Among the pines at Willard Springs

It’s unbelievably quiet here in the Coconino National Forest.

Four other rigs are here, but I can’t hear them at all.  We are widely spaced around an open, grassy area dotted with white flowers.  Yesterday, after setting up camp and retiring to my lounge chair, fellow camper Gail came by.  She’s from Minnesota and has been rving for twenty-two years, the last eight as a fulltimer.

“I spent the whole summer here last year.  The rangers won’t bother you,” she informs me.  Then she adds, looking over at a pickup truck with several lean-tos constructed around it, “At least I hope they don’t.  That guy told me he gets hassled by the National Forest all the time and has a $275 fine to pay.  It’s probably because of all his tents.  He looks like he’s squatting.”

“I’m surprised you were allowed to stay here all last summer.”

“It was so nice and cool here,” she responds.

I show Gail the inside of the BLT.  She originally had a Class C and now she has a Class A motorhome.  In our conversation I mention “backing the trailer up.”  She exclaims, “You back up the trailer?” as if it is a feat for a magician.

“Of course, I do.  It’s easy.  Why?  Did you think I drive around with this and never back up?”

“I thought it was too much trouble.  The gentleman camped over there told me he never backs up.  He said it’s too hard.”

I want to tell Gail that if she put a tomato in the field over there, I can back the trailer up from here and squash it in one try.  But that would be bragging!  “It’s so easy, Gail, I don’t even think about it.”

In the early evening I call up Rusty to let him know we have our new campsite.

He thanks me for the flag and the note I left in the juniper tree.  “Timber’s been gloomy all day.  He sat and watched for you to come up the lane like the day you went to Chino Valley.  He misses you.”  We talk about our travel plans and end the call agreeing that our paths will probably cross again someday.

This morning the crew and I are up and out the door early.

It’s a dark, overcast day which gives the pine forest a mysterious atmosphere.  I decide we’ll walk over to the big pond which I assume is Willard Springs.  As soon as Spike sees the pond, he hurries ahead.  He walks through the mud to wade into the water, of course.  I let him have fun even though his paws and his leash pick up a lot of mud.   Bridget stays close by, mainly to avoid being photographed.  She’s such a girl.

We watch three ducks on the pond. 

It’s a pretty place except for one end of the pond that’s been torn up by quads or whatever it is that people race around on.  There are several, pretty camping spots up the trails from the pond, but I wouldn’t want to camp there.  I can tell from the tracks all over that it probably gets pretty noisy when the weekend people come out with their motorized toys.

Tomorrow may be an inside day, all day. 

Thundershowers are predicted.  Friday will be a good day to drive up to the Wal-Mart in Flagstaff.  It’s been a long time since I’ve cruised the aisles of a Wal-Mart.  That place gets in your blood or something.

A squirrel with a white tail?

That’s what I see going up the pine tree outside our window.  Wow!  The excitement around here grips you and won’t let go!  Ducks on a pond, planning a trip to Wal-Mart, and earlier — wait for it —  I found three new wildflowers.  Hang on!  It’s a wild ride!

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About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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65 Responses to Among the pines at Willard Springs

  1. Alan says:

    Sue, you may get to see some Elk and Bear in the area……

  2. Jim Sathe says:

    I was thrilled when I read that you followed my tip on Willard Springs. We loved it there when we were there in 2010. The Verizon access is icing on the cake, isn’t it?

    Jim Sathe of

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Jim! I couldn’t remember your name! Sorry about that. Yes, when I drove in here and saw that tower, I knew this was the place I wanted to be!

  3. carol says:

    sorry, mom,I got a little muddy whilst looking for Timber.

    cretins on quads, there ought be a law!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Spike loves water! Even on a cool morning, he has to walk into the water. He really knows how to live life to the fullest.

      • Joan Latrell Roberts says:

        Our Jack Russell, Daphne, loves to jump into the pool and swim. She especially likes getting on her floating raft after that swim and sleeping in the sun.

