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See some photos of Arizona's best campgrounds!

For some reason Arizona reminds me of old songs by the Eagles.

Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Tequila Sunrise, and of course Desperado.

They conjure up images of the stark desert in my mind, broken up by the occasional oasis of green. And prickly things. While almost all the vegetation in the desert can draw blood, most are just passive about it. But not the Jumping Cholla.

That little devil can sense when you pass by and fling a few barbs at you. Or maybe they just don't like Canadians. Fittingly enough I stayed at a campground called Cholla in Tonto National Forest while visiting the Roosevelt Lake area.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I still had over 1300 miles to drive from Fort Worth, Texas to get there.

And I didn't push it. About 5 hours of driving per day. Around 250 miles.

After the first day on the road I was still in Texas. I spent the night at Lake Colorado City State Park.


The sites were wide open with no privacy.


I didn't bother taking photos.

Following an endless stretch of Interstate 20 I ended up in New Mexico at Leasburg Dam State Park, which I had photographed in 2010.

Interstate-20 Leasburg-1

Most of the campgrounds in the southwest provide some sort of shade so you don't boil your brain from heat in the summer.

I took advantage of the shelter to cook some carnitas tacos out of the wind.


They are cute little mini-houses.


I watched the sun come up the next morning from my bed.


Which inspired me to get up and take a photo.


You can see the moon near the top right.

Here is the sunrise on my trailer's window.


If you focus on the inside you can see my four star accommodations.

I had planned on heading out that morning but a big storm followed me from Texas.


It rained hard and there were flash flood warnings so I just hung out and cooked 5 pounds of chicken breasts to replenish my food supply.


The storm passed during the night and the temperature plummeted below freezing. All the electric sites were taken so I was a tad chilly when I woke up.

See these interesting ice crystals?


They were found on the inside of my trailer's window from my exhalations during the night...

Ice-2 Ice-3

I defrosted myself and continued on to City of Rocks State Park, still in New Mexico.

City-1 City-2

I had also been there before during fall of 2010 when I visited all the state parks in New Mexico.

At that time I had heard rumors about a hidden nesting ground for an elusive creature. I found it and will share the only picture I managed to capture later on in this post.

Since I had so much chicken cooked I decided to alter my menu a tad and whip up some chicken salad sandwiches.


Very tasty, but it was so cold that the celery was frozen. Very crunchy though.

I tried to trick my brain into thinking I was warm as I watched the sunset.


It didn't work so I cozied up in bed and read for a little bit.

I was up early and took some more photos of the rocks.

City-5 City-8 City-7

And even a self portrait.


Back at camp I made some chicken tacos for breakfast.

City-9 City-Chicken-Tacos

And then hit the road for Arizona.

AZ-Road-1 AZ-Road-2

The area I was journeying to is called the Roosevelt and Apache Lake Recreation Area in the Tonto National Forest. Quite a mouthful.

Imagine a banana 20 miles long and slightly bent facing north to south. The tips point a little east and the middle a little west. That is Roosevelt Lake.

There are two paved access roads. From the south drive to Globe and follow 188 about 30 miles to the visitor center. This works for the Tucson area. From Phoenix, take 87 northeast for 60 miles (the Beeline Highway) and turn south on 188. About 20 miles to the visitor center.

If you are a little adventurous you can follow the Apache Trail (88) from Apache Junction 45 miles to the visitor center. Be aware that the 22 miles from Tortilla Flats to the dam is unpaved and not suitable for large rigs.

OK, back to the twenty mile long banana.

Near the north tip is Indian Point campground and near the south tip is Schoolhouse campground. Apache Trail hits the banana (and 188) in the middle on the western side at the dam and close by the visitor center.

5 miles to west of dam on Apache Trail is Burnt Corral campground on Apache Lake. 6 miles north of the visitor center is Cholla campground and six miles south of it is Windy Hill campground, both just off 188.

OK, so do you have it all pictured in your head? If that sounded confusing, look back at my blog post from last September when I described the layout of Yellowstone National Park, lol.

I arrived at Cholla a week ago on Saturday.

I made some chicken tacos for breakfast after watching the sun come up and formulated a plan of attack.

Cholla-Sunrise Taco-Breakfast

I decided to visit the campgrounds north to south on Roosevelt Lake, leaving Burnt Corral for last.

So on Sunday I drove up to Indian Point.


It is the smallest campground in the area, primitive with no shade shelters, and was closed.


And I don't mean closed for the season. I mean it has been closed for several years according to the ranger at the visitor center I spoke to later.



I hopped the fence and took a pic of the boat ramp.


The lake is now several miles away off to the left.

I headed back to the 188 and drove north 6 miles to the small town of Tonto Basin, which has an excellent local supermarket. Picked up a Sunday paper and some other necessities and went back to Cholla.

Monday I walked around Cholla, the largest and most popular campground here.


A little bit of history.

This area was jointly developed by the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior just over 20 years ago.

