Tent Camping

Tent Camping in Kaibab National Forest

KAT_4887We’ve done this before, but last summer. It was hotter, closer to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and we were with Ross’s brother, Blair. Both times we brought the bike but this time we planned to spend a little more time on them.

We found out while already on our way that the North Rim was still closed, no big deal except that we had wanted to camp closer and maybe ride to the rim along a dirt road. No bother though, there were still hundreds of miles of roads to explore and the weather was nice. Well, pretty nice.

We expected, after 2 weeks in Page with days in the 70s and nights in the 40s, that hey “certainly near the Grand Canyon must be warm”. We worried about Sherlock staying cool in the truck while we were off riding, but arrived to find that it felt barely above 60 during the day and was about freezing at night. There was still snow on the road to the campsite we eventually chose and we never took our jackets off due to the chilly winds up on the ridge of our campsite that had am amazing view of the Vermilion Cliffs. It was supposed to be 70s, but perhaps elevation, the direction of the wind, it was not.

We brought our crate of camping gear, complete with our MSR WindPro camp stove, tent, cooking supplies, percolator, mats and blankets. We had bought two stacks of wood from a gas station and some quick start wax and sawdust blocks, and had a cooler with enough food for a few meals.

We arrived pretty early in the morning still, since we found out our other campsite of choice was off limits, we saved ourselves an hour of driving at least. We took our time setting up camp and making some breakfast after which we set Sherlock up in the truck with the windows down and headed out on our bikes. We rode for a couple hours on some pretty fun terrain, a mix of loose rock, steep hills and logs blocking the road, but knew we couldn’t make it the 40 or 50 miles to the north rim without bigger gas tanks. After we felt we had ridden half as much as we wanted to, we turned back and hung around camp for the rest of the evening, even daring to take a nap as the sun went down and temperature dropped, but waking in time to make a fire and start some dinner while there was still enough light.


Our fire got a bit out of control at first, forcing us to create a bigger wall on one side as the wind attempted to make us responsible for the forest’s next big fire. After the initial branches burned off, it required only regular prodding and we were able to keep it in line. Halfway through cooking dinner we ran out of camp stove fuel, a new to us tool anyway, so we used a piece of rebar we found at the campsite and propped it across some rocks, scooping hot coals underneath, to make a makeshift grill for our pan of baked beans. The handle stayed cool and the beans actually cooked pretty fast, without even burning to the bottom, and were done within 20 minutes.

A fire with a view. The Vermilion Cliffs in the distance #kaibabnationalforest #tentcamping #arizona #jacoblake

A photo posted by Nerds on the Road (@nerdsontheroad) on

It was cold that night. Colder than we expected, even having looked at the weather. We don’t have sleeping bags still, we just take along whatever blankets we want to carry and have a couple pretty nice self inflating mats. We made the mistake of taking our Mountain Hardware backcountry tent, one really intended for one person that we bought specifically to take on hiking trips, rather than our new, gigantic room sized tent that we bought when Blair was here to visit. We were cramped in like sardines and with the dog, it was pretty damn uncomfortable. She slept up by my head most the night, on the tent wall side. I tried to keep her covered in blankets but she wriggled out in the night and I woke to her shivering and getting wet from dew. Next time, we take the big tent if we have the dog and truck.

In the morning we managed to wake up late enough to not need a fire. Without the camp stove it was pretty much impossible to make coffee with my percolator so we opted to ride over to Jacob Lake Inn, a few miles down the road, and get some breakfast and coffee. Before our ride the day before we weren’t too sure about riding through snow on the way out, but we managed the deeper stuff by paddling through with our feet and were soon on the highway and sitting on a stool eating pancakes.

Where dirt and pavement meet, in more way than one. #jacoblake #dualsport #arizona #northrim

A photo posted by Nerds on the Road (@nerdsontheroad) on

To avoid the highway on the way back, we found a few dirt roads on the north side of the highway that weaved and connected throughout the forest, through logging areas and past knee deep ruts. We took our time doing that before heading back to camp where we then packed up and headed back to the cats.
It was a great little camping trip and an excellent chance to ride our bikes for the first real time this year. Check out our blog on the ride part of the camping trip at nerdsoffroad.com. 😀

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