Turkeys, trails and chance meetings at High Jinks

  • The Epic Van parked at Peppersauce Campground near Oracle, Arizona.

In January, we camped for two nights near Oracle, Arizona, in the Peppersauce Campground where, the first night, we were all alone.

The next morning we were greeted by a rafter of turkeys. (Trust me, I looked it up.)

They pecked their way across the campground, first a few females, then some REALLY big Toms. Eventually, about 20 or 25 were scattered around the van. I took pictures through the windows, thinking that if I turned the ignition enough to roll them down, or opened the side door, I would scare them off. But after I got a few shots, I rolled down the window. It only seemed to excite them. A few came up to the driver’s side and looked up at me, expectantly.

I gobbled. They gobbled back.

Eventually, sensing no food coming out of The Epic Van, they wandered on.

Our plan for the day was to sample the Arizona National Scenic Trail, which stretches the length of the state from north to south. Tom wants to hike sections of the trail as part of our Covid-camping agenda for 2021.

We drove to a nearby trailhead, where the sign showed the trail leading past High Jinks, an historic ranch founded in 1912 by  Buffalo Bill Cody. The ranch was owned for decades by my mother’s cousin, Dean Prichard, a wonderful, wild man, who we visited many times before he died in 2007.

I went about an hour up the trail, then turned around. Tom continued on, but took a wrong turn at the end and missed the ranch.

So, we drove there instead, over a rutted dirt road that I remembered well. We found the gate, open for hikers to get water from the spigot in the driveway. A washtub was filled for horses to get a sip.

As we were struggling to turn The Epic Van in the tight driveway, the caretaker came out. I explained my connection, and he graciously showed us around. He told us the ranch recently sold to a woman who was renovating the rooms and would soon rent them out for visitors and hikers.

Tom asked about other trailheads in the area, and he told us the expert was staying at the ranch, having just completed a book about day-hiking the trail. He introduced us to Sirena Rana, who wrote Best Day Hikes of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, and signed a copy for Tom, who was ecstatic to find someone had done all the necessary research for him and placed it in his hand.

In the book, Sirena writes of being hit by a truck in Tucson while in graduate school, developing fibromyalgia and being bedridden, then walking and hiking to help heal herself. She happened upon the Arizona Trail signage on a hike to High Jinks, and decided to write about the trail.

The book, a wonderful read, mentions Dean and his support for the trail, including working to route the Oracle section past the ranch. Sirena divides the trail into day-hike sections with wonderfully detailed descriptions, and then grouped them into easy, hard, and which are best in which season.

We left thankful for chance meetings, and vowing to bring my mother back when rooms are ready to rent.


  1. Reply
    Leslie A Connelly February 5, 2021

    I stayed at Peppersauce for a few days a few years ago. I loved it, so quiet, the big trees, and a little water. I was the only one there. If I remember right, there is a school entrance in the campground. I didn’t see any turkeys, but sure enjoyed the peace and quiet except in the morning and evening when the staff at the school arrived and left.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 8, 2021

      Leslie, There is a road that goes back to some buildings. I didn’t know it was a school. There was some minimal traffic. Probably less than usual because of Covid. I loved the campground. Very quiet.

  2. Reply
    Meredith February 6, 2021

    How lovely! Sounds like a nice respite! AND THOSE TURKEYS! WHy on earth are they out there? Never thought of them as a desert bird. Xxoo

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 8, 2021

      Mer, The campground is in the hilly, wooded area around Oracle. They looked very fat and happy there!

  3. Reply
    Bundy February 7, 2021

    Isn’t it great how and who we meet in our travels? Like us meeting you!! Arizona National Scenic Trail also looks like a great find. Looking forward to your tails on the trails.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 8, 2021

      Bundy, So true! We missed you at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. I’m voting for a Redwoods reunion in 2021 or 22, when it’s safe!

  4. Reply
    Bundy February 7, 2021

    oops tales on the trials 🙁

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 8, 2021

      Hahahah! Either one works, really!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.