I can’t believe we are in our final days here as camp hosts at Fool Hollow Lake State Park. We have four more days of cleaning bathrooms and campsites, and then we are gone, on the road to the next adventure.
We’ll be taking a week to camp and be tourists when we leave here, staying at a couple of State Parks for free, because we were volunteers. We’re going to enjoy a meal from the Travelers Menu at the famous La Posada Hotel’s Turquoise Room, and explore the ruins at Homolovi State Park. Then we’ll spend a few nights at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, an old favorite along a slice of the Verde River in Cottonwood, before heading to the Big City.
We’ll roll into our grass and trees RV Park in Central Phoenix next Friday, and take a few days to acclimate and settle in. We have a week to take care of some appointments and big city errands, and then Marika has her first of many appointments for her cataract surgeries beginning the week of October 9. And I’ve got sessions with Mac training clients beginning that week, too.
So we’re soaking up every inch of nature while we still can, taking walks in the trees and along the lake, noticing which birds have already headed south for the winter, and listening for the bugling elks in the forest across the lake. We’re enjoying the less crowded, post-season, quiet in the campground and in town, and noticing the shifts in the air and the season. The water level is lower in the lake, a line of willows has sprouted to five feet high along the trail, and the black eyed Susans are drying and drooping in the open fields. The random aspens in the park are beginning to golden, and the temperature drops into the 30’s at night, with crispy sweatshirt weather in the mornings and evenings.
And because it’s cooler, I’m spending more time walking with Cody. Last week, for the first time since we’ve been here, we walked the entire Red Head camp loop. I’d been avoiding it because there are two very steep hills, and I thought it would be too far and too hard on my lungs and legs. When I rode the loop on my bicycle, I loved the downhills, but I had to walk my bike up most of the uphills.
And then, one day, Cody and I were walking our usual route but, instead of turning off the road onto the path to the bathroom, I stayed on the road. The first hill started just past campsite 27. I could feel the incline in my legs, but I kept going. Cody loved the new places to smell. I liked seeing the campsites from this slower perspective. We stopped at campsite 20, at the top of the hill and I didn’t hurt. I wasn’t breathing too hard, and I was so tickled with myself. Cody sniffed around and I scanned the trees for birds from this new view.
The downhill was slow and easy and, when we got to campsite 15, about half way down, the view opened up to the lake at the bottom of the hill. The sky was blue, and the water was blue, and there were bright yellow flowers rimming the shoreline.
We followed the road down and turned off onto the lake trail just past campsite 12, where I sat on my favorite sitting rock while Cody scouted for a stick. I wasn’t tired or sore, just so proud of myself for finally trying. We played for a bit, I watched a pair of ducks floating in the water, then we headed back to the road to complete the loop. The incline was constant but not steep, and I didn’t have to stop to slow my breath until we got to campsite 3, almost at the top of the hill. We were both breathing steady, and ready for some water by the time we circled back to our spot, but I felt great! And we’ve been walking the loop almost every day since.
The other day on our camp circle loop walk, we continued along the lake trail, farther than we’d ever walked before. It is a dirt trail, covered with small and medium rocks to prevent erosion. I was wearing my trail runners, not my thick soled hiking boots, and I could feel every stone push into my soles as I walked. At first I wanted to complain, but then I thought of each pressing pebble and rock as a form of reflexology and massage on those parts of my feet that don’t get touched enough. And suddenly, the painful steps became healing steps, and I was willing to walk much further. By the time we circled back to our campsite, we’d walked a mile.
I realize how my mind can really mess with me, talk me out of a longer walk, tell me that a hill is too steep to even try. The truth is, it feels good to challenge myself and move in my body, even at this higher altitude.
I know I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to walk, and find places in nature when we are in Phoenix, because we’ll be in a neighborhood, not the forest, and the sounds of the city are very different than chirping birds and wind through the trees. There are a couple of city parks nearby that we can drive to, with grass and trees and walking paths, and, now, with only one very friendly dog, it will be much easier to meet people and other dogs.
But for these last few days, we’re going to enjoy the forest trails, the walks along the water, and the variety of birds that are still coming to the feeders. Tomorrow, we’re going to spread some of Mabel’s ashes along our favorite family lake trail.
It’s been a great time up here. Different than we expected. Much richer and fulfilling than either one of us could have imagined. Right now, I think I’ll miss the routine of cleaning those bathrooms, but I’m sure that, the minute we hit the highway, we’ll be on to in the next adventure.