Lake Havasu Love

Seems like we’ve had an entire week of doing nothing – but don’t think I’m complaining. Not so. But, we’ve been living in near-luxury at Lake Havasu State Park (AZ), in a site with both electric AND water, plus neighbors at arm’s length. Such luxury does bring out the sloth in us both.20180111_144759.jpgWe did get a good start though with a hike through SARA’s Crack,  (also called Crack in the Mountain). We were anxious to complete this hike through a slot canyon, after being thwarted on an attempt two or three years ago, when we were here the first time. At that time, we had Jezzy with us, and some of the elevation changes and narrow spaces were just too much for her to navigate, and we were forced to abort. Jezzy stayed home this time, and we negotiated the modest slot canyon easily.20180108_121226.jpg20180108_120755.jpgAlthough most of the hike consisted of walking down a pretty boring wash at the bottom of the canyon, it was fun to clamber through the slot. The best part, though, was the turnaround spot at the end, where we ran into Lake Havasu. Can you imagine a more perfect picnic spot?20180108_115250.jpg 20180108_115506.jpgThis site is maintained by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) for boaters, who may want to camp overnight. Plenty of room to pitch a tent, plus a pit toilet, and trash baskets.  Worth any amount of effort to get there. We took the long way back, so we could pass the Lizard Geoglyph, a fun (but hardly historical) hiker-made rock formation. It’s difficult to see, but use your imagination to see the giant lizard.20180108_140837.jpgCycling around Lake Havasu is easy – it’s mostly flat, the Lake is pretty, and there are a number of historic lighthouse replicas nearby to keep things interesting. We visited most of these before, but they are always fun to see and photograph.20180109_120856.jpg20180110_164747.jpgPlus, Lake Havasu is the home of the historic London Bridge, which was dismantled and reassembled here. Its serene presence rules the the area. 20180110_114105.jpgWhile we were at Lake Havasu, we made an unexpected, but most fun connection with someone whose blog I have read and admired for a long time. Ingrid and Al are full-timer RVers. In addition, Ingrid is an incredible photographer – the link above is to some of her Texas posts, which are probably my favorites. After seeing my last post about heading to Havasu, she sent me a note stating that they were also in Havasu, and how about Happy Hour? So happy that she took the chance in contacting me – we four had fun swapping favorite camping sites and discussing future plans. P1020088.jpgIf you enjoy beautiful photography, check out her blog.

We had one more blast from the past today while visiting Buses by the Bridge, and annual VW Camper Fest (hippie blast). If you have ever lusted about hitting the road in a WV bus, this is the group for you. Part flea market, part hippie, part wannabe, and mostly pure fun. Buses, some perfectly restored, and others held together with spit and baling wire, have traveled for miles to get here “14 hours from Albuquerque at 35mph”. We watched one guy get towed in on a flatbed AAA wrecker, and jump out of the cab like he had won the Indy 500. Lotsa love here. Creativity abounds. I’ll close with photos. These folks are here for the weekend, and it’s gonna be a party!20180111_144410.jpg 20180111_144114.jpg20180111_123447.jpg20180111_121949.jpg20180111_115940.jpg20180111_121549.jpg20180111_144856.jpgPeace and love. We are off into the wilderness again tomorrow.

Onward

It’s been a week. That’s putting it mildly.

Most importantly, Jezzy is doing well. Before we left Las Vegas, we returned to the Vet, and he removed the drain from her eye socket, which must have been extremely uncomfortable for her. We also ditched the rigid plastic Cone in favor of a Boo-Balloon, which is an inflatable collar.wp-1491537425604.jpg It keeps her from digging at her face with her feet, but lets her navigate a bit better, because she can actually see where she’s going. It also enabled us to hit the road in the Fireball. She would not have been able to turn around wearing the Cone, as the diameter was at least as wide as the available floor space. Anyway, it’s going well. Her stitches come out Monday (writing this Thursday). Sister Gail has a friend in Payson who is a steadfast volunteer with the Humane Society. She’s arranged for a Vet Tech to remove Jezzy’s stitches. I love this option, since Jezzy came to me via the Humane Society in Michigan. Wonderful folks. Great organization. We are anxious to try to put this horrible incident behind us. She felt well enough the last night to help John with his NY Times crossword puzzle. That’s got to be a good sign.wp-1491536344772.jpgOur usual leisurely travel schedule was tossed aside, since we had only two days to make a reservation that we had planned for a five day trip. So, we relaxed for one night at Burro Creek Campground, a gorgeous pull-off spot near Wikieup, AZ. wp-1491536696137.jpgThis beautiful quiet canyon was the perfect spot for our first night back on the road.

