Wow, what a weekend. Saturday morning I got up and packed up for a weekend of camping up in Flagstaff. This makes for two weekends in a row sleeping in a tent, but this weekend I went without the big group. No offense guys, but having just a nice mellow weekend at my pace instead of the "go go go" that city folk want with camping was nice.
Saturday I left mid-morning to drive the back way up to Flag. As I headed out of town, I saw a massive storm that I had seen on the radar early heading across the mountains to block my way to Payson. When I hit the storm, there were times where I couldn't see more than a hundred yards in front of me. Rain in the desert in the monsoon season is crazy. With a quick stop at the Payson Home Depot for some Enviro-logs, I hit the road to Pine for lunch. There is a little tiny Mexican food hole-in-the-wall (who's name escapes me) that I stopped for an enchilada. Good food, but half way through this weird air raid siren went off. I say weird because it didn't remind me of the normal air raid siren I'm used to from my time in Kansas City. Turns out they have a siren that they sound at noon every day to mark the mid-day.
Back on the road, the rain has completely stopped now and the roads were dry; it's time to finish climbing the Mongollon Rim. If you haven't driven this stretch of road in Arizona, this is worth the drive. The views are unbelievable and if you're like me and love driving on twisty, turny, mountain roads you will absolutely love this road. I've been up twice now, and both times I wish there was more of a shoulder to work with. It would be such a fun ride on a road bike, but there's practically no shoulder. During the week the traffic should be light enough to handle a ride without much issue, but I feel like I'd be pushing it on a weekend. Of course, I did see two guys pedaling their pannier laden bikes up Highway 87 past the rim summit, so they must have done it themselves. One of these days...
From there it was up to Flag to find a campground. I decided to start checking campgrounds at Mormon Lake. Coming up from the south, you go through the village of Mormon Lake. I love it. Well, I can't say that I love it because I've never stopped and gone in any of the stores or anything like that, but any town that has a city limits sign that lists their population as "50 to 5,000" has to be cool. The lake is really down this year. According to the guy manning the campground, it's only 2' deep in the deepest areas right now! So the lake wasn't very impressive, but from Mormon Lake village, you had an unbelievable view of these poppy-like flowers. I say "poppy-like" becaues they remind me of the poppies that used to bloom from time to time on the Franklin Mountains in El Paso.
I settled on the Dairy Springs campground. The site I had was beautiful, and the view out of my tent's doors were unbelievable. There's nothing like upper 60s, low 70s and old growth pine forests to win me over. Staying about 30 minutes south of Flag also meant that for the camping part of the trip, I didn't have to put up with the crowds that a lot of the places closer in to town have to put up with.
After setting up camp and taking a 45 minute hike, I headed in to town for libations and nurishment. I paid homage at Beaver Street Brewery; a place that is quickly becoming a standard of my trips to Flag. After that was a trip to the Observatory to check out the evening's program and look through some telescopes. The program was their standard late-summer program, but they had the telescopes set up to view a couple of different things. The smaller refractor telescope was setup early in the evening viewing Jupiter until it set. Everyone who got there early got to check it out. It was still twilight, so you could just make out the cloud patterns and of course the four largest moons. The Clark was setup on M15.
After checking out the sights to be seen from Mars Hill, I headed back to a warm fire (though it did take longer to light than it should have) and a comfy sleeping bag for the night. The next morning, I woke up about 30 minutes before sunrise to the sound of elk bugling. It was unbelievable. I spent the morning relaxing by the fire before heading back in to Flagstaff.
After getting back in to Flag, I realized that's where I want to be. Phoenix is a cool enough (well, not literally) city, but it's a big city that's discombobulated. Fountain Hills is a cool enough little suburb, but it's a 'burb. I'm 20 - 30 mintues from anywhere I want to be and I can easily drive for an hour before I get out of the valley. I want something smaller. I want something in the mountains. I want something with that cool college town vibe. I think Flagstaff and I make a great match.
Found the perfect place in the paper about 1 PM Sunday afternoon. The only problem was that someone else found it too and was already looking at the property before I called about it. Two and a half acres with a 3 bedroom place out by the Snow Bowl. Would have been awesome for me, and I'm sure it will be for someone else too. Anyhow, I'm on the look out now for a place to rent. It seems that houses are cheaper than apartments/condos, so I might end up with a house. With a big enough place or not, if I get moved that means Thanksgiving and Christmas are in the mountains for all of your city dewellers here in Phoenix. It also means that I might be hitting a few of you up for a couch or floor space for a couple of nights every couple of weeks to get I'm away from the cold and snow to train. :-)