Parker right there

20150103_131515On Friday I had the truck ready to go by the time my better half was able to leave work. Our original plan was to find some place in Quartzite, AZ to boondock, but our water pump was starting to fail, so it was off to a state campground for us. Plus we hadn’t really gone around the area to see where we would be best to camp.

We passed through Quartzite and headed north to Parker, AZ. Our first attempt was at La Paz County Park. But we just couldn’t see squeezing in there with as full as it was. The next place we pulled in was Buckskin Mountain State Park. And we pulled in none too soon, as it was getting close to the ten o clock gate time. I don’t know if they closed the gates, but having been locked out one time because we left a bit too late, I wasn’t taking the chance.

20150103_131417-1We drove around in the dark a couple times, and didn’t see any spots we liked. Then we drove around again and found a spot that looked pretty good. So we pulled in and got all set up. Once again, in the dark. The next morning we were informed that the site we chose was not going to be open the next evening, so we would have to move. Rats. But since everyone was leaving that left quite a lot of spots open for us. We settled in to the new spot. Chosen because there were a ton of coots wandering about. The better half looked around while I finished up leveling and adjusting the RV. Buckskin is a very lovely campground. Too bad our stay was only one more night.

20150104_171218-1We wanted to head down to Quartzite to see the other camping areas we passed up on. I was rather pleased with the boondocking options available there. Our next trip out there we will be better informed and likely be able to find a good spot. We checked out a few of the shops that were open. And we gathered a couple rather nice rocks that would polish up nice for her. We also picked up a few LED lights to replace the fluorescent lights in the RV. After driving around a bit looking at several of the other sites, the sun shrank behind the mountains and we couldn’t see the other sites. It didn’t stop us from trying, but it simply got too dark to tell what we were looking at.

We returned to the RV had dinner and enjoyed the night together. The next morning we wanted to head back to Quartzite to check out a few more shops. I quickly offloaded the trailer and didn’t even bother leveling it. I figured we’re going to be loading it up for the return trip anyway, may as well have it ready. We checked out the gem and mineral show that we were looking for the previous day. We got to see some very creative wrapping of stones. And my love did pick up a few little interesting items there.

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We really didn’t get a whole lot of pictures on the New Years weekend trip. But what we did get is here

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Ringing in the New Year

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20150101_135955New Years eve we spent at home. We wanted to see our friend perform, but we were silly and didn’t get tickets ahead of time. Though I don’t feel cheated, because we got to meet Miss Theresa face to face without the crowds. This New Year’s Day brought a very rare sight to the Phoenix area. Snow! That’s right, the Phoenix Valley got snow on New Years eve and it was still around on New Years Day. Anyone living in the colder parts of the country are likely saying, “Pfff! That’s not snow. That’s just a dusting. I clear more than that off my car just to go to work each day.” And you’re right. But this is the Arizona desert. This was a big deal to us. And it would only be around for the day. So we took a drive out to the Superstition Mountains out by the Lost Dutchman state park.

20150101_132651Unlike other posts, we weren’t camping at this time. We simply drove over to the mountains We had to pay to get in, and I was fine with it. I mean how often would I get the opportunity to see the desert covered in snow. After parking and starting our hike, we moved quickly up the mountain as if the snow would disappear before we got close enough to touch it. It’s not too far off the mark, as the temperature was well above freezing. The ground was damp with the water from the snow that had already melted.

20150101_135218The hike up the mountain is actually pretty easy. Even my out of shape butt managed to make it up. I suppose it being rather chilly out also helped. Funny how that works out. You get cold, and you want to move a bit more. Of course being out of shape, by the time I got to the top of the trail I was thoroughly warmed up.By the next day, nearly every bit of this snow would be gone with exception to any large snowballs that were conspicuously placed near the trail with sticks and stones… No, I wasn’t the artist. But I wish I had been. There wasn’t a lot of snow left, but there was enough to make a couple of good snowballs if you carefully avoided accidentally grabbing a jumping cholla cactus. My sweetie got a couple good ones, and she began making plans to fill my pants with snow. And I would have deserved it.

