During the second week of January, I moved from the LTVA over to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous gathering. Every year, like-minded nomads gather in Quartzsite to share experiences, learn new things about living and traveling on the road, and see friends – old and new.
Most of the seminars at the RTR are geared for people just starting out in this lifestyle, so after doing this for the last five years, I didn’t learn a lot that was new to me. Many travelers new to this way of full-time mobile living – especially solo women – find comfort and safety in traveling with a group of like-minded individuals. It is normal – and I guess healthy – to have a little apprehension in this world of ours, and to join with other people and travel with them is a good way to start this adventure.
The main objective of the meeting is not so much to learn how to live on the road as it is to just make friends. Everyone’s lifestyle is so unique that the only way to figure out how to do this is to just go do it. You can get tips from those that have been full-timing for years, but how they do things may be completely different from what is important to you. I went to the rally to say hi to several people I have met during my travels the last few years.
Each year the RTR gets bigger. There were estimates of 500 people there this year – more than double the number that showed up last year. I don’t enjoy large crowds. It seemed to me that the people were different and not as easy to meet this year. I guess the bigger the crowd the easier it is to stay by yourself. It probably is more me than them. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 1000 people that show up here next year. I will not be one of them.
With so many people gathered together there are bound to be disagreements. On the second day there was a disagreement over playing music in the evening. Some wanted to play loud music around their camps and others didn’t want to hear it. The music players were consequently bannished to the DMZ (Designated Music Zone) two washes over. There were other squabbles about picking up dog poop, smoking, and toilet paper in the washes from those that came in tents unprepared for taking care of their waste. But mostly everyone got along well.
On one warm, sunny afternoon, my friend Todd and I went to town to browse the booths that crowd the streets of Quartzsite this time of year. It’s all the same from year to year but it is kind of fun to wander the shops a time or two. I bought a large spoon with holes in it that I will use to strain pasta, a jar of raw honey, and a new outdoor rug for the front of Minnie. Just a warning for those coming to Q. They have increased their police force and are handing out more tickets. They probably figure they need money from all the tourist in town as much as the shops do.
I’m now back at the LTVA waiting out a stretch of rainy weather. Donna is planning on joining me in a few days. We will try to visit some of the bloggers she has met online and then go to the Big Tent extravaganza. Richard and Dianna are driving up from Yuma to join us. Then we are planning to drive to Yuma to camp with Richard and Dianna and make a trip to Mexico for dental and drugs. Let’s hope we can get out of Mexico before we sever all trade across the border.
I traveled back to Quartzsite on New Year’s Day 2017. Richard and Dianna went southwest to Yuma the same day, planning to spend several weeks at Imperial Dam LTVA. I will move down to join them soon. While I have been here I have stopped to see Barb and meet some of her friends she camps with, and exchanged texts with Todd, a friend I first met at last year’s RTR. You may recall that Donna and I ran into Todd and Cathy in Flagstaff last year and traveled north to the Grand Canyon with them. Todd is coming to the RTR and we made plans to meet there.
I had quite a few projects that I wanted to tackle this season while in Quartzsite. Every time you do any remodeling on your RV there are always parts you need that you didn’t contemplate. I knew the flee markets and RV parts stores in Quartzsite would have everything I needed.
I installed two more batteries under the seat in my rig and cut a hole to vent them out the side. I covered the hole with a vent cover and screen so no bugs can get in. I moved the AGM batteries under the table and installed a switch so I can cut them in and out of the bank. With all the batteries in one place and close to the solar charger, inverter, and converter, it was easy to connect and efficient as well.
With more battery power I knew I would need more solar so the next project was adding another panel to the roof. I like the idea of having some of my solar panels that I can set out beside my RV. Besides being able to tilt the panels, I can move them around in a way I like to call, “chasing the sun.” But panels on the roof are easier to live with. You don’t need a place to store them while traveling and they charge even while driving and parked at Walmart.
Charging and battery profiles are sometimes complicated and I have attended many intelligence briefings in the form of WhatsApp texts with my brother in Yuma. I would like to have one of those expensive meter electronic systems that would give me better information about my charging but that will have to wait for my ship to come in.
That’s about it. It has been cold for much riding and walking. When I would travel to town to get parts I always got sidetracked looking at all the junk for sale, but I haven’t made the trip yet with the express purpose of browsing. I guess I’m afraid I will buy something I don’t need.
It’s not often that we are all in one place all at the same time. A great holiday gift of all five siblings visiting with Mom.
This is a quick note to chronicle the last two weeks. Several days before I had planned to return to Tempe for Christmas, Mom had a serious reaction to a new medication she was taking. During the night caregivers at her apartment noticed she was severely bleeding and called the ambulance to take her to the hospital.
One of the bad side effects from this new blood-thinner medicine she was on is gastrointestinal bleeding. Several people have died from it. As you can imagine we were very concerned for a few days as she continued to bleed. Finally, the bleeding stopped. The GI Dr. did a scope procedure on her and decided not to do any further treatment. Sometimes anesthesia for elderly people can be more life- threatening than the problem itself.
Mom is back in her apartment now. She is still very weak and sometimes confused. We have discussed several times whether she needs to live somewhere where she gets more consistent care, but being in her own place is comforting to her and to move her to a nursing home would be stressful. It will be a hard decision to make but one that needs to be made soon.
I’m camped in Bulldog Canyon again. It is only a short drive from Mom’s apartment so quite handy for me. When she was in the hospital I camped the other side of Phoenix at Buckeye Recreation area. Even though it was closer to the hospital it was still a long ride to go see her. I actually stayed one night in the parking lot of the hospital.
After Christmas I will return to the Quartzsite/Yuma area. I have met a lot of people over the years that will congregate around Q in January and I’m hoping to see some of them again. Then I will travel to Yuma and spend some time with Richard and Dianna. I still have some dental work planned while I’m there but that’s as far ahead as my plans go. And even those plans could change.
This is the first time I have needed shade since arriving in Yuma two weeks ago. The temperature this afternoon hit 80. I love it! Give me 80 degrees over 60 degrees any day.
I rode to Yuma this morning to pick up some supplies. My refrigerator has been cooling good since the problem a week ago, and I though I would pick up some ice cream to really give it a test. I’m still a little gun shy of the trouble maker, so I’m not brave enough to load it to the gills yet.
I have been using my tanker trailer to fetch water. It follows along behind my motorcycle like there is nothing there. I see a lot of people pulling blue boy tanks behind their car, and the little plastic wheels only work at 5mph or less. I pull my bike trailer at 20mph with no problem. The tank is actually made for sewage transport and I get some funny looks when I pull it up to the water station. I have never used it to haul anything but water, and I suppose I should camouflage it with a blanket or something so as not to alarm spectators.
Yesterday I hiked one of the slot-canyons west of the LTVA. Each year the canyon changes slightly due to a fresh supply of eroding water cascading down the wash. It seemed to me the final vertical wall and boulder were much harder to get over than they were the last time I was here. I’m not sure if the wall was higher because of eroding, or it just seemed like it because I’m getting older. I’m going with erosion.
Because I have a good supply of water I do some laundry by hand. I’m not about to wash everything by hand, but doing a few things now and then stretches the interval between laundromat visits. It’s also nice to wash in hot water. Propane is available a mile down the road, and even though it is more expensive than it is in Yuma, the proximity makes it the better bargain.
I found an ingenious method to wash clothes. I fill a tub with socks and underwear, add a little soap, agitate with my hands, soak and then agitate more, and then wring them out and throw in the shower stall. Then I take a soapless shower and stomp around on the clothes – kind of like you would make wine from a tub of grapes – until they and I are rinsed.
