Apache Lake I: A Trip Report

2014-03-29

I had spent some time learning to pack the faltboot (a canvas/vinyl kayak) for a camping trip aka expedition. No not into the untamed wilds, but to explore Apache Lake. Apache Lake is north of us, another lake formed by a dam in a canyon which also formed the famous Roosevelt Lake, which is upstream. Roosevelt is huge and popular. Apache Lake is less easily accessible, much smaller, more rugged and fewer beaches.

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To get there, one must travel a narrow dirt road, filled with curves, hidden soft shoulders and washboards. The cliffs fall hundreds of feet with no barriers. The lake is in the middle of a 22 mile stretch. Many just don’t want to hassle with a boat trailer or motorhome on this difficult dangerous conveyance. People’s trailers regularly slip and slide on the narrow road, or get stuck in the grooves on the shoulder. The dust gets all over. It gets scary. All of this impedes traffic, but there are still many adventurous weekenders.

One lane bridge-maybe the best part of the dirt road

One lane bridge-maybe the best part of the dirt road

Down at the lake, there is a marina, hotel and restaurant. We decided to try a camping area upstream, where there was no boat launch, but a sandy beach. I had explored the area looking for the best access to beaches and coves using google satellite photos. This spot is in the middle of the lake, where it is about a half mile to a mile wide.

The Destination

The Destination

When we came to the end of pavement, I decided to get out the splash guard, this time for dust abatement, attach it and get into four-wheel high for traction. The splash guard wasn’t about water, but on the slow dirt road it wouldn’t blow off from stress, and would then keep the dirt out of the inside of the faltboote. I Had to slip on my tan-thru shorts and to take a few minutes to do this. I dropped them to sagg’in position, to help me stay cool and not disrupt an all over tan. All that I had to do was pull them up a few inches, if anyone drove by.

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DF took pictures of the massive Roosevelt Dam while she waited.

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After a rigorous three hour drive through the beautiful Arizona landscape, we found the turnoff and drove down to find a sign demanding a “pass” to park! No one had told us this. There were six or seven parties at the cove. I slipped on pants and inquired about this. One told me that the only place to pick one up would be miles from there on the dangerous dirt road. The rangers usually only come down on weekends, when it is crowded and then they will accept the $20 fees on site, rather than ticket. I left a check and a note of explanation hanging from my rear view mirror and took risk, hoping for a reasonable friendly ranger, if they came around. I had seen one leaving the area on the way down. It was already past noon and hours of driving would kill our plans.

Rigging the boat for effective stowage had been done in my living room. My ultra-light rig slid in perfectly into the stern. All packed on the beach, we lifted the kayak into the water, one of us at each end, not wanting to file down the bottom on the rough surface. At that time, we didn’t even know if it would float with the additional gear.

It did float well and we proceeded out away from the crowds. This was a weekend and there were many speed boats and jet skis making wakes. They spent time out more in the middle of the lake. We were going to stay near the shore mostly, looking for camp sites, but fishing boats along the shores kept us on our toes, careful not to expose our nudity to them. DF managed to drop her top down and up, but completely disrobing in the boat would be too difficult at that time.

The temperature was in the low to mid-eighties F. On the water that was very comfortable. We paddled on and reconnoitered four potential campsites with beaches and with trees for shade and cover and then narrowed that down to two locations. We took into account the tall cottonwood tree, the deeper cover with a wind break, the foliage between the lake and campsite and then it was narrowed to one. Time to get naked and set up camp.

Our Cove

Our Cove

We found rocks and reeds, looked things over in more detail, set up the tent to make our claim and then packed stuff into the tent for a lighter boat. We were going cruising and weight makes drag. We kept the food with us, so the animals wouldn’t break into our tent. We had fruit, almonds, cliff bars, etc. for snacking out on the water.

Saguaro's Dance

Saguaro’s Dance

We took off to scout for more camping, exploring and just have fun with the kayak. We had been up there a few years before with my neighbors on their speedboat (see the addendum at the end of this story) and seen most of the lake, but not in the detail of a quiet kayak. My nudity worked out well for me. I was down in the boat, but DF had to keep a top on and slip it up or down as necessary.

Crossing the Lake

Crossing the Lake

Fun! We curiously went around the bend, then decided to go across the channel to see the other side where we saw a beach. We went quickly during a lull in traffic, and then discovered a wide area protected by buoys warning of danger for speeding boats.

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That increased our playground. There were only a couple of fishing boats moored quietly in that area and most passersby were in the channel at a distance. We moved along, getting what felt like quite a workout.

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I began to teach DF about how to hit waves smoothly and language like port and starboard, as we practiced our basics and enjoyed the scenery. We had had a goal to travel to a cottonwood in the distance, but soon discovered that there was a boat camped there already. Oh well, we sat and paddled and snacked, then checked other places to camp.

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When we arrived back at camp, I just stayed in the boat for a while. No thoughts, just awareness and a glaze eyed smile in bliss. After a while, DF came over and asked, ‘Are you just going to stay there?” I kinda wished that I could.

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There were chores to do. We decided to take an old campfire’s stones into the little wash, dig a pit and surround it with them. It made the best little fire pit ever, with soft sand all around. While I did that, DF took the tomahawk to find more wood for the pile that we had been accumulating. I heard her chopping a couple of hundred feet up stream and went back to help. She had found a dead mesquite branch close to the ground a few inches thick. It would burn slower than the brush that we had found. I hacked, working together, we drug it back to base.

