Day 4: Camp Verde, AZ to Bluff, AZ

Monday 9/12

A thunderstorm hit overnight that was rousing, even by the locals’ standards. I never thought we were going to be directly hit by lightning, but a nearby tree strike seemed quite possible, so there I was inside the tent in a crouch position. Wayne told me to lie down, that if it was my time to go, it was my time to go. Folks, let me tell you that “if it’s your time to go” does not facilitate relaxation. I stayed crouched for a while longer but eventually gave in when drowsiness set in (but not before I took a picture on my phone of the blob that passed over us…this violence doesn’t happen in San Diego!).

In the morning we spread the rainfly, tent and floor out on various picnic tables in the direct sun to dry them out. We were still learning how to efficiently de-camp, but seeing how we were still far from being efficient, our tent had plenty of time to dry. I also had plenty of time to scratch the 50 or so insect bites I acquired the night before. I was prepared for mosquitoes with my mosquito jacket but I was not prepared for the no-see-ums, which had pretty much destroyed me before I realized what was going on.

Before leaving Clear Creek campground, let’s talk about their toilets.

The camp host was bragging on how their composting toilets were awesome because they didn’t smell. Trading one boast for another, Wayne declared “It will when I’m done with it!” The camp host seemed slightly alarmed, as if the threat might actually be carried out. He made some comment — mostly to assure himself — that the toilets were the best and would not smell. To his credit, he was absolutely right. Even with the lid up, you couldn’t smell a thing from this non-flushing toilet. Having had to endure some of the foulest bio-receptacles, I found this to be nothing short of revolutionary.

I have to confess that even though they had a [strange] illustration of the process, I remain unclear how the stench is suppressed since composting materials — fecal matter side — usually stink. Seriously, this was some impressive engineering.

We left Camp Verde and headed north to Sedona. The highway leading in and out of Sedona looked brand spanking new.

The red sandstone formations are every bit as beautiful as they’re touted to be. I would’ve taken more pictures, but I know there’s no shortage of scenic photos of Sedona on the internet.

We transitioned away from the sandstones of Sedona and into the forest surrounding Flagstaff. An awesome winding road climbed the 2500 feet between the two towns.

When we got to Flagstaff, I was surprised to see snow on some of the rooftops. Early winter? Upon closer inspection, it turned out that the snow was actually unmelted piles of hail from the night before.

We were once again on a hunt for a place to eat where we could have Simon. We eventually found a Mexican place with outdoor seating. Simon lives for these moments where he use his selective stereoscopic vision — he knows his powerful tractor beams will safely guide any and all food into the docking bay that is his face.

After eating we headed north out of Flagstaff. The sky was getting grayer and it wasn’t long before we pulled off the road to put on our rain gear. Just as we had put on the last of our gear, the rain started to fall steadily. I made a rain cover for Simon’s backpack and it was about to undergo its first test (um, yeah, maybe it should’ve been tested beforehand).

We continued through the rest of Coconino County, which happens to be the second largest county by land area in the contiguous US states (after San Bernadino, CA). We passed through Navajo lands, with possibly some Hopi mixed in. The trailer homes in the mud capped by the dark clouds made for a bleak landscape. The velcro I had sewn onto one side of the rain cover couldn’t stay attached in the wind so I spent much of the time with one arm behind me holding the flap in place.

The rain had stopped by the time we got to Kayenta in the late afternoon, Wayne checked his phone for camping options nearby. He found an RV park with camp sites in the direction of Monument Valley so we headed east on the 163. As we climbed in altitude, the weather got worse. By the time we reached the RV park we were being pummeled by heavy rains. There were camp sites available, but they were nothing more than patches of mud. Rivers of red ran down the streets. We decided to focus on a motel room instead.

We stopped at several towns along the way but all their motels were full. We were hoping that by leaving after Labor Day there’d be fewer tourists out, but maybe they were all thinking the same thing. The rain continued to come down. We were starting to feel like drowned rats. ANY room would’ve worked at this point — seediness would not be a disqualifing factor.

We eventually found a place that had “cabins” in Bluff. Wayne waited at the window of the Dairy Café to register. Another guy was ahead of him and the older woman working the window asked him if he had a dog. He said no. Another guy walked up while Wayne was registering and she asked that guy if he had a dog. He said no. Using the power of extrapolation, this probably meant they had a no-dog policy. However, the woman never asked Wayne if we had a dog so we never had to lie. Don’t ask, don’t tell!

That lucky rainbow guided us to a dry place for the night.


Day 4 overview: 291 miles

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