October 19/20, 2022
A long first day drive (250 miles) towing The Felix, fully laden, on slow and windy roads. West then south through scenic el Malpais, Quemado (a Catron County stronghold), and into Arizona, all while enjoying beautiful high desert scenery, mountain islands like the Sawtooths (Escapito #3), and open grasslands dotted with pronghorn. First stop, Springerville for fuel and sticker shock! With only 2 places to buy gas, the Circle K coming into town and the Circle K leaving town, we settled on Circle K. Hahaha! Fueled up we were back on the road heading south to the pretty little village of Alpine, AZ 8,000 feet high in the Apache-Sitgraves NF. From there it was a short 5 mile hop back east where we found Luna Lake and our forest campground for the night. The Forest Service closed all but one loop, shut off the water for the season, and didn’t charge for camping! Other than 2 other trailers, we pretty much had the place to ourselves and picked a site with a view of the lake.
Anecdote …… Pins and Needles or The Case of the Wicked Seed: after a long drive we were ready for a hike. But choosing a cross-country trek through tall vegetation was a mistake. Nearly all the wildflowers and grasses had dried and gone to seed, and being fully loaded with ripe seeds, our pant legs, socks and shoestrings provided them an ideal way to disperse. One seed in particular was especially wicked! About 1.5” long and skinny, this hard bugger was tipped with 2 hooks on fork-like tines. Any whisper of contact with these seeds resulted in them leaping out from the seed head and hooking on for a ride. I’m not sure how their grabbers release their grip and drop to the ground, because when we returned to The Felix, we must’ve been carrying 100s of them embedded in our pants with the bottom ends of the hard sharp-pointy seeds lined up like soldiers ready to attack at the slightest threat of extraction. Ouch! After a consult with iNaturalist, submitting only seed photo, the database turned up one possibility ….. Spanish Needles! A brilliantly named member of the sunflower family. I’ll take dandelion fluff any day!
We enjoyed our stay at Luna Lake …… in the morning we woke to the sound of elk bugling in the distance, owls hooting overhead, and a respectable coating of frost in everything. A brisk 1 mile hike on Forest Service roads covering all the campground loops (we weren’t about to venture into the grass ….. oh no way!) warmed us enough to pack up camp and head south in search of summer!
Stay tuned for Part 2: Luna Lake to Clifton, AZ