We gave Halloween camping a try. In the week leading up to the trip, I stopped by the dollar store to purchase some inexpensive décor and a piñata. My favorite uncle was down to join us, and agreed to venture out to the campground early to snag our favorite spot. At first we were going to seek out our Coconino County campsite, but the it snowed the few days before we were going to leave. With lows in the teens for that location, the trip would quickly sour with cold kids and chilly dogs.
My uncle has a location he has gone to for years and with lows in the 40s it was a better option considering we don’t have cold weather camping gear. You really don’t need it in AZ unless you’re a frequent backpacker or hunter.
I signed the kids out of school a little early and we headed north with our old girl, Sheba in the front seat. The kids laughed and squealed as we took the twisty road that led to the off-road trail. As we hit the dirt road, we saw the poor, scorched desert to the east of us. In September a human-caused fire burned thousands of acres of one of our favorite spots to hike and explore. This gave me a chance to discuss the importance of caring for our open wilderness, and to be caretakers so future generations can enjoy the landscape and its offerings.
The kids were somber, but quickly cheered up as we rounded a sharp corner and came upon a roadrunner dashing across the road. They giggled with delight as we bumped along and twisted and turned. I love that road. It is so fun to drive.
Sheba did not feel excited about this road. She was quiet, and looked out the window. As we neared our location, I rolled the windows down and she stuck her head out to smell the fresh air. The kids and I laughed and sang, but then I saw Sheba staring at me and she started to make that dreaded coughing sound. I was about 2 miles from the campsite at this point. Nooo! I held her head away from the center consul and my cell phone. Right then she threw up all over her dog bed and the seat. Poor pup! She’s been car sick since day one.
The kids were grossed out, but we rolled down all of the windows and continued on the last 2 miles of our trek. As we pulled into the campground, it appeared to be empty except for a lone trailer parked at the front with no vehicle attached to it. I slowly approached the site we were hoping for and saw my uncle’s truck. Hooray!
The kids and Sheba spilled out of the car and began to explore as my uncle help me set up our tent. The temperature was cool and breezy. Leaves on the cottonwood trees were turning orange and yellow. Fall really is here! The beer I cracked open tasted even better in the wilderness.
After camp was set up, I put on plastic gloves and walked around our area and the creek to clean up trash left behind from other campers. Litter is truly a problem with this pandemic. Never in my life have I seen campsites left so disgusting. People want to get away, and I understand that, but please, for the love our open spaces, be considerate and clean up after yourself! Why go into nature if you’re just going to trash it?
It was gross to clean up toilet paper and wipes just discarded along the river rocks. The worst part about that is, a bathroom is at this campsite, it’s just a short walk. Drunk or sober, about to mess yourself, anyone can make the trek. That’s one of the perks of this location. No squatting behind a tree needed! Anyway, enough potty talk, but seriously. LEAVE NO TRACE! BURY YOUR POO. PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT.
As dusk settled in, we heard an engine roaring down the road. My husband and the new pups arrived just in time for dinner and a night around the campfire. The kids were wound up as the dogs raced around them, kicking up dust in their paths. The moon rose and it filled the night with the bright light of its fullness. What a treat!
Honest moment. What do you do in the middle of the night, when you wake up, and know the only way to use the restroom, is to unzip your tent and venture out into the darkness? I lay awake around 2AM staring at the roof of the tent, knowing I had no choice. My family and the dogs snored around me, sleeping without that annoying urge. Mimi is like a guard dog. She jumped up and followed me out into the moonlight. I nervously walked the path to the bathroom, but it wasn’t so bad because of the full moon. Something darted out in front of me and Mimi barked, chasing after it. Please don’t be a skunk! I think it was a raccoon. Mimi let it go and guarded the little bathroom shack, then escorted me back to the tent.
The next day was filled with hikes, bikes, and brews. Another group set up camp at another site, and a few people tried to hike through our site to the creek, but were discouraged by Mimi and Cody. Sheba watched them sleepily from her spot in the sun. I decorated the campsite for Halloween and the kids had a piñata to crack open. I would be fine with every Halloween being a campsite celebration. I think the kids disagree. They liked the Halloween wilderness, but missed being able to go door-to-door.
In the evening, my uncle set up his party lights and we had a full disco party, though the kids turned in early after crashing from their sugar rushes. The middle of the night approached and was bathed in the moonlight again. This time I awoke to the sound of crashing and banging. Something was on our table! Mimi barked defensively. I put my glasses on and poked my head out of the tent while shining our flashlight toward the table. There was a bushy black and white tail sticking out of our garbage bag! A skunk!
I tried desperately to keep Mimi in the tent but she slipped out. The kids woke up and the other dogs barked. Luckily Mimi didn’t get close to the skunk and only barked at it. I was able to get her back into the tent and she grumbled as she settled back in her bed with Cody. When dawn approached, I put on some gloves and began cleaning up the mess the skunk, and lord knows what else, made.
My uncle made a delicious chicken and vegetable stew in the morning and we took our time breaking down camp. It was nice to not feel rushed and to have a warm meal before leaving. Usually I grab a granola bar and a coffee and try to get packed up before 10. Overall, it was a relaxing and exciting trip! Thank you to my uncle for always joining us on these campouts. We love you.