Tag Archives: camping

…Then the Wind Kicked Up

19 Jan

So I mentioned that last weekend, I went camping. In January. In the desert. So after setting up my tent, enjoying my fire, I put it out and went to bed. Then the wind kicked up…

Now knowing it was going to drop down to 40 degrees F, I had this brilliant plan to create a cocoon to use my body heat to keep my comfortable. I brought A LOT of extra blankets. I had a tarp underneath, two tent liners, two sleeping bags, three pillows, and a quilt that kept me warm through a Connecticut winter. Then to add on top of that, I had three blankets that I didn’t care as much about, that I draped on top of the tent.

So when I got in that night, it was very cozy. Sure, it was cold, but not terrible, and my back wasn’t complaining for sleeping on that dirt.

What I didn’t anticipate was that a 10-15 mph wind was kick in through the desert and knocked my blankets off. So by midnight, my face was freezing. I buried my body under the quilt and the sleeping bag, and had to reverse my hoodie so I was breathing into the back to keep the chill off my face. Because I went to bed at 8 pm (two hours after sunset), I woke up at 3:45 to the rooster kickin’ off his Praise of Dawn. After another half-hour, I finally gave up and started the fire.

Now I normally wake up at 5 am, so this wasn’t terrible, but at home I have my coffee maker working by that point. Here I had to make the fire, get it hot enough, then wait for the water to heat before my instant coffee and cream could be drunk. Sounds awful, but this instant coffee is amazing. An hour later, I was warm again, had my coffee, read my book (by flashlight), and everything was right with the world. However, by the time sunrise had come (although it was overcast), the wind was so bad that I decided, “Screw it, I’m going back to bed.” In my tent, without the wind, I was quite cozy, and kept reading. Then a couple hours later, I was ready to drive to my convention (which I’ll save for another post).

Before I came back to the camp that night, I made sure to pick up somethings. One, I picked up some more charcoal (I had burned through an entire bag), but I also bought some chip clips, and some different food (because it turned out that there was a reason I was avoiding all this meat and bread). So this time, I clipped the blankets down on the poles and weighed down the ends with rocks. I discovered that I could pull the extension cord closer to my tent and plugged in my computer and phone (which got reception). So after my evening fire, I crawled into my tent at 8 pm and played computer games until 10 pm.

The blankets stayed on, my face didn’t freeze, and when I woke up at 5 am, I was quite cozy. This time, I didn’t have to use charcoal to start my fire, and got it going with one match. After my morning coffee and book time, I once again hid in my tent to play computer games. However, the sun finally came out, so by 9 am, it was actually getting HOT in that tent. I folded everything up starting at 11, and by noon, I was already heading home.

I had a great time–and glad to have had the opportunity to relax in the chilly desert. As for why I was in Tucson, I’ll have to leave that for tomorrow.

Chill(y) Camping, Southwest Style

18 Jan

Last weekend, I had to go down to Tucson, and the friend I was going to stay with ended up flaking on me. So instead of a lot of driving, I decided to camp. Now doing this in January, even in sunny Arizona, sounds like a recipe for disaster. But I decided I wanted to have a good story, so…

Now even the US Forest Service thinks camping in the winter is a bad idea, so you can’t reserve a campground around Mt. Lemmon (which overlooks Tucson) until April. Most of the commercial campgrounds are designed for RV’s, so that left me in a pickle. Then I discovered Hipcamp, which is basically AirBnB for camping, and listed a couple locations north of where I wanted. One of them was listed as a property that had a very hippie vibe. Even though that’s the exact opposite of what I am, I thought, “Okay, I don’t need to sing kum-by-ya, I just need a camp.” So I signed up.

I drove down on Friday, driving past Florence, Arizona, where I passed no less than six roadside stands selling Trump merchandise. Even in the most conservative town, I thought this was a little overboard. (Discovered later that the orange one was showing up for a rally on Saturday.) After two wrong turns (my own fault), I reach the campsite, and no one answers the door. Thankfully, there were a couple helpful folks, including an older man named White Wolf, who took me down to the campsite and guided me how to drive in.

And that’s when I realized, this wasn’t a “hippie theme,” this was a hippie commune. In fact, as I explored around, this commune had been around since the 60’s. It was a commune that had seen better days, but it was not dead. My campsite was next to two fenced off gardens, neither of which was prospering. There were about four houses on this tract of desert, a couple of RV’s, and… uh, maybe ten shacks in various stages of repair. Some had solar panels, furnaces, ovens… some were locked up, waiting for the next resident. However, there was electricity (through a chain of extension cords), water (pipes had been installed a long time ago), hot showers (for two minutes at a time), and even though we were in the desert, plenty of firewood. Turns out there was so much dead cacti (which burns fast and makes perfect kindling), dried weeds, and dead bushes that I could keep my rock circle going. (Though it did make me worry about setting off a brush fire.)

Because it’s a commune, maybe of the residents took their evening walk past my campsite, so I got to meet several of them. I saw more folks in the distance as I wandered around, so I’d estimate somewhere between 15-20 people lived on the property, from young kids to elderly; a good age spread. I met four large dogs, including Ginger (the white dog pictured here), who apparently was the neighbor’s dog, but enjoyed hanging out here more! Most of my conversations were short, but I got the impression that it wasn’t a classic commune, where everyone worked together to improve the property. They may have started like that, but now, the commune aspect was “you get to live here rent-free.” If you want to eat, though, you have to work somewhere off property. I met one gal who had just gotten off her night shift job, and I knew there was no need for a night shift on property. The camping and the yurt (which you can rent on AirBnB) helped pay the bills.

All in all, it was a very nice place to camp in a friendly community. However, it wasn’t like the residents were swarming you… they left you alone mostly. It was cloudy and getting chilly, so I thought I’d throw some extra blankets over my (rather cozy) one-person tent. After I enjoyed reading my book near the fire, the weather was dropping down to 45 F, so I put the coals out and went to bed.

How did that turn out? Well… I’ll have to tell you about it tomorrow!

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