Although wandering the American landscape in vehicles was popular at mid-century--Jack Kerouac coming to mind--it's even more prevalent today, as we enter the 2020s and wonder about our future. The playful optimism of postwar life has given way to pandemics and climate change in alarming fashion, this, as housing prices erode middle-class American dreams. Could there be a better time to hit the road and see what remains of the nation?
My own dream finds me embracing the moment, writing essays, and creating a bit of visual art, as I enjoy semi-retirement on the road. Living full-time in a refurbished RV turned out to be the best way to retire in a troublesome economy, while granting the benefit of adventure. And what an adventure it is!
After the saguaro forests of lower elevations--which are numerous and quite elegant--I found the pinyon pines, junipers, and lush cottonwoods of Payson, Arizona to be a wonderful change. Moreover, the northern elevations are much cooler, granting relief from the heat of Phoenix. Enduring 120-degree temperatures in a motorhome would certainly put a damper on the dream.
I am delighted by the variety of flora one finds in Arizona, truly a place of contrasting wonders.
Leaving the cacti of Phoenix and approaching the forests of Payson, the contrast is compelling, as neither region outshines the other. Really, it becomes a matter of trading beauty for beauty, different expressions, both of them glorious to the beholder. Upon entering Payson and approaching the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, I take a series of photos to commemorate the occasion, delighting in every aspect of the landscape: trees, clear water, and a voluminous sky, an expanse of blue dotted by a few, lingering clouds.
Curious reflections grace the morning.
As the dog and I explored a forest road, these logs caught my attention. I was immediately reminded of Chollas Lake Park in San Diego, where I spent a portion of my park ranger career. In that location, I was constantly traversing fallen eucalyptus, evaluating the health of tree canopies, and reminding visitors that the towering limbs often fall without warning; the eucalyptus trees of the area were conveniently self-pruning.
Logs, piled under the watchful gaze of the forest, always capture my interest.
The Adventure Becomes Dangerous
Early in the day, my dog was confronted by a somewhat aggressive shepherd mix, whose motley appearance matched his demeanor. And the owners seemed much the same. Before I knew it, Jacoby had launched himself at the dog with a ferocity that startled everyone, not least the shepherd. Just as the encounter escalated, and Jacoby angled to reach the other dog's throat, all of the owners stepped in, working in unison to resolve the matter. However, it was unnerving, as Jacoby and I were then in the presence of several angry folks--and their agitated dog.
Realizing that we were outmatched, despite my dog's enthusiasm, I made polite conversation and quickly continued down the trail. The clear waters of the creek beckoned, and we carried on, making our way into the late morning. After that, we drove farther into the mountains, all the way to Mogollon Rim. This was my favorite adventure of the day.
Wind greeted us from the heights as we approached Mogollon Rim, where countless mountains subsided into the distance, and the morning remained cool.
The Lamplighter RV Resort: Our Temporary Home
As we were not camping in the forest, we departed for our temporary home, an RV "resort" in Star Valley.
I was surprised to find so many cottonwoods when we arrived at the park, their leaves mingling with wind to create a distinctive ambience. The valley below Mogollon Rim is also quite beautiful. A liquid sound fills the air, and the tree canopies seem alive in the breeze, not in a vegetative sense but akin to animal existence, undulating high above us like some new form of life. The experience is memorable.
After I grill some burgers and sip a craft beer, the dog and I enjoy a walk, eager to revisit the glorious heights of Rim Country. Tomorrow awaits.