It’s official. We’re back from our trip. We didn’t have car problems, we didn’t run out of money, and we didn’t get attacked by bears. In fact, it was probably the most awesome vacation we’ve had in a long time, and I’m so glad we went.
And now I have so much to tell you! Since I have probably in the neighborhood of 500 pictures and a few videos, I decided I would break down my trip into a 6 or 7-part post. I know. It might be overkill. But it was so awesome, I tell you! So here’s the story…
At 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, we left Oklahoma City, and I promptly fell asleep while Jacob drove. Of course. If I’m in a moving car and not driving, you can consider me asleep. I woke up around 7:45 in Amarillo, TX. It was boring and flat, and here I will interrupt myself to tell you a side story:
Jacob thought it would be hilarious to shave his beard off right before vacation and let it grow back while we were gone. I cannot describe to you how unfunny I really thought this was. But on Thursday night before we left, he shaved it off to impress (?) his coworkers. I thought it made his face look naked. I was generally pretty disgruntled with him Thursday night and Friday during the day, and when I woke up in Texas to this naked-faced man driving the car, I forgot it was him for a few seconds and wondered where the heck I was. But I quickly figured it out, much to my chagrin.
Back to the story. So, we drove through TX and reached Albuquerque around lunchtime. There, we stopped off at this awesome Mexican restaurant called La Taqueira, where I had fish tacos and Jacob had regular tacos. The place was full of non-English speakers, which made me confident that we’d picked probably the best Mexican food in town.
After lunch we continued our visit in Albuquerque by stopping in at Trader Joe’s, which is one of my favorite kinds of grocery stores; they sell local food, give taste tests, have cool reusable bags, and they’re very reasonably priced. FIND ONE. After that we headed to the REI Camping Warehouse store, where we picked up a few essentials for the trip. This store is also incredibly cool. It’s like a Backwoods on steroids. We purchased BPA-free plates and sporks, bear spray, pants for Jacob, a headlamp, a tent lamp, and a year membership, because, really, why not? We’ll be back.
We got back in the car and didn’t stop until the tiny town of Magdalena, where we pulled in for gas; we were glad we did, because there ended up being no gas stations for probably another 150 miles. In the meantime, our ears were beginning to pop every two seconds because the elevation was starting to slowly increase. The area is high, but there’s mostly just scrub brush and sky.
About two hours away from the first of two possible camping sites, we hit smoke from a forest fire that’s hundreds of miles away. It added to the already depressing landscape and made me feel claustrophobic and sad. It looked like The Nothing from The Neverending Story because it just seemed to swallow everything in sight. I even felt a little bit like Atreyu as he’s leading Artax through the swamps of sadness. I didn’t take any pictures of this because you couldn’t really see anything anyway. Just the road and smoke.
Finally, what seemed like a bajillion hours later, we arrived at the first of two possible camping sites we’d picked out in the Gila National Forest. We stopped at Apache Campround, which is dispersed camping near the highway. Dispersed camping means there’s no bathroom or water. It’s just a place where you can pitch a tent and make a fire if there’s no fire danger. However, at the point that we drove through NM and AZ, there had been forest fires, and we couldn’t make a fire anywhere in the region. But we stopped at Apache Campgrounds just to give it a look. It was actually really beautiful. It was full of Ponderosa pines and had a great view of the forest in the background. We picked up a Ponderosa log, and we plan to make coasters out of it later. More on that to come. The one thing that’s odd about the campground is this weird clicking noise. It sounds like bacon sizzling in a pan. It was really windy, so I just assumed it was the pine needles in the trees. I was WRONG.
After looking around for a bit, we saw that The Nothing appeared to be encroaching in the mountains, and we decided if we stayed the night in Apache, we’d probably wake up inside the smoke and get completely swallowed up. You can see it here in the background:
At this point we decided to hit the road and beat The Nothing to our second possible campsite, Pueblo Campgrounds. We got directions from the park ranger, and we drove what I thought was probably 23 miles on a gravel road up and down a mountain at about 20 miles an hour in 1st gear. It seriously took us like 30 minutes to get to this campsite from the highway. It was DEEP in the woods. (*Spoiler* On the way out of the campsite, Jacob decided to test my 23-mile theory and set the odometer. It’s 5.7 miles. Whatever. I drove down that road till I thought my feet would fall off.)
When we finally got to the campgrounds, we were BLOWN AWAY. In fact, we gave it 5 S’mores. It’s silent, secluded, scenic, there’s stuff to do, and something amazing: Ponderosa pines aaaaand something you’ll see in my next post: a washed-out and eroded riverbed with incredible rocks and caverns.
So remember earlier when I said that I heard a weird clicking sound at the Apache Campground and I thought it was the pine needles? That noise that pervaded the entire forest and was like thousands of pans of sizzling bacon? Jacob figured out that it was hundreds of thousands of BUGS flapping their nasty little wings together. It disgusted me. They stopped clicking after dark though, thank goodness. We set up camp and ate our standard fare of hot dogs, salsa, chips, and s’mores. Day 1 was a success.