Why Camp In A Minivan? To Escape The Heat!


Sometimes you just have to get away. In our case, that means escaping 100-degree temperatures!

It's the end of August, going into September and it's STILL HOT! Like 100 degrees here in the high desert of Arizona.

That's the BAD news. The GOOD news is that the GoneCamper minivan conversion let's us take off on a moment's notice. Now Labor Day weekend was approaching and we didn't want to fight the crowds, so we took off on Wednesday morning. We left Cottonwood, Arizona and headed east toward the White Mountains. Leaving the valley, the temperature was approaching 90 degrees by mid-morning. But as we climbed to 7,000 feet along the Mogollon Rim the temps dropped to the high 70's - PERFECT!

However, as we descended into Payson the temperature rose again to the high 80's. It was a lunch time, but it was too hot to stop, so we continued east on Highway 260 towards a picnic spot back on the Rim where it would be cooler. Soon we reached the Mogollon Rim again and found a perfect spot for lunch. The hot weather made the usually clear Arizona skies a little hazy as we looked south across several ranges of mountains.

GoneCamper minivan camper

Stopping for a picnic lunch is really easy with the GoneCamper. We had cold cuts and everything for sandwiches in the cooler. A knife for preparation, a few paper plates and towels and we had lunch ready. We both have insulated water bottles, so we topped off the bottles from the water jug - which we filled before leaving home. You can also see the seat cushions we carry to make the picnic table even more comfortable.

After another hour we reached our destination in the White Mountains - Greer, Arizona. This sleepy little town is at 8,500 feet so it was considerably cooler. There are lots of little shops and cafes, but most were closed on Wednesday afternoon. That was fine with us, and we drove around a little to explore the area. Then we backtracked about a half mile to the Hoyer campground in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.

The campground was nearly empty. But this would change in a few days! As we walked around the campground we saw that nearly every campsite was reserved for the upcoming weekend.

The campsite we chose was close to the nice shower building. Most national forest campgrounds are basic. But the Hoyer campground included nice hot showers! Because it was mid-week we didn't need to stand in line to use the showers, either!

Our parking spot was almost perfectly level. There was just the slightest slope toward the driver's side front tire. In less than 30 seconds I slipped a Lynx Leveler in front of the tire, then drove up on the pad to perfectly level the Caravan.

GoneCamper minivan camper

A little slope to the minivan is tolerable. But with some planning you can carry a set of levelers that will eliminate any lean and provide a perfect night's sleep!

The next morning we woke to temperatures around 50 degrees. After our regular breakfast of oatmeal, juice and coffee we were ready for more exploring in the White Mountains. Before we leave the campsite, here is a video of the cooking gear we carry and the kitchen in the GoneCamper:

And here is another view of the GoneCamper bed extended and stowed for travel:

After breakfast we drove a few miles southwest on Forest Road 87. This is a gravel road, but it was well-graded and easy traveling in the front-wheel drive Caravan. We pulled in for a look at Lee Reservoir, the highest lake in the White Mountains at about 9,500 feet.

https://youtu.be/lff42yCzEMs

Then we continued on toward the Thompson hiking trail. Again, we had to drive a few miles on gravel roads but the driving was no challenge. We hiked a few miles in and out along the West Fork of the Black River. One unique feature was the dams that have been constructed to keep non-native species of trout from displacing the native Apache trout - the state fish of Arizona!

GoneCamper minivan camper

GoneCamper minivan camper

It was warming up in the high, thin air and it was time for lunch. We drove a few miles farther to Big Lake and found a shaded ramada near the boat landing as our picnic spot on Day Two.

GoneCamper minivan camper

Once again, everything is handy. The lunch meat and cheese are refrigerated in the 12-volt cooler. (We also added a frozen half-gallon of ice to the cooler for times when the vehicle is not running.)

After lunch we drove a big circle to the south, then back north along the East Fork of the Black River. These small streams eventually merge to form the Little Colorado River. The Little Colorado River winds its way north and west towards Holbrook and Williams, Arizona before gradually turning west towards the Grand Canyon. This time of year, the Little Colorado River is only a small stream, and even mostly dry as it crosses the desert. But in the wet Spring it carries melted snow and runoff from the White Mountains all the way to the Grand Canyon - over 150 miles away. It also forms the huge, muddy Grand Falls (northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona.)

GoneCamper minivan camper

Grand Falls - when it is not bone dry - is actually larger and higher than Niagara Falls!

Next, we headed towards Alpine, Arizona. This crossroad town is only six-miles from New Mexico. We topped off the gas tank and had some ice cream. Then we took another side trip toward the Blue River. The gravel road into the Blue River is 12-miles of twisty switchbacks. The river and the Forest Service campground was pretty small - only FOUR campsites! We were still cautious of camping in a canyon near a stream after the flash flood that killed a family earlier in the summer. So we took some photos and headed back up the canyon. We did pass under the "Red Hills", which was worth the drive!

GoneCamper minivan camper

We drove a few miles north of Alpine and found a campsite at the Alpine Divide campground. There were only four campsites available here, too. But only two other groups had claimed sites so we were in luck. We picked a nice campsite, but it was on a side hill and far from level. Again, the Lynx Levelers came in handy! I carry SIX levelers in the GoneCamper. Usually only one or two are needed to level the minivan. This time, however, we used all six. Two levelers are placed flat in front of the tires, then a third is placed on top to bridge the seam. This creates a tiny three-inch pyramid that you can drive up on. With three levelers under each tire on the passenger side we once again had a level bed for the night! Here is a video explanation:

We enjoyed our three-day and two-night mini-vacation in the White Mountains. As we were finishing packing on Friday morning we heard a bull elk bugle in the forest directly across from our campsite! We looped back to Interstate 40 and Flagstaff before returning to the hot weather at home. We put on almost 700 miles. We made NO reservations. We made NO definite travel plans. We carried all of the food we needed in the small cooler. We traveled about 100 miles of gravel roads in the forest.

Why not join us on the road - and in the forest?

Call today to schedule the assembly and delivery of YOUR GoneCamper!

GoneCamper minivan camper

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