As much as we loved our campsite along the Colorado River at the Davis Park, the winds in Bullhead City were relentless. Thus, it was time for us to move on and head back over to Phoenix. After a little internet research, I discovered the Maricopa Regional Park system, particularly Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Ah yes, more water and hopefully less wind.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park – March 6, 2012
With more than 23,000 acres of water and surrounded by the beautiful Sonoran desert, Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a popular recreation area located in the town of Peoria on the far northwest side of the Phoenix Arizona Valley. This desert oasis was exactly what we were looking for. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to secure a campsite reservation online so we decided to just show up and see what camping options were available. One can hope for a campsite cancellation.
After our three-plus-hour drive from Bullhead City to Lake Pleasant, we pulled up to the Lake Pleasant fee station and confirmed that the campgrounds were indeed booked. Sigh, no cancellations! We asked the ranger for camping options. She precedes to tell us and show us on the map all the boondocking areas, but her favorite and her recommendation would be the 10 lane boat ramp. A boat ramp? Did we just hear that right?
I’ll admit, after driving all morning, Al and I were a little on the tired side and didn’t fully comprehend all that she said, “There are lots of places to park at the spillway which is just past the 10 lane boat ramp … there are two ways to get there, but I only recommend one yadda … yadda … yadda.” I think we were more confused by her information and directions than enlightened. We paid our daily admittance fee along with two nights of shoreline boondocking and headed off in search of this place to camp that she recommended.
Before we even hit the road, Al and I had made a promise to each other that when it came time to search out boondocking spots, we would first explore without the RV in tow. We’d call it a scouting mission and this mission would help us avoid getting ourselves into a pickle. Great plan … when implemented.
Boondocking is a term used by RVers to describe RV camping without being connected to services – no water, no electric, no sewer. Unlike dry camping, boondocking is dispersed camping that is not located in a designated campground. Popular boondocking locations are in National Forests or even approved parking lots like a Walmart.
We were off in search of a campsite. After the first correct turn, Al and I asked each other where we were supposed to turn next. We were both confused. It was either fatigue or information overload that found us turning onto Sunset Ridge Road, and just as the name implies, it’s a road on a ridge. The paved road quickly turns into a dirt road that eventually winds its way down to the shoreline. Not exactly an RV-friendly road. We soon realized our mistake and stopped before venturing further down the dirt road and further into a situation that we couldn’t safely get out of.
It was at that moment that we had our aha moment and realized, after the fact, that this was the route that the ranger didn’t recommend. Eek! Time to make a quick decision. Al and I jumped out of the truck (fortunately, we were all alone … no witnesses, thank goodness) and assess the situation. Al was pretty sure the tight turning radius capability with a 5th wheel would allow him to turn around. If he’s wrong? … well, guess he’ll go tumbling off the side of the hill. Hmm, did I pay that life insurance bill? Snicker! In all seriousness, we were both pretty stressed and concerned. We preceded with extreme caution. I serve as a spotter while Al makes the tight and precarious turnaround. This turn was so tight that it would not have possible with a travel trailer, and we are so grateful we have a 5th wheel. The next day, we confirmed that we made a wise decision and that it definitely would not have been a good idea to continue any further on this road. Oh, we probably could’ve made it, but not without some possible RV undercarriage damage.
With the turnaround successful and a mishap avoided, we gathered our composure and eventually found the correct turn and the spillway. Ah yes, this will work nicely! We settle in for a couple of nights and end up extending our stay several times for a total of ten days camped along the shores of Lake Pleasant.
Meeting interesting people!
During the weekdays, we practically had our perfect waterfront campsite to ourselves. The weekends were a whole different story … jam-packed might adequately describe it. On warm sunny days, every square inch of shoreline is occupied with people as locals flock to Lake Pleasant in droves for weekend water recreation. This is when Lake Pleasant isn’t so pleasant.
More than once, we witnessed ignorant and rude behavior, even a verbal fight that almost turned into a fistfight. Case in point – ignorant behavior; It was a beautiful Friday in March and there was a steady stream of weekend warriors rolling in all day in all kinds of RVs. By late afternoon, the shoreline was packed with RVs and new arrivals started setting up camp in the rest of the paved lot. Earlier that day, neighbor Tom had parked his truck on the other side of his RV so he wouldn’t accidentally get blocked in by a new arrival as well as be neighborly, and we did the same.
Late Saturday afternoon as I was returning to our RV after walking the dog, I watched a large motorhome squeeze, and I mean squeeze, in between Tom and Kay’s RV and another RV to their right. I’m not exaggerating when I say the side of that motorhome was maybe three feet away from the front nose of Tom and Kay’s 5th wheel and maybe less to the neighboring RV. To top it off, the motorhome pulled all the way up to the water’s edge then immediately started the generator which caused the exhaust to blow straight at Tom and Kay who were sitting outside trying to enjoy a quiet evening with plans to watch the sunset. Oh, and because the generator was so loud, the motorhome folks had to play their music even louder.
By 10:00 a.m. the next morning, the motorhome home had pulled out along with other RVers, and by late Sunday afternoon, the majority of RVs around us had departed returning Lake Pleasant to pleasant once again. When we noticed Kay and Tom sitting outside, we walked over to discuss the audacity of that motorhome the evening before. These folks were in their 12th year of full-time RV living and Al and I were in awe. We had so many questions. They took the motorhome event in stride and shared more RV bad behavior stories that they’d witness over the years. We learned a lot from these two and were sad to see them leave the next day.
It didn’t take long before we had new neighbors. These friendly RV folks were quick to come over and introduce themselves. Once again, the conversation flowed smoothly, and we discovered not only did we have similar 5th wheels, but we shared a similar background in aviation. However, there was one subject where we were definitely not on the same page.
Turns out, this delightful couple had just spent six weeks camped in Quartzsite … at the magic circle. Say what? Oh my, another clothing-optional couple! Al and I began to wonder if we were some kind of magnet or if we had a sort of look. Thankfully, they weren’t into spouse swapping like the Lake Havasu neighbor, but they did share plenty of photos of their clothing-optional vacations from around the world; their favorite being in the south of France. TMI folks!
Aside from these seasoned RVers sharing a little too much of their too little clothing lifestyle, they enlightened these RV newbies on solar panels, batteries, and making RV modifications; information Al and I gladly soaked up. We appreciated their time and knowledge.
Enjoying lake life!
Although we relished engaging with fellow RVers, we enjoyed plenty of quiet time as well … time to sit, relax, and reflect on life. I think Al and I needed that downtime … time to watch the clouds pass overhead and the ducks paddle by.