Yavapai Campground in Prescott, AZ is one of our very favorite spots to camp. We’ve been there four times in the five years we’ve had the Fireball. Sadly, our four night stay was condensed into one night, and what a night it was! We went from warm sunshine to clouds, wind, sleet, snow, then back to rain. All in about an hour, and all during the time John was outside trying to grill dinner. It was wild! We had enough time in the morning for a quick hike with Jezzy before heading to Cottonwood, AZ and a three night stay at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

This park has a crazy variety of sites. Our loop had a few stunted trees and small sites, but was more expensive than the larger, unprotected sites up on the hill. wp-1491536574188.jpgI guess that’s because this IS Arizona, after all, and summer must be beastly here. The Park is immaculate, and has hiking, biking, horse trails everywhere. It’s a place we certainly will revisit. One benfit to having a tree onsite is that it gives us a spot to hang a cooking light. (It was grilled pizza night!)wp-1491535722709.jpgOur first day, we cycled around a bit, and visited the Tuzigoot National Monument, a pueblo built by the people of the Sinagua culture between 1000 and 1400. wp-1491536506592.jpgwp-1491536438946.jpgwp-1491536373197.jpgLike many of the other Arizona pueblo societies, it seems to have dissapated around 1300, due perhaps to climate change, which made farming unsustainable. The Visitor Center was well done, and featured some huge pottery vessels.wp-1491536470019.jpg The site was excavated by unemployed miners under the supervision of college archeology students in the 1930s. That remarkable achievement alone makes it worthy of a visit.

On Day 2, we hopped back in the truck and went back to explore the old mining/new hippie community of Jerome. During peak copper mining years, Jerome sported a population of about 15,000, which dwindled to about 1000 in the 1950s, and then finally down to about 50 inhabitants when it was declared a Ghost Town. That’s when the hippies discovered it, rehabbed many of the buildings, and set about making it a vibrant tourist spot. It’s a quirky place – old mining culture meets wine tastings.

We enjoyed wandering around for several hours. Jerome looks like it’s about to tumble off the mountainside at any moment, and a few churches (and the jail) have indeed been relocated by landslides.wp-1491536136999.jpgwp-1491536101472.jpgwp-1491507902281.jpgwp-1491507858594.jpgwp-1491507709606.jpg wp-1491536282397.jpgMy mediocre photos aren’t really representative of all the unusual sights here. The sun was high and hot. Too bright to get any kind of decent shot. But, there’s lots to see here, and plenty of places to poke around and spend money (we refrained). The Historical Society Museum is well worth a visit – it’s full of tidbits about prostitution, medical care, education, and the like. It’s the best $1 we spent all day.

Tomorrow (Friday) morning, we leave our civilized campsite at the State Park, and head back off into the Coconino National Forest for several days of camping. We are hoping to regain some of our happy camping vibe, and are optimistic that Jezzy will perk up after Monday, once she no longer has to drag her inflatable collar along. We need our happy girl back, and are pretty sure we can coax Jezzy into being our laid-back camping buddy again.

Thank you for reading, and for all the kind thoughts you’ve passed along during this very stressful time. John and I really appreciate your comments.

City Life

March has been a crazy month – after leaving our cushy mountain cabin, we immediately headed out into the desert. But, all along, we were pushing toward three days in Yuma, where we planned to meet up with Caite and Glenn, Texas full-timers we had met in Austin a few years ago, and with whom we have kept in touch (blogs make that so easy…). It was great to catch up with them, trade camping stories, and see their brand-new, deluxe truck camper. Oh yeah, I have camper envy – Big Time! They have a great system going.

Yuma is big! Been a long time since we’ve been in a town of nearly 100,000 with all the retail, traffic, and noise that goes along with size. There are acres of RV parks, mostly ‘age-restricted’, which means you have to be 55+ to stay there. Although activities and events abound, I don’t think this would be my first choice of locations – not much hiking, and cycling was tough, due to traffic, and lack of bike lanes. Nevertheless, we had a great time.

