We had driven all the way down from Flagstaff (having camped near there the night before), and being very misled by a local friend who estimated the driving time between Lake Roosevelt and Flagstaff to be around 4 hours (it took us most of the day), we arrived at our prospective campground as the sun was setting spectacularly.
We drove around hoping to find someone to pay for a site quickly, so that we could watch and photograph the sunset to our hearts’ desire (and not set up camp in the pitch darkness, a goal which my friend and I have never achieved as camping buddies, despite our best intentions). But we couldn’t find a soul at the campground.
So we scratched our heads, frowned at our receptionless flip phones, and pulled out a map and a camper’s guide to AZ, which suggested that our only option was to head to the nearby town of Roosevelt where there was an associated nature center. We figured we might find someone there who knew their way around that we could pay for a site.
But when we drove to Roosevelt, it was also strangely abandoned. We didn’t encounter any cars on the road, and the nature center was closed. We got out of the car and scratched our heads some more, staring off into the lake. I should note at this moment, that Lake Roosevelt is a man made lake in the middle of a giant desert. We drove for hours through cacti and creosote and there smack dab in the middle of all the bone dry heat is a giant lake. (more on that in a later post)
Feeling slightly desperate now, we considered our options. We didn’t know how near the nearest hotel was (we found out the next day it would have been at least two more hours of driving for a sketchy motel), we didn’t know who to ask about camping, and we didn’t want to gamble on finding another suitable place. We were already tired, and it was already dark.
So we shrugged, drove back to the campground we had already found, found a campsite right on the lake’s edge, and set up camp. We figured if a ranger did the rounds later, we would just pay the fee.
We couldn’t find the matches that night, so we had a sad dinner of pears out of a can and trail mix. Then we retired to our cheap tent. The nice thing about that tent is that it has a mesh top (less of an advantage in a rain storm), which allows you to lie on your back and stare at the stars.
Our tent and rental car in an otherwise empty campground.
I was loving being so isolated, but it did have a slightly creepy aspect to it. Here were over 200 pristine campsites next to a gorgeous lake, with showers and bathrooms all in perfect condition, and there wasn’t a soul anywhere. My camping buddy was definitely uneasy about the situation, and I could feel his tension from my side of the tent.
In the middle of the night, there was the sound of a distant motor. Like a spring-loaded toy, my friend sat bolt upright, tense. We listened in silence as the motor got closer, then further, then closer, then further. Only when it finally faded away (maybe 45 minutes later) did he relax enough to sleep. I still have no idea what that motor could have been, but to my friend’s mind it was a car full of drunk ne’er-do-wells looking for trouble. And we were out of cell phone range and hadn’t seen a soul for hours. (And maybe he was right, we’ll never know.)
Of course, when we woke up the next morning, we were able to more fully appreciate the eerie emptiness of the lake in the middle of the desert. More about that in a future post!