20150101_140029Because this is such a rare event, we decided to drive to see more of Arizona covered in snow. I mean how often do you get to see a saguaro with snow on it. And since Aida had to work on Friday, we couldn’t actually stay out for the whole weekend. It would have been nice, but hey, she has so many vacation days she could go a large chunk of the year without working if she wished. She just had to work the day after new years this year because the last time she had it off. With us not doing anything exciting on New Years Eve like… you know… the rest of the world, and staying in to play Risk all night, we had to at least enjoy New Years day on the road.

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Just a bit of a tight turn

We headed North on SR88(N Apache Trail) all the way out to Roosevelt lake. If you’re sitting there thinking “would this be a good way to go in my RV?” the answer is a flat out “No.” This road curves and twists to the point that just driving it in a pickup truck can be a bit hairy at times. Granted my truck has the turn radius of the Spruce Goose, but still there are spots that I had to pull off the road to let someone pass the other way. I would hate to have to try that with an RV or even with our 5th wheel on the back.

Amazingly along the way we saw that Canyon Lake was apparently full. It was good to see it like that. While we’ve had a lot of rain lately, not always does that translate to filling our lakes. Interestingly enough Apache Lake was low. And Roosevelt was really low. Roosevelt was so low they created a new free camping area where there used to be a boat dock. After a few more pictures we headed back home by way of the 87.
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See the rest of the photos here

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Pointy Christmas

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20141228_115626Christmas this year we spent at my better half’s stepfather’s brother’s house. And Christmas turned into Christmas with the Addams Family. It seemed everyone got at least one pointy gift. Some form of weapon that would likely injure or maim someone. All the men got axes and machetes and the women got knives for the kitchen(honestly since I enjoy cooking, I do like a good knife set too). The family enjoyed the time together and after a fun day we figured we’d get everything ready to go for the day after. We headed out to Alamo Lake that Friday.

20141227_123310We grabbed one of our dogs and headed out on Friday. Alamo Lake State Park is a nice destination for a weekend. There are burros in the area that come out at night, so drive carefully when you enter at night. There are several camping spots and there are some tenter only spots if you don’t want to bring an RV. My sweetie and I have been here before. But this was the first time I blogged about it. Last time we went down to the shore and fished… and caught exactly the same thing we caught this time. We didn’t fish this time. That isn’t to say that the fishing is bad here. No, I’m just that bad at it. To be honest, I’m more of a saltwater fisherman. I just can’t seem to catch much while fishing freshwater.

20141227_150052We opted for the state park, but there are some BLM areas nearby. Some of them are really neat. We found one that had the slab and what looked like the remains of a fireplace. That area seemed like it would be a great place to have a get together with a few RVing buddies and hang out. There are many areas over in that area that are free for up to 14 days. It probably wouldn’t be a great idea to be there during the summer months, as this is desert camping, but it is pretty well perfect right now. Maybe a little heater to keep you warm, or, you could grab a dog to curl up on you. Either way, it’s great to camp there because the ambiance is the Arizona desert you may or may not know.

20141228_114630On the first night we heard the burros braying, and coyotes were yipping away. Our little Chevy was pretty well ready to break down the door to get to them. Which is an important thing to remember if you happen to camp a lot with dogs. Coyotes are pretty crafty. When I had a farm we had to watch our dogs, as the coyotes would have puppies playing near the edge of the woods. Your dog would go to play with the puppies, and the pack would come out of the woods and kill your dog. After understanding coyotes a little better, I stopped feeling sorry for Wile E Coyote and sided more with the Roadrunner(Yes, I felt sorry for Wile E).

20141227_123148While we were there we noticed someone flying a glider. I was pretty impressed with how long he was able to keep the thing in the air. Until he landed it and I realized it had a propeller. Then I felt kinda silly. For some reason we didn’t take advantage of the lake, nor did we really take a lot of pictures while we were there. Oddly enough this was the park my lovely woman placed near the top of her favorite parks lists… For me it’s pretty far down the list. Not saying it’s bad, not by a long ways. It’s just the little differences we share. She likes how this park is more desert like. It makes sense. But I’ll let you decide from the pictures.

20141228_141038The beauty of a place so close to home is that even with all the driving around we did, I was still able to make it out there, drive around, and still make it most of the way back without having to fill up. And even with fuel prices falling, diesel was still pretty high up there.

