Hunting the Kaibab North of the Grand Canon lays the Kaibab Plateau. To get there from Phoenix you head due north to Flagstaff, make a little jog to the east and then due north almost to Page, Arizona. The stretch from Phoenix to Flagstaff is very scenic and the view changes every fifteen minutes. You’re running flat through the desert with cacti and desert scrub brush as far as the eye can see, then suddenly you’re surrounded by mountains formed from extinct volcanoes. Then you are winding though steep mountain roods with sharp curves, and canyons to the left and then to the right, until you drop down to Camp Verde, crossing the Verde River see the giant cottonwood trees and the salt cedars. The air was permeated with fishy or musty smell of desert rivers. Not far from the river banks little farms of the Verde Valley hod flourish by growing all kinds of vegetables including great sweet corn. Cortez Junction was next, where you could turn and head West to Prescott and the little farming and ranching towns like Mayor or Dewy. But we continued heading north and found level, open grass lands where the deer and the antelope play. The buffalo are not roaming here, but they are up around Page, about three hours away. As the roadway starts climbing again, we are seeing and smelling cedars and juniper trees and can catch a little fragrance from their berries. All of scenery gives way white powder rock formations near the ancient Indian ruins of Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. There are cliff dwellings and a National Park that are very interesting to see and learn about how the Indians learned to cope and flourish in a hostile wilderness as this.
Two miles down the road we find ourselves in ponderosa pines and can see the Red Rock Country of Sedona and Oak Creek beyond. There are many fishing stories I could tell about Oak Creek Canyon, but they are for another time. Right now we are climbing up to Flagstaff that sits 6 ,906 feet about sea level. We can see Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at an elevation of 12,643 feet. We then take I 40 four miles to the northeast and the head due north again toward Page.
Just outside of Flagstaff as you leave the cool pine forest, you hit rolling sandy hills barren of all foliage. It is barren that it resembles the surface of the moon. Before astronauts went to the moon they trained here and in nearby Meteor Crater. NASA went as far as finding areas resembling the targeted landing sites and then have the Corp Of Engineers lay out the size and location of the craters and then dynamite then to reproduce the shape and dept so they could practice navigating on foot in the space suites and practiced driving the lunar rovers. These is a museum on the edge of Meteor Crater to tells the whole story or should I say the hole stories.
Now we make a straight flat run through the most desolate land in Arizona. Across Deadman Mesa, past the Wupatki National Monument (pronounced Wupatki), up Gray Mountain which is the only hill in fifty miles and onward to Cameron. At Cameron the was just a deep crack in the earth’s crust formed by the Little Colorado that’s so deep it has to have a trestle bridge over it. This is worth a stop to explore for about five minutes. Not because it is so spectacular, but because you won’t see anything within ten miles of the road for the next 84 miles. It is flat and barren as barren could be. Interestingly though, walking out of this barren land you can see Indians in full traditional dress coming out from nowhere. They must have Hogan’s or other Indian dwellings just out of eyesight.
Not far up the rood we passed through the town of McNary where there was a large lumber mill with a lake to float the logs up to the mill. I had toured it with my family before when we had rainy days to wet to fish. I told Bob the story about my cousin Jim saving my brothers life, or maybe just from serious injury, when Rick fell through an uncovered, 24• x 24″ square opening in the mills floor. This hole was a scrap lumber chute that led directly onto a conveyor that would dump off-fall cuttings into a chopper a few feet away. Rick was looking up at the amazing sawing process when he fell threw the floor; quick acting cousin Jim grabbed him before the conveyor the–t-would have carried Rick off to the whirling cutting blades. That was a close call!
So now permitted and fueled, off we went to find a camping spot. We decided to camp near a pair of lakes called Shush Be Tou and Shush Be Zahze on the Apache Reservation. They mean Little Bear and Big Bear in white mans tongue. We found a perfect site, unpacked, pitched the tent. The camp kitchen was a chinch to set up. It which consisted of a two burner Coleman stove, lantern, water jug, cooking utensils and one small ice chest picked out to match the color of the car. You might ask, could a VW bug hold all of that stuff and two people? Yes it could when you have a good lugged rack that carried most of the bulky gear. You can’t get a heck of a lot inside a VW or its trunk. but that’s the price you pay for all of the benefits of compact cars.
