Keeping It Simple

After a week of nearly perfect camping in Prescott (AZ), we’ve had plenty of time to reflect on why camping makes us happy, and what it is about camping that we really like.

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We’re happiest when everything is simple.

Sounds easy, but it’s really something we’ve had to work at. Our T@DA camper is small – yet we have everything we need to keep us comfy in even the worst of environments (and believe me, we have somehow found them!). In our sixth year on the road, we are still discarding seldom-used items (the cribbage board didn’t make the trip this year), to make space for something we’ll use more. In this spirit, we’ve taken out the television, and replaced it with a basket screwed to the wall where we can accumulate maps and also charge our tablets and phones. Out is the microwave, in its place is a cabinet for food storage. Everything is a compromise.

Yavapai Campground, one of our very favorite sites in Prescott, AZ is a great example of how this works for us. It’s a small campground – 22 sites. There’s no electricity, and just one water pump. A huge benefit is the composting toilets, which use no water or chemicals, and are totally oderless. They are an enormous leap forward over the common pit toilets found in most rustic campgrounds. Sure wish there were more campgrounds using this technology. We love the crisp air (cold and crisp at 5800′ in January!), the large sites, and the quiet. John has rigged 220 watts of portable solar power to keep our lights on and the fridge running.

We love our quiet power source, and it works especially well in the sunny Southwest.

Thank goodness we’re not clothes hounds. Funny, but if you look back over five years of these posts, you’ll see that we wear the same clothes year after year, adding a favorite new t-shirt one year/retiring one. John has his favorite fleece pullovers – the pumpkin one and the red one. I bring the same pink fleece vest, blue hoodie, and cardigan sweater, which I wear every day. This year, I retired my old one, which was threadbare, and replaced it with a brand new one. Heaven! Heavy duty sandals, hiking boots, and cycling shoes account for our footwear (plus shower sandals for public showers). I’d rather go without something than frustrate myself everyday by carrying too much stuff. This certainly isn’t everyone’s system, but it works for us.

We have a small shower we use when there’s not one in the campground, as at Yavapai.20180115_100524.jpgOur 22 gallon water supply, and six gallon gray water tank don’t allow us the luxury of a long shower. In fact, we took four showers, plus used small amounts of water for other things, and still didn’t fill our 6 gallon tank. We have two one-gallon jugs we fill at the pump for drinking water, and water for dishwashing, which we usually do outside. John has rigged a system for shaving and haircuts using the truck mirrors, which is downright comical to watch.20180115_100205513767212.jpg Seems odd, but when there aren’t other mirrors around, it’s all we have.

But, we sure do eat well. We carry a Napoleon propane grill and a CampChef Everest stove along, and use either or both every day. Instead of using individual one-pound tanks, we have a three-pound aluminum tank with two connections. Saves us a ton of money, and we don’t have all empty cannisters to recycle. We often Dutch Oven large batches of stews and chilis, which are wonderful after hikes or bikes rides when we’re hungry and cold.20180117_1742081704686970.jpgWe do cheat a bit and put the Dutch Oven directly on a burner set with as low of a flame as possible. Then, we augment the heat to oven-style by putting heated charcoal briquettes on the lid. Sure, it’s cheating, but we like not using so much charcoal.

There are great hikes in Prescott. The first one on this trip was a new trail (for us) near the campground – about four miles, which meant we could take Jezzy along. There were still remains of a recent bit snow along the trail, which turned the surface into a thick sludge. So much collected in-between Jezzy’s toes that she eventually plunked herself down, and refused to walk any further until John pressed out some of the huge clods, relieving the pressure.20180113_1159431177451577.jpg Back at camp, she needed a footbath which she patiently endured, although it obviously is not something she enjoyed.20180113_1424061900364621.jpgWe drove a bit north to the Watson Lake Recreation Area, for a spectacular hike a day later. Massive granite boulders circle the lake, caused by wind and water erosion. 20180116_114142199644124.jpgRough and gritty, they are perfect for clambering around. We took the trail that circumnavigated the lake, and were treated to stunning views. It was really a fun hike.20180116_122853548826146.jpgImpossible for us to be in Prescott without climbing Granite Mountain, a 7600′ peak that looks over the campground. While not a difficult climb, it’s relentless. We were so happy to get to the top and eat peanut butter sandwiches and Starbucks Double-Shots. Oh yeah.20180118_141301301282709.jpg

On to Lost Dutchman State Park, where we met up with Vern and Ilene, friends from the Phoenix area.20180119_1739441326314844.jpg

20180119_173857.jpgThey were the very first people we met who who also owned a T@DA, and we’ve still maintained a close friendship, even though they’ve moved on in the camping world to a larger motor home. Before the rain and cold moved in, we had one perfect night for a grilled pizza and campfire. There’s lots to catch up with when we only have an annual visit.

The best part? Ilene and I went into Phoenix, where we joined 20,000 other men, women, and children for the Women’s March. 20180121_105917516606138.jpgIt was exhilarating.20180121_1101541533296170.jpg One of the best moments was when we came upon this group of 15 women, all wearing the red gowns and head gear of The Handmaid’s Tale. 20180124_104629-11288863792.jpgThere was a young father pulling his four-year old son in a wagon at about the same point. We heard his plaintive voice, “Who are these people? What is the point?” Ilene and I cracked up. I said to the father, “Good luck with the next 15 years.” He grinned ruefully and replied, “Oh, it’s going to be an interesting discussion at lunch”.

Today, were moving to Usery Mountain Park, where we’ll join about 70 other T@Bs and maybe a T@DA or two for a few days at an event called T@bazona. Some of these folks here we’ve met along the way somewhere, but most of them are unknown to us. We’re looking forward to picking up new tips and camping hacks, and discussing favorite campgrounds. T@B owners are always a lively bunch, and we’re happy to be included in any of the gatherings. Our best camping friendships have resulted from these types of gatherings.

 

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.

Whew! Rolling On….

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.20160301_12021920160301_120503Even 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!20160303_154124.jpgThe 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.20160303_11511120160303_10591620160303_100920 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 2014.20160303_12105220160303_13164920160303_12045620160303_120013There 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.20160304_15155920160304_151448 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…20160304_16174220160304_152227Naturally, 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!)20160304_150124Although 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.20160305_11234520160305_105641 But, all of the sudden, we rounded Spencer Mountain, and entered the canyon. It was eye candy.20160305_121110As promised, we entered the Hole in the Wall, complete with The Rings.20160305_121412It was narrow! 20160305_121750John 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.20160306_101744.jpg Then suddenly, everything gives way to an amazing lush green landscape. 20160306_130104.jpgTomorrow 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.