Retired In Arizona: Our Camping Trip
Mount Graham, AZ
By Michael Yeager, Retirement in Arizona series
Last month when it was starting to heat up, we wanted to try a new area, so we drove northeast and camped at Roper Lake State Park. Roper Lake and Dankworth Pond are the main draws for this area. The two lakes are stocked with fish, the wetlands draw migrating birds and no motorized boats are permitted. One of the reasons we wanted to camp in this area was the presence of natural hot springs. We envisioned ourselves soaking in the hot healing waters after setting up our campsite and when the air temperature had cooled off.
We prepaid for two nights of camping. Our assigned site had a nice flat area to pitch our tent under several mesquite trees. We’ve camped more than a few times now in our new tent, so we assumed that putting it up would be snap. But no sooner had we had carefully laid it out on the ground cloth, than the wind picked up and blew increasingly harder and in unpredictable gusts. When we raised the body of the tent on the interlocking poles, the wind caught it from underneath and we experienced lift off, as if we were parasailing. We repeatedly wrestled the tent back into position, but the wind kept gusting and it took all of our energy to keep our tent/kite from taking off again. Using hands and feet, we got it somewhat stabilized and I was able to hammer the tent pegs into the rock hard ground. I added extra guy lines and pegs and we finally got it secured. We both let go and stepped back to see if all our efforts were enough and immediately the wind stopped and remained still for the rest of the night.
After eating dinner and cleaning up, we walked over to the lake to take a look around. The birds were active and noisy in the shallow area covered with cattails. We walked on several paths near the lake. One took us to a stone tub into which one of the natural hot springs flowed. It was a beautiful setting, but the air temperature was still in the 90s so the 95+ degree water was not very appealing. We thought maybe we could have a soak in the morning when it was cool, but that wasn’t to be.
When we returned to our campsite, we noticed an RV in the space next to it. It was a young family with two 8 or 9 year old boys and a baby girl. As soon as they set up camp, the man turned on the radio. When I walked over to our car to get something, he came up to me and said, “If the radio is too loud, just let us know. We want to be good neighbors.” I told him it was fine and thanked him for asking. The two boys must have been bored because they started throwing rocks and kicking the gravel in our shared driveway, stirring up dust. It took me the longest time to decide whether to say something, by the time my irritation level had reached the stage of action, the boys had taken off to the lake. When it started to get dark, we sat around our fire trying to will ourselves into a mellow mood, while our thoughtful neighbors sat at their picnic bench, with a blazingly bright lantern, the radio playing, not too loudly, and talking and laughing until 10 pm.
You know how camping is for us older folks. We start getting sleepy as soon as it gets dark, around 7:30. Katie and I held on as long as we could, but by 8:30 we couldn’t hang on anymore and turned in. So from 8:30 to 10:00 we lay in our tent listening to this family, laughing and talking and enjoying the pop and heavy metal music on the radio. They weren’t really doing anything wrong and at 10:00 sharp, the Park’s official quiet time, they turned off the lantern and the radio and they all went to bed. It took the baby a little longer to settle down, like maybe an hour, and finally we were able to go to sleep.
In the morning we were up early having coffee, sitting in our folding chairs and reading. The two boys were up early also and decided to do some target practice with their BB rifles, directly behind us. The father made sure they did it safely and was setting up cans on a log. Being a war veteran, I couldn’t relax with the shooting going on behind me and it bothered Katie as well. Knowing that this family was staying another night, we decided to “get out of Dodge”, forfeit our second night and camp somewhere else. Like I said, this family wasn’t really doing anything wrong. I guess we are just old and cranky. As we drove away from the camp area, we passed the hot springs tub where a woman sat relaxing and reading. We both agreed that would have really felt good this morning.
We headed over to Mount Graham in the Coronado National Forest. The drive up the mountain was long and beautiful with spectacular vistas of the desert floor below. We found a campsite near the top in the dense pine forest. We were the only people there, except for the camp hosts, a friendly older couple.
They told us they considered their campsite to be unofficially for 55 and older campers. After dinner we sat around the campfire, pushing the logs around with sticks and trying not to get smoke in our eyes. We turned in early and fell asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees. In the middle of the night we woke up shivering. The campsite was at the 9,000+ foot level and the temperature had dropped considerably. We put a blanket over our sleeping bags and two large towels over the blanket. We warmed back up and slept soundly until morning. Now that was a good night of camping.
Check out my blog: A Retired Boomer