Background: Due to political dysfunction and the nature of our governmental system the federal government “shut down” non-essential operations, including the national parks, as of October 1st, 2013. The shutdown ended on October 17th.
October 6-7, 2013
Like many western states Arizona has more national forest land than state operated. So just where were we to camp and hike while waiting for the craziness in Washington to end? What’s more, who could we ask? For once the internet was of little use. No one was around to post current information concerning closures on the national forest websites.
What we found in Coconino and Tonto National Forests was a mixed bag. Along the rim road, near the junctions of 260 and 87, the back roads where at large camping is allowed were open as usual. In early October night time temperatures were near freezing and the area had little traffic.
The free Motor Vehicle Use Map for Coconino National Forest is a fantastic tool for finding those perfect off road camp sites. Even better it can be used with an Ipad or other GPS system. Just follow the blue dot!
West Clear Creek Wilderness had areas closed off, including the Bull Pen trailhead, due to unsafe conditions resulting from a storm earlier in the year.
At Wet Beaver Wilderness, the 121 access road to an area of primitive camping was barricaded due to the government shutdown, however the campground less than a mile down the road, also on federal forest land but run by a private concession, was open. According to the camp host he received daily communications on whether he could stay open the following day.
In contrast to the national parks and monuments we saw no evidence that hiking trails in the national forests were closed due to the mess in Washington. We could hike, but finding a place to pitch our tent was a little more precarious.