Yuma Territorial Prison State Park is one of the premier attractions in the area. We cycled over there – about 25 miles round trip. That was an experience in itself, as Google maps tried to send us down several roads that didn’t exist. We wound up passing through farmlands on dirt roads, primarily used for trucks and tractors. So happy to have our sturdy mountain bikes! Check out this photo from a lettuce farm. There’s a lesson here.20170309_135456.jpgThere are eight tightly packed rows of lettuce separated by a gap on each side. In this photo, there’s a curly green on the left and a dark red on the right. I think this is so that they can harvest the entire eight rows, and that’s your mixed salad bag in the grocery store. I had always assumed that they were grown separately, harvested, and mixed, but seeing the fields has changed my minds on this. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but there’s a definite separation every eight rows. Grow, harvest, wash, bag. Direct to table – no mixing necessary. Genius!

The Territorial Prison was interesting – built in the 1870s, it held nearly over 3000 prisoners (30 of whom were women) until it was closed around 1910. Grim stone cells with iron bars and bunks still stand. It’s amazing that a prison of such size could be supported in the desert all those years. Basically everything used in the prison was made there, and supplies came in via the Colorado River which runs alongside, or by rail. In any case, it was a harsh existence. It was hard to get any decent photos – the bright, harsh sunlight was not my friend. One of the standout features was the guard tower, which was built over the water well, to help prevent evaporation. wp-1489092737493.jpgHere are a few other photos. It was grim.

We tried to wash away the prison taste with a beer at Prison Hill Brewing Company. Happy to report, that was a successful endevour. I was intrigued by their vodka, but wisely refrained from a sample, due to the hot 15 mile ride back to camp.wp-1489092726291.jpgWe did manage one excruciatingly difficult hike in Yuma. Telegraph Hill is the name of the ‘hill’ where all the electronic towers are located. Glenn said it was an “aggressive walk”. OMG! I’ve never been on a steeper road in my life. Here’s the view looking down.wp-1489376836146.jpg The first mile of dirt trail rose a few hundred feet – no big deal. The second mile added about 1000′ of additional altitude, up a busted semi-paved road. It was ridiculous, but the view at the top amazing.wp-1489376850382.jpg We wished that we had started a few hours earlier so that we would have been done before the day really heated up – no shade for the Crankshaws! We roasted.

We were than ready to head toward Coastal California, with its promises of ocean breeze after a few days in Yuma.wp-1489373282778.jpg We love Sweetwater Regional Park, where we’re currently camped. Green grass, shade, and cooler more humid air all seems very welcome. After our last visit a few years ago, we kicked ourselves for not touring the USS Midway Museum, a mothballed WWII-era aircraft carrier which is a permanent museum in San Diego harbor. It’s BIG!wp-1489378194375.jpg The flight deck has planes of all types, including an F-14, helicopters of all varieties, and various other warplanes.20170312_194447.jpg It was quite a contrast to the tiny two-seater open cockpit fighter planes down below which actually were used at the Battle of Midway. The USS Midway, named after the Battle, although it was not a participant, was active from 1945 to 1992 – making it the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century.

I was overwhelmed by the scale and power of war machines. Bombs and torpedos are stacked up everywhere. The Greatest Generation gave everything unquestioningly to the war effort, and there are tens of thousands of heroes. Many vets are volunteers here. At any given time, they are making presentations about aspects of Navy life in WWII and specifically aboard an aircraft carrier. But, I’m done with war museums. They are interesting to see, but depressing as hell. I need to visit a Peace Museum, but I don’t think there are any. Here are a few photos of areas that caught my eye.wp-1489373301193.jpgwp-1489373124090.jpg20170312_194401.jpg20170312_194059.jpgwp-1489372648950.jpg

Another hot hike today in very hot, humid conditions. John and Jezzy turned back about halfway up, as the heat and unrelenting sun were just too much for Jezzy. We should have left her home. I pressed on to Rocky Point, and was rewarded with the flag at the top, and a few great views.wp-1489373240443.jpg Most of the area was covered with a thick blanket of humidity/smog, which made it a challenge to get any photos. It took several hours this morning for the fog to burn off enough for us to venture out on our hike.wp-1489373259766.jpgMonday is our last day here, and we plan to cycle into San Diego again, and take the ferry to Coronado Island to explore a bit. Cycling here is a blast – trails and bike lanes are everywhere. We’re happy not to have to drive/park in the Big City. We’re much better off on two wheels

Something I forgot

Take a look at this weird thing, which was located near the Visitor Center at Organ Pipe. I asked a Ranger what it was, and she remarked that she’d never even seen it. Looks like some kind of seismic measuring device? Can anyone shed some light on this?

