Ranch Trip / Hard and Fun

Ranch Trip / Hard and Fun

(Guest post by Paul S. Heidmann)

I (Psh) decided to take Thursday and Friday (03/14-15/2024) off, because the kids were on break from school, and make a ranch trip out of it. Only Alyssa and Ruben wanted to come with me (and, that was a bit depressing), but, we had a blast just the three of us.

Trouble was brewing… We started to hit snow a bit before Forest Lakes (trouble is a frequent visitor to Forest Lakes). Part way up that big hill (Forest Lakes is above 7500 feet), traffic came to a complete stop. I thought it was an accident, but no. Several standard passenger cars where spinning their wheels, going nowhere, just trying to get up the hill! I had 4wd, so I just drove around the long line of cars and continued on my way. The following video, from my dashcam, was taken a bit outside Forest Lakes.

After getting out of that mess, we made it to Heber, where the kids played a bit in the snow while I got gas (see pic below). We also stopped at Snowflake, and took a quick detour to Bellybutton, Az. Yes, that really is a place (see pic, below).

The real trouble, and the worst trouble of the trip, happened when we got to Carrizo Ranches, and I tried to get back to my place. It was snowing, and the roads were a mess (for me, a bit over 10 miles of really bad dirt roads). We have a special sort of mud on the Carrizo. A particular mix of sand and silt that gets really slick and really sticky when wet (yes, this mud can be slick and sticky at the same time. Your vehicle will slide around on it like you were driving on a frozen lake, and it will stick to your tires, shoes, and everything else too). Even with 4wd, it was very difficult to keep it on the road. Three times, I slid off the road and into a ditch. When that happens, even when I lock in my rears and engage active traction in the front, I can barely get out. I can go back and forth just fine, but as soon as I try to get up even a small ditch, I just end up sliding back in. I spent over a half hour, in total, trying to get out of those three ditches, and each time, I barely made it.

Between the trouble in Forest Lakes, all the stops (‘cuz – kids), and especially the trouble on the ranch roads, it took us seven hours to get up there! The two pictures (below) of the cabin and the (dirty) truck are from early the next morning.

We started the next day with a trip to Lyman Lake. Getting out was pretty easy compared to the night before, for two reasons. Mostly, the ground was, by then, frozen. Also, I am able to take different roads in and out that are sometimes a bit better. Had a great time. Played in the snow, hiked the petroglyph trail, and messed around by water’s edge. This place it pretty in the summer, but the winter seems to add a little extra. Only problem here was that the kids kept throwing snowballs at me.

After Lyman Lake, it was time to get some groceries and some lunch. There was a guy in a trailer selling BBQ in the parking lot at Wilbur’s (the grocery store). It smelled really good, and, you know, support the local economy and all that. Boy did that guy have some prices! Three brisket sandwiches and three drinks came to $60! Tell you what, though, they really know how to cook up beef right in St. Johns (very much a cattle town). That was some really smokey, melt in your mouth beef! We took our sandwiches to Patterson Ponds, and found a picnic table.

After the best lunch I’ve had in an age, I purchased a pickup bed full of wood (actually, an overflowing pickup bed full) from the guy I often buy wood from up there. I wanted to make sure my wood pile was in good shape, and my neighbor needed some too. That’s my neighbor’s dog, Buddy, with Ruben (we were delivering some wood). That wood wasn’t at all green, but but it sure was wet (remember all that rain and snow I’ve been on and on about?). Hard to start, that stuff. Looks like the kids made schmores out of those Chips-Ahoy cookies, because we didn’t have chocolate or graham crackers. I guess that works too. Ruben ate seven marshmallows and got sick.

The next day (Friday), we got up and ate some oatmeal. We decided to go up into the White Mountains (those are a bit past Springerville), where we could find some more snow (because, you know, we hadn’t had enough of that stuff yet). We ended up at one of my favorite places up there, Pole Knoll. We spent some time hiking (tromping through a good 6 inches of snow). Alyssa made a snowman, and we had a picnic in the snow (PB&Js). I was again the favorite target of snowballs, and my truck ended up being the shelf for Pringles.

After all that, we headed back to the ranch, and, looking at my phone, I saw that there was another big weather system coming in, so, I decided to leave that afternoon, rather than early the following morning (the original plan). When it came to those muddy ranch roads, I was kind of all funned out.


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