Adventures Arizona Finds

Camping and Fossil Creek

In June Arizona experienced an insufferable heat wave – One in which our adventure crew (Brian, Nick, Sierra and I) decided to go camping in. In our defense we didn’t know there was going to be a heat wave that weekend, in fact our goal was to escape the heat.

We camped at Ponderosa campground right outside of Payson. It’s an easy 3 hour drive from Tucson, to usually cooler temperatures. The temperatures were cooler, however, when it’s 115 in Tucson it’s only about 95-100 degrees in Payson. We weren’t going to let a little heat ruin our trip though.

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Due to the heat and wildfire risk we were told as we rolled into our campsite that no campfires or charcoal grills were allowed. All the food I had packed I planned on cooking on the campfire, I had spent all week carefully planning and foil wrapping our meals. I called my mom in a bit of panic as to how I was going to cook all our foil wrapped meals, she laughed and said next time we need to pack pots and pans. I thought to myself
“ok a little speed bump but nothing we can’t handle” – We texted Nick and Sierra who were on their way, thankfully they had packed one cast iron skillet.

The next morning we set off to hike Fossil Creek – we had been talking about going here for over a year, it’s a popular water hole/waterfall/creek in Arizona. Fossil creek is on a permit system and there are numerous options for which trail you are going to take. We chose Fossil Creek Springs, which is a long hike down into the canyon for a little swimming and then back out. At the start of the hike there are at least ten large signs along the trail stating in bold letters that this is a dangerous hike and extremely difficult, noting that 490 people had to be rescued on the trail during the 2015 – 2016 season. We all laughed talking about the amateur teenagers who head down with one water bottle wearing flip flops.

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I had decided to buy Chacos for this camping trip – thinking I can wear them hiking and then in the water. You would’ve thought I had learned my lesson when I hiked on Santa Rosa Island last year in havaianas. About half way down I had multiple blisters on my feet, but they weren’t going to stop me, I was determined to have a good time.  When we reached the bottom Sierra and I jumped in the water and swam toward the falls – we saw another gentleman go down this tiny waterfall and to us it looked like a lot of fun (in my mind I was thinking Slide Rock in Sedona). So I swim towards this little fall (seriously like a 1 foot drop) and soon a very strong current takes me rapidly down this fall hitting what felt like every rock on the way. I hit one side particularly hard and sported a large bruise for the next few weeks. Later we learned that cute little waterfall is what people call the toilet bowl. At this point I was feeling a little beat up by this camping trip.

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When we started our hike back up it was easily 100 degrees (we had been warned about this by the ranger – it would be hotter in the canyon than up top). We were about ten minutes into what ended up being a 3 hour hike up the mountain when I started to feel sick. I was dizzy, nauseated, unbalanced – I told the crew I needed a break and it was pretty clear to all of us I was showing early signs of heat exhaustion. I sat down on a rock while they dumped water on me and encouraged me to drink. The rest of the hike went as so, every five to seven minutes I would need to sit down and try to cool off, they would pour more water on me, and I would drink a little more. I wanted nothing more than to make it to the top without having to be rescued. We finally made it to the top just before heat stroke set in – the rest of the crew did fine, I’ll attribute it to all that crossfit they do.

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At this point I was done with camping I was hot, bruised, blistered, sick and wanted to go home. We all agreed if we were really feeling awful the next morning we would pack up and head out.

Morning came and I was feeling slightly better, our camp manager suggested Water Wheel falls and Ellison Creek for swimming. In my opinion Water Wheel was a million times better than Fossil Creek, we only went hiked up the creek about a mile (I wasn’t going to survive any longer). There were so many waterfalls, cliffs to jump off, and little caves. We had the best time, and can’t wait to go again.

After swimming we headed to the Strawberry Festival in Pine! It was nice except that they were out of strawberries at the strawberry festival.

This camping trip broke my love for camping a little, and I went home with a bruised body and ego. But, as we were leaving Nick said “It might have sucked but I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything”. And, he’s right, years from now we will laugh thinking about that time we went camping during the hottest heat wave since 1990, where I barely made it up the mountain, when the strawberry festival ran out of strawberries, and we cooked all our meals in one pan. I feel really lucky to have friends we can enjoy even the most miserable of trips with.

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We will be camping in Payson again in September (I will NOT be climbing up any mountains) – If you have any suggestions please let me know!  

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