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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Springerville


After yesterday's hike I drove north on US Hwy 191 to Springerville, a small town on the highway large enough for several hotel chains, fast-food restaurants, a coffee shop and the Springerville Ranger Station. The small town impressed me, as it was the first town on Hwy 191 that was large enough for resuplly of any kind. I would have enjoyed staying in town and having a nice Mexican meal with a margarita, but with the drive still back to the camp ground, I
refrained.
I stopped briefly at a corner-lot historic park with replica log cabins from the 1910s, and even drove up to the hilltop cemetery where an ominous cross on the side of the road announced that "Sean P Hughes was murdered in 1988." Was the doomed 19-year-old man murdered right there, with a view of the western valley below? Broken beer bottles lined the shoulder, indicating a popular spot for young people.

The ranger station was south of town. I pulled in and asked for hiking maps, and was kindly pointed to the shelves of pamphlets against the wall. They had everything that I needed for better exploration of the national forests, to include driving loops for wildlife viewing. One loop, the Wildcat Loop, where antelope and mountain lions may be spotted, seemed especially appleaing to me. That is one loop I know even Kevin would enjoy, camped near a meadow to wait for the big cats to stroll through.

The rangers behind the desk all were very friendly, as they usually are. I asked for good restaurants in town, and the ranger mentioned all the independent eateries I passed, to include the Java Cup where WiFi is available. That is where I parked for 30 minutes, letting the dogs out and making sure they had water.

Determined to come back to this small mountain town, I went back to the campsite via the White Mountain Scenic Byway, a north-south road from Springerville to Big Lake. From town it ascended, providing panoramic views of the high plains to the north. One can see the extinct volcanoes from scenic vistas. Cows grazed along the road, and several small ponds on either side (ponds made from recycled sewage water) dotted the mesa landscape.

I got back to the campsite just before dark, and the Red Flag warnings still in effect. Gordon had a get-together at his site, around a small briquette grill where the rest of us campers: Gordon, Brenda, Loriane, Jim, Tom, Bill and I huddled. We talked about the same old things again: the high price of gasoline (gas stations in Spain are at 50% capacity now, with truckers there already striking), the fast increase in our salmonella found in corporate-grown tomatoes, and new China.

But once again we all departed at 9pm to our respective sites. I walked with the dogs to our little tent, looking so forlorn with the spartan decorations. The site to my south, site #130, now had three men pulled in with a small RV and boat who were huddling around their campfire that I thought was banned tonight. No big deal, as by now I was more interested in getting some rest and preparing the tear-down in the morning. Our group car-camp was now officially over.

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