Year In Review 2017

My how this past year has flown by! Unfortunately the blog updates were far and few between. Maybe it was the exhaustion of coming off five weeks managing a Christmas tree lot in southern Arizona. Or maybe it was an early spring tire blowout in the middle of nowhere. Could the four summer months of state park volunteering have had a role? We can’t put our finger on exactly why but our desire and motivation to keep it updated fell completely flat this year.

But, a new year is almost upon us and we are feeling a new vigor, a rejuvenation of sorts with regard to documenting our continued nomadic life! And without further delay… a recap of twenty seventeen!

JANUARY:   Started the new year in the utter solitude and peace of Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area recovering from five full weeks of unbridled busyness managing a Christmas tree lot in Sierra Vista, Arizona – We wrote about that HERE. Towing hitch installed shortly thereafter finally allowing Patricia to ride shotgun in the motorhome rather than driving behind everywhere we went! We wrote about that HERE. Another quiet and peaceful location in the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge near Palm Canyon. We wrote about that HERE. For the rest of the month we hung out in Yuma, Arizona (written about HERE) except for a short visit to the Algodones Dunes near Glamis, California (written about HERE). Okay, so January was covered pretty well but if you notice the dates of the blog submissions came as late at July!

FEBRUARY:   We began February by parting ways. Uh, maybe that needs a bit of an explanation!? Patricia flew to Portland, Oregon to get a grand-baby fix! When we left Oregon last fall our eleventh grandchild was born and we didn’t get to spend much time with him before needing to leave the Pacific Northwest for warmer parts. This was especially hard for Patricia. I had surprised her with the ticket back at Christmas time. Rather than complicate life with storing the RV I opted to stay in Arizona. For a week and a half I set up camp at the foot of Saddle Mountain near Tonopah, Arizona, west of Phoenix. I had plenty of hiking and geocaching at my disposal within walking distance of the RV.

When Patricia returned we headed out for revisits to the Saguaro National Park West and White Sands National Park but not before spending a little time with my brother and his family who live in the Phoenix area. Near the end of the month we explored a new place for us – Las Cruces, New Mexico. More specifically, the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. We loved the feel of Las Cruces – a great mix of old and new, of historic and modern.

MARCH:   “In like a lion, out like a lamb”  Usually this refers to weather. Starts out cold, ends much nicer. But if we look at our March experiences it would be a complete reversal. You will see what I mean as I continue.

Early in the month finds us enjoying two familiar locations and a new one. As we left New Mexico for Arizona we stopped for a few days near Bowie, Arizona at Indian Bread Rocks Picnic Area. Yes, it’s a picnic area but primitive camping is allowed. We spent four nights there exploring the rough jumble of rocks at the foot of the Dos Cabezas Mountains and enjoying the sights and sounds of desert birds, coyote and other critters.

Before heading up north for a second visit to the Sedona, Arizona area we paused for a weeks stay just outside Tucson adjacent to the Saguaro National Park where we met up with my parents for some nice family time. Gilbert Ray Camp Ground is our park of choice in this region. Lots of hiking and photography opportunities.

Once in the Sedona area we opted for a different boondocking location from our first and much shorter visit. It was a longer drive on washboard gravel roads than the other location but the reward was much closer access to those gorgeous red cliffs Sedona is known for. We stayed over a week and took many excursions on hiking trails and into town.

Now for the “out like a lion” part. With intentions of visiting the iconic Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods (SE Utah) we departed Sedona and drove north. We passed through Flagstaff stopping only for fuel and dumping tanks because a cold front was predicted to move through and we wanted to get past the higher elevation and on to Utah before that occurred. Well, about 100 miles north of Flagstaff, in the middle of nowhere, our calm drive was abruptly shattered as a steering tire blew out! Long story short….we were towed 100 miles right back to Flagstaff for repairs. When it was all said and done, we spent nearly a full week there before repairs were completed (I will not get into the shoddy work done by the Camping World there – too long and painful). We slipped out of town just as a snow storm was starting! Thankfully, we didn’t have to drive on accumulated snow, just wet pavement for 30-40 miles before dropping in elevation enough to only have rain to deal with. Our plans changed and we decided to skip Monument Valley and get to warmer parts – namely Lake Mead/Boulder City Nevada.  It was a scary experience but glad that nobody was hurt, no other vehicles were involved and less damage to the RV than I expected to find.

