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Cottonwood Storm and Moving Camp to Flagstaff, AZ

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Judy's and my new camp about 10 miles from Flagstaff, AZ. It's so great to be back in the tall Ponderosa Pines again! Right now the weather is perfect but there is still a lot of winter left.

Judy’s and my new camp about 10 miles from Flagstaff, AZ. It’s so great to be back in the tall Ponderosa Pines again! Right now the weather is perfect but there is still a lot of winter left.

On Sunday March 30 a nice young Prescott National Forest Ranger came into camp on a friendly visit but obviously he was there to start the clock on our 14 day stay. It was obvious we had been there for a while so I told him that we had got there on Wednesday March 26th. Yesterday, Wednesday April, 9, our 14 days was up so Judy and I broke camp and left Cottonwood and moved to a new camp in exactly the same place we camped at last year outside Flagstaff, AZ. There is a map to our camp at the very bottom of the post. Off topic, I’ve heard of a lightweight trailer for sale that is perfect for boondocking, go to this page for details. He’s asking $1500-$2500, I know nothing else about it so please don’t ask me anything, I can’t help.
A storm just blew through the Cottonwood camp and  and gave us a beautifu light show. But then it quickly got hot and brought the Cedar Gnats outl

A storm just blew through the Cottonwood camp and and gave us a beautifu light show. But then it quickly got hot and brought the Cedar Gnats out, so we are outta here!

Initially we had planned to move to a new camp nearer to Sedona and hang around there for a while, but at the last minute we changed our mind and decided to come here to Flagstaff instead. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that last week we had ruled out Flagstaff because of the storm that just went through here. It brought a beautiful light show to our little hillside Cottonwood camp but it brought snow and serious cold to Flagstaff and I don’t like cold and snow! Yes, I am a big baby! But, we changed our minds all of a sudden and here are the reasons:

  1. The Juniper trees around here have a bug that comes out in the spring heat and they are horrible—the worst welts and itching of any bite I’ve ever had; much worse than Alaska’s mosquitoes! A Google search shows that they are a kind of Midge commonly called a Cedar Gnat. We got bitten up by them last year I swore that in the future I would leave the area immediately at the first bite and on Monday I got my first bite so on Wednesday we were packed and gone! I can turn on the heat and put on more blankets, but I can’t possibly live with those little invisible monsters so we are outta here (I still have the welt I got 4 days ago!)
  2. It’s getting too hot! We are just getting into the 90s and I don’t like it. So while Sedona is sweltering, Flagstaff is just about perfect, 70s in the day and 40s at night. But a little storm is coming and it will drop down to the 60s and 30s at night. A little cooler than I want, but not too bad. Better a little cool than too hot and infinitely better than being fileted alive in the heat!!
  3. When I’m in the trailer, I don’t like to move any more than I have to. I set up a nice, comfortable camp but that makes breaking camp and moving a pain in the butt that I avoid. If we move to Sedona it’s a certainty that we will have to move again, but by going to Flagstaff we only have to move once and then can stay in that spot until we go to Alaska in May. Some people say, “Why live on wheels if you never move?” My astrological sign is Gemini, the twins, and I find that I have two distinct and different sides to me. One side has wanderlust and can’t sit still, but the other is a home-body that wants nothing more than to be “home.” I find my trailer to be the perfect solution! In the winter I sit up a nice camp and stay put for as long as I can, but then in the summer I put the trailer in storage and hit the road! Most of us are on a tight budget and we need to just sit in the winter to build up a savings to travel in the summer. Plus, after 6 years of doing this, what is there for me to see and do in the winter?

To find our camp I highly recommend the Benchmark Atlas from Amazon, see it here: Arizona Road and Recreation Atlas Another very good atlas is the Delorme Atlas and Gazetter. You can buy it from Amazon here: Arizona Atlas & Gazetteer
So here are some pictures of the storm that just went through here and some pictures of our new camp.

Northern Arizona has a huge number of Elk and deer. This hers of elk hung around this camp a lot last year--we saw them nearly every week.

Northern Arizona has a huge number of Elk and deer. This herd of elk hung around our camp a lot last year–we saw them nearly every week. I took this picture out the door of the trailer.

Storm Light Beam.

Storm Light Beam.

Cottonwood storm.

Cottonwood storm.

Thanks for Shopping from These Links!

I make a little money on everything you buy (even if it is something different) and it costs you nothing.

Map to our Flagstaff camp.

Map to our Flagstaff camp.


  1. jonthebru

    Very sound reasoning. I am impressed by how you find these private places. The trailer writeup by Occupation Of Independence is a really good lesson on setting up a practical living space. Someone is gonna be happy.

  2. LaVonne

    Ha, I read the description of Boonie’s trailer and realized I don’t need all that space!

    • Bob

      LaVonne, you live in a mansion already, what would you do with all that space! For those of you who don’t know LaVonne, she lives in a GMC Safari/Astro minivan!

  3. Al Christensen

    Meanwhile, I’m in wander mode in New Mexico. I got the state’s park pass, so I’m on my to their most southern campground — Pancho Villa — so I can then work my way north and into the higher elevations, and on into Colorado. Today I’m in a primitive campsite (as opposed to the full RV hook-up sites a quarter mile down the road) at Elephant Butte Lake, on a hill with a 360 degree vista and all sorts of small animal tracks. Four bars on the mobile signal, easy access to town. Don’t know if I’ll see you before you head off on your Alaska trip. Perhaps our paths will cross in Montana or Alberta. Bon voyage.

    • Bob

      Al, would you be willing to keep a record of your summer camps in New Mexico and write a post for my blog summarizing it?
      We plan to head into Canada no later than June 1 and most of the Montana mountains could easily still have snow on them. May be too early to head that far north.