  4. Chuck says:

    Hi Sue! Are you going to have enough sunlight for solar amongest those beautiful pines? Beautiful spot, the dogs look happy! Chuck

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Even with today being overcast, I’ve got enough for lights and my obsession for being online. No tv reception here. I knew there was a reason I got a big honkin’ panel.

  5. Elizabeth in NC says:

    What a beautiful spot and hope it will be quieter than maybe expected.

    Poor Timber….dogs know who love them!! He probably ate a bit better with you around too…women can bring that with them, you know.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      My guess is Timber misses Spike. But Spike? Well, he brushes the mud off his paws and moves on. Know what I mean? I think he’d forget ME in a heartbeat if he got a better offer.

  6. earthdancerimages says:

    Spikey is in mud heaven! I am sure both Timber and Rusty miss you and the crew. That happens when you travel, new places mean new faces! I am glad you are keeping in touch !!!

  7. cathieok says:

    Looks like the lake may be a little low. Maybe the rain you said was coming will help. It looks like a lovely spot.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I was wondering about the effects of the rain that’s supposed to fall tonight or tomorrow. The trails and road have deep ruts in them from vehicles plowing through mud, and walking around in the woods I see where water has washed away the ground and sticks and stuff. I was careful to pick a spot with undisturbed pine needles rather than bare earth.

  8. Lisa says:

    You’re plenty exciting, Sue!

    – Lisa

  9. What a beautiful spot! Love the water and the muddy
    Have fun at Walmarts! Pictures are great as usual. Thank you Sue. Enjoy your new home.

  10. Nice spot. I like the desert some but give me the mountains any day !! Still, watch out for coons and bears. Racoons are cuter then heck but also can be a pain. Bears wont bother you if you dont bother them. Just dont leave any food or garbage out.
    I like the fact that the one lady said she camped there all summer !! For free!! That is fantastic.
    Glad that you are keeping in touch with Rusty too !!!
    Love the photos !!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Susan!

      No sign of racoons or bears yet. It pays to be careful about keeping food inside.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. They’re dark like the day.

  11. Dayton says:

    Neat spot. You’ve got a subspecises of Abert’s squirrel, probably a Kaibab squirrel. There are probably tufted ears. Up on the North Rim of the GC, there’s the same squirrel, but no tufts. As I recall from my NPS Ranger days. Maybe it’s the other way around…tufts or no tufts? Could you tell?
    Enjoy Coconino NF.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      No, I couldn’t tell much more than the flash of white tail. That guy was moving his tail up that tree pretty fast. Thanks for the information, Dayton. I should read up on squirrels. Gee, that black squirrel that terrorizes The Bayfield Bunch’s yard looks like a squirrel from hell.

  12. Christine says:

    Hi Sue, I was curious as to how well you did the backing up part with your Casita. Did you practice squashing tomatoes when you learned?? Lol Seriously how did you learn to back up so well?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Great question, Christine.

      I didn’t go to a big parking lot or squash any tomatoes. I simply followed three rules which you’ve probably heard before.
      1) Hold the steering wheel at the bottom, look in side mirrors, move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. 2) Go slowly, never allowing the trailer to jack-knife. If it looks like it’s getting close to a jack-knife, pull forward in a way that straightens out the tow vehicle and trailer as much as possible. Then resume backing. Sometimes you have to “scissor” like this for a couple of tries if there are a lot of obstacles and it’s a short back-in. 3) Get out and check what’s going on all around . . . overhanging branches, partially hidden pointed rocks, a bush that jumped up out of the ground, etc. After a little practice, you’ll find it’s not necessary to check so often, sometimes only once.

      That’s all there is to it. Oh maybe I should add . . . Have confidence in yourself. I avoid having people help me. It’s easier by myself.

      Hope this is helpful.

      • Shar Pei Mom says:

        Sue, this is probably the best peace of advice you gave..Have confidence in yourself. I avoid having people help me. It’s easier by myself.
        Unless someone ASKS for help…stay outta the way!!!! Hubby hates when people try to be helpful when not needed, but is always there if someone needs a hand.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Folks who have read this blog from the beginning may remember the time a guy got mad at me because I didn’t watch his hand signals when backing out of the auto repair place. He assumed I wanted and needed his help.

