Wow – what a week! Back in the swing of our regular camping routine, we are happy campers.
First of all – the new axle installation went swimmingly. The Fireball is now sitting proudly upon a Dexter axle, new bearings, and two new tires. The necessity for new bearings was unexpected, but Professional Trailer Repair noticed that one of the existing ones was slightly burned(!) so they replaced them. The Fireball sits higher (good, because we had very low ground clearance), travels smoothly, and it appears that we are getting a bit better gas mileage with the new setup. We are very pleased. Hope this is the last you will all hear of the Campshaws and axle issues.
While the Fireball was in the shop, we took the opportunity to explore Mt. Lemmon, the highest peak in Tucson. Weeks of mile weather enabled us to drive all the way to the top, where we found most of the snow already melted. On the way back down from the 9100′ peak, we stopped to enjoy some of the fabulous views.Even on a Monday, there were dozens of cyclists making the 26 mile trek to the summit. This is not a climb for the faint of heart – even in a car, it’s a heart-pounding ascent. I’m not sure if I could do it on a bike – even on my very best day.
That night was spent with our camping pals Vern and Ilene in their new Phoenix home. After stuffing ourselves with beer and seafood (and sleeping in REAL bed for the first time in months!), we headed out Wednesday morning for Yavapai Campground in the Prescott National Forest. This is the third time we’ve stayed there – it’s my favorite of all the NF campgrounds we’ve visited – clean, cool, quiet, AND composting toilets!The same campground host we’ve seen for the past years greeted us again.
Our quest for this year was to complete the hike to the top of Granite Mountain. Two years ago, when we attempted this hike, we were turned back by the first (and only) rattlesnake we have ever encountered while hiking. Believe me, that experience was on my mind – I was jumpy! But, we made the 12 mile hike like a couple of pros – it was gorgeous. Near the peak, all the trees were blackened stumps from a fire. It’s sobering to see, especially in light of the fact that 19 firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots had been killed fighting a fire in Yarnell, AZ in June 2014.There is so much beauty in this area – we’ve decided to come back again next year and stay for a week. A few days just isn’t long enough to check everything out.
After two cool days, the memory of the hot Sonoran Desert of Green Valley faded a bit. So, we decided to tempt fate and head to the Hole in the Wall campground in the Mojave National Preserve. Two deserts that nearly connect to each other could not be more different.
The Sonoran Desert is alive with greenery – many cactus species, Palo Verde trees, and plenty of groundcover to give it a rather lush desert appearance. In comparison, the Mojave is stark and bare – other than the yucca, which were just beginning to bloom, nothing seems to grow higher than a foot or two. It’s quite a contrast. This little Beavertail cactus had plenty of small blooms. We camped at the Hole in the Wall campground, which refers not to its size, but to a gap in the mountains which border the campground. At just over 5000′ feet in elevation, it was cool and decidedly non-deserty. We even had 50mph winds and rain – go figure. But, what a beautiful spot for the Fireball…Naturally, our first stop was to the Visitor Center. We love seeing the National Park films, and this one had a fun twist. One of the Rangers there had a young pit bull who was enchanted with the animals in the film. When the desert tortoise first appeared on the screen, she hustled over and sat, transfixed and quivering, directly in front of the screen. Lizards, turtles, and all the little desert denizens had her full attention. Have to admit that she totally stole my attention away from the film! (This is not exactly Big Screen theater!)Although the Mojave National Preserve covers a huge area, there’s only one marked trail in this section, although free-hiking is permitted. So, the Spencer Loop Trail was our hiking choice for Day 2. We were anxious to hike through the Desert, around Spencer Mountain, and through a Canyon to the Hole in the Wall, where a narrow passageway was scalable only with a series of iron loops embedded in the wall. The film in the VC made it look easy. Ha! I think the folks in the film were professional stuntmen.
The first five miles of the hike were b-o-r-i-n-g! Plodding through scrub desert with a blustery dry wind and 50 degree temps was not my idea of fun. But, all of the sudden, we rounded Spencer Mountain, and entered the canyon. It was eye candy.As promised, we entered the Hole in the Wall, complete with The Rings.It was narrow! John let me scramble ahead so that I could take a video…
As we left the canyon, we were treated to another surprise. Who could find fault with such an interesting day?
Sunday (today) was a travel day. Usually, we avoid traveling the Interstate Highways, although sometimes, you just want to get there – you know? So, we hit I-40 toward Bakersfield CA for a one-night stand. We hit the most incredible, awful weather along the way – super high winds and dust storms. I was driving, and it was white-knuckle all the way, until we finally stopped just west of Barstow. This photo doesn’t really show it, but this elderly couple was really struggling walking into the howling wind to the rest stop restroom. The mountains in the background are totally obliterated by the swirling dust. Then suddenly, everything gives way to an amazing lush green landscape. Tomorrow we roll on to the California coast, where we’ll wander for the next four weeks until we reach the Redwoods in Eureka. New adventures to come.