Wednesday, August 8, 2012

first 6 weeks in the white mtns, up close bobcat,
road closures & the chinese, and semester at sea


I lucked out with my first camping site in the White Mountains. I drove to the end of an unmarked spur road and came across a spot that looked good. I let M&M out, then backed the casita off the road a ways, under some trees. I started setting up camp among the ponderosa while M&M were off exploring their new yard. Mesa soon came running back to the trailer so I thought someone was probably coming this way. I heard voices and a couple mountain bikers came by on a trail that passed about 50 yards of where I was setting up. I had not realized it was there. Way cool. The next morning I got on the Trek and hit the trail. What a beautiful trail and quite varied. It is part of the White Mountains trail system (something else I hadn’t been aware of). The trail crossed forest roads from time to time and over the next three weeks, I biked along them looking for possible camping spots and followed the roads far enough so I knew where to access them from one of the main forest roads. I pack a GPS (thanks Lynn!) when I mountain bike like this and wrote down coordinates to later enter into my road notebook for future reference. There is a 13-mile trail loop that is a whole lot of fun. A few mornings I saw elk, one morning while passing a spring I saw a family of wild turkeys, and a few days later on another section of trail I came upon another family of turkeys with 8 or 9 little ones. My kind of traveling.
A couple stretches go along the fence of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation border. As you can see, part of the trail is cow path, some of it grew from game trails and old logging roads, and some of it was cut by those who developed the system of trails. The volunteers did a stellar job.

Only three ATVs drove down the road during the three weeks. Too bad porker carts aren’t being banned from national forests rather than have the closing of roads that offer isolated, quiet camping. During the last week, I biked around to recheck the places and roads that I had marked down for alternative camping spots and came across a new ‘road closed’ sign on one of the roads on my list. Guano. I might have to change my lifestyle. We’ll see. There’s no way I could spend summers in campgrounds. I wonder if there is any BLM land up at 7,500-8,500‘.
A whole lot of mountain bikers, some hikers, horse riders, and one runner came along the trail while I was in camp. It was great to see so many active people enjoying the forest. Some came over to check out my camping spot and to get a closer look at M&M. I don’t generally have the opportunity to get a social fix while disperse camping. This was a very nice treat. Cows also regularly used this section of trail.
One evening I was sitting in a lowrider reading a book and having a glass of wine when a pronghorn came along the trail. It still surprises me whenever I see a pronghorn in a forest. I’m so programed to think of them as strictly prairie animals. I really appreciate little things like this. Another evening a coyote stopped to check out a rodent hole on the other side of the trail about 100 yards away. Meadow was up on the solar panel and Mesa was sitting up on the table both keeping their eyes on it. I’m trying to get in the habit, when outside, of having binoculars close by. This coyote was beautiful. With the binoculars I could see all her colors. It’s as if she was painted, especially her face. An absolutely beautiful creature. Reminded me of a calico cat but without the patchwork. Never saw such a colorful coyote.

When I first got in the area there were still campfire restrictions. There was no restriction on camp stoves however, like back in New Mexico, so it was good to be able to cook outside again. The new single burner Coleman stove is working out real well.
The temps were nice and cool and most mornings and evenings I was wearing fleece. One morning around Independence Day I even had to light up the Wave catalytic heater for a bit. It rained most days, generally in the afternoon, with all too many thunderstorms. I was thinking of all the forest fires started by lightning. There were a number of lightning flashes within a mile and a few REAL close, the ones you feel are right over your head. My thoughts occasionally drifted to the fact that there is only one road out of here. It would not be a pleasant experience driving towards a forest fire. I couldn’t quite relax during the storms.

One thing I like about camping in a ponderosa forest is there’s generally not much underbrush and that makes for very comfortable trekking. A couple days a week I would grab a daypack and hike off through the trees for a couple hours. One day I tried it on my mountain bike. I don’t think I’ve tried this before. It was a worthwhile experience. Not easy, but not all that tough. Other days I hiked along old overgrown logging roads. The kind with trees growing up in the middle and so old one can barely, if at all, make out the transitional double-tracks.

