Thursday, March 23, 2017

Catalina and Mt. Lemmon

We left our wonderful spot at White Tank Regional Park yesterday.

site 33

The spectacular wildflower display surrounding us was beginning to wilt under the above average temperatures.    Our last day in site 33 we had a very handsome visitor for lunch.   He knew just how to keep cool on the shady Mesquite branch outside our window.

We thought he came dressed for dinner, but we soon realized that he was expecting a visitor....

We pulled down the "poof" curtain and gave him his privacy....

I was really looking forward to our next stop, a 10 day stay in Catalina State Park, just a bit north of Tucson.   This is one of our favorite parks but unfortunately the site we have is not to our liking.    Definitely not to our liking -  so we decided to stay just one day and then move back down to the Lazydays KOA to finish up some of the things we want to do in this area.    Site A-8 looked great on paper, and even on Google Earth, but its orientation gives us very little shade, close neighbors on all sides AND we're directly at the end of a busy trail resulting in everyone walking through our site and around Beluga.     We'll surely be back to Catalina and I'll pick my site more carefully next time.

site A-8 looks great, but it isn't

With our one day we decided to take the back way up to Mt. Lemmon.   We had driven the beautiful, paved, captioned route before and loved every minute of it me a dirt road and I'm always ready to see where it goes!

We drove north on rt. 77 through Oracle (at about 4,000 ft. above sea level) and off onto the wide, graded dirt road called either American Avenue, Mt. Lemmon Control Rd., Oracle Control Road, or NF 38.   We understood that it would be about 25 miles to the top so we packed up Lewis and lunch and planned for an entire day of autohiking.

We encountered a bit of traffic on the lower sections of the road.   It was slow going but eventually they turned off on smaller side roads and we were able to move along again.

who does this guy look like?
(Picture him with a comb over.....)

Most of the lower portion of the road was like a Sunday drive.  It was obvious that many fires had devastated this area once, but now it resulted in wide open vistas for us to enjoy. We crossed many spots where water would be coursing over the road in the rainy season.   As we began to climb we encountered a few small streams running across the road and at one was a small, delightful little pool with a tiny waterfall on one end.

Dave waited with the Jeep and I crawled through the small willows lining the pool, following the sound of water.    Just a few feet off the dusty dirty road I came upon this quiet and cool little bower.

Such unexpected pleasures along the road.

From that point on I took no more pictures until we reached the top and I was able to unmold my fingers from the dashboard grab bar......

The last 8 or 10 miles climbed steeply, sometimes on sharp switchbacks that I named paperclip turns, sometimes just up at about a 10 to 15% grade along a narrow, rocky shelf with up on one side and very down on the other.    I'm happy to say that we met no one coming down the road toward us.   There were a few poor excuses for pull outs along the way, but I wouldn't want to be the vehicle that had to use one of them.....

We popped out onto a beautiful, wide paved road near the small vacation community of Summerhaven at about 8200 feet above sea level.   Our original plan (before starting on our journey) was to take the same road back home.....but once at the summit it was clear that the nice, smooth, civilized Catalina Highway was what we would take!

that's our road way below

Lewis had been such a good boy jostling around on the long bumpy road that we decided to park on Bear Wallow Road and give him a good run in the forest.  It was good to get out and stretch our legs.

come on mom, hurry up!

So, we're off again in the morning.    Lots more to see and do!

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Everyone left.   Pam and John, Don and Carol all broke camp and were off to their next stops.    Dave and I spent the entire next day just sitting in the shade,  reading.  Fun to be busy and fun to be not.

Friday it was still hot.....we decided another day of auto hiking in the desert was in order.   We took the Arizona Benchmark map and pointed the Jeep toward Wickenburg to see where Gates Rd. would take us.    Oh, and possibly a quick stop at Chaparrel Home Made Ice Cream for a little sustenance.    Who knew how long we'd be in the jeep?

Gates road went no where.    It ended in a very sandy and dry riverbed.   We explored it a bit trying to find something interesting but finally gave up.

Next we drove back through Wickenburg and turned off on the very scenic Vulture Mine road.     Once again, the flowers were magnificent.

We stopped often to take in the views and to pick a flower here and there when we came across an unusual one.   By the time Vulture Mine Road turned to dirt I had accumulated a very nice little nosegay.    The orange globemallow had a beautiful subtle scent, but one of the purple ones I gathered made us think that we had recently cut an onion in the back of the jeep!    Ah well, it was beautiful so I kept it, we got used to the smell.

The Benchmark map showed me that Vulture Mine Road would take us to the Belmont Mountain Mine area before crossing the Central Arizona Project (large irrigation canal) and ending up near I-10 for about a 15 mile loop.