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DF found and old drip pan that made a wonderful table on the ground for the kitchen. She began to heat the water to mix the dehydrated food, as I gathered fresh water from the lake. I was chopping, making wood to fit the fire pit and DF was getting the cushion from the boat, when a fishing boat pulled up not far from us, just outside the cove. I was kind of stuck there and too busy to be bothered. It was some distance for details. DF used the cushion to nonchalantly cover herself as she walked, she being the more exposed one. I was squatting and just decided to stay that way. Maybe with the visual obstacles they wouldn’t be sure of my nudity, if not, they weren’t seeing any illegal genitals. I heard two girls giggling talking with the guy, but have no idea if that had anything to do with us. I got up and moved over a few feet to be more hidden by some kind of a salt bush/tree. They floated around the bend and out of sight, with the current.

Boatload of intruders float by

Boatload of intruders float by

We sat quietly in the comfort of the kayak, eating a wonderful warm, rehydrated arrangement of vegetable noodles, zucchini, in a spaghetti sauce soup. As we watched the sun setting, the clouds change and the silhouette of the distant mountains, the ripples from the boat wakes lapped around us rhythmic and peaceful.

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The forecast was calm. We lit the fire and sat in the sand, nude butts together on the foam sleeping pad, watching, listening. This was good weather. The snakes and crawly problems probably weren’t out, yet this year. Slight drops in temperature brought us to shirts and then pants as the evening passed on. We would occasionally walk out to see how far the tide had gone out, since the last time. Someone had built a self-dosing fire pit by using the tide. It had been buried earlier under water and appeared at night. With no moon, the stars were sharp bright and reflected well in the now still glass-like water, making a whole other universe. Mountains reflected, silhouetted by a distant glare and somehow there would be glitter.

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I learned that feeding the fire with the smaller sticks warmed more than the thicker logs. They are fun to watch as they dance and wiggle from wood, to coals, to ashes.

It wasn’t cold like our last outing in the mountains, so I didn’t drink tea to warm up. I slept through the night quite cozy in the small tent.

 

Morning:

Morning was overcast. I had looked forward to the morning sunrise reflection that I had seen on the previous trip, but it wasn’t to be had. There was no sun to warm naked bodies. We had a quick pre-breakfast, of oranges and found ourselves wandered off up into the small canyon that made our cove, still in our warm clothing.

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The walk, maybe a quarter mile of climbing and minor bushwhacking, was fascinating.

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These mountains have great geology. There are multitudes of reddish tones generally. This place entertained us with many other rock colors also, like purple, and jade green. White quartz veins crept through much of it, looking like running cream, and glazed cake.

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Under boulders and sand the terrain changes

Under boulders and sand the terrain changes

A flash flood moving boulders trapping a very old tire

A flash flood moving boulders trapping a very old tire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found the irresistible rock specimens that we happened upon. We looked at each other laughing, acknowledging how crazy we are to do it, to lug them back and stuff them in the boat. We took them anyway. The kayak is nice because weight isn’t as much an issue compared to backpacking. Bulk is more of the issue.

The flowers of spring are coming into bloom.

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There are a number of species not common to our own desert to the south.

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There were different varieties of our local vegetation.

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There were barrel cactus with no hooks and one with unusually huge thorns.

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Some kind of cholla or a night blooming cirrus. The jojobas had bigger leaves.

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All of it beautiful in this overcast gray light, introducing their color in a different way.

We had to climb around and through in a few spots, as mesquite blocked the way. DF slid her body through two plants and commented, “I’m glad that I’ve got pants on.” I admonished her for her blasphemy, with my tongue in cheek.

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These old longneck 7-up bottles used to come crashing out of soda machines for a dime

These old longneck 7-up bottles used to come crashing out of soda machines for a dime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived back at camp and attempted to take photos of the snow made of light cottonwood cotton floating around us. The tree was full of it, like fairies. It is extremely silky and light to touch. Somewhere, somehow, clothing had evaporated from our bodies.

We had breakfast of oatmeal, dehydrated bananas and strawberries, once again in the kayak, looking out at the lake and mountains. We were naked. It was lovely. As we were breaking camp, the predicted winds came up. They were creating small whitecaps on the lake surface.

We decided that we were just going to unload our gear into the truck and take another cruise empty. The distance wasn’t much to get to the parking beach. It was colder on the water. When we got unpacked, it didn’t look good for more boating. Possible 25 mph gust were predicted and to tell the truth, after the work out fighting the current from the winds, we were both tired. We even opted out on a short nude hike to see if we could backpack more gear to a closer beach and have a larger tent and camp for a longer stay.

We stripped again in the warm truck. The road was slow, but the sights were awesome and colorful. The sky had cleared and the sun was warm.

At one point, we had to stop. A guy who had a heavy boat got stuck in sand on an ascending tight corner. A woman with a Canadian accent walked up to the truck to explain that it would be a few minutes. DF quickly scrambled and handed me my swim shorts, but they were too small to cover much more that the genital area without putting them on. Oh well, she showed no signs of noticing. She walked away. I slipped them on, so that I could get out, seeing if I could help in some way. This made an accumulation of various vehicles, creating a dusty convoy for the last miles of the winding dirt road.

After gas-up and a nice Italian dinner in Superior, we drove home.

I called this “Apache Lake I” because it won’t be the last trip. There is much to explore and many moments of awe to come.

 

A postscript trip will follow early next week….

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