What a weird year this has been! Between COVID-19 closures and my dad’s truck needing repairs, we haven’t gone camping yet – and it is mid-July! Crazy but that all changed this weekend. Dad’s truck is fixed, and he hooked up the camper so we could head north to cool off.
Mom’s goal was to hike the Sandy’s Canyon trail. We had been on part of it that connected to Walnut Canyon before, but we wanted to try the other direction. That meant we would need to head up to Flagstaff. We got up early and hit the road, taking I-17 up the grade. This time of year, there doesn’t seem to be a “no traffic” time to go, but it wasn’t too packed.
The Sandy Canyon trailhead is near the Canyon Vista Campground, which is off Forest Road #3 or Lake Mary Road. If you plug the campground in to your GPS, it will get you close. If you are towing a trailer or camper, allow three hours. Otherwise, you could make it in about 2 ½ hours. It would be a full day but doable. We’ve done both, but we were planning to camp to enjoy the cooler weather.
Canyon Vista Campground is first-come/first-serve, and we missed the last site by minutes. So, off to Forest Road #128 (about 5 miles further on Lake Mary Road past the turn off for the campground) we went because it allows boondocking. What is that pray tail? Heck if I know, I am a dog! Ha, okay, I asked. Dad says it is camping in the wilderness wherever you want, just as long as it is permitted by the Forest Service. We drove to mile marker #29 and parked with great views of the San Francisco Peaks. Note: Please check the Forest Service website and look for orange indicators of allowing camping. There is a ranch near Marshall Lake, and camping isn’t allowed on their land. Be respectful so that we can all continue to enjoy the great outdoors.
We basically unhooked the truck and headed back to the Sandy’s Canyon trailhead off Forest Road #3; there’s a sign and free parking lot. This is a heavily trafficked trail so parking could be an issue. Get there early – or like we did, go out on a rainy day! Yes, the temps were 86 when we started but quickly dropped to 50 when it rained. Wow – how refreshing that was indeed!
Oops, I’m getting ahead of myself. The trailhead starts at the parking lot or you can access it on a connector trail from the campground. From the parking lot, you head to the left. It’s kind of confusing as you follow signs to the Arizona trail. This section called Sandy’s Canyon is one mile out and one mile back. It will take you to another sign where you have additional options to go further to a vista or to a climbing area. Since we were getting rained on, we just did the two miles.
The trail starts off flat but then heads down to the canyon. Remember, you will have to hike back up it. It isn’t too steep, but you are at 6,800 feet elevation. Mom wished she had her hiking poles because the wet rocks were slick. The canyon is a mix of forest, grasses, and incredible rock faces, thus why there is a climbing area for those who wish to partake in that.
We saw other folks out despite the weather and even some horses. I know my kind were happy to cool off. Woof! We found a spot to have a quick picnic, but then the rain got harder. We packed everything back up and hiked back out.
The storm was in full swing now, and we decided to take a drive until it let up. We saw Lower Lake Mary, which wasn’t very full. We ended up back on Forest Road #128 and stopped at Marshall Lake. Both lakes can be brimming to the top with water or can be as small as a mud puddle. It just depends upon the rains, which had stopped. We got out and checked out Marshall Lake. It had a ton of ducks in it, and the grasses were supper high. Man, I smelled all sorts of creatures! Dad and I found an area where something big had slept. A bear? I didn’t need to find out.
By this time, the storm passed, and the evening turned lovely. We had dinner and enjoyed our view. Because the ranch was nearby, we kept hearing mooing cows. I’ve met cows before, so I was okay with that. Mom said cows warn other cows of danger by mooing – or they could just be hungry. What I didn’t like is when the people who live on the ranch began shooting off their guns. The noise freaked me out something fierce, and into the truck I went! I’m getting a little wimpy in my old age. No judgment please!
As I sat inside the truck, mom and dad watched the sun go down and then the Neowise comet. They had a perfect view of it right from our camping spot. Once the gunfire stopped, I came back out – only to go back in for bedtime. I still don’t want anything to do with the camper. Dad thinks he figured out why. Our frig is leaking gas. See, I am a smart dog; I know better. That’s something he’ll have to look at further. They slept with all the windows and door open. Nature’s air conditioning was wonderful that night, so we all slept well.
The next morning, we opted to pack up early to beat the traffic on I-17 so we could relax by the pool in the afternoon. That’s the awesome thing about living in Phoenix: Mountains by morning and desert and pool in the afternoon. We are truly blessed to live in such a great place as Arizona. Unplug, get out in nature, and take some deep breaths of fresh air. You will never regret an outdoor adventure.
My mom, Lorraine Bossé-Smith is kind enough to help me share my Great Adventures, big and small. My mom is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, business consultant, executive coach, behavioral-wellness expert, and author of nine published books. More importantly, she’s the best doggy mom ever!
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Get outside! You never know what you’ll discover, and our paths just might cross. Happy tails!