Sunday, July 27, 2014

Woods Canyon Lake

16 July 2014: The view from the top of the Mogollon Rim.

We enjoyed one other family outing just two days before we left for Tucson. The kids and I have been talking about doing a picnic at Woods Canyon Lake since March, for three reasons: 1) we have happy memories of camping, fishing, and picnicking there with their dad when the kids were small; 2) Jacob and Chris wanted to go fishing there; and 3) chapters 29-31 in the novel I'm writing will take place at or near Woods Canyon Lake, and I wanted to scout the area.
We did the same thing back in April, when we spent a day at Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. Several incidents in chapters 21-24 take place in the park, and seeing the area firsthand (it had been more than 10 years since my last visit there) inspired new ideas and helped me place exactly where and how these events would happen. I took a lot of pictures, too. It really brought the chapters to life, because I could see my characters in those settings as I wrote about them.

Pocket Stew assembly line.

It took a long time to get this outing together, because everyone wanted to go but their work schedules are so unmatched. In the end, Wednesday, July 16, was our last and only opportunity before school started back up. Jacob, Dylan, and I had the entire day off, but Danielle worked until 2:30 pm, Sarah worked until 3:00 pm, and Chris worked until 4:00 pm. Not ideal, but it was literally the only day during the summer that we could get a whole evening together.
So Jacob, Dylan, and I spent the day packing picnic and fishing supplies, loading the cars, and preparing foil packets for Pocket Stew to be cooked in the hot coals. We loaded them with precooked beef chunks and lots of vegetables, plus olive oil, butter, and seasonings. And ketchup, for Chris!

The guys, of course, always have to scare the gals
by getting as close to the edge as possible!

It was about 4:20 when we got on the road, with an hour-long drive ahead of us. We reached the turn-off at about 5:10, and then we made our first stop at one of the scenic viewpoints that look out over the highest point of the Mogollon Rim. It's a breathtaking view, standing right on the edge of a sheer drop hundreds of feet to the valley below. Those are clouds you see below us. And tiny ant-sized trucks on the 4-lane highway at the bottom.

The call of nature has been answered...

Something pretty exciting will happen right here at the edge of the Rim in chapter 29!

Before we left, Dylan pointed out a tree in which someone had carved a heart. Vandalism, yes, but cute vandalism. So I urged everyone to indulge me with some quick, romantic photo tomfoolery.

Sarah and Chris

Dylan photo-bombs Jacob and Danielle.

Jacob and Danielle

And a little brotherly love!

Sarah, Chris, Dylan, Jacob, and Danielle
in front of the  little store on the lake.

We bought some wood and fire-starter (oh yes, and a box of pecan fudge) at the little store in the marina, and then we headed up to the picnic area, where Jacob, Dylan, and Chris got a good fire going. Luckily, the fire restrictions in Arizona had been lifted a week or so earlier, after the monsoon rains finally came. In fact, the ground was damp and there were puddles all around from a nice shower earlier in the day. 

Chris and Jacob get the fire started before they go fishing.

Later, Dylan built it up some more and got a nice blaze going.

Chris and Jacob get their fishing gear out of the cars.

By the time we had the fire going and the guys headed down to the lake for fishing, it was 6:00. We knew the picnic area closed at 8:00, so our time was growing short. Perhaps because we kept the fire so small and the area was so damp, the fire didn't begin to produce some good coals until after 7:30. We put the Pocket Stew packets in what coals we could, but they were clearly not going to be done in time.

Walking toward the lake.

Meanwhile, I decided to take a leisurely walk down to the lake for photos and to see how the fishing was going. It was beautiful and cool and refreshing. However, I soon found that I was still weak from my long bout with diverticulitis and the side effects of the harsh antibiotics I was still taking. The walk downhill to the lake wasn't so bad, but by the time I climbed back up to our picnic site, I was shaky and short of breath, and my heart was pounding. I sat out the rest of the picnic!

Some male bonding will happen here, at the edge of the lake,
in chapter 30. And then some sweet romance (finally!) in chapter 31!

In the end, Chris caught one small fish he had to put back, and one crawdad. Jacob caught nothing. They returned to the picnic area just as we were trying to get the Pocket Stews to sizzle in the coals.

The view, looking back up from the edge of the lake.
I love the flattened shape of these boulders, like a stack of flapjacks!

At 7:45, a fat, unpleasant man with an ugly scowl, driving a small unmarked car and not wearing a uniform, pulled up near our site and started chewing us out for not being packed up and ready to leave. He claimed to be a ranger, but I would hope a forest ranger would make camping more pleasant for nice families using the area. We tried to be pleasant and immediately pulled the Pocket Stews out of the fire, but apparently that wasn't good enough. He accused us of not moving fast enough and "just sitting on your butts." (I was the only one seated at that time.)

Anyone who knows me also knows that kind of rude talk is guaranteed to make me move even slower. The kids got the fire put out, everything packed up and reloaded into the cars, and then Jacob, Danielle, and Dylan drove out of the picnic area 5 full minutes before closing. There really hadn't been that much to pack up, so the Fat Man's abrasiveness was totally uncalled for.

The waters are so serene. The reflection of the trees was amazing.

Sarah, Chris, and I, on the other hand, slowly moseyed down to the car. When I got in I checked the weather on my phone, blew my nose, applied some Chapstick, adjusted the seatbelt, and took my time starting the car. Then I rolled slowly toward the exit of the picnic area, where the Fat Man waited beside his car.
As I approached him, I slowed down even further and picked up my phone to check the time. It was 7:58. When it hit 7:59, I rolled on by and gave the man my most bland smile. Yep, that's me, the Queen of Passive-Aggressive!
Then he followed us almost all the way out of the park. Speed limit: 20 MPH. My speed: 5 MPH. Take that, Fat Man!

Later, the kids suggested that I put the Fat Man in my book and have his character be killed gruesomely and painfully by the supernatural forces of evil my heroine is battling. Tempting, I won't give that rude man the glory of appearing in what may just be the next best-selling novel of all time!

Sunset from the Mogollon Rim.

We made one final stop at a different Rim overlook to admire the beautiful setting sun over distant California, and then we drove on home. We finished our Pocket Stews in the oven and had a very late dinner, after 10:00. Despite our short stay and it's unpleasant ending, we had a great time and we're glad we went!
The short video below gives a nice view of the lake and the guys working hard at fishing.

Just for fun, here's a picture from a long-ago trip to Woods Canyon Lake and the Mogollon Rim overlook! This was taken Sept. 16, 2000, when Sarah was still a month away from her 11th birthday, Jacob was 9, and Dylan was 3. I miss those days!

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