I can feel the call of a date shake becoming very powerful. If it were not for the fact I had ice cream in my pack I would have stopped this morning on my way back. I think I may have to make a special trip!
Not long after I moved to the Ogilby Road, I noticed my refrigerator was not working. When I checked the freezer compartment everything was soft and wet. This was not the first time I have had trouble with this fridge and it probably won’t be the last. But why does it always happen after I have freshly stocked the thing with food?
Appliances in an RV seem to develop problems a lot more than their counterparts do in a sticks-and-bricks house. I’m not sure whether it is the constant banging around from movement or maybe they just aren’t built as well. I have replaced refrigerator coils, microwave, water pump, and A/C thermostat. My furnace is not working at the moment and I have lost battery connection to the compartment under the coach. I guess it is a good thing I know the systems pretty well now, and I can fix most problems myself. If I had to take it to a shop each time something broke, my savings account would be broke, too.
Fortunately, I have a 12 volt refrigerator that I bought when I was having problems last year. Unfortunately, it is a lot smaller that my coach refrigerator and there is no freezer compartment. I transferred as much of the food that would fit – mostly expensive items – into the little portable, and inventoried all the frozen items from the freezer. There were several packages of meat: hamburger, hotdogs, and sausage; a few frozen dinners I resolved to eat that evening; and a box of ice cream bars that were a total loss and tossed into the garbage.
I knew the eggs and cheese would last a couple of days without refrigeration, and most of the condiments would be okay, but unrefrigerated meat is something you don’t want to mess around with for long. I fried up the hamburger and with the TV dinners cooking in the microwave, I just had room for the meat in the small fridge.
Over the next two days I felt like I was on the Atkins Diet. I have never in such a short time eaten so much meat. I literally fried up half a pound of bacon and ate it in one sitting! For lunch I had sausage and hamburger and more bacon. For dinner I ate the last TV dinner and washed it down with more hamburger. I’m not sure how much meat I ate yesterday, but my carnivorous ancestors would have been proud.
The wind finally died down on Sunday and I moved to Pilot Knob LTVA. I wanted to remain close to Yuma in case I needed parts for my propane supply to the fridge. Once I pulled out the little jet orifice that regulates the propane gas to the refrigerator, I knew right away it was just plugged. With a little cleaning and picking, I had the jet looking like new, and as soon as everything was back together and turned on, the unit started cooling again.
This LTVA would not be on my list of favorite places to stay. The area is quite barren – void of any vegetation except creosote bushes, there is no dump or water available, and the close proximity to the highway and railroad tracks makes it noisy. While I was out walking yesterday I asked a man I met why he likes to stay here and he told me it is because there are no crowds of people. He said the other LTVAs have too many people. I guess if you want to be alone this would be a good place to stay.
Right now the thermometer in my freezer says 3 degrees.
On my way to Yuma I stopped overnight at the Imperial Dam LTVA to check on cell signal. Imperial Dam is one of my favorite camps in the southwest. It’s equipped with many dump stations and water spigots, and the facilities are arranged logically so there is little or no waiting to take care of essentials. Although the terrain is quite stark, I have always found places to hike and explore the area. There are a couple of really neat slot canyons within walking distance of camp. And probably the best perk to staying at Imperial Dam is the fact you are only a short distance from the city of Yuma, AZ.
I drove around the roads in the camping area and finally found a place where I could pick up a little AT&T signal. With the amplifier I got from Richard I received a pretty good signal. I settled in for the night and the next morning drove to Yuma for groceries and on to meet Barb in the parking lot of the Quechan Casino.
Barb needed to have dental work finished in Los Algodones and I needed to pick up my yearly meds, so we went together to save money on parking and provide each other moral support while in a strange country. I always enjoy trips to Los Algodones and we finished our shopping so early there was no waiting at the border on our way out. Barb had another appointment the following day so she stayed at the casino parking lot while I drove west to Ogilby Road to wait out the weekend.
The BLM area on Ogilby Rd has always been another favorite place for me to park. There are trees along the washes where you can tuck in out of the wind, the rest area four miles away has free water and dumpsters, I get good cell reception, and it is close to shopping in Yuma. I drove back along the access road to one of my favorite sites and set up camp. The wind was predicted to pick up over the next two days and I was prepared to hunker down until it passed.
Just after dark I heard a knock on my door. It was a BLM Ranger. He told me – to my shock and disbelief – that I was not allowed to camp here. I have been camping here for several years now and was really puzzled why this was the first I had ever heard of it. He said the only place legal to park was within 300 feet of the road. I asked him if this was something new because I know hundreds of RVs park here every year. He said they are all parking illegally and he would be enforcing no driving on roads and no camping anywhere it is legal past 14 days. He then mentioned something about this area being protected because of the desert tortoise. He then told me something that made me roll my eyes in an “ah” moment. He was a brand new transfer to this area from NV and said the other rangers that used to cover this area were terminated. I told him I would move in the morning.
Throughout the night the wind increased until my rig rolled like a boat slapped around by rough seas. At times in the night I could smell dust as the wind forced puffs of sand through cracks in my doors and windows. In the morning the wind still raged on with what seemed like hurricane force. I expected to look out to find my lawn chair gone, my satellite dish tipped over, and my solar panels smashed on a distant fire ring. Fortunately I had weighed everything down with rocks so nothing was harmed. When I opened the camper door it was all I could do to hold it against the wind. I resolved then and there to wait until the wind let up before I would move. To pick up my panels in this wind would turn me into a test pilot on a glass wing! The ranger would just have to understand if he returned. It is hard to believe he would want a glass panel shattered over the desert floor.
If the wind dies down tomorrow I will probably move back to Imperial Dam LTVA. If the weather would warm up a little – temps mostly in the 60’s now – I would ride into Yuma to see a movie. It is actually a better ride to town from Imperial Dam than it is from here. And, I may even stop for a date shake along the way.
I have moved around several times while here in Quartzsite. Two days ago, I found a spot in the La Posa South LTVA, close to facilities where the dump and water fill are located. My plan was to experiment with my motorcycle trailer to supply water for my rig as I became gluttonous with showers. Now, I’m not even sure I will unload my motorcycle. The cold nights, relentless wind, and the limited supplies in a tourist town have got me to thinking about traveling to Yuma.
Yuma is only about five degrees warmer than here but it makes a difference to these old bones of mine. And besides the warmer weather, there is always the city itself. It is nice to buy groceries without paying the inflated prices of a small market, there are tons of fast-food places to eat, you can get hardware for projects on the rig, and it will be nice to see a movie once in awhile. The biggest problem with moving to Yuma is that the LTVA north of town has no cell signal for me. That’s kind of a deal breaker.
The nearest Walmart to Quartzsite is in Parker, 40 miles north of here. I rode my motorcycle there a few days ago but I didn’t enjoy the trip. Route 95 to Parker is a narrow two-lane road with a speed limit of 65 for most of the way. Of course you know that a speed limit of 65 means most everyone is driving 75 or 80. Route 95 has a lot of traffic, and with that much traffic drivers get impatient waiting to pass, making me uncomfortable when they think I should move over to the edge of the road so they can get by whether anyone is coming or not.
Where I’m parked now is right across the wash from the nudist section of the LTVA. When I found this nice spot I wondered why there was no one parking here. As I walked around I came upon signs scattered along the boundary and on all roads warning that you may encounter nudity in this area. Their website talks about the lifestyle they believe in and emphasizes that there shall be no display or approval of sexual activity. That makes sense to me considering they are mostly retired people with bodies well past the sexual stage. I’m far enough away so that I’m not being offended and disgusted by their shameful activities. Why… I can just barely see them with my binoculars!
