Visiting Kaibab National Forest and Williams, Arizona
After seeing the forecasted temperatures in Sedona as high as 108, I packed up (doesn’t take long as a minimalist nomad) and headed to a higher elevation. The Kaibab National Forest near Williams, Arizona seemed like the perfect spot. At an elevation of 6,700 feet, the Williams area would be cooler than Sedona at 4,300 feet, plus it would be easier to find shade in the forest.
Kaibab National Forest
Repositioning to the Kaibab National Forest ended up being a good move. There was plenty of shade, temperatures were a more moderate high 80s to 90, and there was almost always a nice breeze. It is also very scenic, though in a completely different way that Sedona.
(Side note: Arizona is an amazingly beautiful and diverse state. Prior to visiting Arizona in September I assumed it all looked the same.)
My first camp in the Kaibab National Forest was a few miles north of Williams. It suited me well enough as there were not a lot of people there and the forest provided a nice degree of privacy. I planned to stay at this camp for the allowed 14 days before migrating toward Flagstaff for the summer Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.
As it turns out, Bob Wells and some of the tribe were camped just about a mile from me in the same forest. They had planned a hot dog cookout for Friday so I headed in to Williams on Friday morning for supplies and then moved my camp to join the tribe. The next few days provided an enjoyable opportunity to meet some fellow nomads in between the hours spent at the laptop earning some money.
There were literally about 10 people in this whole section of forest. People sometimes ask how I can live in a Camry. The truth is I live out of a Camry, not in a Camry. The point is that I may sleep in the car (pretty comfortable), and alternate working in the car with working in a camp chair outdoors (both are pretty comfortable), but the rest of my time I am free to be outside enjoying nature. In other words, my “living quarters” may be small, though they are still more than adequate, but my back yard ranges between thousands and millions of acres. It is all in the perspective.
American philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau had it right when he commented on the perceived comforts of civilization:
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
I would rather sleep in a bivy sack and sit on a stump or rock in the midst of thousands of acres of nature than sleep in a big house in the midst of a crowded city. There are several reasons for this which I may explore more in a later post.
Williams is a cute little city of about 3,000 souls. It serves as a gateway to the Grand Canyon, but also makes much of its position on Historic Route 66. This historic route, of course, is every road trippers Mecca. While I would love to one day travel the remnants of the entire Route 66, I did at least have a chance to drive on a couple miles of it this past week. And it was cool!
Normally I avoid tourist traps at almost all costs, but Williams has managed to market itself to tourists while still retaining much of its historic charm. It also managed to avoid the fate suffered by so many similar communities across the nation as a result of the Interstate highway system that largely replaced some of these historic travel routes. All of this puts the town in a rare position as one of the few tourist spots that I actually enjoyed visiting and plan to visit again.
In conclusion, here are a few thoughts based on my experiences this past week.
Time as we usually think of it is really an artificial construction. Spend some time in the wilderness and you will quickly experience this for yourself. We live by a clock in cities, as if this artificial measurement matters. In the wilderness you live by the rising and setting of the sun. In a city we hurry from place to place. In the wilderness we walk or bicycle leisurely and stop to visit with our neighbors, often gaining new friends in the process. (In case you are wondering, I do not own a watch.) I started thinking about this last night as I realized that I did not know what day it was or how many days I had been in this spot.
“Mechanical time destroys the true experience of being human, of being communal, and of shepherding one’s tradition. Such time is no longer the time of living what is, but of being ‘obedient’ to a supposed reality independent of immediate experience. What windmills do for wind is akin to what clocks attempt to do for space-time, unsuccessfully.”
_W. Paul Jones, Table in the Desert
A new nomadic friend who shares a history of traumatic brain injury is also a blogger. Visit Debra’s blog for an inspiring story of a woman with guts. After you read her blog, remind me of your excuse for not living your dream.
Williams is worth visiting if you are in the area. The best way to experience the city is to park and walk. You will miss much if you only drive through. The Experience Williams site is also a good resource if you plan to visit Williams.