For my birthday this year we decided to take our camper out for a shakedown run. The trip would run from Friday July 24th until Sunday July 26th. We got a reservation at Dead Horse Ranch state park in Cottonwood, AZ.
This trip was had to purposes, the first was to go camping in our recently purchased trailer and see what we needed to change or add to it for a longer trip. The second was to get out of the house which we’ve been cooped up in since Mid March and still be able to socially distance even with Arizona being a hot spot for the Covid19 virus in July of 2020. We learned some things, chief among them is to not let my wife navigate while going to see a historical site.
Day 1 7/24/2020
We started the day by packing up the camper and the jeep and getting ready to depart. We had intended to depart around 11:30 with one stop for my wife to go to the Chiropractor along the way. According to Google it should have taken us 2 hours to get to the state park. However a series of events caused us to take almost 6 hours to get there. First I forgot my phone and took an extra hour to go back to the house and return to the chiropractor with it. We then got lunch hooked up the trailer and departed with the goal to get to the campground at 3 instead of 2. Traveling up I 17 out of Phoenix wasn’t to bad, we hit rain shortly after refueling in Cordes Lakes, AZ. Then there was an accident before our exit of Campe Verde which added another 2 hours to the trip. We also had a slight delay when refueling when we discovered that we didn’t latch our fridge tight enough and it popped open and was warm, which caused us to toss some of our food and get some quick replacements at the truck stop.
We arrived around 5:30 at our campsite in Dead Horse Ranch state park. The site we reserved was one of the upper camp sites which does not have as much shade as the lower campsites. If you stay here try and get a slot in the Quail loop which has more shade. We got setup by about 6 PM and took Nel for a walk around the loop we were staying in. We didn’t realize that friends of ours were staying in the site right next door until the next day when they messaged Sue on Facebook.
The first thing we learned is that we need a coleman camp stove to cook outside as the kitchen in the camper is tiny. Also the fridge takes about 6 hours to cool down if it gets warm.
Since we arrived after the Ranger station had closed we checked in with the camp hosts for our loop. They mentioned a nice eacy off road drive to the Honanki Cliff dwellings heritage site, which we thought would be a fun trip to do the next day.
We went to bed around 11PM and learned Nel intended sleep between us on the bed which meant I had no sheet and Sue had to Comforter.
Day 2 7/25/2020
We woke up today and realised we left butter at home. So we cooked our eggs with Bacon grease. I tried out the Pakt Coffee brewer: https://paktbags.com/pages/coffee which took some getting used to as I normally use an Aeropress for Coffee and not a pour over system. It worked well for a travel coffee setup. I will do a review on it later.
Around 10 AM we decided to go visit the cliff dwellings I had luckily downloaded an offroad mapping system reccomended by the camp hosts which came in very handy. We got some extra refreshments from a convenience store and headed out.
Posted below is a track of the route we took to get to and back from the cliff dwellings. If you have a vehicle with higher clearance (No Prius’s or Corvettes) you can get there with little trouble. However if you get confused on the directions the camp hosts gave you and decide to eventually follow the offroad map software to get there you will need 4wd and clearance.
We took the first turn correct and turned onto Forest Road 525, which we should have stayed on. But we were told to take Forest Road 525C which we did. When it took longer then we though it should we looked and realized we were on the wrong road. The smart thing to do would be turn around on 525C and go back to 525. Nope we decided to take a 9000 series firest road. Which was a one way track with some turnoffs for passing and covered in rocks. Nel let us know she is not a offroading dog very early on. My wife was directing us and she was the one who always tells me no offroading because you’ll roll your jeep. We made it through mostly in 2wd but did need to go into 4wd for the last few miles to get up some slippery rocks. We weren’t prepared as I only had minimal recovery gear, I had left my winching and straps at home with my saw, shovel and extra jacks. It was a dangerous move and we survived but don’t do the same thing without the correct gear and with a group.
We made it to the Heritage site and Sue took some pictures while I stayed with Nel to calm her down. On the way back we stayed on 525 and it was a much better ride. When we don’t have a nervous passanger we will redo the trip and report on the cave dwellings.
We came home and tried to get Nel to eat, but she decided to go on a hunger strike and wouldn’t eat. So we ate lunch in the camper and took a nap.
Having learned our lesson from the night before I got takeout and we ate dinner without getting any dishes dirty.
Day 3 7/26/2020
Today was our last day which meant we needed to break camp and head home. Checkout was at noon so we had some time to leave. I went into town which was only about 2 miles from the campground and got Starbucks for breakfast. I managed to spill my coffee all over the trailer floor and Sue.
We cleaned up the trailer and hooked it up to the jeep and headed out around 10AM. we had one stop at the dump station to empty our sewer tanks and we were off for home. We made it home in just over 2 hours including a stop for fuel along the way. Nel ended her hunger strike when she got home.
We learned a few things on this trip and identified where we had holes in our plans, but I feel we are prepared for a longer trip once we get the items we need. Also when camping in a T@b trailer it is important to have a shady campsite if possible.