I arrived in Quartzsite late Thursday night and found a temporary place to park. The plan was to pay in the morning and search for a nice quiet, out-of-the-way, piece of desert I could call home for a few weeks. What I didn’t plan on was that everything was closed for Veterans Day and I would have to wait until the next day.
It was sort of ironic because I used the dump station, filled with water, and threw away a couple bags of garbage, all with great intentions of paying tomorrow. Now, with no one here to collect my money, I will have another day to contemplate dishing out the money for an LTVA or moving out to a desert boondock. I hate parting with my money but an endless supply of water for showers is a very tempting thing.
There are a few tasks that keep us vagabonds tied to the realm of civilization. As long as we can find a place to legally park, get food and water, and find someplace to dispose of our poo, we can pretty much live off-grid and under the radar. It usually takes a little planning, but we get good at it.
I rode around town this afternoon. There are a surprising number of RVs at the four La Posa sites and Hi Jolly was filled almost to the same level I have seen in January. Only the Plamosa Road – several miles out of town – was sparsely occupied. No venders are in town yet.
While riding through Hi Jolly this afternoon I saw a van I thought I recognized. It was Sheri and her little dog Tony. I met Sheri and Tony a few weeks ago in Cottonwood and we became friends and spent time chatting on our walks in the evening. She has been in Chandler at the same time I was in Mesa. How nice we got to see each other again here in Q.
Barb is still camping in Yuma. She has been crossing into Los Algodones, Mexico for some dental work but is planning on coming to Quartzsite in a few days. I was happy to find out that Dean is still traveling with her and I will get to see him, too.
There are other things to talk about – like a new phone, a Bulldog Canyon hike with Daryl and Les, babysitting Donna’s little dog Hanna, and trying out my new metal detector, but I have never used this phone to post and worried it will be a problem. I’m going to stop now and try it.
I enjoyed the time I spent on forest road 525 outside of Sedona, AZ. My campsite was close to a model airplane runway where I could sit outside in the morning and watch the pilots flying the little planes through all sorts of aerobatic maneuvers. One morning I talked with one model pilot that offered to let me try my hand at flying his airplane. Sadly, I left the area before I could try it. Probably just as well that I didn’t learn to fly his plane – I would get hooked and have to buy one!
The temperature in the Phoenix area finally dropped back from the high 90’s to a more tolerable range in the low 80’s. I found a free, dispersed camping area near the Salt River called Bulldog Canyon where I can stay for a few days while I visit Mom.
Bulldog Canyon is accessible only by obtaining a combination from the forest service for a locked gate. The locked gate is designed primarily to keep people from trucking their trash out for disposal in the desert and driving where they can damage fragile vegetation. You can never stop all the abuse on public land, but the gates give the forest service a little more control.
This is an area used heavily by OHVs. So far it has been very quiet and dust free, but I imagine that in two more days the weekend warriors will bring their machines out to play and the silence will be broken by the roar of ATVs. I usually try to camp back away from the traffic, noise, and dust, but the only campsites were right along the road.
Mom is still struggling with shoulder pain. She is taking some heavy medications for pain and becomes very confused at times. She stays mostly in her room and sleeps a lot. The Doctors are still not sure what is causing her pain. If we could resolve the issue of her shoulder pain, I’m sure she would return to a more normal life.
I’m not sure how long I will stay here. There is a time limit on how long you can camp in this area, but if the weekend is chaotic with off-road racers, I may have to move out before my time is up.
The 14-day time limit was up at my Cottonwood camp so I packed up and moved this morning. Where I am now is only about 15 miles away, but it is in another national forest so I should not be bothered for a few days. The weather for this weekend is still too hot to return to the valley but I’m hoping next week will be more normal.
I really enjoyed my stay at the Cottonwood campground. A couple of days were pretty warm, but for the most part it was lovely weather. Remember that I have been in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico for the last month, waking to freezing temps every morning. For the last two weeks, it has been good to soak up some Arizona sunshine.
I met some nice people while camped in Cottonwood. When I take walks in the evening I sometimes stop and talk with people I meet along the way. I follow a blog called Me and My Dog and My RV, dewelldesigns.blogspot.com, and one evening I met the owners of the blog, Barb and Katie(a cute little K9) by their motorhome as I was out walking. We saw each other several times during the time we were camped together and always had great conversation whenever we would meet. She introduced me to Dean, another camper living the lifestyle we share. We will all be in the southwest this winter and hopefully see each other down the road.
I plan to be here for the weekend and then head back into Phoenix on Tuesday or Wednesday. Richard has been exploring some dispersed camping areas near Usary Park and I hope to stay there for a few days. It will be good to see everyone again.
It has been almost two weeks since I’ve posted so I guess I should catch myself up to date.
My travels continued south through New Mexico to Bluewater Lake State Park. I noticed on my map that west of the park was the Cibola National Forest, and when I saw a sign announcing forest access, I turned to check it out. About a mile up the road I met a forest ranger and asked her about dispersed camping. She told me of a meadow a few miles further where a lot of people camp. The road was good, void of potholes and washboard unlike most of the forest roads I have been on lately, so I continued on up the road.
The road climbed higher up the mountain until I was above 8000 feet. I could already tell there was a chill in the air, and when I checked for cell signal, the dissapointing circle with a line through it stared back at me. It didn’t take me long to find a place to turn around and head back down the hill.
On my way up I had seen a few places that looked like good camping spots. One particular side road disappeared over a rise and I parked to walk back and check it out. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a cute little clearing, open to the southern sky, out of sight from the main road, and offering good cell signal. It would become my home for the next week.
I made a few trips exploring the forest roads while I was there and even rode several times into the town of Thoreau, NM to shop at the Family Dollar. Daryl even had a tire for my motorcycle shipped to the post office by Amazon. The weather was good the whole time I was there. It got a little chilly overnight but warmed up nicely during the day.
After much communication with the family about Mom’s medical problems, the realization that the weather would be too cold to stay in the mountains much longer, and the fact that I had no desire to see any more of New Mexico, I decided to head into Arizona and make my way to Phoenix. I did take a quick detour and spent an afternoon at El Morro National Monument, an interesting place of petroglyphs and history of early explorers.
By the time I made it to Payson the weather was once again perfect and I spent the night a few miles from town in a secluded spot not many know about. I contacted Donna to ask if I could park in her driveway for a few days and the next day made my way into Mesa.
It was nice to see family again and especially good to visit Mom as she fights the affects of a painful ordeal with shingles.
Mom has been in and out of the hospital and nursing home for the last couple weeks with awful pain in her shoulder. Just today she has finally transitioned back to her apartment and it seems that the pain is under control. Let’s hope she gets back to normal soon.
On the day I had planned to leave town I found a note on the door from the city of Mesa. It was a form letter of rules and regulations for how to live in town. One regulation about RVs parked in the driveway was highlighted in yellow. I knew it was probably frowned upon but thought that being there for only a few days would not attract any attention. What I didn’t know is that some neighbors were already complaining about another RV parked down the street, and I was caught in the crosshairs.
Right now I’m in Cottonwood. It is still a little too warm here but in another couple Weeks the temps should be just right. I am only a couple hours from Mom in case I am needed in town.
Mom sure gets a lot of loving care even without me there. Daryl, Donna, Richard and Dianna, and Heather all live in town and are constantly at her side making sure she gets the best care and support for all her needs. My brothers and I have never been a kissing and hugging bunch of guys, but not many families can match the love and empathy we feel for one another.
