Jim and I were almost the owners of a 36-acre parcel in Apache County, Arizona located on the New Mexico border. The adventure began last week when I found land for sale at Sierra Highlands Ranch twenty miles northeast of the rural cowboy town of St. Johns. The area is close to a couple we know and love. We’ve been there before on their 40-acre property collecting rocks and gazing up at the stars at night with wine glasses in our hands.
My reasons were clear. The ranch would be a springboard to the White Mountains, the Mogollon Rim, and our dear friends. We’d improve the land in increments (well, septic, solar power system, house) and by the time I retire in 2026, we’d either move out there full-time or keep it as our camping spot. 36 acres is nothing to sneeze at. I like the idea of owning land. When we kick the bucket, our six children would benefit. That was the rationale. Sigh.
Our guide was most helpful and by the end of seven hours looking at various lots in Sierra Highland Ranch (all 36 to 40-acre parcels) we found the place that spoke to us. We turned a corner and found ourselves at the top of a meadow looking down the dead-end road. The property bordered Zuni land, so the views went on forever. The pasture gently sloped to a canyon. The surrounding hills were interesting with giant boulders and junipers. We saw a solitary Elk standing proud and as big as our car. The air was clean and blue–I felt like I walked into a Zane Grey novel. I can imagine how vivid the star constellations must be overhead at night. Ache!
As we left the ranch and headed back to our friend’s property for dinner and conversation, my heart sank. I knew we wouldn’t buy it. It was sixty minutes off the main road of route 191. Then another half hour before we were at our friend’s house. It was not an hour but two hours to the White Mountains. It would be 5 hours to Clarkdale and 6 hours to Phoenix. I knew my children would rarely visit. In short, the ranch was in BFE. I have come to understand fully how large the state of Arizona is. Space and topographical variety are outstanding. But still, I just couldn’t see us all the way out there in the middle of nowhere.
This was one of those adventure trips where a lot went wrong. There was a short somewhere, and our little camper was without electricity and the SUV’s battery wouldn’t hold the juice. Luckily we have a portable solar panel. We drove home on Rim Road 300 and camped one night by Lake Knoll. That was nice, but the flies and bees feasted on me leaving welts all over my calves. Ruby got sick and soiled the SUV. I was glad to get back home. Adventures are adventures filled with great moments and disappointing ones. I look to the good–we found a new campsite for the future; kayaking on Lake Knoll filled my heart; we connected with our friends on a deep level.