Don and I just got back from camping at a special place we call Big Sky, which is located on the upper Mogollon Rim. It is characterized by beautiful meadows interspersed with pine trees, which affords a large view of the night sky - great for sitting around the campfire at night and watching for shooting stars. It is very remote and rather secluded, and the old forest road that leads to it is quite well hidden from passing motorists. In fact there was absolutely no sign that our campsite was used since our last visit in the fall of 2013. The firewood we had left at the site was still there – unused, and high weeds on the road indicated that there had been no traffic – not even ATV’s.
With the arrival of the monsoon rains, fire restrictions have been lifted in most of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. This means we can once again enjoy sitting around the campfire, a favorite pastime! Something that we really missed the past couple of months! After we set up camp, Don usually starts collecting firewood, while I sweep the area around the campfire pit, clearing away pine needles and anything that can catch fire if an ember happens to pop out of the fire ring. On our first night out we were serenaded by the local pack of coyotes. We must have been somewhat at the epicenter of their territory because during our week-long stay we heard them howling from every direction.
This is a beautiful time of the year on the Rim! Everything is green, and the late flowering plants are in full bloom, especially the brightly-colored Indian Paint Brush. Its amazing how the afternoon rains can transform the once dry landscape into a blazing panorama of color during mid to late summer. I love this time of year in Arizona!! We had a couple of severe thunderstorms come through on the 2nd and 3rd day, but we had great weather the rest of the week. In fact it got downright hot, and I was thankful we had set up camp under a few pine trees that were sitting in the middle of the meadow.
On our third morning, I woke up early (just before sunrise) and went outside to take care of business, and was surprised by a skunk that came trotting down our road. He was absolutely gorgeous with his large fluffy striped tail. I
was surprised that he carried his tail so high because I thought they only raised their tail when they were about to spray something…… A little on the large size, I suspect it may have been a male - very healthy looking, and a fine specimen of his sex. I nicknamed him Romeo because it looked like he had just spent the night with some frisky female skunk, and was out making his morning rounds, strutting his stuff, perhaps in search of another female…. I was sure glad the dogs were sleeping in, and hadn’t detected his presence as he trotted past our camp – that would have been a major disaster. I'm sure Don and I would have been arguing as to which vehicle the smelly dogs would ride in on the way back home.
Great view of the meadow at Big Sky!
Our campsite underneath the pines. Shade was a big factor at Big Sky as temps soared later in the week.
Meadow flowers in full bloom - gifts of the monsoon rains!
I sat down on a nice large flat rock, after checking to make sure there weren’t any snakes sunning themselves around it. I am very cautious about where I sit while hiking- stumps and rocks always get a good inspection before I use them as a seat. Cricket was panting so I gave her some water from my water bottle. She really enjoys going on hikes - so many different smells to track and investigate. While she was chasing a lizard she had spotted on a log, I ate a banana and some beef jerky I had brought with me. It was about midday and getting very warm, so I tried to keep hydrated with frequent sips from my water bottle.
After lunch we continued along the game trail, which was well worn and quite easy to follow. The little black pellets along the trail indicated there were elk and deer in the area. Since it was getting pretty hot I was thankful we were hiking in a fairly wooded area which offered some relief from the hot summer sun. After another mile, the trail turned into an old logging road which had dead ended near a dry creek bed. Crossing the creek bed, we came to a rather huge tree trunk that had fallen down and was laying parallel to the road. Cricket and I followed the old logging road for another 1/4 mile and decided to head back because it was really getting too hot to hike.
I had to stop several times on the way back to camp because I was showing signs of the beginning of heat stroke – foggy mind, while feeling a little off. I had plenty of water left, so I finished off both of my bottles on the long hike back. I was grateful for the wet wipes I had put in a plastic bag which I had in my fanny pack. If you ever go hiking on a warm day, do not forget to take a small packet of wet wipes, because they can be very refreshing on hot days when even the breezes are warm, like today.
I had my walkie-talkie with me, and called Don and told him I was on the way back to camp because I wasn’t feeling too good. He met me on the trail about 300 yards from camp, with some extra water. He carried my fanny pack and camera gear back to camp for me, bless his heart! Don said my face was as red as a beet, and he immediately started pouring fluids down me because he was a little worried I had overdone it on my hike. When I got back to camp I sat in a chair by our campfire, and didn’t move for almost an hour.
A giant log running parallel to the logging road.
On our hike Cricket spotted a squirrel crossing the road and started chasing it! She's usually pretty good at staying close to me on the trail - Alas, the temptation was just too great!
During our stay, we spotted several tarantula's crawling around camp, including one which somehow invaded our tent. I freaked out when I spotted him crawling toward my sleeping bag. Don was taking a nap and was fast asleep, so I didn't want to wake him up. I decided to try to use a broom to herd this creepy crawlie outside the tent, which wasn't easy. I finally got him outside the tent, and away from my sleeping bag - Don thinks I'm silly for checking our sleepy bag every night for bugs, but I wouldn't be able to get any sleep - wondering about the critters we may be sharing our sleeping bag with. Shivers run through me just thinking about it!! On second thought, perhaps I should have let the spider crawl up on Don as he was napping - that would teach him not to make fun of my insect phobias.
The following is the video I took of the tarantula which invaded our tent.
During our visit we spotted a small herd of elk, just 3 females that ran down the game trail in back of our camp. It was early morning, and the encounter happened so fast I didn't even get a chance to grab my camera. At least we know they're in the area! All in all we had a great week at Big Sky, but ended up having to buy a new camping stove because of a gas leak which I will explain in my next post........