|It was time once again to celebrate our
marital bliss...in the true Verley fashion, of course.|
For our anniversary weekend, John and I decided that it would be fun to do a camping trip near Flagstaff, the city where we had gotten married seven years ago. We also liked the idea of inviting John's friends, John Coffman and his wife Jan, on another hike with us, because we always enjoyed spending time with them. All of our planning worked out nicely; we selected a trail that we could all do, and we agreed to meet John and Jan at their condo in Flagstaff on Saturday, July 15.
With the 4Runner fully packed with all of our camping gear (including our new canopy, which we had used for the first time in Rocky Point earlier in the year), John and Mary and I left for Flagstaff on Saturday morning, a bit later than we had expected to leave. Our intention had been to be at John and Jan's condo at 8:00 a.m., but with our delayed start and numerous stops along the way, we didn't make it there until 8:30. Fortunately, John and Jan are patient people and our tardiness didn't faze them at all.
The trail that we had chosen to hike that day was the Inner Basin Trail, a beautiful 4.2 mile long loop in the San Francisco Peaks. This was a trail that we had done as a family last year, but John and Jan had never been there. (They had been planning to hike Mount Eldon that day, before we invited them along with us; they had no problem scratching their plans in order to see something new.) We also knew that it was a trail that Mary could hike without difficulty, as it was certainly a kid-friendly trail.
John and Jan chose to ride with us to the trailhead in the 4Runner. (Of course, we had plenty of room!) To get there from their condo, we took US 66 through town to US 89; then, we continued on US 89 to the forest access road opposite the turnoff for Sunset Crater National Monument. The forest access road was FR 522, also known as Lockett Meadow Road, and it led us up to the Lockett Meadow Campground, 4.6 miles away.
We arrived at the trailhead head just before 10:00 a.m., and although John and Jan were ready to go, we were not. We took about fifteen minutes getting our gear together and making sandwiches for lunch before we were able to start hiking. We also paused to take pictures of each other before we could get going.
Our hike began shortly after 10:00 on that warm, sunny morning. Although it was July, there wasn't a single monsoon cloud in the sky, and the air was hot and dry. (It was nearly eighty degrees when we started hiking, and we were at 8,900 feet in elevation!) It wasn't the kind of weather we were used to in Flagstaff; it was usually cool and humid up there in July. Nonetheless, at least it wasn't 116 degrees!
Despite the warmth, our hike was very pleasant. John and John hiked together ahead of the rest of us and talked about skydiving (of course). Jan and Mary and I hiked at Mary's pace (about 1.5 miles per hour) and played games to keep her little legs moving. Although Mary had done well her first time on this trail, she didn't do as well this time, so it was everything in our power to keep her interested. One of the games that we played was "Guess How Many Steps It Is To That Rock" (or "That Tree", or "To Daddy")...whatever it took to keep her going on that steady, 960 foot climb.
It took us just over an hour to reach the Inner Basin: the site of the City of Flagstaff watershed cabins. John explained to John and Jan that the City of Flagstaff gets its water from the springs located there. He also showed them that they could do further exploration up into the Peaks by continuing along the network of connecting trails; he pointed them out on the maps pinned to the kiosk at the Inner Basin.
Since it was after 11:00 a.m. (or the Meltdown Hour, as we have come to know it), we decided to have lunch there. The five of us sat down on a pair of benches that had been placed next to a water spigot. It wasn't the best place to eat our sandwiches, because there were so many flying insects circling over the mud created by the leaking spigot; however, we made the best of it.
After lunch, we completed the loop. From the Inner Basin, the trail continued along a forest access road that was closed to all motor vehicles (except for official City of Flagstaff vehicles, of course). At this point, the trail was all downhill, so we were able to hike at a slightly faster pace. We felt that it was important to keep Mary moving, because the meltdown was coming; we could sense it.
The meltdown occurred as soon as we left the road and connected to the footpath that looped around the finger ridge, to take us back to Lockett Meadow. Okay, it wasn't a full-blown meltdown; it was more like whining and a few tears, but sometimes that's just as bad, because it's harder to get her moving that way. John and Jan were a huge help to us in getting her over her whining; John threatened to tickle her, and Jan held her hand as they hiked together.