I had planned on staying at my camp in Colorado until Wednesday, but the remnants of a hurricane moving through the southwest was forecast to bring heavy rain to the area starting Tuesday night. Not wanting to deal with packing everything wet and taking a chance on soft, muddy roads going to the highway, I decided to move a day early. I really enjoyed my ten day stay in the San Juan National Forest below Pagosa Springs but it was time to move south and search for a warmer climate.
I drove 84 south into New Mexico and turned west on 64. A lot of northwest New Mexico is Indian Reservation and offers the traveling nomad little in the way of free dispersed camping. On the Internet I found a free campsite below Navajo Lake State Park and stayed one night. It was really nothing more than a parking lot for fishermen and hikers, but it was quiet and free which was the main thing.
The next morning I drove to Pine Campground in the state park. I have been kicking around the idea of buying a New Mexico State season pass and staying in state parks for the next month as I tour the state. It would pay for itself in three weeks and I wouldn’t have to worry about finding camping, dump, and water every few days. The campground at Navajo Lake was like a ghost town. The entry station in front was abandoned to self pay pipes, the visitors center was closed, the camp host was nowhere to be found, and only a handful of fishermen were camped in the park. There was nobody to even ask about a season pass.
I decided to stay one night to take advantage of the dump station, water fill, and hot showers in the bath house. For $10 it was a good deal. Once I was parked and set up, I walked down to the marina to take a look around.
The Marina was filled with rows of houseboats and rental watercraft of any size you could want. You could rent paddle boats, kayaks, rowboats, motorboats, houseboats, and even jet ski boats. This late in the year there wasn’t much going on. Only a few boats were out on the lake and the docks were empty
Years ago Mom and Dad spent many summers at this lake. Dad loved to fish and I could imagine him out on the lake in his little fishing boat, enjoying the relaxing hobby of casting a line into the water, waiting for that big fish to take the bait, and gathering tales to share with friends back at camp. It was nostalgic and sad all at the same time.
I noticed the little store on the main walkway to the rows of tied-off houseboats was open so I went in.
I told the girls in the store about Mom and Dad spending summers here at the lake and mentioned a picture taken of Dad holding a prized, trophy fish he had caught. I didn’t really expect there would be an old shoebox with discarded photographs but I asked about it anyway. Neither girl had any knowledge of such a thing. The only pictures posted on the walls were of proud fishermen holding their catch up for the camera in an advertisement for some fishing guide.
The next day I drove to Farmington and spent the night at Walmart. One thing I noticed about the drab and barren landscape along highway 64 is how rich the ground must be in gas and oil. There were dozens and dozens of well along the road. It seemed that every other vehicle I met was a white pickup, sporting a flag atop a long whip antenna, turning down side roads on their way to check on the wells. I also met quite a few tanker trucks running the highway to deliver the oil to the refineries. A lot of the main and side roads were pretty rough and I don’t doubt that all the heavy truck traffic has something to do with it.
The next morning, Friday, I traveled south out of Farmington on Rt. 371. I looked at some BLM boondocking a mile out of town but it was uninviting. The road in was steep and sandy, and with all the rain, reeked of a bad experience. It doesn’t take much wet sand to bury the tires of a motorhome.
I continued south for another 30 miles to a place called Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness that has a parking lot where people can camp overnight. The road in was washboard and filled with puddles. When I arrived at the parking lot I was surprised to see it was almost full of cars. It had been raining and cold for the last two days and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to hike out to the formations in all this mud and rain. I found one corner of the parking lot open and parked Minnie somewhat level.
later that morning I talked with some of the people here and found out they are a photography group meetings here to learn and share in their hobby. I guess some of the hoodoos and formations are very colorful if you catch them in the right light. They all walked out to the eroded cliffs in the evening and then again before dawn to photograph the sunrise display of color. They sure take their hobby seriously because it was below freezing overnight and some of them were camped in tents. I waited until about noon and the temperature was more human before I walked out into the wilderness area.
It has been a day of rain, hail, and lighting. Thankfully, the hail has been small and the lightning far away. The sky will darken and let loose with a torrential downpour for a few minutes, and then almost immediately, the sun will shine brightly, tempting me to venture out for a ride. I was almost fooled into riding down to a road I want to explore, but luckily I stayed close to home. It has been a good day to hunker down and catch up on the blog.
I’m camped in the San Juan National Forest, just south of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. As the crow flies it is only 15 miles north of the border or New Mexico. I checked out a place called Kinney Flats where RVSue boondocked a while ago, but I couldn’t find a good campsite and I had no cell signal. I unloaded Honda and explored up a road called Valle Seco where I found a good camp with marginal cell signal. I will probably stay here for about a week.
There are several camps of hunters on this road. They are quite friendly and stop to talk as they drive by in their pickups and ATV’s. They always want to know if I’ve heard any “bugling “. I get the sense they like to drive the roads looking for game more than walking in the woods. I know they really like to talk about hunting.
I have been having trouble with my solar the last few weeks. It just didn’t seem to be charging like it should. Yesterday, I grabbed hold of the connector where I plug my portable panels into the pigtail on my rig and found it extremely hot! When I wiggled the wires they fell apart. The connection was all corroded and I was loosing all the juice from the panels. I spliced them back together with a temporary fix and now they are working great again.
Next stop will be New Mexico. I have been looking for a New Mexico Delorme Gazetteer in the last few towns I’ve been through but have not found one yet. The detailed topographic maps help me find dispersed camping in most of my travels and I rely more on them than any other source. I cringe at the investment I’ve made in these maps – I have 9 state atlases at $20 each.
As I slowly transition my travels from the lofty mountains of Colorado to the warmer climate in New Mexico, I noticed Great Sand Dunes National Park was on the way. It didn’t look like there was any National Forest nearby where I could camp so I decided to stay in the park for a couple days. I also needed to dump and fill with water, and knew I could do both there.
The campground had two loops, one that was first come basis, and another that was reservation only. A few of the sites in the reservation loop could be used if they were not reserved for the night. It was a very confusing system and puzzling to figure out. Two other campers and I looking for a site were not sure if we had to call Reserve.Gov or just pay at the entrance. The camp host finally assured us we could pay here.
I never expected to find the campground so full. It was after Labor Day and I was arriving on a Wednesday. I thought that after the kids went back to school and the weather turned to Fall that the parks would be less crowded. I mentioned this to a park employee and she told me that that is what a lot of people think. The reality is that retired people are out in force thinking the same way I do.
There is not much to see at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Once you walk through the visitor center – two thirds of which is dedicated to a gift shop – and climb up the sand dunes, you’ve pretty much seen it all.
The geology and history of the park were interesting. The sign markers spend a lot of detail telling how the blowing sand from the San Luis Valley got trapped in a basin of the Cristo Mountains and was piled as high as 750 feet.
I climbed part way up the dunes on my second day at the park. One of the attractions for adventurous people who visit the park is sledding the dunes. They use special sleds and snowboards, made slippery with a special wax applied to the bottom surface. I saw quite a few falls but the sand cushions a lot of the impact. I’m sure there are some that take on more hill than skill level and get hurt, too.
I left the park on Friday and traveled west to South Fork, Colorado. South Fork is surrounded by national forest and I explored a few roads looking for a dispersed campsite to ride out the weekend. I looked at a couple pay campgrounds on the Beaver Creek Road but I didn’t think they were as special as the price indicated. I finally met a forest employee and asked him about free camping and he directed me to the Park Creek Road.
