Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

Hot and Muggy

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

I have been camping in the Allegheny National Forest for the last few days. I found a road that goes to an oil well where I have occasional cell service and a clear view of the southern sky to point my satellite dish. There are a few trees that block the sun for part of the day and the sky has been filled with puffy clouds all week, so leaves and weather have been quite a challenge for my solar panel.

I’m really not sure if I’m allowed to park on this road. I’m pretty sure it belongs to the oil company that pays a lease to the government for the mineral rights. But they may not care. I have been gone every day and expect to see a note on my van if they want me to move. There are a lot of nice sites I found along a forest road near here but they are deep in the trees where I would lose cell, solar, and tv.
One time when I was parked in a state forest a few weeks ago, a man pulled up in front of my campsite and shouted, “Is that a Direct TV dish? That’s not camping!!!” It is futile to try to explain to someone that I live in a van part of the year, so I just smiled.

Most of you will remember a few years ago when Karen and I hiked the North Country Trail through the Allegheny National Forest. I rode my motorcycle back to the campground where we spent our last night on the trail and thought about the great times we had together. There was still a short 3 mile section from the parking area where we ended our hike to the border of the National Forest, so just to make our hike of crossing the whole thing official, I set out this morning to finish the last piece.

I rode my motorcycle to the parking area and found the trail near a shelter in the woods. The weather was typical for this time of year – hot and humid! The rocks on the path were wet with humidity, almost like it had just rained, and the mosquitos and biting flies were out in force. The trail followed the Salmon River for about a half mile and then turned up a steep hill with switchbacks. Once on top of the hill the trail was fairly leval, broken only by a couple of streams and two forest roads. Towards the end of the trail it became very marshy and I hopped about the mossy humps trying to keep my feet dry. The weeds had overtaken much of the path through the swamp, also.

Soon I came to the boundary marker and turned around. The sky grew dark and threatened rain but held off until I made it back out. It was so muggy that I wished it would rain. I was completely soaked anyway.

Back East

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

The speed limit on major highways in most of the western states is 75. The police will usually give you 5 to 8 mph over before they ticket you. I would think 83 is fast enough, but apparently not. Oklahoma had many State Troopers working the roads, giving out lots of tickets. It never affected me as I travel well below the limit, but I had another reason to be glad when I crossed into Missouri – the end of Oklahoma turnpike toll roads.

I found a little RV park outside St Louis. There was a shower that was welcome after two days of scorching heat, and I thought I could set up my satellite dish to watch TV. All the sites they had available were under trees, so no TV. It was a cool night anyway and I slept well.

The next morning I crossed the Mississippi and immediately regretted not filling up with gas in Missouri. Illinois charges $.50 more per gallon.

My grandson, Nate, attends Antioch College in the little town of Yellow Springs just a few miles south of Dayton, OH. As long as I was going by so close I texted him to see if he was free to meet with me. He was!

I stayed at a state park only 3 miles from his school and we got together Friday evening to walk around the “hippy” town of Yellow Springs and eat at a local restaurant. The next morning Nate gave me a tour of his campus and then we went for a short hike into a scenic glen. It was a good time. I’m glad I stopped to see him.

I will be at Karen’s for a few days. She is going on vacation for a week and needs me to stay with Noah and take care of a few chores while she is gone. Then I will head to New York to see Jenny and family, Dave, Lisa, and a new Granddaughter.


Friday, June 6th, 2014

June 3, 2014

When I pulled out of town at 7 am it was already in the 80’s. My van was not running well so I left the A/C off hoping to spare the engine any additional work. I usually don’t mind the heat as long as I can feel a breeze and let my sweat work as a natural evapoative cooler, but 100 degrees got to be a bit much. It wasn’t long, however, before the altitude of the Mogollon Rim gave me some relief.

Once on the Rim it was a straight shot to I40 and then an uneventful drive into New Mexico. I stopped for the night at a Walmart just outside Albuquerque, partly because I didn’t want to tackle the rush-hour traffic, but mostly because I was tired of driving.

It is not a recommended activity to sleep in a vehicle when temperatures are flirting with triple-digit numbers, but I like a challenge. My plan was to hang out in the store until the sun went down and then eat a slow hamburger at McDonalds until the air reached a more tropical degree. I can say that I slept well, but all the windows were open for the better part of the night, inviting any serial killers in the area full access to my home. There was a nice breeze in the night that helped too.

The next day I drove almost to Oklahoma City. I used my A/C part of the time. There was a strong wind blowing from the west, giving me exceptional gas mileage and actually helping the van run better. A good tail wind is the only wind I want with my top heavy rig.

As I drove Interstate 40 I noticed a strange phenomenon with my A/C. When I went up a hill the engine would start to miss and at the same time the climate control would change from blowing out the dash vent to blowing out the floor ducts. For the longest time I thought it was a coincidence but then deduced it was related. The vent uses vacuum to change and hold the selector so I may have a vacuum leak that is causing the engine to run rough when there is a load such as going up a hill.