          I decided even before I picked up the BLT at the factory that I was going to try to be as independent as possible and that includes backing-up! Paul and Reine, who met me at my first campsite, helped me back into the site which I really appreciated. After that, I was on my own!

          Along these same lines . . . a message to women with a man: IMHO you should learn how to back up your rv and do a lot of the other necessary tasks. You never know when you might have to do these things by yourself. And get out of the kitchen so your man can learn how to cook, if he doesn’t already know! Okay. I’ll be quiet now.

      • Lisa says:


      • Ed says:

        Right On Sue!

        I would make your #3 be #1 but you have got it correct. The acronym for your #3 is GOAL. Get Out And Look!

  13. geogypsy2u says:

    You have found a pleasant pine forest. The white tailed squirrel is an Abert and it’s cousin Kaibab lives only on the North Rim. They are tufted-ear squirrels but loose tuft in the summer. Very much the acrobat.

    Don’t think I’d want to be too close to the lake or the “squatter.” It’s the latter’s kind of behavior that can cause the Forest Service to kick people out.

    I envy your backing skills. I have no problem hooking up to the 5th-wheel and I’m able to back up with lots of time, patience and no hecklers. I just need practice.

    Have fun in Flagstaff, it’s a delightful town. The old part of town by San Fransisco St. is fun to walk and very dog friendly. We’ll be driving through Flagstaff on Friday.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Gaelyn . . . I didn’t know there were so many varieties of squirrel. I always thought a squirrel was a squirrel.

      I thought the same thing about the squatter. Gail said he’s “a nice guy” but his behavior annoys me. He’s camped out in the grassy area where the white flowers grow and it’s not an established campsite. If we all did that, what a mess this pretty place would become.

      The land around the little lake is criss-crossed with ATV ruts which spoil the appearance of the place and indicate the noise that is over there, probably on weekends and during the summer. I’m hoping they stay away from this area. Gail said it’s not bad here, although last summer a group “buzzed” her campsite after dark.

      About the backing . . . In fairness I should say I only know about backing a Casita. I don’t know how I’d do with a fifth wheel.

      • hobopals says:

        Sue, be proud of yourself, the shorter the trailer the more difficult it is to back up. I have a long, narrow, slightly uphill driveway to back into, with obstacles I had a devil of a time every time I tried to back in until I learned the “swoop” method. IT WORKS! Here’s a short video that demonstrates it.

      • Bob Giddings says:

        A fifth wheel is actually easier, because the swivel point is over the axle. Any problems develop much slower. It would be really hard to jackknife a fifth wheel. OTOH, it’s not so hard to knock out the back window of your truck trying. Ask me how I know. Or any of the innocent citizens living down a certain dead end street in Seaside, Oregon.

        • hobopals says:

          Bob, how could your 5th wheel hit the window in the truck–was it the rear view window or a passenger side window?

          • Bob Giddings says:

            I had a 6.5 foot bed. At extreme angles, the front of the fiver will hit the back (read view) window. And did. The really stupid thing about it was I had a sliding hitch and could have avoided the problem. But “I thought I could make it.” Which led to an interesting trip in a 17 foot fifth wheel through the streets of busy down town Portland, looking for the auto glass place.

            3 years on, I was still finding little bits of broken glass under the seat.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Gaelyn . . . . I went to your blog and got a great preview of San Francisco Street and also a photo of an Abert squirrel! Thank you.

  14. Sra. Julia says:

    Hi Sue,
    Flag has some nice shops and an RV solar company. I stayed at Black Bart’s for a couple of nights last year cause it was storming and I don’t like to drive through bad weather. The dinner theater at Black Bart’s is interesting mostly students from Northern Arizona U. who are music/performance majors, their energy is amazing. The shopping is good they have just about everything one would need. I found Walmart a bit small considering how many people use it. A lot of folks stop in Flag coming or going to the Grand Canyon. Have fun !

