edge. It is beautiful and well worth the hike. We ate steaks for dinner and were careful not to leave any leftovers out for the bears.
On day 5 it was time to pack up and head home to Phoenix. Arizona has so much to offer and you don’t have to go far to enjoy the amazing scenery.