Last September 29, we returned home from two magical weeks in Greer, Arizona. We had spent the latter part of May camping there in our 21′ travel trailer, and looked forward to returning in the fall to enjoy some fly-fishing.
Two years before, when we bought our second travel trailer, we took it out twice before winter hit. Months went by and the Winnebago Micro Minnie sat in storage. Then in February of 2020, just as the world began to close down, ours opened up. The trailer became our magic carpet to welcoming places during a scary time.
We fished the reservoirs at Dead Horse Ranch in Cottonwood, returning in March to do it again. April was spent in Payson, exploring Christopher Creek, Lower Christopher Creek, and Upper Christopher Creek, all peaceful and inviting. And for the first time, I caught a trout unassisted. Yes, I picked the area along the creek, selected and tied on the fly, spotted the trout, cast, and caught the fish! To me this was a big deal.
In May, we took the trailer up to Show Low, and stayed on a horse farm. Son Dave and family came up from Pinetop one day, and the adults got to ride a tractor for the first time! Gene and I fished Show Low Lake and Show Low Creek, both beautiful spots.
Later in May, we took the trailer to Page Springs and rendezvoused with our youngest, Katie, and her family. We played Zingo with the three little ones at our picnic table, fished Oak Creek, saw a blue heron and a vermilion flycatcher, walked the Black Hawk Trail at Bubbling Ponds Preserve and Hatchery, and went wine-tasting at D.A. Ranch Winery in Cornville.
In June, we were back in Greer. Dave and his family came over from Pinetop to hike along the Little Colorado and have dinner at Molly Butler’s. While there, a whole herd of deer came strolling down the hill to the children’s playground next to Molly’s!
Later in June, daughter Katie and family brought their pop-up trailer to Greer, to the space right next to ours. There’s nothing like having your grandchildren at your trailer door first thing in the morning. It makes your heart sing!
So, 2020 flew by, and though we couldn’t be with all the family in person, we were with some of them, and we were fishing, hiking, birding, and just being, safe as possible from COVID-19. And I’m deeply grateful.
This past year, we left the trailer in storage, except for three trips: Page Springs in April, Greer in May, and this last one to Greer again, in September. For that one, we had reserved our favorite spot at a small RV park above the highway. We got settled, and took a deep breath, awestruck by the pine-dotted meadow, golden with wildflowers. I set out the hummingbird feeder and the wild bird seed, and within minutes, the birds came to feast: Rufous Hummers, juncos, sparrows, finches, towhees, woodpeckers, Steller’s Jays, red-winged blackbirds, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and more. A Cooper’s Hawk sat on the fence rail, watching and waiting. And later, an owl swooped across our trailer rooftop! And the chipmunks! Smart and amusing, they scampered across the fence railing, jumping on the feeder tray, then down to the ground to eat the seed spilling from the swaying dinner plate.
We fished Big Lake with the inimitable guide Cinda Howard in her beautiful wooden boat, and learned a great deal about casting in the wind. And we fished Luna Lake, and caught a bunch of Cutthroat Trout.
It was a beautiful trip.
But getting to this point was not easy; trailering is a lot of work. And the older you get, the harder the work becomes. Backing into your spot at the end of a long drive, for example, can be a major frustration, even though we have a pretty good system, because every guy within running distance wants to “help” and share his technique. Then it’s time to make sure your baby is straight, so you don’t have trouble walking around inside or sleeping. And then there are the hook-ups, which provide extra electricity, unlimited water, and sewer service.
While Gene is getting us situated, I usually unpack the car, put things away, make the bed, and get dinner ready. And after a glass of wine, life is good again. We were glad to be there. Fall in Greer is spectacular!
But when it was time to leave, it was hook-up time. And when your man has to use a long metal lever to lift the stabilizer bars up and into position, and then jump up and down on them to get them to lock in, and then, after washing up, climb into the driver’s seat and drive you home through some pretty difficult passages, well…. let’s just say we had an epiphany coming home: we’ve finished this chapter in our lives.
We will continue to travel, but not pulling a trailer, at least not often. And since I’ve always wanted an Airstream, Gene came up with the brilliant idea of buying one and leaving it up in Greer. And we can continue to fish, hike and bird, but it will be a lot easier in a 30-footer with a bed that stays made, closet space, and room to cook. And we can just drive up and back, and not fuss with anything. It’ll be like having a cabin without all the details.
It’s been a lovely adventure, exploring Arizona in a trailer. But we’re 73 now, and it’s time to get real. And that means tweaking the way we travel. We don’t have to give up being embedded in nature; we just need to get there differently. Key takeaway: “Be flexible; it keeps you in the game.”
And to my young friends who are looking forward to retirement and doing something similar, I hope you’re asking yourselves, “What am I waiting for?”
Epilogue: It took three months to find our “dream cabin on wheels,” but last week we drove to Las Vegas and bought a 2016 30’ Airstream Flying Cloud. The dealership is delivering it on January 17th. We’ll store it in Mesa, Arizona, until May, then take it to Greer. Yes, we’re thrilled!