For those who are forced to work for substandard wages, having no extra money is par for the course when the summer vacation season rolls around. On the bright side, cash strapped people usually have no problem finding thrifty destinations that offer plenty of fun in the sun. Some people stuff a few thousand dollars in their pocket and expect to buy their good times while on vacation, while others take a more down to earth approach and only spend money if they really have to. Doing a day trip to a cozy recreation area that offers free access is the way to go. Mainstream tourists tend to overlook the lesser known small places, so it is easy to find some elbow room. For a total cost of less than $20 for gas, snacks and drinks, a thrifty adventurist can experience a great little getaway without going way over budget at a crowded National Park.
Often the free destinations offer a nostalgic venue, like a rope swing over a swimming hole, a natural slick-rock water slide or just a cozy creekside spot for a picnic in the shade under tall trees. In these kinds of spots, reminiscing about simpler times or the youthful activities that were done on hot summer days is the key to opening a dusty old door that has probably not been thought of for many years. Many folks have fond memories of lazing under a shade tree by a creek out in the middle of nowhere to beat the extreme heat of summer when there was no money to do anything else. Those days were as good as gold and they can always be relived again at the National Forest Day Use Areas that offer free access!
For a local family trying to beat the heat on a slim budget, a trip to the creek can usually be financed with the contents of the penny savings jar. A few dollars for fuel, a trip to the dollar store for snacks, a bag of ice, a jug of homemade lemonade and maybe some bargain basement beer is all it takes to turn a cozy little creekside destination into an all day event. Remembering to bring a picnic blanket, a frisbee and a jar for collecting crawdads are the only checkmarks on the to-do list. Once the car gets up to 40 mph, the broken air conditioner no longer matters, because the wind blowing through the open windows feels like a million dollars!
The memories of the old days when being low on money meant beating the summer heat at a shady spot by the creek, sure do add up to something that is easy to lose sight of in modern times. The more stressful and the more hectic that a modern lifestyle becomes, the easier it is to fall into the trap of attempting to spend big money to buy happiness in order to achieve instant gratification. It is not the amount of money spent that counts, because happiness is a result of action, not monetary exchange. In reality, a person should be sad when hard earned money is parted with and an individual should not be happy to see it vanish into thin air! Doing a day trip excursion to a free access recreation area is all it takes to rid oneself of the mass media brainwashing that amounts to a spend, spend and spend till there is no more to spend kind of psyche.
Go ahead and play in the mud! Look under the rocks in the water for newts and salamanders! Be overjoyed when one of the children kisses a frog with the eyes closed while making a wish! Splash around a while, then just relax as the sound of water trickles on by. Look up through the tree leaves overhead to see the sparkling light shining through. Feel the sensation of wet moss on the feet and spreading mud on the shoulders to prevent sunburn. Creekside activities may not sound like much to a wealthy aristocrat, but for down to earth regular people, this simple fun venue can easily leave the troubles behind for a day and put a smile on the face for the rest of the week!
A shady spot by the creek is easy to find in the mountains and the deep forests of the northwest, while in the desert environment of Arizona, it can nearly be an impossible dream. Looking for creeks and small rivers on a map of the Desert Southwest may not be a reliable option, because during times of drought these small bodies of water may be dry as sun bleached cattle bones. In order to find a shady spot at a creek in the desert, one has to find a reliable source of water. Mountain streams that empty into the desert and natural springs are the best water resources to look for when trying to track down a place to cool off in the vast desert expanse.
The Coconino National Forest Beaver Creek Day Use Area is a rare cool creekside destination out in the middle of the desert in Arizona. Beaver Creek does have a reliable water resource and the location is easy to find. When driving on Interstate Highway 17 about 30 minutes south of Flagstaff, the freeway offramp to look for is Exit 278. After exiting the freeway, head east for a few miles on Forest Service Road 618 and the signage for the Beaver Creek Day Use Picnic Area will appear. The dirt roads in this area are smooth enough for high ground clearance passenger cars, so just about anybody can do the trip.
The Montezuma Well National Monument and the V-Bar-V Ancient Petroglyph Site are located next to the Beaver Creek Day Use Area and the Montezuma Castle National Monument is also close by. What this means is there is plenty to experience around Beaver Creek and some of these nearby points of interest also do not cost a dime to access.
The Beaver Creek Day Use Picnic Area is divided into a free access day area and a larger fee area for campout excursions. The free daytime picnic area is where the creek runs through a jungle of shade trees, so relief from the heat is easy to find. The fee area does provide access to a larger body of water in Beaver Creek where diving off of high rocks into a large natural pool is a pastime. Both sections of the Beaver Creek Day Use Picnic Area are lush and green, so this place is like a true desert oasis.
As can be imagined, the Beaver Creek Day Use Picnic Area certainly is a place where the locals have had many wild times in the past. Now that this shady cool spot is managed as a day use picnic area by the National Forest Rangers, things are fairly tame. As far as the tourist numbers are concerned, most of the tourists flock to the nearby Montezuma Castle, so the Beaver Creek Day Use Picnic Area is pretty much overlooked. There is plenty of peace and quiet to be found in this cool little nook and cranny, so be sure to chalk this one up on the thrifty destination list!
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