Our Trip in Search of Cooler Arizona Weather


Third STOP:

Fool HOllow State Park

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While the whole purpose of this trip was to find cooler places in Arizona that we might enjoy during the hot summer months in Tucson, it proved to not be very cool at all. Flagstaff and surrounding areas were unseasonable warm with day time temps in the high 80s and low 90s. This kept us from camping in more of the less developed campgrounds and taking advantage of the solar panel on the Bambi, which does a decent job of keeping the batteries charged when we are not hooked up to electricity. We did that at Pinegrove camp ground, but we arrived there late in the day and were gone by noon the next day, so we didn’t have to deal with high temps.

The motor home we sold recently was equipped with a generator, which we didn’t use all that often, but the Bambi does not have a generator aboard...and of course, as soon as you don’t have something, you miss it. We can’t run the AC from the two 12 volt batteries even if they are fully charged, but we do have an inverter which converts 12 volt power to 120 and allows us to

run small appliances up to 600 watts...this includes the water pump,

lights, fans, radio, DVD player, TV, etc., which is nice, but the AC has

too much of a draw for that.  So if we dry camp (that is, no hookups) or boondock in warmer temps where we’d need AC, we would need to

acquire a free-standing generator. We do look at them in the RV places

we seem to visit regularly, but we are not sure how often we’d use it, really,

so it’s not on our wish list at the moment. (They are not cheap, either!)

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that because of the warm temps we felt like we needed to be somewhere where both us and The Girls could be comfortable for the rest of our trip. From Mormon Lake Lodge we headed south on Lake Mary Road through Happy Jack, Clint’s Well and down through Strawberry and Pine toward Payson.  It was a very nice drive with beautiful forest views and mountain ranges off into the distance. We saw a few interesting-looking RV parks along the way...several public ones which didn’t have much to offer on this trip, anyway, a few privately owned parks that could  be OK...but nonetheless we kept driving.  Pine and Strawberry are small, quaint

mountain towns that were enjoyable to drive through, but we didn’t stop.

We had researched a couple of private places in the Payson area that sounded reasonable so we decided to check those out, and if those didn’t work out for this trip, we’d simply make a left east in Payson and head to Show Low where one of our favorite parks is, Fool Hollow State Park. The first of the private places in Payson that we looked at was interesting enough, built on hills and terraces, but it was not paved and because it was so dry, it was really dusty. It also seems a little tight to maneuver in. We’ll remember it for next time we’re in the neighborhood, but it didn’t look good for this trip. We’d had enough dust. The second place was more of a “trailer park” than a “resort” as advertised, so we headed east on Highway 260 toward Show Low...about 75 miles east.

Highway 260 is the main drag from Show Low to Payson and then south from there to the Phoenix metro area. It was Sunday afternoon, and everybody—everybody—seemed to be headed home from the mountains pretty much bumper to bumper...going in the opposite direction, fortunately. However, we did have a few close calls as impatient drivers headed home (and

coming at us) pulled out into our lane to see if they could pass.

One guy suddenly pulled out about 3 feet into the oncoming lane

and we literally had to swerve to miss him...not a fun thing when

pulling a trailer! We are lucky we didn’t become a statistic with that one. 

(This is why we prefer not to travel on holidays or busy weekends.)

Highway 260 goes through several small towns...like Heber and Overgaard... those names might sound familiar because that’s where the big forest fire a couple of years ago burned everything in its path. It’s weird to drive through that area...you’ll be in nice forested area, then you’ll go around a curve and suddenly it looks like the day after the bomb. Very “other-worldly.” We can only imagine what it was like shortly after the fire. It’s beginning to regenerate, but it will be many many years before the signs of the fire are gone.

We finally reached the outskirts of Show Low about 3 p.m. where the entrance to Fool Hollow Recreation Area is. It’s actually only minutes away from Show Low, and you pass through a residential area to get to the entrance... then suddenly you are there...there’s a nice lake with several campground loops perched on a couple of low hills with the lake wrapping around them in a u-shape. When we pulled up to the ranger station to check in, we began to get nervous because there were 3 or 4 rigs in front of us...we had not considered the possibility that the park would be full...it was Sunday afternoon, after all!

