This post was lying in my drafts from God knows how many months/years 😛 Finally I completed and posted it today. I want this travelogue to stay in my memory forever, since this was the best trip I have ever had in my life 🙂
* A very long post alert *
This trip happened when I was in college and this was my first camping experience ever. We had a long weekend coming and the day before the holidays started or rather the night, we decided to go somewhere. Most of the people wanted to go to Vegas once again but then we started googling trying to find some interesting place. It was peak summer so we wanted to visit a place which was relatively cooler. Finally Su, the eldest in the gang suggested White Mountains in Show Low and we started hunting for cabins and camping grounds. Work was divided; so I started hunting for trekking trails which were scenic while others started looking for the accommodation. As expected, we found everything booked well in advance so we were about to drop the idea, when a friend finally found a camping site which was not full. We booked it and meanwhile I found a nice trail close to the place we were camping. Only Su had been for camping once, for all the rest of us it was our first camping experience 🙂
Day 1 :
Next day early morning, we left in 2 cars (8 of us in total – Sr driving one car, along with Sa, K and Me; P driving another car with R, Su and A). Su had a tent and on the way we picked some drinks, snacks, fruits, vegetables, Paneer for the journey. We reached the camping site by afternoon. The camp site was in Sitgreaves national forest, right next to a lake. We bought some wooden logs there and few of us tried igniting the fire (which was really not easy!). We even added some pine cones to the fire. Meanwhile, I with others, went to Walmart, which was nearby to get another huge tent, some corn, a jacket (it had already started drizzling and it was very cold), torches and yogurt. We also bought a frisbee (disc) so that we could play. While some of us were playing, the others roasted corn. We ate plenty of corn and bananas. By that time, it was getting dark. We started working on putting the tents up. None of us knew how to and after struggling for a pretty long time, finally they were up.
As it got dark, we started making Paneer Tikka masala with all the vegetables, yogurt and Paneer that we got. It was nice to have a camp fire and a barbeque of Paneer and the vegetables with masala in them 🙂 My paneer fell into the fire thrice while others relished theirs. Finally in the fourth attempt I succeeded, while a friend of mine tried to roast them by keeping them on an aluminium foil. Unfortunately for him, the paneer did not roast at all and finally I remember the foil catching fire 😛 You can see the foil in this pic.
It was already pretty late and we are supposed to put out the fire in the night. So we went inside the big tent and continued talking and then played poker for sometime. I and R were already tired so we went ahead and dozed off. The big tent accommodated everyone except for Sa, who took the small tent. K and Sr slept in the two cars. It was soo cold that I could hardly sleep. I was shivering the whole night. We had not anticipated it to be so cold there, since it was peak summer. Then there were some strange noises which scared me in the middle of the night. Sleeping in a forest is really scary 😀
I got up pretty early next morning and found 3 people awake. While the others were still sleeping, we brushed our teeth at a tap in the camping site. Thankfully they even had a toilet, which was pretty okay. Our camp along with the lake looked really amazing in the morning. We were so sleepy and so badly in need of a coffee that we went to Mama Bear’s restaurant, which looked really weird, outside and inside. By the time we were back, many others were awake. We had to poke and wake Sa, who was still snoring. Once everyone woke up, we packed the tents and cleaned the place, which was full of eatables and bottles. The cleaning took quite sometime and the dustbin was quite far too 😛
I insisted on having a breakfast since I was really hungry (owing to the lack of dinner). So we ended up going to Denny’s which was unfortunately very crowded and we wasted plenty of time in waiting and eating. After that we headed towards the trail. I had printed the directions and started guiding others 😛 The directions were not that precise.
We kept driving for a long time and ended up in a forest (Apache National Forest). Still no trail in sight, nor was a single human 😛 Then we got down for sometime in the middle of the forest. We were surrounded with trees everywhere and then spotted deer. It was time for everyone to scold me, since trail was nowhere in sight. And there was no going back too. We were deep inside the forest. We kept going further and after 2 hrs or so, we were out of it. But still no trail 😛 We came across a place which had a nice view of the forest and the plains. It was simply mindblowing.
We ended up in an area which had a river called “Black river“. It was supposedly famous for bears and wolves. Again forest and this being a tourist attraction (which we were not aware of), there were few humans here and there. But very few! We spent sometime following the river trail, the water was really black in color, not sure if it was because of some minerals or something. But the river looked dirty. There was a wooden structure which looked like a crossing of some sort (probably built by Indians in the past). After hogging on some snacks, we left the place. Now everyone was frustrated and exhausted searching for the trail.
We passed a lake called “Big lake” and a region called “Greer” which was really very beautiful. For the first time I saw countryside with lush green grass everywhere, with tall trees and literally no humans and not even a single building in sight.
Finally people gave up when we spotted a sign for a trail “Indian Spring Trail : Big lake lookout“. We started hiking through that trail which was pretty tiring since it involved climbing a hill. On top of the hill was a watchtower. Once we entered the watch tower, we heard from the guard there that it was used to detect forest fires. From top of the tower, you could spot many miles of forest in all the directions. The scenery was tooo beautiful. We could see the entire big lake and its surroundings from the top. It really was a “big” lake. As soon as a smoke is seen anywhere, they send out a signal to the forest guards. It was interesting to hear how they find out the exact location of the forest fire. Even though there was no opportunity to get hurt, I managed to get hurt. My hand started bleeding after I got a scratch from the rough metal pillars of the watch tower.
Trek back was not tiring, since I made Sa carry my heavy backpack. Once we were back inside the cars, we ate all the leftover snacks. All of us were really hungry since we had no lunch. There were no restaurants in sight. As we headed back, all of us were tired. We passed big lake again and the forest journey began. After sometime, Su realized that we were lost. We missed a right turn and went straight ahead. The funniest thing that could happen was that we saw a board in front of us, which had the name of the trail that I had found on the Internet.
This was the trail I had heaps of printout about 😛
We had a good laugh. We would have reached the trail in maybe half an hour if we had turned right. Instead we had turned left and journeyed through lakes, rivers, hills and forests for almost the entire day. It was already getting dark so we decided to head back home. As soon as we reached city limits, first thing we did was hog at an Indian restaurant 😀 Drive back was very difficult since it was dark, the road was full of steep curves and on top of that it started raining heavily.
Even though this was one of those trips which did not go according to the plans, it still will remain as one of those most memorable trips. Camping is really fun and when you have like minded friends with you, any trip is fun 🙂