APRIL:   Because of commitments in Oregon for four months of park host duties, April was spent travelling north to the Pacific Northwest. We couldn’t spend as much time at locations as we would have liked but we did manage a short stop at Yosemite National Park and an even shorter stop at Carizzo Plain National Monument. Carrizo Plain’s wildflower bloom was on full display but we couldn’t find a place to camp so we had to move on. A very slow and winding road resulted in getting to the wildflower fields at sunset and the only campground was still an hour away. Upon arrival, the campground will totally packed with photographers so we drove the loop and headed back towards Buttonwillow and stayed at a truck stop then continued north the next morning, giving up on shooting wildflowers this time. Next time! as we always say!

We visited Yosemite from the south side this time staying about a week. Several nights at a nice RV park then at a casino the rest of the time. We also enjoyed exploring the towns of Coarsegold and Oakhurst. Patricia was able to meet up with a good photog friend that lives in the area.

MAY thru AUGUST:  During these months we did some volunteering at Oregon State Parks. Wrote about this time period HERE.

SEPTEMBER:   The first week was spent in Dufur at my parents place as we did last year at this same time. Our time there was cut short, however, as we received news that Patricia’s father in California had passed away. We spent better than a week in Concord, California dealing with all that goes with the loss of a parent. Earl was a sweet, kind-hearted man full of stories. Oh how he loved to tell stories! He will be sorely missed!

We returned to Oregon mid-month to get in one last visit with our Portland family before heading south for the winter, camping several days in Champoeg State Park. It was so nice to just be a camper and not have to report to work there!

The last ten days of the month were spent driving east on I-84 into Idaho, down into Utah and ending the month in Ridgway, Colorado. The first three nights were pretty uneventful staying one night each at Walmarts in Redmond, Oregon – Ontario, Oregon – and Burley, Iadho. Then a Cracker Barrel in Spanish Fork, Utah, followed by two nights at Yuba Lake State Park near Scipio, Utah.

Finally, in Colorado, we settled into a four night stay at Ridgway State Park. Read about a previous visit HERE. This time we took a day trip to nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. What an incredibly deep and picturesque canyon! Patricia was able to revisit several locations for fall color photography. Unfortunately, the color was a little past peak and the weather was getting wintery (snowed on our last day there!) so we decided to head for Moab, Utah and check out Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

OCTOBER:   Most of October was spent visiting three national parks (Arches, Canyonlands and Zion) and a Utah state park (Dead Horse Point State Park).

Having recently turned 62, I purchased the much-coveted National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Lifetime Senior Pass (“Senior Pass” or “America The Beautiful Pass” to most people). I share the full title of the pass to point out that it’s not just for national parks. It’s good for all USFS and BLM recreational sites, campgrounds and other fee areas. Because I now had the senior pass, we scored a descent campsite at a conveniently located campground for accessing Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point. For half price! Six nights at Horsethief Campground for a total of $45 was a sweet deal!

Canyonlands was impressive due to its vastness and deeply eroded ….well, canyons! Dead Horse Point was pretty much the same scenery since they are right next to each other. Arches had its own appeal with interesting rock formations and coloring….and the arches, of course! We also explored the town of Moab. That place is a mecca for the young, active generation! Mountain biking, in particular.

Zion was great to visit again. On previous visits, we stayed a full month at an RV park in Hurricane and a week at Sand Hollow State Park. This time we opted to boondock closer to the park on BLM land near Virgin. It involved far less driving on desert dirt and gave us quick access both to the park and to shopping in LaVerkin and Hurricane. A small group of RV’s pulled into our area and we ended up visiting a bit and making new friends.

Departing Zion area, we made a short hop into the upper left corner of Arizona and stayed a week at another BLM campground right on the Virgin River near Littlefield, Arizona. The daily rate was only $8 and we only paid $4 – another sweet senior pass deal! This was our last stop before settling into a longer stay (almost two weeks) at Boulder City, Nevada from which we ventured into Las Vegas several times visiting Patricia’s mother and siblings. We have stayed at Boulder Beach Camp Ground several times before but this time we got the senior daily rate of $10 instead of $20! I love being a senior!!

NOVEMBER:   After two weeks at Boulder Beach and visiting family in Vegas, it was time to move on. We almost headed down to Lake Havasu City for a return visit but opted for a new area – Prescott, Arizona. So glad we did! We really liked the town and surrounding area. Lots of trails to hike and bike. Interesting and fun town. Kayaking right in town at Watson Lake was one of the highlights – it felt a little like paddling around in an ancient rock quarry! We found a nice campground just outside of town where we stayed ten days at…you guessed it…half-price!! Nine bucks a night! Love it!

The second half of the month was spent a short distance away in the Cottonwood/Sedona area. This time we returned to boondocking just south of Cottonwood instead of our March location at the western edge of Sedona. We didn’t feel like driving the RV out that very bumpy road this time. The Cottonwood location was surprisingly less crowded than we’ve seen it. We actually settled into the very same “campsite” we had last year! Thanksgiving was quiet with just the two of us enjoying a festive vegan dinner. I am not vegan but Patricia leans heavily that direction and she prepared a great tasting little feast! While in the area, Patricia was able to meet up with a fellow photog who lives there in Cottonwood. Several visits to Sedona produced some nice photography. In addition, we just had to make a trip to nearby Jerome with it’s funky layout and attitude. It’s an old copper mining town on a hillside and is always worth an afternoon walk through.

BLM camping in Cottonwood, AZ

DECEMBER:  Early December found us on the east side of Phoenix (Apache Junction) at the Lost Dutchman State Park. Our purpose here was photographing the spectacular Superstition Mountains in the immediate foreground of our campsite. Lots of hiking trails running right out of the campground up into the hills! I hiked almost every day and we could just walk from the RV out into the sloping lowlands for great sunset photography. We also had a really fun meetup with a couple we park hosted with in Oregon’s Champoeg State Park the past two years. We had a great meal and visit to an interesting museum with them.

After our fill of The Superstitions, we returned to Gilbert Ray Campground near Tucson for a week. We were slowly working our way to New Mexico to meet my parents for Christmas. They are fulltime RVrs as well (20+ years now!!) and spend nearly the whole winter in the New Mexico state park system. We have enjoyed our visits in New Mexico but it’s just too cold for our taste to stay that long. As always when we are in the Tucson area, we make an effort to get down to old town – it has a very old but picturesque vibe that Patricia loves to capture! I had several hiking excursions getting geocaches I had missed on previous stays.

Leaving Tucson, we continued east and decided to stop a few days in Benson’s SKP park. At this point, the weather reports were looking uglier and uglier for our destination meetup in Deming, NM. Cold, wet and maybe even some snow! We called the folks and begged out of the Deming plans, tucked our tails and headed back west out of the storms path. They actually were glad for the change of plans as it meant they could keep their pattern of 14 day stays in the state park system in the Las Cruces area. Maybe next year!

When we finally got beyond the foul weather region, we were in Yuma! Funny though, our first two nights in Yuma were down around 31 degree lows! But at least we were out of the predicted moisture!

As I write this, Christmas is nearly upon us. We have packaged up some southwest trinkets and goodies and mailed them off to family. We will likely see in the new year here. We anticipate meeting up with friends as they migrate this direction.