I’m not sure what the elevation is here because I have no cell signal. I have a feeling it is probably close to 9000. I’m not very far from the Continental Divide and it was only 25 degrees this morning. It is a pretty campsite, nestled in a valley of lush meadows, surrounded by tall pines and Aspen just starting to change to fall color, and a gentle, clear stream beside my rig. The only thing that gives me pause is the fact it is hunting season, and pickups with quads loaded on trailers have been driving by all morning.
With all the cold weather at my 9500 foot camp, I was determined to find a place where I could sit in the sun and bake. In the morning I drove east on Route 50, and as soon as I crested the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass and started down the other side, the sun came out and the air had a more gentler feel. With the sun on my face and optimism that summer would last another week, I turned north at Salida and drove to Leadville.
Leadville is over 10,000 feet high, and in a hot summer, the perfect place to be. I rationalized that it would be good to explore the area for a few days and mark down future camps. As long as it doesn’t get way below freezing, I should be okay.
From other blogs I knew where a good dispersed camping place was. I followed a road called Half Moon up into the San Isabel National Forest, found a perfect spot, and set up camp.
The sun was warm so I jumped on Honda to explore the forest road past my camp. As I drove the road I found three forest campgrounds and two trailheads that hikers use to climb into the 14,000 foot peaks. I stopped at one trailhead and walked a half mile to where it joined the Continental Divide Trail, just to say I was on it again.
On the way back I pulled into one of the forest service campgrounds to check it out. I first stopped to read the board and see what they charge. I was a little surprised to see it was $16. The sites were tight, the road was in bad need of grading, and I couldn’t see any water spigots. As I drove the loop a pickup chased after me and flagged me down. I turned Honda off and said, “Hi.”
“You can’t ride that in here!”, was the first thing out of his mouth.
“Sure I can. This is licensed for highway use.”
“It doesn’t matter! “, he shot back. “This is a private campground.”
“Isn’t this a forest service campground?”
“It is run by a private concessionare. We get a lot of off road people driving through here with their noisy machines. Campers can’t even sit outside and enjoy their dinner.”
I explained to him that I was just looking for possible places to camp while I was there. I told him that I drove slowly through campgrounds and was respectful of people camping. He kind of softened then and agreed that I was being respectful. It probably helped when he realized I was the same age as he and not some smart-allic kid on a dirt bike.
I asked him why with all the beautiful dispersed campsites along the road would anyone spend $16 to camp here?
“Well, you have the outhouses”, was all he could come up with.
I have run into the concessionare campgrounds before. The forest service doesn’t have the time or resources to take care of campgrounds and they must be having trouble getting camp hosts. This guy said he takes care of three campgrounds and I’m sure it is a paid position. I’m afraid the next change that will come with turning forest campgrounds over to private companies is the end of discounts for seniors.
It has been raining here for four days. I wouldn’t mind the rain so much but along with it has come chilly temperatures. A few night have been below freezing and the days seldom get out of the 50’s. I don’t like running my heater all the time so I sit under a blanket in the morning and evenings. This is not my idea of migrating with the weather so I guess it is time to find a warmer location.
About the only thing I have done this week – except for staying cooped up inside my camper – is get in short walks when the rain reluctantly lets up. I did build a fire one evening to burn some trash, but the sticks I found were so wet the fire was stubborn to light. I have a stream near Minnie so getting water for washing and flushing is convenient.
Two days ago a moose and her two young ones walked by my camp. That was pretty cool! I opened the door and took several pictures. I was afraid of scaring them off but they were pretty tame.
Four days ago, before all the gloomy, wet weather set in, I rode a few miles to a town called Tin Cup. Tin Cup is the site of an old mining town, abandoned when the minerals ran out, and kept alive by the few tourists that spend summer vacations there.
The cafe and store are the only businesses that I saw. In the store were racks of hats, t-shirts, and trinkets, all printed with the town name and priced to reflect a tourist establishment. On a small shelf were a few candy bars for sale, and a small cooler with a glass door held a few drinks.
While I rode the dirt, main street through town, I saw a sign that pointed to the cemetery and decided to take a look. Some of the grave markers dated back into the 1800’s and there were a few that had been erected in the last few years. What was interesting about the cemetery was how it was laid out. There were four distinct hills that defined the burial grounds, and each hill held people of different faiths. There was a Catholic knoll, a Jewish knoll, and two Protestant knolls. I’m not sure where they put the Atheists.
It was very cold here this morning. Even though it is still summer in Colorado, the nights can get downright chilly when you’re at 9400′. This morning my thermometer said 31 degrees when I got up. I talked with another couple that camps here every year and they said that after Labor Day it is just to cold to be here. The days warm up nice as soon as the sun comes up, so it is good to sleep in if you can.
I’m camped about a mile from Taylor Park Reservoir on a forest road in the Gunnison National Forest. The area is a haven for OHV. A small community down by the reservoir rents quads and motorcycles and many visitors that come here trailer in their own. It is so friendly to OHVs that you can drive them on dirt forest roads without a vehicle license.
Yesterday I rode Honda up Cottonwood Pass Road. The road was all gravel with many washboard and pothole sections for the 15 mile drive to the top. It was really beautiful at the pass. You had views for many miles in both directions. I walked around the summit for a while, enjoying the cool air and scenery, until dark clouds moving closer convinced me to head down.
I thought it was neat that the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail crosses the road at the pass, and I sampled a bit of the path just to say I had been on it. With Honda doing all the work to get up there – over 12,000 feet of altitude – I’m quite familiar with how much harder it is to walk up.
A lot of weekenders are pulling out today. With school starting back up and many vacationers going back to work, it should be less crowded in the forests and parks. I may stay here for a couple weeks and then find someplace a little warmer.
I knew it was time to leave Caddis Flats Campground when two unfortunate things happened on Monday and Tuesday. The first thing that happened didn’t really affect me much but it was exciting anyway. I had been out doing a little hiking and panning down the river, and on my return to my camper, just as I rounded the last curve, I was met with all sorts of emergency vehicles with flashing lights parked along the road by the campground entrance. As I got closer I saw that a vehicle had lost control and rolled down the embankment where it ended up on its top. I told the Sheriff I had a camper in the campground and they eventually moved the firetruck so I could get in. The good thing was that the guy involved in the accident was not hurt.
Later that night I woke to go to the bathroom, turned on the light, and came face to face with a mouse on my counter. He didn’t seem startled at all and didn’t even run until I started chasing him with a shoe. I checked my drawer where I keep my snacks and found several things chewed. I slept very little the rest of the night, expecting the little intruder to come back and continue his ransack of my kitchen. Early the next morning I packed up Minnie and headed north.
I spent the night at a Walmart in Montrose, Colorado where I purchased two mousetraps and more snacks. Then I moved all food to cupboards that were sealed. So far my traps remain baited and ready for the next invasion. It is amazing how fast the little varmints can find a way in. All I lost was a few snacks, but I’ve heard horror stories of mice getting in the engine and chewing the wiring. I usually leave the hood open when I park now. It is supposed to discourage mice from hiding and doing mischief under there.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of those places you can’t capture with a picture. Like the Grand Canyon you have to see it in person. The black volcanic rock gives the appearance of Gothic walls descending into the canyon.
I was interested in finding a campsite for the night so I drove a road that parallels the canyon to the north and skirts the southern boundary of Gunnison National Forest. I finally found a forest road that took me to a pretty camp at the base of an Aspen forest. I set up camp with the idea of exploring further up the road to see if there was any cell service.
