Friday, May 10, 2019

Navajo Lake (& Dam) State Park

Dale and I left Bluewater on the first of May and drove north toward Navajo Lake. The trip was about 150 miles, but we decided to split it into two days. We took Highway 371 to Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness, where we found an overnight parking lot. We hiked out through the hoodoos, exploring the interesting scenery. There were lots of photographers and hikers car-camped beside us, but we had a quiet night.

The next morning, we drove on to Navajo Dam and into the campground. There were very few primitive (non electric/water) sites, so we took a couple sites with hookups. It’s been a luxury that we have really appreciated since we’ve had some very chilly temps and a couple of nasty rainy days, so the electric furnace has felt mighty good.

Dale and I wanted to visit Chaco Culture National Historic Park, but reports of the terrible road to the site have scared us off. Instead, we satisfied our curiosity with a tour of Aztec Ruins National Monument. This well preserved ancient settlement was built and inhabited by ancestral Pueblo people about 900 years ago. Much of the village remains, and the largest “Great Kiva” (ceremonial building) has been fully restored and represents an important central sanctuary, which the native tribes believe are still inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors.

We killed a lot of time plus three trips to theVerizon store in Farmington trying to switch my carrier from AT&T. After finally jumping through a bunch of hoops, we discovered my iPhone 7+ is not compatible with Verizon. Since I’m not ready to buy a new phone this spring, I will stick with the plan I have for now.

Otherwise, we have filled our days with walks to the lake, hikes up the hill to the closed campgrounds above ours, and lots of reading and TV. It’s been a relaxing week and a half here where Mom and Dad spent so many wonderful summers in their retirement years. I can see why they loved it so much. It’s a great area.

On Monday, we will pack up and move to Heron Lake State Park. Dale has predicted I will love the campground (with the possible exception of spotty cell signal), so I’m anxious and ready to move over there for a week or so.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sightseeing around Bluewater Lake

Roasting hot dogs
Dale and I have been at Bluewater for nearly a week. It’s been nice and cool most days, with overnight lows in the 40s. We have had wind and light rain the last couple days, putting a little damper on outdoor adventures.

One day, we hiked the Canyonside Trail. This trail is less than a mile total, but it’s a little rugged climbing down the mountainside, hiking along the stream, balancing on rocks and downed logs to cross the stream twice, and then climbing back up to the campground. But it was a very nice day, and there was beautiful scenery to enjoy. We found several swallows nests attached under the cliffs, but no other wildlife.

Zoom in to see the swallow’s nests attached to the cliff wall
We took a day trip down to Bandera Volcano and the Ice Cave. Visitors to this attraction can hike 3/4 mile up to the volcano (and back), reading interesting facts along the way about the history of the area and see many lava formations.

When we returned to the base, we then ventured a half mile down to the ice cave. This interesting cavern stays at 30° year round inside the mouth, but just 10’ back from the opening, it’s normal air temperature. The ice floor is centuries old and about 25’ deep. Visitors are limited to viewing the ice formations from a platform just above the opening of the cave.

Dale wanted to show me where he had camped last year on the west side of the lake, and also check out if I could get an AT&T signal over there, so one day we took Hanna and drove up I-40 to Thoreau and down the back road to the lake. There is just a very primitive campground there in the park, with pit toilets. But then we drove out along a forest road for a short distance and found the large, open, beautiful spot where he had disperse camped. It was outside the park, hidden from the road, and he said he stayed there three weeks because it was so nice for him.

Yesterday morning, we walked up to the dam overlook and just happened to time it when a maintenance worker was opening one of the spillway pipes. We saw first a trickle of black water come through the sluice, then a rush of brown water, and finally a clean gusher that shot out a few feet from the dam wall. Then we watched as the worker locked the door, climbed a ladder up the side of the dam, walked across the top of the dam, and disappeared out of our sight. By the time we got back to the trailhead, he was coming up the road in his truck. I’d like to go back to the dam overlook tomorrow morning to see if the water is still running or if he closed it back down today.

Today, we drove into Grants and went through the Mining Museum. Seniors get a bargain rate of $3, and that included a video and a walking tour of an underground uranium mine. It was quite interesting, with recordings from several former miners describing the process, different elements and areas of the mine as we studied the old equipment and remnants of ore left behind. The miners made a very good salary for their difficult and dangerous work, but many of them died from lung cancer after exposure to uranium dust for so many years.

We are heading out tomorrow for Navajo Lake. We’ll make a two day trip of the journey. I’m looking forward to staying again in a place Mom and Dad loved to visit in their retirement RVing years. See you down the road!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Percha Dam to Bluewater Lake

Dale and I left Percha Dam on Wednesday headed toward Bluewater Lake State Park. To split up the ~260 mile drive, we planned to camp overnight near Pie Town on Wednesday night and drive on to the lake on Thursday.

We stopped at the VLA (Very Large Array) along Highway 60, near Datil. This is the site of 22 humongous radio wave telescopes. Run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, these powerful telescopes monitor the universe 24 hours a day, and knowledge captured here is combined with information and images from visual telescopes around the world to give a more complete understanding of the galaxies. Cell phone signals interfere with what the VLA is tracking, so of course must be off.

We both needed gas and to our great disappointment, there were no stations in either Datil nor Pie Town, so we continued on to Quemado. After filling our tanks, we studied the campground maps and found our choices were to drive another 70 miles to the next campground, or backtrack 20 miles to Pie Town. “Seventy miles, or backtrack for pie?” We looked at each other, grinned, and turned back.