It was a beautiful drive through the wide, flat Hassayampa Plain and up into the mountains.   The road was graded for the first few miles but became rutted, narrow and rocky as we climbed.

we adopted some unusual angles as we zigged through rocky washes

I didn't take any more pictures, the road was too bumpy, but we continued on as the road became harder to see.    Finally we decided to turn around and head back the way we came.   If we knew for sure that the road continued ahead of us we would have gone for it, but without that knowledge we called time and were glad we had a fun ride.   We'll come prepared with BLM maps next time, the area is very interesting with lots of side trips just waiting for us.

a decidedly confused Saguaro
(sporting a couple rather ugly crests)

After a bit of bumbling along on another dirt road which was listed as paved, we arrived home in time for our St. Patrick's Day Guinness stew.     Two roads to nowhere ended up giving us a most enjoyable day!

Today we washed and clipped Lewis.    He was really hot with his thick woolly coat in these temperatures.   He's much happier now.

a gratuitous Lewis picture (for friends)

nature's beauty

Thursday, March 16, 2017

fun in the desert with friends

Its hot.    That isn't a complaint, merely an observation.   The temperature is in the high 80's and the sun is brilliant.   Too hot to hike, but not too hot to do some auto hiking with friends.

The desert and mountains here on the west side of Phoenix are so beautiful and green, filled with bright wild flowers and noisy birds.

brilliant Mexican poppies carpet the hillsides

John and Pam hadn't driven on Castle Hot Springs Rd. before, so one day we loaded them up and set off.   We pass Lake Pleasant Regional Park on the way, so we stopped in to take care of a bit of "business" at the visitor's center before continuing on our way.   The pavement ends shortly after the Park's entrance and the dirt portion carries on for almost 30 miles through numerous creek crossings, along the mountains and stands of huge saguaros.

We saw a single male burro following the creek bed, he looked lonely but quite determined to go where he was going.....

We found a shady spot to stop for lunch between an interesting rock formation and the creek.

Dave found a spot to sit, but we ended up eating on our feet, opting to explore our surroundings a bit.

We noticed numerous small bubbles coming to the surface on a calm section of water nearby.   Pam wandered over to check it out and we all ended up poking sticks (well, just I poked in one of the holes with a cast off pipe) into the holes trying to figure out where the air was coming from.    We did not come to any conclusion, but it was fun discussing possibilities.

Pam checks out the water bubbles while she eats her sandwich


sometimes we felt we were being watched.....

There were a few dwellings along the road, some looked inhabited, others not.

We drove past a huge old spa, Castle Hot Springs Resort, built in the late 1890's, and operated as a glamorous resort frequented by famous people, then a spa for tuberculous patients.   After subsequent fires and hard times it sat, abandoned for 40 years.   Lately it is a beehive of activity.   A small group of investors have purchased the historic property and are very busily rebuilding and rehabilitating the buildings, grounds and hot springs.     Evidently there are grand plans afoot, but the long drive (at least 7 miles) on a sometimes passable, often impassable dirt road makes us wonder what it's future will be.     We look forward to checking it out when we're next in the desert nearby.

This palomino looked like he enjoyed wallowing in the creek!

Another day we collected Don and Carol and drove to Wickenburg for a quick Mexican lunch at El Ranchero before heading off to try and find the Hassayampa River Box Canyon via a sandy road in and out of the river.   Part of the road was paved (Rincon Rd.) but then dropped down into the deep sand of the river bed.   We drove along parallel to the water for a while, then crossed increasingly deep and fast moving sections until we reached a spot Dave was no longer comfortable fording and we turned back to find another road home.    It was a fun day and, after all, its the journey not the destination!

We'll definitely try this road again in the future, when the river isn't running as vigorously.

our wake

do we or don't we?

On the way home, we saw an iconic figure silhouetted against the blue sky.  Since his big day is just a month away, perhaps the Easter Bunny was scoping out his territory.............

Sunday, March 12, 2017

White Tank

We made it!       We're settled in our beautiful site in White Tank Regional Park next to Pam and John and across from our Rochester friends Don and Carol Henderson.    Our internet connection isn't the greatest, but the views are first class.    I'll post when I'm able!

Lewis attends a men's mechanical discussion

and then enjoys Happy Hour with the whole group

last sunset at Cave Creek

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Russian Roulette

If you know us, you know we're not gamblers.   Today, however, we've decided to gamble on whether our black and grey water holding tanks will hold

We've been here at Cave Creek Regional Park without a sewer connection for 11 days and counting.   We've lived relatively normally, albeit using water conservation techniques learned over the years.    Today, however, we pressed our luck, finger's crossed that we'll be winners!   (By win, I mean we'll make it to the dump station tomorrow morning without having had an unpleasant "overflow" situation).    This morning I did two small loads of laundry in our on board washer to up the stakes a bit......stay tuned!

On a more pleasant note, here are some pictures from our desert jaunts of the past week.

The wildflowers are so beautiful this year!
one of our lunch spots on the shore of Lake  Pleasant

this guy is surely enjoying the spring grass growing around his tank!

sharing lunch with a friend in the middle of Sycamore Creek

a friend give us a high five!  (or perhaps a high four?)

mesquite lined path at the Boulders Resort

That's all I'm able to show you tonight.....we'll see how the internet is at White Tank Regional Park tomorrow!