From Flagstaff to Payson

Saturday, October 25 – Monday, October 27

Ponderosa Camp is a boondock in Coconino National Forest.  It’s across Route 89 from Sunset Crater National Monument which is about nine miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona.

1-P1010251This is the third time in as many years that I’ve found this a convenient place to camp, either when moving north in the spring or south in the fall.

The other two times I chose a site further up the forest road.

Those sites are on a bluff where you can sit and look to the Painted Desert of northeast Arizona.

1-Sunsetcraterview(Wrong date on photo.  This was taken in 2013.)

The sites on the bluff are very nice.  Why don’t I go up there this time?  Well, I expect the air temperature to drop possibly as low as the high 30s, if the online weather wizards are to be believed.  It’s very likely in late October at an elevation over 7,000 feet.

Here’s one of the sites on the bluff:


I park the Perfect Tow Vehicle in the first campsite that is reasonably level, picturesque, and not too close to the dusty road.

1-P1010276No need to search for the perfect site or to go any higher.   We don’t need a big view. We’re only going to spend one night since it’s going to be cold.

As it turns out, the weather is great!

The day is delightfully brisk in the shade and warm in the sun.  That night Bridget and I sleep comfortably.  No wind.  Clear sky.  Peace and quiet.  I like this site!

The next morning I discover that the dirt roads are packed hard enough for Bridget’s stroller to roll along without becoming stuck.  Bridget enjoys the ride.  She looks up at me with her dreamy face that I translate as “I love you.”  (For all I know she’s saying “Keep pushing, fool.”)

1-P1010257“Aww . . . I love you, too, sweetheart.”

 A few tents are scattered here and there, none close.  We relax under the pines.  Bridget stretches out in her favorite bed next to my lounger.  I read.

My reading is interrupted by a squirrel making quite a commotion, clicking and chattering as he/she skitters on a Ponderosa pine.

What is all the fuss about over there?

I train my camera’s zoom lens on the creature. 

1-P1010286“Oh, that’s what has you excited.  You’ve got yourself a prize!”

The white tail has me wondering if this is a kaibab squirrel. 

Later, at the national park website,, I read, “The kaibab squirrel is one of the rarest mammals in the national park system. It is found on the Kaibab plateau, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and is native to no other part of the world.”

I also read that the kaibab squirrel is quieter than the gray squirrel.  Hmm . . .  Maybe this one is a kaibab that didn’t get the memo . . . .

Bridget and I end up staying three relaxing days at Ponderosa Camp.

Tuesday, October 28

First thing this morning I’m frustrated with the slow internet connection.   I give up trying to make a blog post.

“We might as well hit the road.”

Bridget goes nuts, per usual, jumping and hopping and squealing.

“Gosh, Bridget.  You act like that squirrel.  You’re going to hurt your leg again!”

I pick her up and put her in the Perfect Tow Vehicle to wait while I break camp.  Soon we’re on the road to Flagstaff.  I take Route 3 southeast.

We pass Lower Lake Mary.

It’s “lower” all right.  It’s so low that there’s no lake.  It’s not even a marsh.  It’s best described as a field of dark tan grass.  I don’t bother with a photo.

We pass Lake Mary.

I remember visiting this lake a couple of years ago.  Bridget and I sat on a rock at the edge of the lake while Spike soaked.  The water was low then . . . and blue.  Now the lake isn’t much more than a big mud puddle.  The sign for the day use fee is taped over.  Only one car in the lot, probably belonging to this guy in the boat.

1-P1010287Two-lane Route 3 takes us past Mormon Lake (dried up to nothing) through the pines of Coconino Forest and along the Mogollon (pronounced “muggy-own”) Rim.

The road  rolls up and down through Happy Jack and to the town of Strawberry (5,800 feet).  There’s hardly any traffic at all.  I meet less than ten vehicles the whole way.

We continue to Payson (4,920 feet) where there’s plenty of traffic.

I stop for gas ($3.29 a gallon) and pull into Wal-Mart.

1-P1010290I notice six or seven RVs parked at the end of the lot.

1-P1010291As is our custom, Bridget and I go for a walk-about before I join the masses in Wal-Mart.

As Bridget looks for the perfect spot in which to do her business, I consider spending the night here with Wally’s other “guests.”

I’m almost at my limit of driving for one day.  Do I want us to sleep here tonight?  Noooo  . . . .

I put Bridget on the bench seat in the Perfect Tow Vehicle.  I make sure her water dish is full.

“I’ll be right back, Bridge.  Then we’ll keep going until we find our next camp.”



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1-sue-crewsunsetcrater2Camping across from Sunset Crater National Monument, May 2012

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