Fueled by pie and motivated by the hope of warmer weather and big trees, we pushed westward. We headed toward the stunning Apache-Hargreaves National Forest in central Arizona. Neither of us were familiar with the area, so I asked other road trippers in a boondocking Facebook group where we should set up. More than a few folks said that Forest Road 9350 was the place to go for spectacular off-the-grid camping. We drove on as the sun dipped, into a Ponderosa pine forest, down a washboard road, to another side road, and then into the dispersed camping area we called home for the next three nights.
We parked near the edge of the Mogollon Rim, a breathtaking 200 mile long plateau with a 2,000 foot drop. Our only neighbors, 100 yards down the road, were quiet equestrians there to enjoy the trails. We were surrounded by beautiful pines. They provided a refreshing familiarity to me after having spent many nights in barren deserts. The topography was friendly enough to navigate that we could easily hike for hours off-trail and not get lost. And, I had a camper pantry full of local foods.
We hit the south west during persimmon, chile pepper and quince season. This made me so very happy. I had never cooked with either of the fruits, and was eager to see what I could create in the little camper.
I bought Fuyu persimmons directly from a farmer who told us that he puts them in BLT sandwiches, in place of tomatoes. Ok, I can work with that, I thought. I would make little pizzas with the classic combo of a honey drizzle, a nut, a soft cheese, and a fruit. In this case, New Mexico pecans, Queso Fresco, and persimmon. I topped it with fresh sage that I flash fried to a crisp in hot olive oil.
I whipped up some empanadas with a simple saute of whatever veggies and proteins I had in the camper fridge, and added freshly roasted peppers. I had no idea what to do with the quince, but I was up for a challenge.