  4. Walt

    I suspect when we hit the road we will look to find a happy medium between travel and stationery life. I believe that many parts of the country can provide a distinct change of scenery with a physical move of only a few miles or so. If true, that’s a great way to satisfy my love of travel without exceeding the monthly fuel budget.

    • Bob

      Walt, many people spend their first year in nearly constant travel, and that makes sense, they have all that built up itchy feet syndrome! But most people settle down by the second year.
      Nearly all the western states offer a huge variety of terrain and usually within a very short distance. Washington state may have the most:
      Rain forests
      Alpine mountains
      Dense forests
      Wheatland plains
      High desert
      But they all have a lot of variety.

  5. Linda Sand

    To me storms are beautiful to see but can be scary to live through. Thanks to your recent posts I’ve been preparing better for them this year.

    • Bob

      Linda, as you know storms in Arizona can be especially dangerous with flash floods in the desert and lighting causing forest fires everywhere.
      Being prepared is always a good idea!

  6. Ming

    thanks for this camp review. I hope to check it out one day. I wish I could visit with your group, it sounds friendly and fun. Perhaps we’ll meet when you pass through BC in a few months. Feel free to contact me for info on boondocking sites, I have the book that list free/ cheap campsites in BC.

  7. Ming

    Hi Wayne,
    it looks like my comment is not making it through because of the Amazon links. The books I use are the Camp Free in BC series by the Copelands, the Backroads Mapbooks, and the Jayne Seagrave books on camping in BC (for the provincial parks, which are all pay).
    Have fun, are you headed to Alaska soon too?

    • Wayne

      Thanks Ming, for the reply!
      No, I’m not going to Alaska. Just contemplating getting out of Phoenix for the summer, and wanting to camp on the west coast somewhere. Kind of hard here in the states. We’re talking, free to real cheap. I saw some photos on the astro van forum of people camping up in BC. I believe they were on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
      Thanks, Wayne

  8. Ming

    yes, you could camp free here and there for a long time in BC. Some of it involves driving down active logging roads, not sure how you feel about that. I’m still learning how and am considering getting a radio to monitor the traffic, but maybe I’m paranoid about getting run down by huge trucks in the woods.
    Cell coverage is terrible away from population centers because of the mountainous terrain.
    BC also has a range of ecosystems from coastal to rain forest to grasslands and deserts to choose from.
    The west coast of Vancouver Island is stunning. You will see bears for sure, and lots of rain, so bring some sort of shelter for outside the vehicle and rain gear, but on the plus side you can do rain catchment for your water needs.
    The west coast of the mainland is less rainy and similarly gorgeous. I hope you get a chance to check it out.

    • Wayne

      Thanks Ming! I actually grew up in Vancouver. Our family camped a lot in the 50’s. We camped all over BC. Never paid back then. And yes I remember being rained in for days up at Bromley, on the Hope Princeton.
      Some summers so beautiful, others hardly knowing it was summer. Some Septembers are beautiful as well.
      We never did camp over on the island. That’s why I don’t know much about it.
      Thanks again, Wayne

      • Ming

        wow, things have changed since the 50’s! Even the since the 70’s when I came to Vancouver. Vancouver Island feels more coastal and more wild, if you can imagine it. Bigger trees. Bigger breeze off the water. Bigger rains. Bigger slugs. 🙂

  9. Ariel

    Do you have any general suggestions on how to avoid camping spots that might be at risk for flash flooding or other potential natural hazards?

    • Bob

      Ariel, avoiding flash floods is pretty easy. 1) Don’t camp in a narrow canyon. You want to be able to look around and see a wide area where water will flow around you. 2) Make sure there is lower ground that the water can flow into. You want to find a place at least a foot, preferably 2 that is lower than you. If you are in the lowest spot, you have a problem.
      I’ve only seen one flash flood and I had followed those two rules above so we were fine, but had we broke those rules we would have been in trouble. The water was a foot deep and 12 feet wide and flowing fast.
      Can you list the natural hazards you are worried about?

      • Ariel

        It’s comforting to hear that you’ve been through a flash flood without incident. Bob… flirting with danger for the better of mankind!
        The tips you give are helpful – no narrow canyons, find the low ground and avoid it. Common sense things, it seems, but it’s good to hear it may be just as easy at being aware. I suppose checking in with the local ranger station for potential concerns wouldn’t hurt either.
        As far as other natural hazards, I guess the only things I’m slightly concerned about are falling branches, which seem easy enough to avoid with environmental awareness (I only think of that really due to being in campgrounds with areas closed long term due to the danger – there wouldn’t be such warnings in boondocking areas). Also, poisonous insects, spiders, or snakes. I assume my best bet here would be to consult with the district’s website, check with rangers, and do some general reading on what might be in the area.
        Not sure if I’m missing anything!

        • Ariel

          I should add, actually, that’s I’ve since been reading through your forum threads, and many of these topics are covered. So, thanks!

        • Bob

          Ariel, the best thing about boondocking is it just about eliminates the dangers from 2-legged predators. Since they are the bigget danger in our lives, you are much safer out here than you will ever be in a city.
          However, you do introduce a few new dangers from nature itself. They are greatly exagerated! The odds of anything you mentioned happening to you are extremely low. I spend much more time in the back-country than most people do and none of those things has ever been a serious issue to me.
          I’ve literally walked 10,000 miles in the last 6 years in the remote parts of the desert and the Sierrra and Rocky mountains and I can count on one hand the number of times I have been in serious danger where I thought my life or health could be at risk. And none of them were a problem that actually happened.
          Honestly, you will be safe! Much safer than where you are now!

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