I partially owe my move to Payson to the nights spent around campfires at Yellow Post 29 in the San Bernardino Mountains.
It was my favorite campsite to get away from the Los Angeles smog. At YP29 in Big Bear one could breathe crisp, unpolluted air, gaze at crystal starlight through tall pine boughs and rough it -- just a little.
I loved the solitude of YP29. It was a secluded country mile from any other single campsite and included a picnic table, a fire pit and big rocks for sunbathing when we got tired of hiking the meadowland of nearby Lodgepole Pine.
At 10,000 feet up we were lucky to get in on a motorcycle and a two-wheel drive truck. (No, Mr. Salesman, I don't want protective coating on my paint, I camp with this truck!)
I felt much the same driving to YP29 as I imagine the folks who leave the Valley do when they drive up to experience the Rim Country.
I felt like I was going to one of the nicest places in the whole world to relax.
Wisdom dictates leaving early when headed out of a major city for the weekend.
Really early Friday morning is good.
Thursday is even better.
Of course one of my most memorable trips happened when three friends and I needed one last campout before winter.
It was late September, almost October.
Melody and Steve got away Friday morning.
They rebuilt a small portion of the forest road so we would not get stuck later on.
John and I had to work, so by the time we got away a wet fog clocked us all the way up the mountain.
We arrived on the motorcycle after 10 p.m. in the rain to sparse greetings and ate dinner in our, thankfully, already pitched tent.
Following bad impersonations of "The Waltons" we went to sleep.
In the other tent.
Steve grousing under his breath, the Zwipp! Zwipp! of the tent flap then the crunch and slosh of feet coming nearer.
"My sleeping bag is soaked," Steve said. "I'm coming to sleep with you."
It was brrrr cold.
We zipped the two sleeping bags together and the three of us snuggled in.
Not too much time passed before we heard more grousing, this time by Melody, including accusations of Steve "wetting the bed."
Zwipp! Zwipp! Crunch crunch slosh crunch zwipp!
"My sleeping bag is soaked," Melody said. "I'm coming to sleep with you."
Usually we took Melody's tent trailer. This time she took her pup tent and pitched it on a tarp so the bottom wouldn't get ruined.
The rain eventually soaked through the tarp on Steve's side.
He woke up thinking, ‘I could NOT have wet the bed.'
Once devoid of the dam of his body the rain water was able to run to Melody's side of the small tent.
Think back, longtime avid campers. You were undoubtedly thinner at twenty-something.
All four of us fit in those two combined sleeping bags by lying on our sides.
As the sun rose the temperature seemed inclined in the opposite direction. Fortunately the dread of going into the frosty morning air to answer nature's call was worse than leaving the warm sleeping bags.
We decided that camping in Melody's living room and barbecuing our steaks on her grill was an infinitely better idea so we packed up the coolers, the useless firewood and the tents.
After 40 minutes of Melody's truck exhaust warming up the motorcycle so it would start, we left the cold and drizzle behind.
Although this trip is one of my favorite camping memories, I think I will wait until next year to camp the Rim. It is a might too cold now at night now.
Besides, 16 years later, any four people I know -- folk who would actually trade their warm beds, in snug houses nestled in the pines, for a tent -- would not fit in two sleeping bags zipped together if it started to rain.