The next day I rode about 10 miles up into the mountains. I didn’t find any more camps until almost at the top, and even then no cell signal. It would have been way too cold to camp up there anyway. Several times as I rode the narrow mountain road, cows would be standing in groups on the road. The mountain road was cut into a steep bank that offered very little pasture for the herd, but the cows seemed to be content to walk the road grazing the narrow shoulders. The problem was that when I would try to go by them, they would think I was chasing them and run up the road in panic. I usually had to drive along behind them until they would get tired enough that I could zip around.
When I looked out the window the next morning, there were 20 more cows standing in front of Minnie. I saw two move over to Honda and lick the seat. I though back to when I was on the farm and a cow ruined the seat of a motorcycle I had foolishly left parked in the pasture, so I jumped out the door and yelled at them to get out of my yard. They moved back a few feet and gave me a look like – who do you think you are? It wasn’t until I picked up a switch and swung it at them that they moved on across the road. I was going to wait until after the weekend to move, but cows and no cell convinced me to hit the road again.
Tonight I am at a campground a few miles north of Gunnison, Colorado. There is no cell signal here either, but I talked with the camp host who told me there is dispersed camping a few miles up the road by a reservoir that has good AT&T cell service. The host and his wife have AT&T phones and have to drive up there to make calls. I will pay to stay here one night and explore the area around the reservoir tomorrow.
I have done some exploring of the area near my camp here at Caddis Flats in Placerville, Colorado. Two days ago I rode 25 miles to Ridgeway and checked out a few forest roads along the way. I found some nice isolated campsites but none of them had any cell signal. I would probably move if I could find a more private spot with all the amenities I look for in a temporary home. This campground is okay but a little to close to the main road.
Yesterday I rode to Telluride. The town reminds me of Jerome, AZ., or Julian, CA. There were lots of stores selling trinkets or souvenirs, and restaurants that I could only guess at their prices. The one gas station just outside town had regular for $3.00/gal. I get the sense that the tourists who come here are not worried about what anything costs.
Telluride, Colorado is famous for a world class ski resort, golf course, and even – I found this kind of amusing – an opera house. I didn’t go to the opera or play golf, but the ski resort runs a gondola to the top of the mountain, and it is totally free. You just walk up and get in the gondola. In the summer, mountain bikers ride the gondolas to the top and ride their bikes down several different trails.
The view from the summit was fantastic. At 10,500 feet, 1800 feet higher than Telluride, you get a splendid panoramic view in all directions. I liked that ride very much.
The only other time I got to ride a ski resort gondola for free was when I was hiking the AT. Killington Mountain in Vermont offered free rides in their gondolas to any thruhikers that showed up. The difference was that we were hiking over the top of the mountain and got to ride down and back up. Both places are happy if you get something to eat in their restaurant. I remember buying snacks at a vending machine on Killington.
I was fascinated to learn that there are four stores in Telluride that sell Marijuana. I guess there is more than riding the gondolas that will get you high on the ski slope. Years ago I would have been too shy to go into a store like that just to look around, but my exploratory nature has made me more bold in the last few years.
The shop was small with a glass display of all the smoking pipes and supplies on one side and a chalkboard with prices above a counter on the other. On a shelf above the counter there were several glass jars of different varieties that customers could choose from depending on how they wanted the drug to make them feel. I talked with the young lady behind the counter for a few minutes, asking about the business and then asked if I could take pictures. She let me take one of the display case but she did not want me to photograph the price blackboard behind the counter.
Today I rode west along the San Miguel River. There were several recreation areas, spaced every few miles along the road, and I stopped at several to see what they offered. I sometimes wish I liked to fish or had a kayak to enjoy on rivers like these.
I did find places where it is legal to prospect for gold, and later in the afternoon I returned with my gold pan and spent about an hour panning beside the river. I found several flecks of gold, but they were so small I washed most of them back into the river. The gold found along this river is mostly tiny grains and hardly worth the time.
I have explored every road north, east, and west of here. After the weekend it will be time to move on.
My camp in the Monti-La Sal National Forest was great. I had pleasant temperatures for the ten days I was there, I had good cell service, it was close enough to town for supplies, and a nearby stream let me do laundry and supply my non-potable water needs. I was isolated enough that hardly anyone came by and there were shade trees that I could sit under in the afternoon. I will definitely remember the spot for future travels.
In the last few days I was there I made several sidetrips on Honda. A ride into the mountains towards Colorado brought me to a display of dinosaur tracks in the rocky ground, another rough, dirt road took me to a historic site where there was a battle between Indians and ranchers, and the day before I left I rode several miles to Gold Canyon at 10,000 feet. I waited until after the weekend, packed Minnie, and headed into Colorado.
It took a lot of packing to get ready to go. I had my screen tent set up and an awning fastened to the side of my rig, plus I had unloaded my motorcycle trailer to use for hauling water. I had really set up a nest for an extended stay. By the time I drove down the mountain and reached Cortez, Colorado, it was early afternoon.
Cortez had everything I needed to equip for my next travel leg. I stocked up on groceries at Walmart, found a laundromat to get everything clean again, dumped tanks, filled my propane, and of course, I had a hamburger at Mcdonalds. After all these chores – the laundromat driers were particularly slow – I finally got back on the road.
I wanted to head over to Mesa Verde National Park but I talked with some people who said the cliff dwelling tours are booked several days in advance. I have been to all the National Parks in Utah and several times to the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks. I decided this trip that rather than fight the crowds at the national parks I would instead explore the national forests that almost always surround the parks. I have found some of the best camping and scenery exploring the back roads of our forests. With that in mind I headed north towards Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Most of the time while looking for a good place to camp, I park Minnie someplace safe and ride the back roads on Honda. For some reason I turned up a side road just past Telluride Ski Resort into the Uncompahgre National Forest. It was a mistake! The road soon narrowed to one lane with a dropoff on one side, threatening slides on the other, and an unstable road bed from days of heavy rains. I pushed on with clenched fingers on the steering wheel and heart pounding, hoping it didn’t get worse before I found a place to turn around. Eventually, the road widened some, and after two miles I found a place to turn around. On the way down I kept meeting SUVs on the way up and we would squeeze by holding our breath. Luckily, I met no one on the very narrow streatch. I don’t want to reach for that much drama ever again.
Right now I’m parked just north of Placerville, Co, at a place called Caddis Flats campground. It is along the San Miguel river on BLM land. I will probably stay here for a few days even though it is a little too close to the road for my taste. At least I have cell and the river out my window is lovely.
Going to get water from a nearby stream with my tanker trailer.
Washing by hand is easy!
It is a very nice camp so I will stay for a while.
Sometimes you get a feeling you should check something. I pulled apart Minnie’s air breather and took out the air filter to find it had been chewed by a rodent. I’m not sure how long Minnie’s engine has been suckling dust through the hole, but it gave me a new perspective on keeping an eye on the engine for invaders. I usually like to sit outside and watch the woodland creatures playing and scurrying around, but when I saw a small chipmunk approaching my van the other day, I picked up a stone and threw it at him.
I left Nevada on Monday and traveled east on US 50. There was hardly any traffic except for a small section where Rt. 50 joined Interstate 15 for a few miles. I like driving the back roads where you can get away from all the traffic and 80 mph speed limits, but the roads are narrower and oncoming vehicles make me flinch with the possibility of distracted drivers.
I spent the night in the Fishlake National Forest a few miles east of Salina, UT. The next day I explored up a road called Gooseberry Canyon and found many camping spots at cooler high elevation. It made me disgusted to see many trailers parked in nice campsites holding spots for weekend campers. You could tell some of them had been there for a long time, like their own private summer home in the mountains. I don’t know why the forest service allows this.
