By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/18/2020
Occurred: 11/6/2015
Topics/Keywords: #BartlettLake #CentralArizona #Arizona #Camping Page Views: 1862
All the photos from a beautiful but cold 24 hours at Bartlett Lake.

Keith and I intended to start a 2-night camping trip at Bartlett Lake Flats, two days ago. But it was actually raining over the entire Greater Phoenix area. So we left yesterday morning, instead, despite the cool temperature. The clear skies and bright sun fooled us into thinking it would be warm enough to enjoy Bartlett Lake. I even brought a towel in case it was warm enough for swimming.

Bartlett Lake Flats

We prefer to go to places like this on weekdays, since they tend to get a bit crowded on weekends. This was a Thursday, so we expected it to not be mobbed. But, in fact, we had it almost to ourselves. Keith and I have erecting our tent down to a science, and can even carry on an unrelated conversation while we are doing it. So in short order, our campsite was up and ready for us to relax.

Bartlett Lake Flats

But it was already a bit too cool to just sit in the breeze and "relax". Plus, our tent was already in shadow. So I suggested that Keith and I take a stroll along the lakefront.

Bartlett Lake Flats

Despite an unusual amount of rainfall this past month, Central Arizona is still in the midst of a profound drought. Look at the light-colored band along the opposite shore. That's where the water level normally should be. But in this era of global climate change, who knows what the "new normal" will be.

Bartlett Lake Flats

In fact, much of the exposed ground—on which people could camp; there was evidence of RVs having parked there recently. But when the water level is "normal" this would all be underwater.

Bartlett Lake Flats

A hundred yards or so from our campsite was a finger from the lake that revealed some very interesting geology. The "steps" are a natural feature, the result of erosion on a series of limestone layers. These layers are put down when that parcel of land is underwater. The "steps" are an indication that the land here sunk and rose on a fairly regular basis. (This is true of all of Central Arizona.) If you look at the edge of the water, though, you'll see a spot where rocks seem to be almost poured over the steps, which is exactly what happened about 20 million years ago, when most of Arizona became a hotbed of volcanic activity.

Keith at Bartlett Lake Flats

Keith surveys Bartlett Lake Flats.

Bartlett Lake Flats Bartlett Lake Flats Bartlett Lake Flats

With the sun setting behind the mountain behind us, the shadows crept from our tent across the lake, and then up the nearer hills until only the peak beyond them was illuminated.

Bartlett Lake Flats sunset Bartlett Lake Flats sunset Bartlett Lake Flats sunset

By this time, I was flat-out shivering. A few years back, when I weighed 90 pounds more than I do now, I carried my own insulation and would have been comfortable at this temperature, which with the sun down quickly dropped down to the 40s.

Our tent at night.

As we usually do when camping and the sun has set, Keith and I watched an episode of Dual Survival and another of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. We were about to start on an episode of Big Bang Theory when the battery in the laptop went dead.

It was only about 8:30 PM, but I was shivering despite being out of the wind (in the tent), and wearing a long-sleeve cotton shirt, under a sweater, under my pullover, under Keith's leather jacket. (Keith was brought up in a colder climate and was comfortable, so he said as he insisted I wear his jacket.) I was also wearing a heavy pair of sweat pants, which Keith (who is 31, after all) couldn't resist teasing me about. So we decided to go to bed early. However, I had forgotten to pack my Trazadone (a sleep aid that supposedly helps older folks sleep through the night). So I woke at 11:30 PM.

Desperately needing to use the restroom, amd with a splitting headache, to boot. We were camped just about 100 yards or so from a nice, clean pit toilet. But it was over the hill from our camp, and it was cold, I mean, COLD. But I got there on time…barely. And then I was done, and left the toilet to return to camp.

Arizona night sky.

Oh. My. Gods. The sky had cleared itself of even the high-level cirrus clouds (ice crystals that hover around 10 miles high) and the stars were breathtaking, even for rural Arizona which is known for its dark skies and brilliant starscapes.

Warming in the sun.

And then, I got lost. Well, a little. I wound up wandering about for most of an hour before I stumbled on our hidden little camp. I didn't panic; even in the dark, I knew where the lake was and could return to the restroom. If worst-came-to-worst, I'd be able to find shelter in there until morning. But, as I said, I did find camp and returned to bed.

Only to repeat the same process again at 3:45 AM.

So, when Keith finally awoke around 7:30, I was not ready to join him. And when I did get up, Keith (who had also not slept through the night) suggested that, maybe…just maybe we should just go back home, and return in the Spring, when it's warmed up.

I seconded the motion. And so, tonight, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be viewed on our nice, 50"-class flat-screen TV. At home.

With hot chocolate.