Thursday, November 15, 2012

Camping and canoeing at Saguaro Lake

I'm going to Saguaro Lake this weekend, so I thought I'd recap a memorable 2011 camping trip.

Did you know there’s a camping spot at Saguaro Lake accessible only by boat? Our problem was that we don’t own a boat. The solution?  We rented a canoe from Arizona Outdoor Fun in Phoenix. It cost $40 a night in December 2011, but the price has since gone up to $70 a day or $50 each per day if you rent two canoes. (You also need a $100 deposit.)

We had it all planned out. We would wake up at 6 a.m. and pack our camping gear, then pick up the canoe when the office opened. The worker helped us secure it onto our vehicle and we were on our way.  We first stopped to stock up on food and drinks, bought our recreation pass ($6 at the Walgreens on Power Road) and drove to the Saguaro Lake marina. That’s when we made a mistake. We parked our Jeep Liberty at the boat ramp, which is supposed to be 15-minute or so parking. In our haste to get in the water, we took off without moving our car.

We canoed on the lake several miles with our camping gear aboard before I realized we didn’t move the vehicle. We were several miles out by then, and it would take at least an hour of paddling to return to the car, move it and then canoe back  across the lake to the campsite. We decided to take our chances and hope our Jeep wasn’t towed.

 I was already nervous about tipping over when powered boats created sizeable wakes, so the car situation only magnified my stress. Our way to avoid the tragic fate of possibly tipping over and losing our gear was to canoe close to the cliffs to our right, away from the boats. This allowed us to enjoy the ride and soak in the views  --  and slowly forget that our vehicle could be towed.

We stopped to rest along the way and munch on sandwiches and snacks. We even spotted an eagle. This brightened my mood considerably and I was actually enjoying myself.

When we reached the campsites, there were about three other tents set up and a house boat docked. It would go on to play loud music on one of the nights, but we didn’t mind. We had our champagne (it was a day before New Year’s Eve) and we enjoyed the entertainment.

We soon discovered that our next mistake was forgetting our tent’s poles. Thanks to some clever engineering we came up with a form of shelter, and it worked well that night. We set up our hammock and used rope and large tree branches we found to hold a tarp over it. We positioned a camping heater nearby. Cozy.

We hiked and ate and talked and drank champagne next to the fire. It was a great night.

From our lakeside camping spot we could see Four Peaks and other mountains in the distance. Studying the ripples in the water calmed me, and the cool breeze gently touched our skin as we looked out from our hammock-tent. In the morning, we gazed at the red, orange and yellow sunrise while birds soared overhead. We’d like to think they were bald eagles, but honestly we don’t know. 

At one point during the weekend, though, the tranquility was disturbed by the sound of gunshots. It seems there were hunters nearby, and the sounds echoed through the area. But the relaxing, fun moments overshadowed the brief disruption.

I wasn’t looking forward to leaving. 

We commented on how fun the camping trip was and how we should return sometime. But the possibility of our car being towed was also in the back of our minds. Toward the end of our canoe ride back I would strain my eyes trying to see if I could spot it. It was the least enjoyable part of the trip. Dodging wakes seemed more stressful. Luckily, as we neared the marina, I noticed a black SUV parked in the loading area. We got lucky! A sweet ending to 2011.