  15. Al from The Bayfield Bunch says:

    Know what you mean by that Walmart thing. Even for somebody like me who prefers to stay out of stores & stuff, Walmart has some kind of appeal. After being out boondocking for awhile it’s kinda nice to just slip into Walmart for something & kinda cruise the aisles unnoticed looking at neat-o stuff on the shelves. Sort of like touching base with civilization without having to become a part of it.

  16. Donna P says:

    Sue, as I rush to finish preparing my students for their AP exams, in the midst of End of Course testing, and whatever last minute literature I can cram in. PLUS packing to move to a new school AND packing my own house for a June move, your “hectic” day sounds awesome!! Enjoy.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Donna!

      Reminding me of school stuff makes the muscles in my neck and jaw cramp. Just kidding. But, hey, yuck! I remember a year like that when I was moving to a new school. Exhausting. And I wasn’t planning to change my residence at the same time. Good luck.

  17. Marcia says:

    That’s a beautiful spot. My husband and I drove up there from Sedona on Schnebly Hill Road many years ago (not with our Casita in tow!) and it has stayed on my mind ever since as a place to return to. Will enjoy reading every bit of your adventure there. Hope to do it ourselves in 2 years.

  18. Pauline says:

    What a beautiful spot. I agree with Spike…I like being near the water. The old town that Geogypsy2u mentioned sounds like a perfect place for the 3 of you to visit. I love the pictures.
    Enjoy, My Sister
    Love you

    • Pauline says:

      It’s me again. I am curious to know how close your neighbors are. I didn’t see any other camps around the pond. Are the camping spots designated or can some one just pull up right next to you. I was thinking of the upcoming vacation months and wondered how crowded it might get.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        The pond (small lake) is quite a distance from where we are camped. It’s off on a road branching from the main road which is just a one lane dirt. No one is camped near the pond. National Forest rules are that you have to camp away from water sources for animals.

        Continuing on the “main road” you eventually come to an area with short lanes branching off into the forest. Going up those lanes you can see places where there are fire rings and flat places to park. Also there is a big open area where the white flowers grow. I chose a place within view of the grassy area but higher up because of impending rain. I can see the other campers through the trees but they aren’t at all close.. . further than shouting distance.

        I have a feeling it doesn’t get real crowded because there are a gazillion National Forest roads to camp along all over this immense forest. Someone could pull up close to another camper but there’s no reason to. The road goes on further into the forest with plenty of spots,although the road does get rougher the further in you go.

        • Shar Pei Mom says:

          The area gets very packed during holidays because of the convenience of the freeway. People from the valley like to stay close…so if a holiday is coming…try to get the furthest from the convenience! Tell Pauline that people really do try to give you your space while camping.

  19. The Good Luck Duck says:

    We checked out Willard Springs a week ago. It looked beautiful, and Annie drooled over that tower at the mouth of the site, but the recent snow had made it too iffy for our rig. Schnebly Hill was closed outright from that direction, and we’re not approaching from the other direction, for sure.

    We settled on a nice spot at a lower elevation. No Ponderosa pines here, but we got our butterscotch fix in Oak Creek Canyon last weekend.

    The Good Luck Duck

  20. Sue says:

    Aside from enjoying your wonderful blog, I am learning so much and making notes along the way. I actually copied your instructions on how to back up into my RV-ing note book. Thanks.

  21. Karen says:

    The pictures are great. Such a beautiful spot. Don’t know if it was my eyes or what. The picture of the tree growing at a strange angle mystified me. Spikey and his muddy feet. Whatta boy.

    I may need to print your back up instructions. I recall several years ago when I jack-knifed the boat trailer after dropping hubby off at the lake. It was a really long afternoon waiting for him to see the damage I did to the bumper of his new truck. Wish I would’ve had your instructions then. Ha, ha.

    I think Gail must love that area. It kind of looks like Northern Minnesota with all the beautiful pines and you can’t beat the price.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Karen!

      It’s not your eyes. That tree mystified me. That’s why I took a photo.

