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Gargulinski

With proper planning, camping in Arizona can be paradise on Earth

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Paradise comes from happy hounds, good pizza and camping in Arizona—not necessarily all at once.

The hounds and the camping make a magnificent mix, but you'd be hard-pressed to get the crust of a DiGiorno frozen pizza to properly rise on a campsite grill. And to make sure the hounds-and-camping mix stays more like paradise than hell, make sure your planning consists of more than simply grabbing a tent and heading for the hills.

You should at least bring some water. Lots of water. It's amazing how much water it takes to wash your hands, wash your face, brush your teeth, boil rice, hydrate two big dogs and have a sip or two left over for yourself.

Bring plenty of food. This includes dog food. For future reference, please note that the only dog food for sale anywhere near Roosevelt Lake consisted of three cans (count them) at the marina, or your choice of Old Roy or Purina several miles from the campsite.

Other amenities depend on how much or how little you feel like truly roughing it. Those who want the really rough can go as far as forgetting about luxury items, such as toilet paper. Those who like a bit of comfort in their lives will want to include fluffy sleeping bags, air mattresses and pillows—and dog treats to lure the dogs off the air mattresses and pillows.

Comfort items are especially important, so that you don't end up being cranky, which can lead to becoming rude and obnoxious and starting fights with your significant other. Crankiness can also result in a devil-may-care attitude that makes you forget the rules of camping etiquette. There are several.

Stealing the portable chairs someone left by the lake is a no-no, as is blasting AC/DC in the middle of the night. Riding your bicycle into other people's campsites with a large golden retriever in tow is typically frowned upon. This counts double if your only apparent purpose is to tell those campers that their garbage is going to "blow to hell and back" unless they take some of the garbage bags you are offering.

Bring garbage bags.

The biggest etiquette breach of all, however, comes from those god-awful noisemakers called generators. These beastly items are for the truly clueless, who think camping means driving a 90-foot RV to an out-of-town site where you can shut the curtains, crank up the air conditioning and sit in comfort while you drink beer and watch baseball.

While all of that is fine and dandy—for a sports bar—it kind of kills the point of camping. It disturbs other campers who would have surely hurled rocks at the generator, the RV or the people inside had it not been a night with a blazing super moon.

Generators are not the only dangers you should be aware of while camping in Arizona. Rattlesnakes are going to be part of the scene, and just like bicycling man with the golden retriever, they will slither into your space uninvited.

Bring a shovel.

Shovels can be used to smash rattlesnake skulls, scoop dirt to extinguish your campfire and help set up your little home away from home, otherwise known as your campsite. Setting up your site is an art in itself, with a number of rituals that can help ensure you have a safe and comfortable stay.

The safety comes through clearing your site of rocks, large sticks and other debris that can pierce your foot or poke a hole in your air mattress. Your dog's paws will thank you for clearing out the wayward burrs.

Setting the tent on a plastic tarp aids in safety by further fortifying the bottom of the tent. If you leave enough plastic sticking out by the tent doors, legend says the plastic will deter those mean ol' rattlesnakes. True or not, the measure does help you sleep better.

You'll also sleep better if you bring your feng shui kit to cleanse the campsite upon your arrival. A Tibetan singing bowl works wonders for clearing out foul energy, evil spirits and the residue of bad karma left in the tent from your beau's ex-wife. That stuff can be nastier than a mean ol' rattlesnake any day.

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