We made it back to Lockett Meadow around 1:00 p.m. By that time, Mary had stopped whining and was all smiles again. Once back at the trailhead, we lingered there for a while - after all, we weren't in a hurry to return to the heat in Flagstaff. We discussed dinner plans and what we were all doing on Sunday. We didn't have anything planned for Sunday; John and Jan were planning to go bicycling.
After leaving Lockett Meadow, we returned to Flagstaff and dropped John and Jan off at their condo. We didn't say good-bye to them just yet, though, because we would be meeting them for dinner later that evening, at Charley's at the Weatherford. (This time, though, we were going to sit away from the bar; I certainly didn't want to get another drink dumped on me!)
After leaving John and Jan, John and Mary and I drove out into the forest, off of US 180, and began looking for a campsite. We decided to camp along FR 794 again, because that road seemed to have the prettiest campsites. We had already camped along that road several times in the past and knew exactly where we wanted to pitch our tents: in the same place where we had taken Mary's pictures, back in August 2004.
And we were in luck, too! We were able to get that same campsite again!
Once our campsite was set up, we settled in and took a nap, because it was just too hot to do anything else. Typically, at this time of day, we would be dealing with monsoon storms, but instead, it was just hot and sunny and clear. We felt it was best to stay out of the sun as much as possible.
Later that afternoon, we cleaned up then got into the 4Runner to drive into Flagstaff for dinner. We met up with John and Jan outside of Charley's, at the historic Weatherford Hotel, in downtown Flagstaff. This time, we sat away from the bar, where I was less likely to be in the path of the wait staff. We had a wonderful dinner with the Coffmans; and at the end of the evening, we said our good-byes and returned to camp.
It was a very warm night - so warm that we were hot in our zero-degree sleeping bags. I think that is the only time that I have ever been that warm camping in the mountains! The next morning was just as warm; we awoke with the sun and didn't even need jackets to start the day.
Since it was going to be another hot day, we opted not to go hiking that morning. Instead, John had a better idea...but he just wouldn't tell us what it was; we would just have to wait and see.
After packing up camp and loading everything into the 4Runner, we returned to Flagstaff and connected to FH3 - Lake Mary Road. Forest Highway 3 connects Flagstaff to State Route 87, at Happy Jack; it is the alternate route that we will take home if we don't feel like taking I-17 (and dealing with the usual traffic). Little did I know, John was planning to make a stop along the way.
We stopped at a general store near Lake Mary and went inside. I thought for sure that we were going in to buy snacks for the drive home, but instead, John announced that we were going to buy fishing poles and bait: we were going fishing! I had not been fishing since I was a young child; I used to go with my father when he would fish on the Verde River, though I never caught anything. What a fun way to spend the day!
We purchased two standard fishing poles - one for me and one for John - and a Barbie fishing pole for Mary. Additionally, we bought bait, hooks, and fishing permits that were good until the end of the year. Once we had all of the equipment that we needed, we loaded everything into the 4Runner and continued towards Lake Mary.
When we arrived at Lake Mary, we parked just off of the highway (above the lake) and prepped our new gear. John removed the fake bait from Mary's fishing pole and tied on a real hook, so that she could pierce a worm. He explained to her that she had to be very careful with that hook, because it could very well get stuck in her skin and hurt...a lot!
Once the gear was ready, we took everything down to the lake and started fishing. John showed Mary how to bait her hook and how to cast her line into the water; at first, it looked easy enough, but she didn't get it right away. Soon enough, she was able to cast on her own.
We spent about two hours fishing on Lake Mary that morning...and all we caught were crawdads! The lake was teeming with them; every time we cast out our lines, the crawdads would grab them immediately. We each caught three or four of them - even Mary, with her Barbie fishing pole, caught several crawdads! After we pulled them off of our lines, we tossed them back into the lake (they weren't actually caught on our hooks).
At lunchtime, we decided to call it a day, so we packed up our fishing gear and walked back to the 4Runner. Once there, we made sandwiches to eat on the ride home.
As we drove home that afternoon, we got a call from Danny, our brother-in-law. He had to ask us if we were out fishing on Lake Mary.
"Yes..." John replied.
"I knew that was you!" Danny said. He was on his way back from Flagstaff, too, and had seen someone that looked an awful lot like us, fishing on Lake Mary; but then, he thought, "Nah, not John! John doesn't fish!" So, he didn't stop to check it out. Curiosity did get the best of him, though, so as soon as he got home, he had to call and ask if that was indeed us.
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