      Yeah, Spike is all boy. He never hesitates to explore and experience. It warms my heart the way he lives life at “full throttle,” plays hard, eats every meal like it’s his last, even the way he sleeps . . . snoring and completely out of it.

      Ooh, the boat trailer incident .. .not fun.

  22. joe says:

    Hi Sue, Just thinking, “which is bad for me”,,, with all that backing up skill, and up and down the mountain the other day, sounds like you are ready for a driving job with England Trucking… I can just picture those fields of flowers after tomorrow’s rain.. Enjoy…

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Ha! Hello, Joe!

      Many years ago I was a bus driver . . . Yeah, the flowers will be pretty. I’ll take your advice and enjoy . . . You have a good day.

  23. Judy says:

    Tears of Gratitude for your backing up info, Sue and Hobopals . I have literally spent sleepless nights agonizing over getting my 21′ Ultra Lite into camping spots. So far I’ve practiced backing it into the driveway twice then relocated it to the side yard. Only 1 of those 3 manovers went well. We are weeks away from hitting the road full time….and haven’t done any local practice camping yet because of my fear of getting into back up trouble. We’ve had the trailer for 6 wks!

    Local campgrounds here in OH that we’ve investigated are close spaced and many have trees to fit between plus the free National Forrest campsites have narrow paved parking that drops off 4″ on the sides, leaving little room for error. The one campground with pull through options have campground spaces the width of 2 parking spots…may as well go to the nearest Rest Area & park w/ the truckers!

    My first backing-it-into-the-driveway experience w/ Hubby directing went so horrible that I finally left it sitting kitty cornered and tried again another day. We have a wide double driveway. Turns out Hubby was verbally directing me to the Left side of the driveway and I was looking in my mirrors trying to park it on the Right side of the driveway!!!

    Looking fwd to the day when I can back w/ confidence!

    • hobopals says:

      I’ll never be really good at it. Parking between two obstacles or other trailers close at hand is very nerve wracking for me. I have a dyslexia problem so that is NO help. The worries aren’t so big when boondocking because you’re in wide open spaces for the most part and can pick your spot. In commercial campgrounds, I have NO problem asking someone for help or even to do it for me–most times someone will offer to help. I’ve had people back it in for me.

      My driveway would be on my mind all the time when I’d go out for a week or two, but that’s when the swoop comes in handy (best tip I ever received). That and remembering that the slightest movement of the steering wheel makes the trailer turn. It helps me to think that I’m pushing a little red wagon backwards – the reaction of the wagon to the handle is the same as the TV to the TT.

      Mostly, I think it’s just practice. Some people can zip the camper right into a space–I’ll never be one of those people. I just get out and look often. I have never parked any where, where there is a drop off. My friend, however, can do it alone in the dark with big drop offs on the back and sides. It just comes naturally to her.

      Good luck and remember part of having a trailer is to live a less stressful life. No sense in worrying whether or not you can back up–you’ll figure it out as you get to each place. Have fun.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      You can do this! Do realize that it is HARDER to back up with someone “helping” you because invariably you both mix up left and right. That experience hurt your confidence. But all is not lost! Keep trying. Make sure your husband is not around to see you. Go very, very slowly . . . get out and look . . . go very, very slowly. You do something that’s obviously wrong, pull forward and start over.

      If you know someone is watching you while you are learning, you’ll get impatient, frustrated, self-conscious, etc. Make it easier on yourself and practice without someone watchiing you. I’ve had to tell camp hosts to let me back in by myself and then I waited for them to go away.

      I admire you for not giving up and letting the backing up responsibility fall on your husband. I sense a determination in your comment.

  24. carol says:

    I can back a horse trailer, but I scissor with the tract and feed cart. Short tonge and wheelbase

  25. carol says:

    males are born with the ability to back, my grandsons can back anything,I’m not sure anyone showed them how

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Carol! It has nothing to do with being male .. . that just adds to female perceived dependence . ..

      I’m sorry, Carol. Don’t be offended. It’s just one of my pet peeves . . . women who restrict their lives because they think they can’t do things that men do. I cringe to see or hear that falacy promoted.

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