The rest of the pictures here

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Red Rocks of Sedona

20141206_160308Ask anyone in Arizona and you’ll usually at some point be told that a place you should see is Sedona. Last time I was there was when I was working, and only visited long enough to drop things in place, then bug out. I was behind schedule, and had too much to do to look around. There was some real joy when I heard about some very lovely free camping out by Sedona. We pulled in and set up camp pretty easily. I stumbled and fumbled with pulling in and somehow snagged a brake wire. No biggie, very easy fix.

20141206_173021This was the first time I really got to see Sedona. And I was not in the least disappointed. Our camp site overlooked the mountains of Sedona. The colors are simply amazing. It’s like something you would expect in a movie. Part of me kept waiting to hear “Cut” and see the set fall away. There was something that seemed too unreal to exist in real life. And yet there it was in full view. This was why people would always say to camp near Sedona. We could see Boynton mountain from our spot.
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We enjoyed our night there, and then the next day we drove around to check out the other free camping spots in the area. But during the night the coyotes were close enough that I would seriously not recommend you leave your dog unattended at night. Even while attached to a tether. There’s always a risk. Of course if you have a small dog, you would probably want to make sure you are with them at all times anyway, because there are other animals that might try to run off with them.

At any rate, we did check out a few more locations around the area which while they had lovely views, simply didn’t touch our view. That isn’t to say they weren’t lovely. Quite the opposite. That was to say how lovely our site was. Unfortunately we were only able to stay a couple nights. Darn that whole needing to pay bills thing…

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More pics of the Sedona trip here

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The Long Drive and Gila Cliffs.

20141128_143452As we drove around and nearly hit a few mule deer, we actually had a plan. First up was to get some supplies from the store in Silver City. Funny how no matter how much you think you’re prepared, you run out of something invariably. We ran out of eggs and… it shames me to admit… coffee… How could I let us run out of coffee? Well, we still had a day’s worth. We made the run into Silver city along New Mexico 15. It was an extremely long drive and involved me having a few choice words at a couple people who didn’t realize that crossing the line on a blind corner is a bad thing to do. Of course they couldn’t exactly hear me through our windows, but darn it I was saying the words anyway.

20141128_143410-1Heading out there took most of the early afternoon. That way had a couple more intersections with mule deer, and by the time we got to the store, I was well and truly done driving for a bit. The small break we got wandering through the store really helped me. Then we went the other way back to camp. We stopped along the way to update my better half’s mother on the fact that we were alive, and that unfortunately at the campground there is no cell phone reception at all. If you need cell service for work, don’t camp at Gila Hot Springs. Because there isn’t any. I quickly paid a few bills while I had internet connection, and then we drove back to camp.

By the time we made it back to camp it was already dark. It was amazingly dark by 6PM. So we made dinner, and relaxed in the RV. I shut off the water, and disconnected the hose so it wouldn’t freeze, and we relaxed for a bit. We tried to get into the hot tub we paid for that night, and found that the lock combination had changed from the morning. I was a tad miffed about it, but figured it was because they limited the use at night. I wasn’t too terribly upset thought, because hey, it was kinda cold. So, after realizing the hot tub was locked, we went back to the RV and played Monopoly all night. I lost…

20141129_102636The next morning was the trip to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Park. If you go during the winter(like we did) I recommend going in the afternoon instead of early morning(like we ALSO did). The hike up in the early morning was cold(We’re out of Phoenix, AZ. 50 is cold, 90 isn’t terribly hot). The ground was frozen, and we didn’t bring heavy jackets(admittedly not that bright of us). As we hiked up the beautiful trail, we rejoiced as we crossed into the sun lit areas, and clutched out light clothes as we crossed back into the shaded areas. And there were many shaded areas. The sun played a game with us as we climbed the mountain. It would peek out from the canyon ridge and we would feel it’s warmth, and then we’d walk a few more steps and be shivering cold again.

