Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Let's Go! {Rock Crossing Campgrounds, Tonto National Forest, Arizona}

Thinking of starting a new series here on Hawks and Honey to share all the places we go and why you should too, kicking off with our recent adventures to Rock Crossing Campgrounds in the Tonto National Forest, here in Arizona.  About 2 hours away from Phoenix and just north of Pine and Payson, AZ it's a perfect weekend trip for local Phoenicians.  I suggested we go camping at our backyard barbecue on Labor Day and a few of our family and friends were able to join us! 
We decided on Tonto National Forest because it's super close but has cooler mountain weather and trees! Originally, we had planned to camp at Blue Ridge but when we arrived it was full so we drove to the nearest first come, first serve site.  We didn't make reservations {we didn't plan far enough out, I noticed most Tonto sites that required reservations required them 4 days in advance and up to 6 months in advance} so we just had to hope something was open.  We found a spot right away at Rock Crossing and took sites 8 & 9 to accommodate all our cars but since 8 people are allowed on each site, we just set up all our tents on 8 so we could all hang out in one space.  There were double sites somewhere but we didn't drive in far enough to find them, those would allow 4 cars and 16 people.
One of the REI tents gave us some challenges {make sure to read the reviews before buying tents folks! don't want to get stuck in the forest the first time you try setting up a tent!}
after some effort they got it and we all set up our spaces.
then, we explored the area.
then, like usual my kids played in the tent.
until I asked them to come out for a photo.
apparently we all thought it was necessary to bring alcohol.
however, these World Centric cups did not hold up to our standards and started leaking almost promptly.  In my experience disposable items hardly ever hold up, best to bring 1 plate, 1 cup and a set of utensils per person and wash them each use.  
so bring you're own ball jar folks.
after settling in a bit, I pressured everyone into a walk.
but first a sip of pumpkin ale.
We set off in search of the Blue Ridge Reservoir to see some water.
of course Vera wanted a piggy back ride, thanks Tammy!
then Daddy stepped in to help.
It was a pretty great view, but a long walk.
we ended up not making it all the way down before a storm surfaced and we decided to head back before getting caught in a thunderstorm {this hawk was kind enough to say, "hi" though}.
and stopped for photos.
we ended up taking a shortcut.
and since both girls were too tired {one was sleeping} to walk, Husband carried both of them!
and then he showed us a great view he found...
...this was the view from a campsite deeper into Rock Crossing, if we had only drove in further!
It's okay though, we took more photos.
and because I love doing yoga on rocks.
then, a few family photos.  if you didn't realize yet, camping with me is essentially just an extended photo shoot looking for props and sites.
also this nephew of mine is pretty adorable and this was his first camping trip!

{apparel from here, shoes slightly used from hissyfits}
my little wild child was so proud of her stick she found!
but she was kind enough to share with her sister! 
after our walk and photos we made it back to our campsite and decided to start dinner, I had already prepped and made the meal so all we had to do was heat it up on the stove...
I decided ahead of time to make some breakfast burritos for the trip so we wouldn't have to cook too much since we didn't want to have to do dishes and I thought it would be better than trying to prepare a meal for a bunch of people outside without all of our regular kitchen utensils. I actually used tater tots in the burritos so I wouldn't have to spend time cutting and cooking potatoes. I just fried them a bit in coconut oil and then added eggs and beans and cheese topped with salsa wrapped in an easy to heat tin foil shell. next time, I'd use the grill at the site, because our cooking stove top gets hot quickly.   anyway, they were delicious and I added avocado in the evening.
also, Frankie in her hoodie!
and the moment the girls were waiting for, S'Mores!
the next morning, after sleeping in a bit, we had some breakfast and coffee, hung out for a a while before heading into Pine for lunch.
on our way out it started raining, hard!  thankfully, it didn't happen while we were camping.
although it is Arizona so the sun came out again.
on the way up to our site we passed this place and decided to try it on our way back, have you heard of THAT Brewery and Pub? It was pretty good.
I got their monsoon mud stout and cowboy burger {sub. black bean burger} and it was delicious!
It was a great time with some great people and we can't wait to make this more of a regular thing!

As for the actual site, here's a quick review of the campsite {1 being worst, 10 being best}:
Location {and Distance}: 7
Located about 2 hours away from Phoenix taking the 87 {Arizona Highway} up past Payson.  Not too far away for a weekend trip. Perfect for a quick trip to mountain, pine trees and even some water.
Road: 8
The road from the highway to the campsite was manageable in a 2 wheel drive vehicle, well managed dirt road a few minor pot holes.
Secluded: 4.5
Rock Crossing Campsite was not secluded but the spacing between individual campsites was adequate.
View: 5
Decent views from places within the campsite, but nothing spectacular from actual site.
Bathrooms: 6
Vault toilets, recently cleaned and well managed, toilet paper well stocked and locking door.
Campsite Fixtures: 7
All sites at Rock Crossing had a cement picnic table, grill and fire pit, along with cement boarders and small gravel sections for tent.
Trash, Water and Food: 8
Trash, water and food should always be stored in the trunk where bears can not see it or access it.  There was a dumpster on site for disposal of trash.  Water facilities near bathroom.  But no wild harvesting food nearby.
Animals: 5
We didn't see many animals, a squirrel and a hawk, although there were elk droppings nearby and signs for bears, also at risk for rattle snakes and spiders.
Pets: Yes
Pets were allowed on a leash at this site.
Group Accommodation: 10
Groups of 16 were allowed in double campsites, and groups of 8 were allowed in single sites.
Water {lakes, ponds, and oceans}: 2
There was a reservoir nearby but we couldn't see it from our campsite or access it by vehicle as it was under construction.
Well Drained: 10
Our campsite was flat but elevated in general and the cement borders around the tent area would provide drainage in case of storm
Firewood: 3
I bought a bundle of wood from the gas station on our way out of town, but I probably should have brought more, because the campsite was damp and there weren't many logs or branches on the ground.  Our fire only lasted about an hour or two from found wood.
Management: National Forest Services
Campsites were well managed and very clean.
Reservations: 3
first come, first serve, but was not too crowded when we arrived around 12:30, although, that was probably because the reservoir was closed so no boats could go down there, and we saw a few people turn around and leave, but it was a decent sized site so maybe there would still be some luck in normal conditions.
Cost and Permits: $8 a night for single and $16 a night for double.
Golden Access passes receive a 50% off discount.

Hope that inspires you to find an adventure of your own! Do you enjoy camping?
Where should we go next?!

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