I don’t like a camp that is easily seen from the main highway.
When I left the BLT yesterday to go to the post office, I couldn’t help but worry about it sitting in plain view. So this morning I hitch up, throw the crew in the PTV, and move further up the National Forest lane. The weather forecast is on my mind, too. Cold temperatures, gusty wind, rain, and even snow are likely to move into the Ash Fork, Arizona, area sometime tonight and stay through next Monday.
Finding a new camp around here takes careful consideration.
Nowhere does it seem level. The earth is a mixture of clay and volcanic material. The recent rain turns this kind of soil into a slick mess. I need to be very careful.
I drive over a slight crest and there’s camo man!
He’s outside sawing a piece of wood. His dog is tied to a tree nearby. This guy probably knows a lot about where to camp. I pull over into an old, worn campsite that is totally unsuitable due to its slope. The crew needs to get some exercise, so I’ll walk us up toward his camp.
“Helloooo!” I holler just before Spike starts barking at his dog. Camo man turns and hollers a hello in return.
“It looks like we’re in for some nasty weather,” I say as I walk toward his camp.
He puts down his saw and walks toward us. I extend my hand.
“Hi, my name is Sue. I’m your neighbor.”
“Well, hello, Sue. I’m Rusty.”
I compliment Rusty on his camper.
“Did you make it yourself?”
“Yeah, I built it. I used to travel with two donkeys and lived in a tent. Then the government finally gave me some money – I was in the service – It was enough so I could buy the truck – that’s a 1975 Ford — a wood stove, and a solar panel . . . 45 watts.”
Rusty is proud of his solar arrangement.
“That panel sits on a Lazy Susan. I can tilt it and rotate it. I get about two and a half amp hours out of it. I don’t’ have a tv so it’s enough. ”
Rusty seems to enjoy having someone to talk to. He tells me about his radios, his days walking around the western states with two donkeys and living in a tent, his brief marriage, his Christian faith, and some helpful tidbits he’s learned along the way. For instance, his rat control strategy.
“I put a light under the hood every night to keep out the rats.”
“Huh? A light?”
“Yeah, rats don’t like the light. Come over here and look.”
He lifts up the hood and shows me a small flashlight he’s fastened to the underside of the hood.
“I figure the cost of flashlight batteries is less than replacing these bundles of wires at $25 a pop.”
I tell him I want to find a new campsite where I won’t get stuck when the rain comes.
As I expected, Rusty knows the lay of the land. “You don’t want to be where water runs off. And you don’t want to be on bare ground. There’s a lot of clay in this soil. See that line of trees down there? That’s a creek bed. Water will be rushing through it any day now. Everything drains to the creek. You want to be up on this side of the road and make sure you’re not in the path of water draining down to the road.”
“What about the camp you had before?” I ask.
“No, that’ll get too muddy. And if you get stuck, it’ll cost you to get somebody up there to pull you out. I’d pull you out but I don’t have a tow chain.”
Rusty suggests a few spots which I look over.
Finally together we find a site that I’m happy with. I walk the crew back to the PTV and BLT. I pull us up to the campsite and Rusty helps me level it out, using rocks he hauls over.
We talk some more. The wind is picking up. Before he leaves, he wishes me God’s blessings. “The same to you, Rusty. Thanks for all your help.”
Now it’s afternoon and I’m starving.
I want comfort food!
I make a dinner of mashed potatoes, green peas, and yesterday’s grilled chicken, cut into chunks and heated up in barbeque sauce.
As we’re eating (I set aside some chicken for Bridget and Spike), I decide against driving to the post office today.
Why drive over there today? With the wind advisory and weather forecast, we’re not moving out of here until after the weekend. Might as well wait until Monday to see if the breakaway cable arrived.
Our new campsite has a wide-range view of the grassy fields.
I’m going to lift the blind at sunrise and see if any animals move across those fields. Rusty said he’s seen deer, elk, coyote, and fox. If we do get snow, the view out this window will be a pretty sight.
Next week it’s supposed to warm up considerably.
Upcoming sunny, dry days will be perfect for setting up a new camp in the Kaibab National Forest near Tusayan. From there we can visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon!