Sunday, April 29, 2007

Arizona 2

Thursday, April 26, 2007
Moving day. We enjoyed our four days in Benson at Pato Blanca. Very reasonable price with good amenities. Only drawback was being close to I10 and the rail. We are two hours south near Patagonia, NM in a AZ state CG. The sites are OK, but the baths are just OK and the price is $22. The attraction is a lake, one of the few in the south end of the state. Most of the sites are taken for the weekend. There is supposed to be good birding here. There were dozens of birders coming back from a walk when we arrived.

The plan for here is to veg and paddle the boats.

Friday, April 27, 2007
We paddled around the lake for an hour or so. Not having sense enough to have put on SPF, we decided to come in. Decent lake, cool water.

After lunch and a nap we drove to Nogales and crossed over. This is an old border town and a major crossing point. Not many restaurants, but scores of street hawkers. It seemed to us that more were crossing north to shop than the other way around.

I forgot to mention we heard a 18-string guitar at Pato Blanca. He said he was world’s best, as it was a one of a kind. Great bass sound and wonderful harmonics.

Saturday, April 28, 2007
We went birding the morning. Lots of small yellow and red birds - Finches and Summer Tatingers. After lunch we drove up to Patagonia to find wi-fi, ice cream and hummingbirds. We found the first two, then a thunderstorm came through and we went back to the CG. We should have hung around as it cleared up quickly.

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Moving day. We drove two hours north to Catalina SP that is just north of Tucson in the shadow of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The elevation is only 2,100 and the area has been warming for the last week, so it just below hot. We are glad to be able to run the A/C. It would be not fun without it.

There are several malls with all the big box stores within five miles of the CG.

As usual on moving days, we don’t do much. Getting groceries is enough to do. At dusk, we will explore a trail and take some pictures of the cactus. The big ones you see in the movies. It has taken me a month, but this is the cactus trip. We have been eyeballing them since Big Bend. After we see the Shuaraw catus here, we are going to stop at Joshua Tree in CA. We have seen farms of them elsewhere, but we will not pass up a NP, especially one that is on the way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Saturday, April 21, 2007
NM parks put on a program about migratory birds. There are 240 species that hang out in the area and we found in a quick walk-about you could see over 30 birds. A treat for us seeing was an injured peregrine hawk that one of the rangers had to rehabilitate – on permit The afternoon sessions were canceled due the forecast of high winds and the desire of the park employees who lived over six hours away desiring to get home before the weekend was over.

Signs on I25 alert travelers that Aerry Derry is the next exit. Turns out they are two towns close together. I though it was proper that the signs did not read Derry Aerry. Well the signs do read that way southbound.

Sunday, April 22, 2007
We drove about four hours west to Benson, AZ. We intended to stay one night. But the CG is so nice and there are so many things we would like to do in the area, we will stay through Wednesday and then go on to Tucson. The CG is mostly vacant and has a pool and hot tub all at a good price.

We washed the van yesterday, first time in a month. It looked clean until we hit a swarm of honey bees on I10 today. It was over in a flash, leaving a hundred or so bees splattered mostly on the windshield.

Monday, April 23, 2007
Today we went to Chochise Stronghold. I was not expecting much. Dorothy was keyed up for it. It turned out to be one of the best hikes we have had. It was a rather easy one-mile hike over mostly easy terrain. The trail goes up a canyon, mostly through a wash to Chochise Spring. Which was probably not named by the Chief, but in honor of him. Now that the whites have killed most of the Indians, it’s PC to honor them.

Chochise did not think of the place as a stronghold, but the place where he and his clan lived. However, the geography could not have been better, it’s a fortress. They could see who was coming for miles and there are countless ambush points.

The small CG there is shaded and delightful. We will be back in the Lazy Daze.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007
We did a day trip to Chiricahua NM. We hiked one mile down the Echo Canyon trail to the “Grotto” area. We think it was the single best hike of our lives. The Apache called Chiricahua the land of standing rocks. It may also be the capital of balanced rocks. Great landscape with BLUE skies.

Chiricahua is about 30 miles from Chochise Stronghold. Perfect range for smoke signaling from Geronimo to Chochise. I have no idea if the Apache actually used smoke signals.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Our destination today was Ramsey Canyon which was billed as a unique micro-climate canyon. It may well be. The Nature Conservancy has bought it and charges five bucks a person to hike it. We passed.

We drove to Bisbee, AZ, billed as an historic mining town. It is. Since the copper mine did not play out until 1952, all of the stone buildings are in decent shape and have been taken over by artists catering to tourists. Bisbee also has a population of old hippies. I always wondered where they wound up. We had delightful Mexican fare for lunch. Drove home through Tombstone, which has nothing worth seeing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007
We took our time getting off, we hated to leave I suppose. We loved the view. I had an epiphany over the last few days that what I like most about this life style is the pleasure of envisioning that I have my perfect hacienda where we are staying. Seeing the sights and meeting new people is pleasurable, but it’s the exuberance of day-dreaming that I live where we are that is most important to me. It’s hard to get into that mental place if we are constantly on the move. I need to have my coffee and cocktails with same view for a few days to make myself believe it.

We passed through another Border Patrol checkpoint today. I have no idea if the swarms of Border Patrol out here have any positive effect on illegal immigration, but it sure has provided a lot of jobs. Guess who got the jobs??? But, of course.

Percha Dam SP north of Las Cruces is not a scenic park. But it is on the way west and it is about empty. The US Fish and Wildlife Service brought in an exhibit trailer this afternoon and has programs all weekend. What luck for us! Maybe a fish fry?

We will make a long day trip up past Silver City to the Gila Cliff Dwellings NM in the morning. I don’t care to drag our rig into these mountains.

There are three state parks within two miles of us. I suppose the dammed up Rio Grande is a major attraction in the desert. If the wind lays down, we will paddle the yaks.

It seems that wind in the southwest blows two speeds in the spring, breezy and windy. The latter is 25 plus. We have learned that when its very windy (50MPH or more) all rigs vibrate, but it is still not comfortable. Spring is the windy season and the rainy season is July and August, except when they have unusual weather with rain, like now.

I am about finished with Buffet’s 1992 “Where is Joe Merchant” Hey, it’s new to me. He conjures characters and plots that are unique to say the least. I find it difficult to believe that he has not had a “hit” in 20 years as fertile as his mind is.

Friday, April 20, 2007
A very long, but splendid day. We drove 2.5 hours on various mountain roads to Gila Cliff Dwellings. Highway 151 is one of THE great driving roads in the country. It may be the leader for having the most turns per mile. In many stretches, it’s one turn after another without a break. Most turns are ho-hum, others warn you to slow to 10mph. I found 20mph to be fine in the van. I daydreamed about driving the road in something low to ground, with 6 forward gears, a throaty engine and BIG finned brakes. Of course I would obey all the traffic laws! I would not want to attrack the attention of the police who patrol the highway on Friday afternoons looking for drivers who are trying to make a little time getting to their mountain home for the weekend.

The road is terrific, but so is the scenery, the best and the most varied we have seen this trip. Some LONG views from above 8,000 feet.

Almost to Gila Cliff Dwellings is Lake Roberts, small, but charming. The first good-looking lake of this trip. Deep green water. Just south of there, is a fine Forest Service CG that we will return to one day.

Our destination, Gila Cliff Dwellings, was worth the trip. You get to the cliff caves, by walking up a narrow canyon, slowly climbing 180 feet to the catwalk in front of the six caves. You can walk through the three larger and interconnected caves. Each cave is divided into several rooms by stone masonry. They were built about 1240 and abandoned 30 years later. Perhaps due to severe drought in the area.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007
The drive to Oliver Lee SP just south of Alamogordo was rather boring, as is much of this part of New Mexico. That said, the view from our campsite over the Basin to the west is rather dramatic. We are at about 4400 feet. The CG is on the side of the Sacramento mountains which is a great back drop.

It was cloudy most of yesterday, perhaps the remnants of the storm that dumped late snow in the southern Rockies and will drop temperatures for the second week in a row back home. We had an early evening shower here. We went outside afterwards and noted a light snow on the peaks above us.

Saturday, April 14, 2007
After a yummy breakfast, we got a late start and drove to White Sands NM on a bright and mostly clear day. We took our chairs and a blanket up a dune and had lunch and a short nap. We could have spent the whole day there. Why didn’t we?

Back at the CG, we had another nap and then did cocktails with the Wood’s, Lindstrom’s and Kate and Terry of “Choula Red”. Dinner was another round of the sausage and red cabbage we snared in Fredericksburg.

Sunday, April 15, 2007
I spent most of the morning doing camp chores and we got away at 10:15 and drove up to Ruidoso to see some old sailing chums who have retired there They have a fine condo with a great view of Sierra Blanco, the local 12,000 footer. We stopped at Chileo’s for lunch, which was very delicious and cheap. It snowed two days ago in Ruidoso, but today was thoroughly delightful weather. We took the route back through Cloudcroft which is the first mountain road we have been on this trip.

Monday, April 16, 2007
We drove back up in the Sacramento mountains, first to hike the Osha Trail that Delorme suggested. It was an OK trail, but lacked dramatic views. The 2.5 miles was good for the heart tho. Next we drove the Sunspot Road to the National Solar Observatory. Who knew we had one? Our tax dollars at work. It was started by the Air Force to study the effect of solar flares on communications so we could always be able to launch the big one even during a solar storm. [Did you know what we now call the internet had a similar purpose?] Anyway, the exhibits were well done and educational. You could go into two of the working observatories and see grad students plodding away on their thesis.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Terry and Kate of Choula Red invited us to join them to see the Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso. How could we pass up someone driving us? The exhibits were worthwhile and the trip was fun. We had lunch at Chileo’s, again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
It’s laundry and shopping day. Surprise the Laundromat has wi-fi!
Tomorrow we will move west to Percha Dam SP, still in NM.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007
We have not been keeping our log up every day like we did last year. Probably because we have spent our free time having cocktails. Here is a quick synopsis of the week.

Monday we drove the four hours from Big Bend to Van Horn. We bought groceries and over-nighted at a KOA. Tuesday we drove another four hours to Columbus, NM, which is a little village on the border that Pancho Villa raided in 1916. We soaked up the local history and had cocktails. Wednesday, we drove 30 miles north to Rockhound SP, where we were supposed to be able to find all sorts of great mineral rocks. This might still be true if you are a goat and can scale the high peaks without benefit of a trail. We found nothing of interest in the lower area, but the view from Spring Canyon was worth the trip.
Thursday, the others left for Oliver Lea SP. We had paid for today here and frankly we needed a down day and a chance to plan where we are going next week. We spent the morning at the delightful village library, came back, had lunch, a nap and will probably return to the library later in the day. The forecast wind of 55mph did not arrive and is no longer forecast. Tomorrow we move 3 hours NE, near Alamogordo.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Monday, April 2, 2007
Brake repair was completed and we were on the road at noon. We drove all the way to Big Bend, seven and half hours. We were surprised that we were not real tired. Adrenalin we suppose. The Lindstrom’s and Wood’s were waiting for us.

Tuesday April 3, 2007
We did a short drive to get acclimated to BB. In the afternoon, the breeze quit and it was HOT! 97 I heard.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007
We drove 60 miles to the west end of the park with two other couples and put the yaks in and paddled up Santa Elena Canyon, which has 1200 foot sheer walls on both sides. The current was slack for almost two miles, then it increased to over three knots. That’s too strong to make it any fun, so we all relaxed in the shade on a gravel bank on the Mexican side. It took less than an hour to get back. The first half-mile went real quick going with the current and the wind at our backs.

Thursday, 5, 2007
We all went on Wood led hike on Blue Creek Trail, aka Red Rock trail. We are starting to appreciate the diversity of plant life in BB. Cactus glore. The ranger said this is the best year for flowering plants in a decade, maybe two.

Friday, April 6, 2007
The Lindstrom’s took our van and yaks and paddled the Santa Elena Canyon. We took their Honda up to Dagger Flats road and saw the acres of Yucca’s in bloom. Impressive.
The evening ranger talk was most informative and well done. The wind increased all day. By cocktails it was gusting to 20. The wind blew all night and we had some rain.

Saturday, April 7, 2007
The wind continues at 20-30 with higher gusts. It’s cold. The low in the morning will be low 40’s. It is supposed to warm up after that. It snowed 60 miles north of here last night and the panhandle had it worse. The CG was almost full last night. This afternoon it’s almost empty. They had to go north either to home or to colder climes.

Sunday, April 08, 2007
Our last day in Big Bend. While we already extended one day, we got here two days late. We could extend another two days, but frankly, we have no hope of “seeing it all” as it is far too much territory. We never got up to the Chisos basin and there are hundreds of trails that can be hiked. We must get back here.

We slept in until 8 this morning and lazed around until 10 waiting for the chill to lift. Dan took us in his car to the Hot Springs and we took a short hike there. The cactus along this trail were the best we have seen. Each day is different.

We went to the CG, had lunch and drove to Boqillias Canyon. Not much to see there, but the river was flowing nicely. I would have liked to put the yaks in, but the exit from the canyon is many miles distant.

After 36 hours of high winds, it settled down about 8 last night and by noon today, the sky is blue all around.

In the morning, we will drive to Van Horn, overnight and head to New Mexico. We will be off the grid there.