Dusty Arizona

It feels great to be rolling along in the Fireball again, although we are already (after only a week) missing the creature comforts of a real shower, big bed, and room to stretch. Not to mention several choices of radio stations. Anyway….

After a one-night shakedown in Tucson to make sure water, electrical and other systemsare all working, we headed to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) for two nights of total solitude.wp-1488674925400.jpgThere were probably other campers hidden around the area, but we sure didn’t see any. Total darkness at night, and absolute silence, other than the gangs of coyotes which roam the area. It’s spectacular camping, as long as you can put up with having no water, no electricity, and burying your own poop in the desert.  We’re good with that.img_0474The huge network of gravel roads and two-track made it a certainty that we would haul out our bikes for a ride. With a rudimentary map, we set off in a northerly direction, having remembered that we rode south the last time we were here. The roads here are a mixture of big gravel, small crushed gravel, hard-packed sandy-rocky surface, and pure sand. What a workout! wp-1488674870538.jpgwp-1488675204323.jpgwp-1488674900022.jpgWe hit about 15 miles of two-track, then rode pavement back to camp. That probably was worse! Endless rollers on tired legs – we were knackered by the time we finally rolled back into camp. This is an absolutely spectacular spot to camp for those who like this kind of thing. I hope that we will always want to return.

One of the most beautiful campgrounds we have discovered is Organ Pipe National Monument, Twin Peaks Campground. Tucked near the Border in SW Arizona, this Park is a true gem. Not only do they have full Ranger talks five nights a week, they also have brief “Patio Talks” three times a day, where Rangers hold brief chats on animals, minerals, weather, and desert vegatation. Free shuttles are available to various hiking points. There’s an amazing staff participation. Hope this is a model for other Park Service areas.

We spent our first full day there on bikes – riding the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Scenic Loop – a twisted maze of gravel washboardy road, with steep uphills and their corresponding downhills – the downhill washboard sections were the WORST – my arms, shoulders, and butt are still vibrating! wp-1488675082887.jpgwp-1488675026155.jpgI ran into a bit of a bother at Teddy Bear Pass, a section of the Scenic Drive which is flooded with Teddy Bear Cholla cactus. Beautiful to see, but treacherous. Of course, I needed one more photo. Before I knew what had happened, I had a cactus stuck to my bike shoe. I tried to stomp it off with my other foot, which also got stuck. Like a dope, I tried to pick them off with my fingers, sticking a few spikes deep into my thumb! Yikes! John, at this point, was far down the road. I pulled as many of the spikes out of my shoe as possible, but here’s the result I had to ride with for the rest of the way home. (I’ve had better rides.)wp-1488675103724.jpgThis is what a Teddy Bear looks like – beware. They are NOT your cuddly friends.20170306_000102.jpgAnother day at Organ Pipe was spent on a long hike through the only small area in the US to have the Senita Cactus as a local resident. Frankly, it’s very hard to tell the difference between the Senita and the Organ Pipe. But, in either case, they tower over the landscape with their elegance. Organ Pipes can have up to 100 arms. wp-1488947257059.jpgSeveral in the campground are enormous. What I find curious is the woody structure which is only visible when the cactus is dying or dead.wp-1488675158691.jpg To look at it otherwise, you’d think that it had just fleshy appendages, not any real structure. The same applies to the elegant saguaro.20170307_213500.jpgSaguaro skeletons are sometimes available for purchase for landscape decorations. But, each much be tagged and certified by the DNR. You certainly don’t want to be caught with a unregistered saguaro – alive or dead. Penalties are very steep. Along the trail, we passed this gigantic specimen. It must be one of the largest in diameter we have seen.wp-1488846603843.jpgSome cholla varieties also have interesting skeletons.wp-1488675150647.jpgOn our hike, we stopped for lunch at an abandoned mine. It’s always interesting to contemplate life as it must have been in these tough times.wp-1488846620515.jpgDesert beauty is everywhere here. Although I don’t think I would want to live in Arizona year-round, it sure is a gorgeous place for visit when the skies and blue and the temperature is moderate. There is a lot to enjoy here.20170307_214557.jpgwp-1488783563348.jpgwp-1488675096130.jpgwp-1488675082887.jpg