The next day I drove I 70 to just outside Moab, UT and turned up Rt. 128. The road follows the Upper Colorado River through a beautiful scenic gorge with many campgrounds scattered along the river. As I drove the narrow, winding road, hundreds of people in bright yellow rubber rafts floated by on the river. It must be a thriving business. Most of the traffic was vans pulling trailers filled with rubber boats or returning empty to retrieve them.
I was not looking for a pay campsite that had triple digit temperatures like these along the river so I turned up a road into the Manti-la Sal National Forest. On my map I noticed a road that made a big circle up into the forest and I was hoping to find a good campsite.
Out the windshield I could see ahead of me a majestic mountain range that looked like there might be all my qualifications for a good place to stay. It would be high enough to be cool during the day, I might get a cell signal being this close to Moab, there should be roads to explore on Honda, and best of all, be free.
The road up into the mountains was steep and twisty. Honda would have liked it but Minnie did not. I was relieved after 10 miles and several thousands of feet in elevation gain to come upon a campground called Mason Draw. The campground was small, made mostly for people with tents, but it was priced right – $2.50 with senior pass – so I resolved to stay a couple nights. The only spot that was open to the sky for my dish and solar had a sloped driveway that made getting Minnie level impossible. I put down all the boards I had to ramp up the front end but still couldn’t get anywhere near level. I felt like I was living in the crooked little house on the crooked little hill.
The next morning I took Honda on an exploration. The road up into the forest loops over the top and continues down through a beautiful gorge where it eventually comes out on the highway a ways below Moab. The road is aptly named the Loop Road. Where the road curves through the gorge, I saw a sign pointing to an area where it is famous for rock climbing. I followed a gravel road that branched off and climbed high up the mountain to another campground, but the road was too rough to think of taking Minnie up there. Eventually I found a secluded spot only a half mile from the Loop Road that had good cell signal, level parking, and was free. Even though I had paid for another day in the campground, I drove back and moved here for the weekend.
After spending 10 days camped in the Dixie National Forest in Utah, I packed up and headed for Great Basin National Park, located just inside the eastern border of Nevada. The Park was not far from the circular route of my summer plans this year so I decided to check it out and spend a couple days exploring the area. The weather this summer has been especially hot, and my travels landed me at Great Basin National Park in the middle of steamy July. Fortunately, there are mountains in Nevada where one can camp at such an altitude as to get some relief from the heat of summer.
Almost the entire state of Nevada lies within a land mass known as the Great Basin. It is bounded in the east by the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and on the west by the Sierra Nevada range. What little moisture that falls from summer storms or melts from snow that accumulates in the mountain ranges, never reaches any ocean. The rivers run to the dry desert interior where it evaporates or sinks into the ground. A small portion of the Great Basin was set aside as a National Park by Congress in 1986.
There are two cool things to do in Great Basin National Park. The first is Lehman Cave, a cute underground cavern where visitors can sign up for an hour-long guided tour. The Ranger was very knowledgeable and I enjoyed looking at all the formations and learning of the history of early explorers to the cave.
There is also a scenic 12 mile highway up Wheeler Peak to 10,000 feet. Honda liked climbing that steep, curvy road very much. It was 50 degrees in the cave and pretty comfortable up on the mountain, so the cave tour and the mountain ride were welcome diversion from the heat.
There is a campground near the top of the mountain called Wheeler Peak. The day I rode up there – not even a weekend – every site was occupied. Many visitors were seeking the cooler temperature of the high mountain.
I stayed two nights in the lower park campground called Baker Creek. Even though the Baker Creek campground was at 7700′, it was still hot during the day. When it would become uncomfortable in camp I would jump on Honda and explore the area. I found a few boondocking sites along Rt. 50 but nothing had any cell service. It is such a remote National Park – 70 miles from the nearest decent town and nowhere even close to an Interstate – that cell towers are few and far between.
On Friday I moved to a campground in the Humboldt National Forest, twenty miles north of Ely, NV. It is a nice campground but the road in was very rough and there is no cell signal. I will stay here until Monday and then head back into Utah. As I cross Utah on my way to Colorado, I hope to find a couple cool places to camp.
My sister Donna drove her motorhome to Flagstaff a few days ago and camped three days with me in the Coconino National Forest. While she was there we rode on Honda up to Lowell Observatory and took a guided tour of the restored original telescope. It was quite interesting but we both agreed the tour guide was a little too talkative. He told us detailed history of the Lowell family way back to the 1600’s. He also talked way to much about how the observatory was run on donations, and how much he would appreciate it if we could leave some money in the box on our way out. We figured the price we paid for admission was a little high and we had donated enough. We didn’t stay too long because we were both hungry and we worried that Hanna would be hot in Donna’s motorhome.
We stopped at Wendy’s for a baked potato and then headed back to our camp. It was still cool in Donna’s motorhome so Hanna was fine.
On Sunday we drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping briefly at Marble Canyon and waving hello to the Vermillion Cliffs as we drove by. The temperature through there was brutal so we made tracks to the high country of the North Kaibab National Forest as quick as we could.
The worst part of the drive was the wind. I would never intentionally drive in wind as bad as we saw today. Both our rigs are pretty high-profile and the gusts knocked us around all the way here. The last part of the drive was directly into the wind and I’m sure my gas mileage was cut in half. We were both exhausted by the time we found our campsite and could finally relax.
We are only a few miles from the National Park entrance so Honda will take us the rest of the way in. While we were camping in Flagstaff, we ran into a couple that I had met before in Quartzsite. They had planned to meet us here at the North Rim but so far we can’t find them. There is no cell service here.
When we arrived at our little campsite here in the Kaibab and set up camp, Donna remarked, “No wonder you don’t want to break camp and move every day. You have a lot of stuff to set up!”
She is right. After I find my parking spot I have to get out and assemble my satellite dish, wire and aim it, then carry my solar panels out and run the wires, weight everything down with rocks so they don’t blow away, hook up my propane extend-a-tank, and finally unload my motorcycle. After that I can start working on the inside. She sets out her rug and chair and is pretty much done.
We did meet up with our friends at the Canyon and they joined us for two days at our camp. Buffalo hunting season starts on Friday so it was time to get out of here and head north. Next stop Bryce Canyon National Park.
Flagstaff has a few interesting tourist sites in and around the city. I have been to most of them on past visits but I find there are reasons to see them again. First of all, the places are fun to experience again, and secondly, I am building my trust back in Honda as I ride all over the area. And so when Richard suggested we meet up and ride to Walnut Canyon National Monument, I was happy to agree.
We decided to meet at Del Taco, have lunch, and then ride a back road the few miles to Walnut Canyon. It was only about 10 miles for me to our meeting place, but Richard and Dianna had a long trip from their home. We had a nice lunch and then headed down historic Route 66 going east out of town.
Route 66 parallels Interstate 40, and because it is not a main route anymore, understandably gets less attention from the maintenance crews. The road was very rough in places where the blacktop was broken and chipped. I was following Richard and Dianna down the highway when all of a sudden I saw them hit a particularly bad hole in the pavement. Richard’s travel mug bounced out of its holder and hit the road with a burst of liquid and flying parts. We came to a quick stop, parked along the road , and searched for several minutes for the missing lid. Richard finally located the lid up a bank and fit the damaged but usable pieces back together. We took it a little slower the rest of the way.
Walnut Canyon is a preserved site of ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings. The canyon is littered with dozens of stone structures built hundreds of years ago under the natural eroded cliffs. The park service maintains a walkway down 240 steps to a circular path where visitors can see close up the places the Indians lived. It is quite interesting to imagine what it would be like to live the way they did.