20141129_102839The sights were spectacular though. I would highly recommend it when it is warm enough though. It wasn’t too strenuous, and even my out of shape self was able to make it up with relative ease. Though admittedly seeing the sun on the other side was a pretty good motivator when it was cold. When we got up to the top there were a few volunteers up there that offered information and pointed out some cave art. Unlike the petroglyphs at other places we saw, these were painted on using pigment. The ones at Lyman Lake were better preserved, but did not use red pigment. It was interesting to note that this Gila Cliffs is along the Gila Rive20141129_103127r. The water from here flows all the way to Phoenix and joins with the Salt River and becomes the other part of the Gila River. This section just happens to be along the Mongollon Rim, which is also found at the favorite places for us to camp in Arizona. It’s kind of nice to be in a place with an attachment to our home.

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And there’s a crap-ton more pictures of Gila Cliffs here.

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Looks much better from afar.

After coming down the mountain, my better half wanted to check out the other site we were going to stay at, but decided against, The City of Rocks. It was a pretty hefty drive, and along the way we decided to check out Lake Roberts. Apparently it’s being worked on, so it really wasn’t much of a lake at the time. But it satisfied our curiosity about it.

20141129_140933City of Rocks was a state park that seemed to be trying to find itself. The hiking trails were so poorly marked, we ended up following a quail path because it was more well defined. Who knows where we would have ended up if my sweetheart didn’t need to use the tinkle-torium. We headed back so she could use the facilities. Then we made a few more attempts at following a few more paths, which all seemed to fizzle out in to completely random non-trails that were not really marked.

20141129_141236That isn’t to say that the park wouldn’t be a nice place to stay. It is actually quite lovely. Though their RV space was about as attractive as a Walmart parking lot with electric and water. I don’t think I’d want to stay on the electric sites, simply because it just looks like a parking lot. Really folks, can’t they at least make the sites far enough apart that you don’t have to know what color undies your neighbor put on in the morning? The non-electric sites were very lovely though. And spaced far enough apart that you could easily camp there and enjoy the scenery.

More pictures of it here

We left City of Rocks, and returned to the camp site. I figured we had enough time to make it back to camp and still have some daylight. And I was wrong. We did see quite a few more animals on our way back though. And here they are. More mule deer, and a couple shots of javelinas.
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That night we finally headed down to the hot springs. Being rather unfamiliar with the territory, we opted for the clothing option. It really didn’t bother me, My parents were nudists. I would have been fine with it, and My sweetie would have been fine as well. We just failed to communicate that to each other, and soooo we sat there with our clothes on while everyone else was naked. No, no pics of that. We had a rather nice conversation with a couple that was there, and a few others that joined.

And the next morning we headed home… While driving I discovered one of my tires was experiencing tread separation. This can be pretty dangerous, and even when it isn’t it makes for a less than comfortable ride. I swapped the spare on and the ride went much better.

And we were back in Arizona… With all the bug splatter we could legally drive with on the window.

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Gila Hot Springs

20141128_083719We left the camp site and headed out to Gila Hot Springs Ranch which was our original destination before we added the Bosque del Apache visit.  Again, we arrived in the dark, but fortunately the spaces are all pull through so it’s pretty easy to do. Pull in , unhitch, level, Done… until the next day when you have to pay up. When we did pay, we got access to the hot tub at the camp site. It was really odd when we pulled in, there was a dog just wandering about, and there were horses strolling through the camp ground. This was not really late at night(a tad past sundown… so like noon), so it was kind of odd to see horses just plodding around munching. Keep that in mind if you ever visit and it gets late. The horses can easily be in the road. The drive in is actually quite beautiful. So it can easily be a distraction.

20141128_125057We woke up the next morning to pay for our spot, and unfortunately the store was closed. It was rather chilly, and apparently cold enough to freeze the water hose I had attached. Though not cold enough to freeze the water lines in the trailer. Of course I made sure of such by running the heater, and this kept the inside lines from freezing. 20141128_125739If only I had water in the tank I could have actually showered that morning. But I didn’t. So I pulled the hose and tossed it in the sun so it would thaw. Welp… lesson learned. Don’t leave the water on and the hose attached. The whole town is owned by one family, so we found out, and once we could pay, we decided to walk around a bit. We took a small hike down to the creek. We passed the corral where they kept the horses, while on our way. Supposedly they have horse tours and such, so if you want to ride a horse, that’s your opportunity.