I parked at another Walmart for the night. I checked out a State park but it was too expensive. It had a nice pool and various hiking trails but all I wanted was a place to park. I didn’t sleep as well the second night and awoke with a headache in the morning. It would be the last night I would have to bare such heat as Missouri finally gave me nice weather.

….to be continued

Room With A View

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Last week I drove north into the Coconino National Forest to visit Richard and Dianna where they are volunteering at the Blue Ridge Ranger Station. Dianna has been in Texas helping Dayna start a new business so I won’t get to see her until next week.

It was good to get out of the heat of Mesa but I didn’t expect it to be quite so cold only two hours from the Valley. Once I climbed the Mogollon Rim and gained a few thousand feet in elevation, the temperature dropped from the 90’s into the 70’s. That would have been fine except that twice last week a cold front came through, bringing cold winds, morning and evening temperatures in the 30’s, and even snow on the ground one morning. Even though there have been some cool days, it is nice to get back into the forest. I can only take so much desert.

Richard and I had fun riding our two-wheel toys around the area. The first night we rode ten miles to Long Valley where Richard treated me to an AYCE fish dinner at the local diner. It was really good! I was afraid we would be eating things like canned food and TV dinners while Dianna was away but we put our heads together, shared our food, and made some good meals. And we even cooked and ate vegetables, Dianna!

While Richard was at work and the weather was warm enough, I would hike and explore on my motorcycle. I found some beautiful camping spots on some of the back roads. It would be nice to come back and boondock out in the forest the next time I’m out this way, but the major drawback is that there is no ATT cell service anywhere near here. I have been in lots of areas where I can’t get a signal but it is one of the plusses I look for for extended camping spots.

On one day we hiked a few miles on the Arizona Trail. We found a parking lot on a back road about five miles from the ranger station and placed one vehicle there. Then we hiked back to our home base where I hopped on my bike and retrieved the van. It was a pretty hike through nice forest with good trail.

Richard should write a blog about his work up here. It is really quite interesting to those of us who have little knowledge of how the forest service works. I was surprised at the complexity and work it takes to administer and care for our national forests. I won’t go into detail about the projects he has been involved in in hopes he will tell you himself.

Yesterday I left the ranger station volunteer parking area and drove to the Apache- Sitgreaves NF. I have been parked by R&Ds trailer with an extension cord running to their pole, enjoying my electric heater and water from the tap, but I wanted to check out some camping places east of Payson on the Mogollon Rim. We both drove down to Payson, got our fast-food fix at McDonalds, did some grocery shopping, said “see you in a week”, and drove seperate ways.

There is a road that cuts along the top of the Mogollon Rim – not surprisingly called the Rim Road – with several developed, free campsites. Right now it seems I am camped on top of the world. Only 25 feet from the edge of a thousand foot ledge it is truly a room with a view. I have good cell and the view is amazing but the wind today has been cold so I have been inside a lot. Sometimes it is good to stay inside and write something.


Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

For me the hardest part of writing a blog post is getting started. It has been a long time since I’ve chronicled my wanderings here, but most of my excuses are in some form of procrastination.

I had a wonderful Christmas. Karen invited me to join her and Noah for a week of fun and adventure at her time-share in Sedona, AZ, giving me one of the best presents I have ever had. We hiked all over the gorgeous hills and valleys, climbed cliffs of rock, took a Jeep tour to Native American ruins, played miniature golf, and joined tourists at shops in town. It was a great time and the best part was being with those you love.

Home base for the last two holiday seasons has been Mesa, AZ. I really enjoy seeing my Mom and spending precious time with her, and I thank Donna and Daryl so much for all they do for me. They have all opened their hearts and homes, giving me joy that is worth more than anything else in this world.

The year 2014 arrived along with my big brother and his wife on their yearly migration to the southwest. I always look forward to Richard and Dianna coming to Arizona where we can spend time together at our favorite winter locations. Right now we are boondocking near Quartzsite, AZ. The big tent and RV show in town has created an influx of mobile dwellers, turning the surrounding desert into a suburb of motorhome and trailer mania. Everywhere you look in every area surrounding Quartzsite, hundreds of RV’s dot the landscape in every direction.

Today we are headed to Yuma, AZ., where we will probably stay for a couple of weeks. Yuma has a lot going for it. The nights here in Quartzsite are still chilly and Yuma is a few degrees warmer. The city has everything you need so supplies are only a short distance away, combine the weather, Walmarts, Home Depot, good cell service and TV, and its not hard to see why so many Snowbirds call Yuma home in the winter.

2014-01-21 07.29.07

Eighty degrees today and a sunrise like this.