I've been wanting to get back to the SW since my first backpacking trips to the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands twenty years ago . Living 2900 miles away in Maine presents a few logistical problems for vehicle based overland travel to the relatively remote areas of the Arizona strip, especially when there isn't time to drive our own truck-yet.
The first order of business was the “where”. Maps were ordered and many evenings were spent in their perusal, plotting routes and trying to keep it realistic(hard to do) for our limited time of 8 days. That, combined with trip reports and PM's from the Four corners folks, was really helpful, Toroweap was a must go, my wife and I knew that much. Snake Gulch and another pictograph site, along with a couple of points along the Rim, Crazy Jug and its neighbors- Fence, N Timp etc were possibilities within the North Kaibab NF and would be based on accessibility, given weather conditions. Further N If time allowed, to White Pocket.
Second was getting some essential vehicle gear out there. ARB tire repair kit, Viair 300P compressor, tow strap, Norlund Guide saw. The shovel and spare gas can would have to wait. Other weighty items included the tent, a Marmot Limelight, our sleeping bags/ Thermarests, sunshower, North Face day pack with hydration bladder, fanny pack and cook set etc.Given the possible range of temperatures from freezing into the 80's, cold weather clothing needed to get stuffed in somewhere. And because I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark at an influential age and recently read all 26 pages of “Scariest/Freaky moments when Camping or Offroad” in Fireside Chat, I packed my 1911 in its field holster locked up in a Pelican. Between the two bags to schlepp this stuff, one was at a near limit of 49.5lbs the other was over at 50.5, they let us slide, gracious of United airlines after spending $230 for our luggage to go on backcountry adventure with us.
The “unknown” element was what type of vehicle we could get a hold of and what we could get away with putting it through. This was by far the most difficult part of the planning. At least three hours spent talking to rental companies and their labyrinthian recordings with little or no information at the end of them. A representative from Alamo finally said “We realize the geography of Arizona necessitates, at times, going off pavement.” (Later I find this statement directly contradicted in the fine print of the rental agreement, oops) Sold..err.. rented, but was it four wheel drive? Sure, they have SUV's but almost all were 2wd. It was confirmed by a rep on the ground at Alamo Sky Harbor, Phoenix(awfully hard to get a hold of) that they had 4X4 with low range, not just AWD in their fleet but there was no guarantee that one would be available when we showed up. We booked a Jeep Grand Cherokee or similar and crossed our fingers.
Thursday April 12 depart Portland, ME, arrive at Phoenix SH airport around 11:30pm and a meager supply of vehicles to choose from in the Alamo lot. Reps looking at computers don't seem to have accurate info as to what is outside their door so I go take a look. Best I can find is a Jeep Compass in 4WD, too small really and low clearance, I cringe a bit when my wife Sally mentions the clearance part to the representative... We take it with hopes of swapping it out Friday for better selection, as that's a big return day. Off to Hospitality Suites in Scottsdale, which worked out great, decent room, price and if you're around, free drinks by the pool from 4:30-6:30, we weren't.
Friday we head out to the REI in Tempe to grab fuel canisters for the Pocket Rocket, books, another map(never enough maps!) some freeze dried food etc. Back to Alamo to snare one of these:
Jeep Liberty with a Trail Rated Badge
My 2 cents for a rental there is to forgo relying on what the rep tells you. Go early or on a Friday, stroll through the lot, grab the key for what you want and bring it to the desk. That whole ordeal was a wee bit frustrating but it was worth getting something closer to what we needed.
The weekend has Sally visiting friends in Carefree at the Boulders resort. I make forays out Cave Creek /Bloody Basin road but forgo camping out there as things still want to be picked up—camp chairs, shovel, gas can and a headlamp (TSA or united gleeped 2 good lights from our luggage) Saturday morning finds me at the Cave Creek Coffee Co. Really liked that place. Seems to be hot with the dual sport riders. Good coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Off to see what this road is about.
The Boulders--not a bad "base camp" I guess
Saturday morning before heading out this guy sauntered across the patio and had a seat nearby:
Along Cave Creek road, varied weather with a great sky which brought rain, snow, hail and sun in moderate doses.
A lot in bloom, a Claret Cup cacti I believe:
I love this landscape, great to stop and walk up to any rock outcrop and have a look around, Yucca seem happy too.
Lunch stop. Windy means cooking in the truck on the baffle-less pocket rocket. I don't recommend the Whole foods brand mac and cheese, nor camping out of suitcases. Miss my aluminum boxes.
Evening Primrose, out Northeast ours are yellow.
Is it called Bloody Basin due to this color?
Couldn't get enough of this sky
I was hoping the Agua Fria river was low given the little rain that's been had, and that crossing wouldn't present a problem, it didn't. Funny to see an interstate marker out here towards the end:
Spent abut 6 hours making the trip to I-17 from Cave Creek including hiking up a few hills.
More "provisioning" on the way back to base camp, concluding day one off some pavement.
Beautiful area. More on the way...