Traveling with Children: Northern Arizona Camping Adventures

September 24, 2018

From early on we integrated outdoor experiences for our kids. Camping has been an important part of our relationship and we want our kids to enjoy and appreciate nature as they grow. We finally had a weekend where we could escape to the woods, and the fire ban was lifted, so we were excited to have a real camp fire!

My husband scouted a location the weekend before we left and found a good area. He had to work, but my uncle rode up with me and the kids when our daughter got out of school. Everything seemed to be going as planned. We found the turn, went through the gate, but then we ran into a situation. The road we had marked on GPS, was actually a tiny off road trail, not a road suitable for a full-sized vehicle. I discovered this too late, as our truck, and trailer rambled up the bumpy, twisty road. There had to be a campsite ahead!

About 1 mile in, it was clear no human had camped on this road—ever! How do you turn a trailer around when you have a wall of pine tress, rocks, fallen logs, and a thin, boulder-encrusted road? You don’t. You also can’t back up in a truck hitched to a trailer when the trail is so rough. Thank goodness for my uncle. He talked me off a ledge. After both of us tried to turn the vehicle around, we had to unhook the trailer, use our strength and brawn to move it into a good position, back the truck up, back it up some more, and some more, then hook it up again. And then go 1 mile back down the off-road track. All while having two screaming kids and swarms of mosquitoes feasting on our legs.

We finally got back to the main road. I had a lantern and wrote a note on it instructing my husband NOT to take the fire road when he arrived at the gate. I ran about three-quarters of a mile down the better road, and discovered at the crest of the hill, there was a beautiful campsite open, and available. A herd of deer was passing through as I gasped for breath. That thin mountain air!

I rushed back to the truck, out of breath because I’m totally out of shape right now. My uncle was concerned, but helped me regain my mental state. We rambled down the road and gladly pulled into the site. Just as we were unhooking the trailer, I hear a beep and saw our little Subaru head down the road with my husband, our neighbor and our dog. Night was falling, but we had just enough daylight to set up the tents, unpack the food and get a fire started. And have a beer… and a shot of tequila! Stress relief!

The kids were happy to be out of the car and roasting hot dogs on the fire. When you live in the city, it is easy to forget how beautiful the night sky is. The Milky Way was clear and stars were shooting above us. The night was quite cold. On my weather app, the prediction was a low of 58, but it was more like 40. Luckily I brought extra blankets for the kids and Sheba and everyone seemed to stay warm.

Morning brought a beautiful sunrise and revealed a meadow with some other campers several hundred yards away. There were plenty of little trails, and when our son took a nap in the morning, I ventured out with our dog to the trail that had foiled me and the trailer. I needed to conquer it and see what was at the end! After walking about 2 miles, and reaching the top, I realized there was nothing at the top except trees, boulders and more trees. We did see a deep mud hole where it looks like a vehicle had become stuck at some point in the past few weeks. Sheba and I decided it was a good place to turn around.

Back at the camp, we enjoyed hammock time, frisbee, and collecting wildflowers. When we have a chance, our family will return to this area—this time with plenty of bug spray and a map. 

Lumberjack in training.


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