Somehow, I feel like this column should lead off with an excuse.  

It’s not quite hot enough for Valley Rats to scramble toward high ground as the solar orb increasingly mirrors that grinning sun from Max Cannon’s Red Meat comics. But just a mere 130-odd miles north, Apache Lake’s 2,600 aqueous acres beckoned last weekend.

So, The Girlfriend and I took the plunge—a sunburn-tinged rendezvous of friends before spring’s prep tournament season drafted this reporter’s Saturdays into conscriptual sideline service.  Yep, there’s a justification.

It’s hard to quantify the beauty and majesty of the Arizona lake experience. Massive teal lagoons underline soaring, ancient canyons that ripple with the report of bikini-populated speedboats.

It was even tougher persuading fellow campers to let us hoard the adjacent boat-and-trailer length carpark for our friends, who wouldn’t arrive until well after moonlight.

In Rim Country, it’s rumored that people disappear into the bush for less.

As Bill Bryson would attest, nothing unites folks like camping—especially when one learns they hauled a one-man tent for two people.  But you warm up quick packed like sardines, and that’s definitely kosher when the mercury cowers.

Sleeping in while camping is a relative notion.  Birds—loud birds—always seem to wake first, roosting and cawing directly overhead from the shaded canopy. And The Girlfriend found fit to yell at them—in a one-man tent.

Either way, the entire point was to get on the water. Apache Lake is purportedly named after a rocky outcrop that bears an Indian’s likeness, if you squint hard enough… or drink more.

Jurassic as the water-and-canyon backdrop appeared, the entire phenomenon hoisted man-made overtones. The Salt River, once more than a venue for lost keys and sauced drifting, wound through the valleys and sustained Native American settlements long before turn-of-the-century workers erected dams that conceived weekend resorts.

Postcard beauty aside, that water was April cold.

I always like to think that my youth spent swimming in Lake Michigan steeled me against hypothermia and other issues related to temperatures more suited for rainbow trout.  Not so, I remembered after one waist-level dip. Our “captain” was the only one to water ski—mainly because the water was choppy enough to rattle the boat’s windscreen loose at speed.

Lake marinas are wonderful purveyors of supply-and-demand theory, particularly with gas prices floating just shy of $4 per gallon.  I recalled a T-shirt I’d seen last week at the Tucson Bike Swap that claimed beer was a better deal.

Rather than waste the day moored at the dock’s bar with Bloody Maries, I scanned the local newspaper as we filled up. It was a great read, where scripture served as editorials and police blotters pinch-hit for current events.

News reports of which politician promises what canard dissolve skyward on a ski boat, when all those Grateful Dead songs wind though your head as the entourage throttles back to camp for steaks and mosquito bites.

Neither does it matter how campfire smoke follows you wherever you sit. The point is to carve out a three-day weekend, put some wear on the shocks, get out of town and enjoy the altitude.

And boldly mark that tent bag as “ONE MAN” when you get home.

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