The problem with 240 steps down is that they must be climbed again to return to the visitors center. The afternoon was hot and I had forgotten to bring my water bottle. We all were feeling pooped by the time we reached the top. We spent a few minutes looking at the displays in the visitors center and then rode back into town for ice cream. It rained on us briefly on our way back but it actually felt good. We skipped Rt. 66 on our return and rode the busy but smooth Interstate highway.
It was a fun afternoon. Good times!
You never know what you’ll find while out walking in the woods. The other day I discovered an abandoned, family dump area only a few hundred yards from my camp that held the remains of discarded metal parts and tin cans. A lot of the trash was remains of some broken appliance or car part, but most of it was tin cans of the beverage type with two triangular holes punctured in the top (the sight of these always takes me back to another time.)
Probably the only thing that will recycle this boat is fire, but the forest is slowly swallowing up the rest of the trash pile, covering the metal with falling needles and rusting away the once treasured life of the object, and in a few more decades nothing visible will remain. It always makes me think of the answer an archeologist gave when asked how we know so much about past civilization. That answer he gave was: “We dig through their trash.”
When we lived on the farm we had a place back in the woods where all the trash was dumped. Every few weeks we would load up the wagon with discarded cans, bottles, broken plates, and useless trash that wouldn’t burn, and carry it back to a corner of the property and toss it over a bank. In the woods the trash was mostly out of sight and definitely out of mind. It is what all farmers did and probably do today.
I am camped in the Coconino National Forest just west of Flagstaff, AZ. I have my motorcycle back now and it seems to be running fine. After all this time waiting for it to be fixed it turns out that the main problem was just a faulty ignition switch. The good news is that the repairs were all covered by the warranty. The bad new is that this long wait has interrupted my plans for the summer and caused me to rethink what I will do.
It has been quite hot here in Flagstaff this week. The temperature has climbed into the 90’s each day and I would like to find a place a few degrees cooler. I will probably limit my travels this summer to the four states connected at a common point. There are lots of places in Colorado and New Mexico I have not seen, and I’m sure I can find interesting and temperate places to camp. I had planned on doing a lot of traveling this summer, but I have changed my mind. Even though the price of fuel is low, putting gas in this motorhome can quickly eat through my budget.
It all started a few years ago when Daryl and I backpacked to the bottom of Grand Canyon. It was then that I realized this trail through the Canyon was part of the famous Arizona Trail, a continous footpath running 800 miles across Arizona from the Huachuca Mountains on the border of Mexico to the Kaibab Plateau in Utah. I remember thinking then that it would be neat to hike the whole thing.
Since our hike of the Grand Canyon, I have completed about 450 miles of the AZT and Daryl has joined me for the last 100 miles of the trail. I’m not sure if I will ever complete the whole thing but having Daryl to hike with has made it a lot easier to keep going.
Because of the fires in Arizona, the blistering weather, and availability of shuttles from Richard, we have had to skip around a bit. This weekend we hiked a 33 mile section that goes from below Mormon Lake to a few miles south of Flagstaff. Except for a few hills, the terrain was fairly level, and we had little trouble finding good water along the way.
We spent the first night at a forest campground that was quite expensive but reasonable when we factored in my senior pass and split the bill. It was nice to have a picnic table for meals, water that we didn’t have to filter, and a flush toilet.
The second night we stayed beside a pretty meadow with a spring just a hundred yards down a side trail. During the night an elk came close to our tents and bugled a few times to make sure we were awake.
Because of long mileage on the second day, the third day was short and we arrived back at our car by 10:00 am. I think we were smart to wake each day at 5 am and get an early start before it got hot. Most of the trail was in pine forest, but by mid day the sun would find its way through the branches, looking for skin we missed when applying sunscreen.
I felt good on this hike. We both had some tender feet from the rocky trail on the first day and I was attacked by malicious mosquitos on the second morning, leaving me scratching my legs throughout the day. But we both had a good appetites and even slept well through the night. And even though I understand the physics behind it, it always amazes me what a temperature swing there is in an Arizona night. When you crawl in your tent at bedtime, it is too warm to do anything but lay atop your sleeping bag, and through the night you gradually bundle inside the bag until the chill of morning makes you reluctant to even crawl out.
I think they have finally fixed my motorcycle and I will make a mad dash into town to pick it up next week. Phoenix is expecting temperatures close to 120 degrees this weekend so I don’t want to tarry long in town. I’m not sure of my plans for this summer but I will definitely look for cooler weather.
Over this last weekend Daryl and I did a 36 mile, backpacking hike on the Arizona trail. It turned out to be quite challenging for me. My knee has been feeling strong with very little pain, and so I though a weekend hike would be a fairly easy trek. What I underestimated was the strenuous terrain of the trail, the sad fact I’m quite out of shape, and I hate to admit it but I’m getting older.
I’m still waiting for my motorcycle to be fixed. The good news is that they think they know what the problem is, ordered the parts, and should have it fixed by the end of this week. With all this waiting in Arizona, Daryl and I decided to hike a section of the Arizona Trail from Pine Trailhead to Blue Ridge Ranger Station where Richard and Dianna would shuttle us back to our vehicles.
Daryl met me at the trailhead in the afternoon on Thursday and we hiked less than 5 miles to a place called Bear Springs. We found the tank below the spring empty but we were able to walk up the soggy grass above the trail, dig a hole, let the water run until it was clear, and filter enough for the night. I was already tired and lacked an appetite but I managed to eat part of a Mountain House dinner. We were in bed at dark and I slept hardly at all.
The next day we walked 12 miles to to the base of the Mogollon Rim to a place called Washington Park Trailhead. With very little sleep the night before and the constant climbing over hills and through ravines, I basically “hit a wall” when we arrived there. We filtered water from the East Verde and picked out a place to camp that was not great but worked for the night. I had just enough room to set up my tent and Daryl cowboy camped under the stars. I ate very little and was in bed at 7pm.
The next morning I felt somewhat better after a good nights sleep and we set off to climb what seemed like a 60 degree slope for two miles. The two good things about climbing to the top of the rim were the facts that only about a mile was rediculously steep and the wind was blowing hurricane force at our backs, helping us along.
The winds had been strong for several days but nothing compared to the way it howled on the face of the rim. Once we crested the top and hiked back into the Ponderoda Pine forest, the wind still gusted but the trees blocked much of it.
Through the forest the walking was fairly easy. A lot of the path was level and the pines had laid down a carpet of soft needles for us to walk on. We made camp Saturday night in a steep valley called Clear Creek. There was no water where the trail crossed so we explored up the riverbed until Daryl found a small pool at the edge of the gravel. The pool was full of polliwogs, but we filtered them out and the water tasted surprisingly good.
We made camp on a grassy shelf by the riverbed, Daryl used his satellite phone to let family know we were okay and our ETA. We ate a good dinner and were in bed before dark.
Sunday on the AZT gave us only one climb out of the canyon. We took our time knowing we would reach Richard and Dianna midday. The trail was good and we arrived at their home before noon.
I had a good time even though it was tough. Except for the constant wind the weather was great. We had to wear a jacket in the morning but as soon as we started hiking a t-shirt and shorts were our attire. We met one thruhiker. A lady named Anne who we caught early on the third day. We also met a man that rode his bike from Ajo and pushed it up the rim.
Thanks to Richard and Dianna for a welcome shower, a delicious lunch, and a generous shuttle back to our vehicles. They have always been my “Trail Angels” for hiking the AZT.
I will hang out up here in the high country till this weekend and then drive down to Mom’s birthday party. Then I’m hoping my Honda will be ready to travel new places and find more adventure.