They do not accept reservations here...it’s all first-come, first-serve. We were lucky, though...we did get in, and we took one of the few remaining empty sites in the loop where we usually stay, Red Head Loop, which is the

                         lowest loop and nearest to the water. I don’t know if our space

                         would have been open if it had been larger...because it was a

                          small space—just right for us—it was too small for those 40

                           foot monster RVs. A couple of those kept driving around the loops while we proceeded to set up camp. If we’d arrived an hour later, we might not have been able to get in at all. We were stunned that it was so busy!

Fool Hollow is one of the few Arizona state parks that has full hookups...the sites are clean, well-maintained and they have cement pads for the RV and a cement pad for the picnic table, and nice fire rings. The bathrooms and showers (free) are nice, too. You also have some room to breath between sites, so you are not staring into your neighbor’s campground. We usually go to Fool Hollow a week in the fall and anther week in the spring when they have their winter special from 15 Oct through 1 Apr...7 nights for the price of 5. (Full fee is only $20 a night.)  This was our first visit during the summer. The ranger remembered us from last April when we were there, and the host and his wife did as well...they remembered The Girls, too!

Once we get the basic set-up done, the first thing we usually do is take The Girls on the mandatory walk...they have been cooped up in the truck all afternoon, remember!  So off we went. By the time we did, all the sites in 2 of the RV loops were full. The third loop has only a few sites with full hookups because they couldn’t put sewers in the rocky ground in that area...so those are always the last to fill up. Those in that loop are mostly “double” spaces, too, where you are right next to your neighbor...one site set back further than the other, but a common pad...OK if you are camping with someone you know, but not so good if you are next to someone you don’t know... We were amazed that it was so full on a Sunday night. And it stayed that way pretty much though the rest of the time we were there. As soon as someone would leave, the site would fill up in less than an hour. When we left on Thursday, there were people lingering near sites that were scheduled to vacate hours before checkout time, waiting to move right in as someone left. It looks like the best time to arrive there during the summer is Tuesday or Wednesday, and that’s not getting you any guarantee!

Our time in Fool Hollow was very low-key...we took it very easy, not pushing ourselves or The Girls in the heat, and joining the rest of the campers in the evenings for nice walks and visiting with neighbors. One night all the dogs in the park seemed to be out with their people at the same time...it was funny, all those pups smelling each other...and being remarkably calm.

We also took a few drives into town and looked around, a few antique shops, etc. Whe we got in the truck for the first outing to town, the tire pressure monitoring system in the truck indicated that we had a low tire. So I got out the trusty tire gauge and checked them out. Sure enough, the rear tire on the driver’s side was about 15 lbs down from where it should have been. I checked closer and could see a nail in it. We would not have even known it was low until it was really low, because visually it looked fine. So our first stop in town was at a tire place. They fixed it quickly and inexpensively and we were merrily on our way again. So glad we discovered this at that point rather than while we were on the road pulling the trailer ending up with a completely flat tire. (This prompted me to check the tires on the Bambi when we got back to the camp site, too...just what we don’t want is a flat tire on the trailer...every RVer’s worse nightmare! They were just right.)

In town we stopped at a couple of cabin-oriented places that specialized in everything “bear.” Is was strange in one way, but sorta fun in another. We became enamored with those chain saw log carvings of bears you see here and there. It must be an RV thing...we’ve seen them out in fromt of RVs frequently with a little “welcome” sign on them. Too kitchy! We decided we’ll have to do a “lumberjack” decor for the Bambi for those trips where we are camping in the pines...so we are already gathering the accoutrements to put that into motion. Greg has already bought some flannel sheets in the right colors to make custom-fitted sheets for our “Lumberjack” Bambi. :-)

We stayed in Fool Hollow through Wednesday night and left for home on Thursday the 28th...traveling down through the Salt River Canyon, on to Globe, then to Winkelman, Mammoth, Oracle, Catalina, and finally Tucson, coming in on Oracle Road, the same way we left. I regret that though we have traveled this route many times on our trips to Show Low and back, we have never stopped to take pictures of Salt River Canyon...it is really quite wonderful and just scary enough to navigate to keep you on your toes and wide awake...you just have to make sure your brakes work!  Next time we travel this way we will stop for some pictures...on both sides of the quite dramatic canyon.

We got home about 3 p.m. on Thursday,  The house was still standing, happily, and nothing at home was worse for wear, other than it being oppressively hot. Terry has improved in his Bambi-backing-up skills so much in the 3 1/2 months we’ve had it that the neighbor had to come out of his house and tell him so! So we are home again safe and sound and wishing we were leaving again tomorrow for another adventure.  Happy trails!

Yikes! =:-O
Almost no room in the inn!