It was the weekend of June 24th, 2022. I’d just started camping again in April with my horrific learning experience at Upper Tonto Creek Campground where I almost froze and I didn’t want a replay of that. I checked the weather before I left but for Payson which was expected to be sunny and warm, not Forrest Lakes which was expecting to be 60 with chances of rain. It was a little overcast as I was driving up the mountain.
It drizzled on and off as I crested the rim on Highway 260, right before FR300. I made the turn and continued on 300 for several miles, passing all the first campgrounds and watching all the tree glow an almost neon green from the fresh summer shower. The rain helped as the paved road turned to dirt and I started my search for a campsite. I’d been learning about backpacking for months and even though my knees couldn’t carry me (at that time) I still wanted to practice the principles of “leave no trace”. This was going to be my first time trying dispersed camping and I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous.
After several miles I turned down FR169, after passing a wildlife area I quickly found a site. It was a large opening between the trees, it was back off the main road a little and the trees offered some cover. I found a fairly level spot, no widow makers overhead, and pitched my tent. I got it up in the nick of time, right before the next downpour. I was so in a rush that the next morning I’d learn I put the rainfly on inside out.
Listening to the rain in the tent was so refreshing. It smelled so good, all the dirt, trees, plants after their afternoon bath. The sun finally came out right before sunset and I took a hike up the small 2 lane dirt track at the back of the campsite. It led to another, small, fire ring and camping area about 500 feet father back. This would be a perfect spot for a 2nd group or for one group to be able to be a little louder and still have a buffer.
The night was met with sprinkles on and off. I’m sure I’d get sick of it eventually but for these few days I couldn’t get enough of that sound. Saturday started off promising but by just after noon the showers started. It drizzled, rained and poured on and off for the next couple of hours. Luckily there was time to make dinner before the sunset.
After breaking camp Sunday I decided to drive around and explore some more of FR169. I found a couple more camp sites and a few more roads. It’s a very big area up here. I look forward to coming back and exploring again one day. I didn’t take as many photo as I’d have liked but here are a few quick shots from my cell phone or GoPro to initially document the area.