One drawback with camping under ponderosa is no Sirius reception so no Classic Radio Shows and nothing from the Coffee House. So I caught up on podcasts that I download whenever I have web access. I was months behind. Wait, Wait is still my favorite but the Vinyl CafĂ© (Canadian Broadcast) might be my next favorite, with Dave and Morley stories and the story exchange segment. I also like Car Talk’s weekly puzzle. On one Car Talk program, a dad called in asking advice on a new car. His daughter was starting to drive and she did not want to be seen driving the family car. He said he was having trouble finding a car he can get in since he was 6’1” and weighed 380 pounds. You can probably imagine how I would have responded. Eventually one of the brothers said, ‘Ever think of dropping a few pounds?’ The guy responded, ‘Doesn’t make me shorter.’ I wonder if he even felt the breeze of the point going over his head. Good grief.
The iPod nano is a stellar unit made by the gods at Apple. I have an older 2nd generation nano and last winter bought a current 6th generation device. It is less than half the size and holds twice as much data. I listen to podcasts while driving to a new place to camp and music if doing a task I really do not enjoy, like cleaning the blinds.

One day I detoured from a mtn. bike ride over to a campground where there was a host. I asked him where I could find a laundromat. He told me and somehow he started talking at me about the state of our government. I said I was more concerned about the forest service travel management program since it will directly affected my lifestyle.
He said, well you know why they are doing that don’t you?
Yeah, porker carts.
No, the Chinese. The Chinese are buying up our national forests and parks and selling the land to fund their projects.
I looked around at the trees, some campers, up at the sky and it all seemed as it should be. I was thinkin’ maybe I had biked through a cosmic gateway back on the trail and ended up in a parallel universe. Then I realized that no—this guy is a fruitcake. Maybe there is a new agency rounding up the nutters, putting them in RVs, depositing them out in primitive campgrounds and setting them up as hosts. Anyway, I found the laundromat.

One day after going into a town for laundry and supplies, I continued heading west looking for another place to camp. Didn’t come across anything that beat where I had been so decided to go back to the general area and up another spur road that I had previously scoped out. The spot had easy access the trails about a half mile away. I get spoiled when I have access to trails since it does not happen all that often; I don’t want to leave. Sure racked up miles on the Trek and burned off a couple pounds. Not bad. No problem doing Diana’s sixty for sixty challenge when I’m by trails.

I was working on a bike one afternoon, glanced over at M&M and noticed they were focused on something out of my field of vision. I eased over a bit and saw what I initially took to be a coyote 60’ away. I’m thinkin’, that’s ballsy. Then the animal came out from behind a couple trees and I got a better view. NOT a coyote. She passed within 30’ of us. This is WAY too close. That’s Mesa watching her leave.

One morning I went for a run around the shorter 6-mile loop and came across this new road. Up until 2 days ago, this stretch was a combination single and double track. Guano. It probably started as a logging road decades ago and it looks like it’s going back to its original purpose. Too bad they cut through here when it was so wet. Chewed up the ground big time. I wonder if the trail volunteers will be putting in a parallel single track. Another crew was cutting down trees along a forest road, apparently making it easier for wider vehicles. They were even grading some road sections for the logging vehicles. There are hundreds, if not more, trees marked to be cut down. There seems to have been a good deal of thought put into tree selection. The thinning will definitely help the forest. I don’t want to be around for it, however. I’m going to check out the area south of Pinedale for a while and see what’s along the Mogollon rim. Then probably up to the Kaibab Plateau and check out some new trails there. Might even try my new Senior Pass at the North Rim sometime after the middle of September for access to additional trails. Besides, it has rained every day but two during my second 3-week stay in the area. Time to dry out.
A few days after coming across the new road, I was out biking and came across other old logging roads that are being plowed open. Yep, time to leave.

I recently read 8216;At Sea at Sixty’, a book by a couple in their sixties who enrolled for a Semester at Sea cruise (semesteratsea.com and the institute for shipboard education). The courses were held on a ship as it sails around the world. On board the 600’ ship were nearly 1,000 people (over 600 students) including some seniors taking the classes along with the undergraduates. The cruise takes 100 days and stops at various ports with time and guides for course related field trips and for playing the tourist. Sounds pretty cool. The seniors did a spoof skit towards the end of the trip and one of the participants was, ‘A classic little old lady in sneakers, frail at 89, stooped with osteoporosis, scares the hell out of everyone with every step she takes on a pitching ship.’ Her performance had everyone, ‘collaped in convulsive laughter.’ She apparently really hammed it up. That is so neat. Seems like a lady I would really enjoy talking with. Sounds like a fabulous program, but I would never recommend reading this particular book.

July sixty minutes sixty years—2100 minutes

Too late for what?


RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’
FOR INDEX OF POSTINGS GO TO JULY 2006