20141128_130439Past the creek is the campground that does not have power. It’s closest to the hot springs, and has what I think is a really nice setting. During the summer months this place is likely packed to the gills. I’d suggest making reservations. Be advised, if you intend to bring kids, the third hot spring pool is clothing optional after dark. And actually during the off season, it seemed to be clothing optional at all times. So if you’re squeamish about nekkid folks, you just might want to stay on the other side. There’s plenty of campground. I would love to see it when the trees have leaves on them. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t look spectacular even with no leaves. I’m just saying I’d love to see it when there are leaves.

20141130_091653It’s rather an interesting thing about the store. It opens up at about ten AM and everyone from the area stops in and has breakfast and coffee. Afterwards, everyone disperses, and it’s a ghost town again. It was a kind of fun thing to see. When we got back to the Gila Hot Springs Ranch (the RV park), we decided to check out the hot tub and bathroom. The floors are heated which is great. Take your shower, get out and have your feet stay warm. That is just awesome in wintertime. On the floor of the bathroom a gecko was enjoying the heated floors. Can’t say I blamed him. I sure was.

After our morning showers, we had to take a drive to take care of a few things, and decided that Silver City was the place we were going to take care of them in. I wanted to see the road my GPS wanted me to take that they recommended I didn’t. I’m not going to say it was treacherous, but boy am I glad I didn’t trust technology. The road is very narrow, and the turns are really tight along the NM 15. It’s not all bad though. The sights along the way were beautiful

More of Gila Hot Springs

More of the drive

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White Sands and lots of birds

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Click for White sands slideshowWe left the site to head to our next destination. Along the way we had already planned on stopping at White Sands to have a look around. It’s pretty odd looking at the massive amount of white that looks like snow, but is actually gypsum sand. We were far enough away from other people that we let our dog run a little bit loose. I wouldn’t do this if I were anywhere near anyone else, but she really was being exceptionally good and we needed to give her an opportunity to burn off some of her energy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The drive over was very nice, and I actually got to see some of the stuff I missed during our drive from home because it was too dark. Of course the drive includes some pretty tight turns, but nothing earth shattering that would prevent most RV’s from making the trek. The most problems you may encounter would be a squeamish passenger. We passed through the town of Cloudcroft, and headed down the mountain. It’s a really pretty drive so long as you have the nerves for it. If not, it’s a much longer drive the other way. It isn’t really all that bad, but the curves can work on your driving arms. I enjoyed the drive. After we came down, we headed out to White Sands.

One thing I recommend is getting the National Parks “America the Beautiful” yearly pass. You can pick it up at any National Park ranger station for around $100. If you do a lot of traveling, it is well worth the expense. Most places where you see the “Fee Area” are open to you without having to pay extra. White Sands is one of those. We just pulled up and go through. They may make you sign in to say you’ve been there, but it’s just a small stop, and no money needed.

The road looks like you’re driving on snow. And if you just posted the picture without caption someone might think you were in massive snow drifts. But it’s actually gypsum sand. It’s crystal, and unlike regular sand it seems to not be as pervasive nor does it seem to stick as bad as regular sand. Though we weren’t supposed to collect sand, we ended up doing so by the nature of… well… sand. Tires kicked it up onto the 5th wheel landing gear pads, and we had enough to put in an old perfume bottle.

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More pictures here

 I had hoped to get to our camp site before dark, but as is standard with life, and the fact that it’s winter and the sun sets at seemingly just after noon, we showed up a little after dark and couldn’t see the site in the daylight. I’m not mad. Honestly, I’m used to it. But man it would be nice to not have to use a flashlight to hook everything up. I got all set up and we were fortunate enough to be able to tell that the spot was a good one. We stayed here only for a couple nights because we had a specific goal for the next day.

The next day we went to the Bosque del Apache Bird sanctuary. I cannot stress enough that pictures simply do not capture the experience of being out there. No amount of pictures or video would prepare you for the awe of watching thousands of birds in flight and on the ground. It will simply rip the breath from your lungs kicking and screaming. We got there just after the guest office closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, so we couldn’t get the audio tour. Fortunately the audio tour can be found online at the Friends of the Bosque website. And we were able to download and listen to it as we drove through the park.

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Again, more pictures here. Though honestly, the pictures barely tell the story.

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