Mogollon Rim

April 29-May 1, 2020

For four months, we worked like dogs, cleaning out a house where our friends lived for 60 years. There was no heat or hot water, and it was back-breaking work in filthy conditions. It also required making impossible decisions about which pieces of their long lives should be preserved and which should be discarded. What kept us going was our plan, when the winter and the work were done, to buy a second-hand RV and spend Tucson's long, hot summer traveling all around the Southwest. Well, we bought that RV, and we spent exactly one night out — at Colossal Cave Mountain Park — before our world was turned upside by the CV-19 global pandemic.

We stayed home a full month, growing increasingly restless. Then it slowly dawned on us that we may still be able to resume traveling, so long as we take care to avoid other people and be totally self-contained. A forecast calling for the first days of +100° F temperatures sent us fleeing north to higher ground, using the truck camper to scout possible RV spots along the Mogollon Rim.

We knew all developed campgrounds are currently closed, so we aimed for a dispersed camping along FR 9350. But there was a long line of big rigs turning into that area, and kicking up huge clouds of dust. Our fallback was Promontory Butte, but we found all roads into that area and many other areas gated and locked. It took us hours to find a spot, and when we did, I was deeply dismayed by clouds of toilet paper and fire pits piled two feet deep with used charcoal, blackened tin cans, plastic bottles and broken glass. There was nothing to do but put on rubber gloves and clean up the place. When people leave a campsite in this condition, what are they thinking? Do they assume their tax dollars pay for an army of maintenance workers to patrol and clean up after them? Do they think it's their god-given right as 'Mericans to cover the earth with piles of poop and empty cans of Coors Lite? Is it only losers and "Libtards" who pack out their own trash?

I found myself wondering if there once was a plan to manage Arizona's public lands for low-impact recreation. GAIA "Open Hiking Map" shows the General Crook Recreational Trail running for hundreds of miles along the edge of the Rim, but there's no sign of it on the ground. Was it ever even built? Is the current management plan just to let the Yahoos run wild, and close one road after another once an area is destroyed?

But a gentle breeze was blowing, and afternoon temperatures never got above 75° F. At sunset, we took a hike to the nearest promontory, and were dazzled by both by the non-stop views and the absence of underbrush.

The next morning we hiked the road to the Horton Creek TH and descended to the last good viewpoint. The trail slices through classic Coconino Sandstone .

We scampered to the top of knoll for a better view, and then realized that the best hiking is right along the edge of the Rim. You can easily bushwhack from promontory to promontory, under a canopy of fragrant Ponderosa Pines.

Life on the Edge.

Come on, do a push-up and show me that beautiful blue belly! My herp friend Terry J identified this guy as a Plateau Lizard.

The terrain is remarkably varied, and the hiking easy and rewarding. Now I want to hike the whole thing!

Summer cabin for rent, air conditioned, views, some assembly required.

Tiny Horned Lizard

My best guess is short-sepal bitterroot. They were everywhere!

Environmentally-unfriendly camping behavior notwithstanding, the Mogollon Rim is a miraculous place. There is room for everyone, if we all just made a couple of minor changes, like packing out our trash, and not building biga$$ campfires — especially during fire season. We need a nationwide campaign, like when Lady Bird Johnson got behind "Keep America Beautiful" in the 1960s. It had a huge impact. But now several generations have grown up without that basic awareness of how to pick up after themselves. A new CCC, the Courteous Camping Campaign? I will suggest this to our next First Lady!

Sunset hike to yet another promontory, this one astonishingly broad, bare and flat.

We sure took the scenic route home, turning a five-hour drive into an all-day adventure. Along the way, we saw mule deer, wild turkeys, and this Abert's Squirrel. So dang cute with those tufted ears and that outrageous white tail!

A rare photo of a white-nosed coati.

This one seemed more curious than fearful, and tolerated several photos.

Chamberlain Trail was a thrill a minute, with some white-knuckle moments that were more than compensated for by jaw-dropping views.

Haigler Creek, what a gem! We'll return soon!

Stopped to visit Eb and Hayley at SAWUURA. So peace full!

SAWUURA'S newest amenity, an outdoor solar-heated bathtub!