Thursday we left Phoenix and took the Beeline Highway up over the Mogollon Rim to the skiing community of Pinetop-Lakeside. The drive was beautiful, taking us from the hot Sonoran desert up into the cool alpine communities in eastern Arizona. It was starting to get close to sundown so we used the Droid to find a nearby Forest Service Road that we could head out on and find a place to camp for free. We ended up at a great little site very close to a trail in the White Mountain Trail System (which made for a fabulous morning bike ride … more on that from Jay later). The low of 37 degrees was a welcome adjustment from the high 90s we had started to experience in Phoenix.
Friday was Earth Day, which seemed fitting since we were waking up to the sunrise and then exploring the forest on our mountain bikes. In honor of Earth Day, we took our normal “pack it out” practices a little further and hiked around the area picking up litter. National Forest lands are awesome places to camp for free, but as the “Lands of Many Uses” with no fee stations, they have a tendency to get trashed. I hope that everyone will get out and explore these public lands more often. The more you explore, the more you fall in love with our protected lands and will work to keep them protected and cared for in the future.
From Pinetop we headed further east on 260 and then 60 through central New Mexico towards the small town of Mountainair where Sharon’s former colleague retired to.