The fees are unique as well. You need to pick up a Tonto Pass to camp here or even park. But they are cheap at only $6 per day. They resemble giant lotto scratchers that you hang from your rearview mirror. You scratch of the time, day, month, and year and that pass is good for 24 hours. That includes camping! Yep, $6 per night to camp. Cholla and Windy Hill even have showers. Makes up for the $35 per night I was paying in ADK.

Plus, if you are over 60, it's only $3. My friend Shirley will be able to nab that bargain soon...

Anyway, back to Cholla.

It is the largest all solar powered campground in the United States.


Being nearby the dam it has the benefit of deeper water and they smartly added a giant boat ramp that was being used quite a bit by fellow campers during my stay.

Cholla-Boat-Ramp Cholla-View

I stayed in site 32, one of my favorites.


Others I liked were 17, 20 and 172, but there are lots of good sites here.

Cholla_017 Cholla_020 Cholla_172

There are 200 sites total, not counting the host sites, and that includes 18 walk in tent sites. They have the best views.

Check out 7 and 18.

Cholla_T007 Cholla_T018

About half the sites in these campgrounds will be going on the reservation system in January.

Tuesday I headed south to Windy Hill, the other deepwater campground.


Originally there were over 300 campsites here but only 164 are available now. The others look like this sad spot.


I just think they overbuilt the area. Almost 900 campsites when only 500 were needed and then with the drought and $6 camping fees, how could they afford it?

So the boat ramp properly ended in water.


I liked 3, tent site 24, and 34.

Windy-Hill_003 Windy-Hill_024 Windy-Hill_034

There are also pull through sites here. Lots of them. 283, 287, and 300 caught my eye.

Windy-Hill_283 Windy-Hill_287 Windy-Hill_300

On Wednesday I went and visited Schoolhouse at the southern tip of the banana.


No lake access here anymore and of it's 200+ sites only 41 remain open.

Number 3 was not one of them.


They left the pull through sites open but with no showers there was only one camper here.

So take a gander at sites 182, 189, 193, 203, and 205.

Schoolhouse_182 Schoolhouse_189 Schoolhouse_193 Schoolhouse_203 Schoolhouse_205

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day and I started it out with some beef tacos.


Too much chicken lately. I could feel feathers growing on my bald head and I was starting to cackle. Just a bit.

Turns out that I had saved my favorite campground for last.

But first I took a peek at the visitor center, marina, lake, and the bridge by the dam.

Visitor-Center Roosevelt-Lake-Marina Roosevelt-Lake Roosevelt-Bridge-1

I needed some inspiration. And I found it.

Inspiration-Point Roosevelt-Bridge-3

The water flows under the bridge to the Roosevelt Dam.

(Under The Bridge by The Red Hot Chili Peppers is a great song)

Roosevelt-Dam-1 Roosevelt-Dam-2

The Apache Trail starts here. Or ends here. Depends on your point of view.


That yellow sign is a clue as to why my clean car became very dusty.


But I was only going five miles down a narrow road to Burnt Corral.


Where I took the best campground sign photo I have ever done.


I love that photo. You cannot script these kind of moments unless you have a big ad budget.

Being below the dam, Lake Apache was almost full, as the boat ramp and beach pics show.

Burnt-Corral-Boat-Ramp Burnt-Corral-Beach

Yeah. One of the nicest campgrounds I have seen in a while.

There are many sites along the lakeshore. Numbers 36, 37, 48, and 67 were nifty.

Burnt-Corral_036 Burnt-Corral_037 Burnt-Corral_048 Burnt-Corral_067

44 was my favorite of the 76 sites I found here.


Maybe because the trailer resembled mine and the gal who owned it was a sweetie.

For supplies you can either drive back to the dam and head north 18 miles to Tonto Basin or drive 5 miles west to Apache Lake Marina with a more limited selection of goodies. I didn't go there so I am not sure what they have available.

Either way this place is a gem.

I drove back east along the canyon to my campsite at Cholla.


Friday I processed all the campground pictures and today, Saturday, why I just kicked back and wrote this blog.

Tomorrow I head to the Phoenix area to visit three campgrounds and then it is off to the Colorado River on December 4th, where I will follow it all the way to Vegas Baby, I mean Lake Mead. I am sure I will find time to visit the campgrounds on Lake Mead after I take down the no-limit Texas Hold-em table at Lake Las Vegas.

I like to end my blogs on an interesting note so I want to share the extremely rare sighting I made of a young Wild Beer in the City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico.

When I visited there last in 2010 the locals in Deming tried to keep the location of the nesting area secret. I had all but forgotten about the Wild Beer until I found this sign at a Texas state park which I guess is on their migration route.


So that's why I stopped there on my way to Arizona.

Last week I stumbled upon a nest with just one left inside. It turns out those rocks were not hills worn down by erosion exposing the igneous formations but were strategically placed there by extra-terrestrials to provide a remote breeding ground for their favorite beverage.


I coaxed the little one out. He told me that all his brothers and sisters had left and he was all alone. He was cold, almost frosty. I considered wrapping him in a warm blanket but then I had a better idea.

I popped his head open and swallowed his insides.

I need to find that planet.

Maybe they have some great campgrounds.

Regards, Park Ranger


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