Last week, we left Flagstaff in search of a BLM area in the middle of Arizona that we found on a map that promised over 100 miles of non-motorized trails. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but a few miles away from where the GPS was taking us, we were met with signs warning of mountainous, unmaintained roads ahead. We looked at each other with the biggest grins, stoked at the thought of what was ahead.
It was afternoon when we arrived and we only saw 1 other camper around, it was like we had the place to ourselves. We posted up in the main staging area (basically a big open area with a couple of fire pits for those spending the night), and found the first trail on their list: Trail A. We quickly lost the trail (typical) and decided to turn back to make dinner (also typical). By morning, there were a couple of horse trailers that had pulled in overnight and had generators running, so we decided to further explore and find a place to park a little off-the-beaten-path.
During our exploring, we found a small dirt trail off the road equipped with a fire ring, not sure if it kept going, we walked on foot to see where it led. To our excitement, it was a dead-end about 1/4 mile further and had another firepit and a flat, open space for a tent. We decided straight away that we would pitch the tent, and maneuver the van to block the road and keep anyone else from finding us or this magical spot. After coming off a week posted up because of rain and mechanical issues, we were so happy to have the fresh air and open space that comes with sleeping in the tent. It took a few trips from the van to the campsite to get all of our gear there, but once it was all setup we still wanted to explore and went back to walk Trail A. We lasted an hour and realized we forgot to bring enough water (rookies) and headed back to camp. On our walk back up the road, a truck pulled over, rolled the window down and out yells, “Hey! I follow you on Instagram!” and it was no other than fellow traveler, @Wheres.Mal.Now, what a small world!
Thursday morning, bound and determined, we loaded up the pack and hit Trail A for the 3rd time and GUARANTEED to be the time we actually hike the simple 7.1 miles. We decided we would outsmart ourselves and the portion of trail that was hiding from us, by starting at the opposite side. 3 miles in, a PRIVATE PROPERTY sign made us realized that we were no where near the trail and in fact, we had never been on it. HAHA! Confused, we turned around and had lunch next to a horse trailer in the staging area before walking up the hill to our site.
The next morning we woke up and decided to drive down the dirt road and see where all the cars were coming and going from. As far as Google Maps was concerned, there was nothing down there, so our curiosities were piqued. During the 5 mile drive, we speculated wildly, “maybe it’s the Illuminati”….”maybe it’s some weird cult”…”maybe it’s some weird hunting gangbang” (idk)….turns out, 5 miles down the road was a hotel. The road you would normally take to get to the hotel currently had a river flowing straight across it, which we came to, and said “oh that makes sense” and then turned around. We decided to head into the local town of Wickenburg, to explore, get supplies to hold us over for a few days in case the forecasted rain came and stranded us a for a day or so. At some point on the road back out, we found this massive skeleton about 25 yards off the road and pulled over to examine it, looked like a javelina but not sure. Once we got back to the site, Rufio started acting really weird. We found him sitting at the edge of the road, staring off into the distance, when we inspected further, we found a massive steer grazing across the road! We were really impressed with how calm Rufio was, some guard dog.
Saturday was calling for rain all week, but that morning, the forecast had changed and said 0%. “This is it. This is our time.” we thought as we once again loaded up the pack to hike Trail A. The weather was perfect, cloud coverage kept the heat at bay, and we found the section of the trail that eluded us all these days. About 2 miles in, we felt a few raindrops, and after another .5 mile it was raining pretty steady. We were determined to not let it stop us and we carried on until we were hungry for lunch. As we looked for shelter for lunch, the rain picked up and began what one could describe as, pouring. We ate wet sandwiches, laughed, and decided to turn back. We took a shortcut, and got back to the van in just enough time for the rain to stop and the clouds to open to blue bird skies. HAHA. At dinner, it was decided on that Sunday would be a lounge around and relax day, Trail A would have to wait.
Monday we spent the day cleaning the van and stocking up on ice, water, and food to get ready for @TheOffGridSkoolie to come by to film Bernie for his YouTube Channel @TinyHomeTours. We tried to act cool and unbothered but we both were mega stoked to show off our home for the first time.
4:17AM on Tuesday is when Ashley woke up with excitement, which kind of meant that all 3 of us were up. We made a nice breakfast, tried to work out the nerves, and waited for Chris to come at 10AM with his camera and drone to film our home. When he arrived in his converted school bus, he gave us a tour and we laughed at how completely opposites our rigs were from one another- the beauty of #vanlife! Chris mic’d us up and started rolling and everything felt super natural, we were impressed with ourselves! That faded as fast as it took him to get out of sight, because we spent the rest of the evening intensely anxious and overly aware of ourselves. It feels really intimate to show someone your home, we had to remind ourselves that, that isn’t quite necessarily, a normal thing for people to do, so we forgive ourselves for any awkwardness.
For dinner, we made BBQ Chicken Quesadillas for the first time as a little reward for our hard work and social interaction. As Sean went to cleanup and do dishes, he heard something in the brush. We froze. The sound was loud and heavy and coming from a few different directions. Sean backs up and quietly says “should we be worried?” and unzipped the tent so we can dive in. The noise was getting louder and closer, probably less than 10 yards and it’s so dark we couldn’t see but 5 feet in front of us. Then it dawns on me, it’s probably those damn cows again! Back to graze on the blooming bushes. I call for Rufio and have him bark a few times to scare off any visitors and that must have worked or as we joked they just stood frozen in place, damn near scared half to death. Never a dull moment.
Time has flown, and we have been at the site for a week already and planning on staying through the weekend until the rain comes on Monday. If we make it to Monday, it will be a full 13 days camping in the same spot, a first for us! There is so much to see and do around here, it feels like we are running out of time to explore it all, especially considering it will take 6 different attempts to hike one dang trail, but with no schedule or place to be, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to hike it, as long as we are hiking (+laughing) together.
Thanks for reading about our week camping! If you’re on Instagram, make sure to follow us at @TheBeirnes to see all of our daily antics.