The rest of the afternoon we spent fishing Shush Be Tou and the creek below the dam. Fishing was good and we had a great trout dinner. I loved to cook the trout in tin foil. I took each skinned trout, two for each of us. put a piece of wheat bread crust strip down the middle of the cavity, sprinkled a little salt & pepper all over, two squirts of Real Lemon, lemon juice and then sprinkled some Mrs. Dash to top it off. After folding the foil into a tight seam, depending on the size of the trout, they would need to be cooked 7 to 10 minute. I placed them ton hot coals with the seam up and they were done in five minutes if that tells you anything. Served up with baked beans and buttered wheat bread with some of the curst missing made a great meal. Oh yea, Oreos and coffee for dessert.
Early the next morning we set out to find Bog Tank where we heard the fishing was great! We loaded the ice chest along with the fishing gear and headed out. We picked a little back road that looked like the logical route to find our destination, a remote fishing hole with few visitors. It was a good, solid road bed even though it was a little wet from the previous morning rain-showers. The further we drove into the forest, the less used the road was. Up ahead we saw a clearing and the bright sun was highlighting the tall. green grass. As we broke into this clearing I noticed that the grass grew over the trail indicating very little traffic. Another twenty yards down this grassy path and saw water reflecting though the grass. Could we be getting close to Bog Tank? This path broke into a grassy clearing which was completely water soaked. This didn’t look like a tank! I didn’t think it would be a good idea to stop and back up because I felt my rear wheels losing traction. So I kept pontooning forward, then down through a dip in the road, which was more like a little drainage ditch, working hard to keep my momentum. I made a tight u-turn maintaining my speed the best I could and headed back toward the ditch. I tried to speed up to gain momentum to carry us through, but not enough. With drive wheels spinning and no forward movement the car was slowly sinking in1along with the reality that we were stuck! Here we were, in the middle of the forest, on a dead end road with no hope of a passer by to give assistance. Bob and I got out of the car to assess the situation. He cupped his hands to his mouth to form a bull horn and yelled “HELP!” We looked at each other and just started laughing. He new there wasn’t anyone within ten miles of us.
After formulating a plan of action, we went to work. The car was sunk down all the way to the fame. I had to start digging down into the bog with a short, lug wrench handle and appropriately shaped sticks to get the jack underneath the car. Bob was gathering tree branches that could be stripped down to use as a base to drive the wheels on once we raised it high enough. I dug down deep enough to get the standard VW screw jack under one side. With the jack in place, I worked the handle. Instead of going up, the jack was going down. The foot print of the jack was too small to push against the muddy bog. I lookled the trunk of the car to see if I could find anything with a larger base. There it was. I had left my sheet metal punch set, Whitney #5 jack in the car for some reason, but couldn’t remember why. All my other sheet metal tools were left at the shop as usual. Its metal case measured 4″ by 8″ and was 2″ deep. I took the jack out of the hole, placed the punch case in and sat the jack on top. As I worked the handle the punch case started sinking in the bog. Finally it stopped its descent and the car started moving up. It was working~! raised the wheel as high as the jack would go. Bob packed his stripped branches under the wheel and forwarded two feet to give some traction in anticipation of the car moving forward. If it didn’t, we would have a long hike to the highway.
After the second wheel was sitting of the branch foundation , we were ready to go. I was hard retrieving my punch box after each lift. I had to dig around it to allow a pry stick to wedge it up. The mud reluctantly released its grip with a sucking/slurping sound and up the metal box came.
The car was about five feet away from the watery ditch, the last obstacle before we hit hard ground. Bob was behind the steering wheel and I was behind the back bumper. We the engine revving and the clutch pressed to the floorboard, I gave Bob the nod and the car a shove. It started moving forward with the tires spinning. It was gaining speed until it the front end went down into the ditch. It started to slow down and then the front came up the other side as the back wheels dropped into the ditch. I was still pushing, the wheels were still spinning but the car wasn’t moving. I grabbed a nearby branch that was about three inches in diameter and six feet long. In one swift movement, I stuck it under the car and lifted it as a pry bar with my shoulder and the car started moving again. I jabbed the lever under one more time and with a great push car popped up the rim of the ditch as I yelled at Bob to gun it and don’t stop until you are on high ground. When the car came to a stop, Bob got out and said that was fun, let’s do it again. Then he let out his raspy laugh. We glanced back to the middle of the meadow and could see the aftermath of branches, jackets, a jack and a metal punch box. We gathered our belongings, threw them in the car and headed to ….. You guessed it, back to Shush Be Tou. We will leave finding Bog Tank for the next trip, the one we will take with a map in hand.