We found a spot in Lee Jackson Park campground, which luckily was just across the road from the pie shop! We went over, picked out two six inch pies to take back to camp, and were shocked when the cashier said, “That’ll be $11.57. Each.” Better be some darn great pie for that amount! I got blueberry butterscotch and Dale picked dark chocolate cherry. We exchanged a couple pieces, and both agreed the blueberry was better than the chocolate cherry.

The next morning we drove to the Walmart in Grants, then on to Bluewater. On the way, we noticed this beautiful natural arch and stopped to take a look, before going on to the park.

We circled all the campground loops until we found a double space where we could park close enough for Dale to share Verizon Hotspot with me. I can’t get an ATT signal here.

We plan to spend about a week here, exploring the park and nearby areas, before heading farther north.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Percha Dam State Park

I arrived at Percha Dam on Friday afternoon where Dale is set up in the overflow camping area (non hookup sites). He has his rig positioned where his solar panels can soak up the sun throughout the day, but I decided to park in the shade of a tree about 100 yards away from him. It’s a nice little campground with the exception of stickers and goat heads everywhere except the roads. I’ve had to carry Hanna from my rig to the road every time we go walk anywhere.

Yesterday (Saturday) we drove down to Leasburg Dam State Park. It’s a very pretty, well maintained campground, but more scrub desert than here at Percha. We drove around all the loops and it was completely full.

Before heading back to our camp, we stopped at Fort Selden to look around the ruins and learn a bit of history about the area. It was $5, well worth it for the film, nice museum and trail around the grounds. The fort was active in the 1880s, and General Douglas MacArthur was a toddler living there with his officer father.

We are going to stay here a few more days and then head to a little higher elevation. The 80’s are quickly turning into 90’s here at 4100 feet.
Dog day afternoons

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Spring 2019

Hanna and I are heading to New Mexico to visit some of the state parks. Dale is camping there this spring and I thought it would be a good chance to catch up with him, as well as  enjoy some of the areas Mom and Dad used to frequent in their retirement years.

I left Mesa at around 10:00 this morning and drove straight down I-10, past Tucson, on through Wilcox, and stopped at a rustic little RV Park in Bowie, AZ. There’s not much to look at here, but it’s run by some really friendly folks and was very economical for full hookups. I’ll only be here overnight, and then plan to drive to Percha Dam in NM where Dale has already set up camp and is waiting for me.

I did have an interesting story that I shared on Facebook: “I was driving along on I-10 at 62 mph in my Winnebago Minnie east of Wilcox this afternoon and I got pulled over by a Highway Patrolman. He was planning to give me just a warning for not changing to the left lane when I went by him earlier as he was on the side of the road. (There was a car beside me so I couldn’t move over, but the cop couldn’t see it because I was in the way. Besides I was going well below the speed limit.) Anyway, before he came up to my RV window, he ran my license plate and it came back belonging to a Mini Cooper. In a couple minutes, two border patrol showed up. I guess they thought I had stolen it and/or was transporting illegals. Asked if I had a weapon, then asked me to step outside, then questioned me whether I even owned a Mini Cooper.  It was finally sorted out that the truncated “Minni“ on the license registration had confused someone somewhere. 🙄”

And that’s day one of my spring RV trip!
Full moon rising

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Boondocking near Yuma and Generator Fix

Richard & Dianna and Dale are boondocking near Imperial Dam just north of Yuma, and I drove my Minnie out to camp with them last week. I've boondocked in the desert LTVA before, and I admit it is not my favorite. It's usually flat desert land with lots of wind and dust and not much to do. But the LTVA near Yuma was surprisingly pleasant. The landscape is much more hilly than Quartzsite, and much prettier than Thousand Trails near Cottonwood, and the spot where the brothers are camped was in a bit of a valley where it's more protected from the wind. So I have to state, I rather enjoyed it! 😊 Hanna and I walked every day, either up the road past some businesses and other rigs, or to a bridge over Mission Wash. We got plenty of exercise and it was a beautiful spring week with temps in the mid 70s to low 80s, and sunshine nearly every day.

A few sightseeing highlights included a day trip to Los Algodones, having lunch at the Yuma Proving Grounds, and four wheel driving around the area, stopping at the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge.
The crowd coming back into the U.S. from Mexico was huge!
The main reason I decided to go out there to camp (even though I had not expected to like the area) was to see if Richard and Dale could get my generator going. After having it serviced last spring, it quit running and I haven't been able to use it on my last few camping trips. If they couldn't trouble shoot it and fix it, I would have to take it to a repair shop. They first eliminated the fuel pump as being the culprit, and deduced it was the carburetor.
Pondering the situation
Richard found a great price on a new one on Amazon and we ordered it. Dale removed the old one and installed the new one, and with a few more tinkers from both the mechanics, it finally started running and stayed running. Richard has advised me to start it up and run it once a month whenever it is parked long term in my side yard, and I have put a reminder on my phone to do that along with checking the water level in my batteries.

I made my way home on Saturday in time to attend Nathan's Eagle Scout ceremony that evening.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Camping with Dale in the Tonto Forest, Fall 2018

My Minnie has been sitting in my side yard since I got home from my spring trip. Although I had intended to spend some of my summer in the New Mexico state parks with Dale, the heat wave across the southwest took all the appeal out of that, and I stayed in town where I had air conditioning and the comforts of home. My granddaughter had scoliosis surgery at the end of August, and I committed to be in town until mid October to help out during her recovery. After that, I was itching to travel once more.

By then, Dale had made his way back to Arizona, and he and I planned a camp out in the White Mountains. He drove up past Payson and Star Valley on Thursday, October 18 and secured a nice forest spot near Little Green Valley. I joined him on Saturday.

For 12 days, we enjoyed the cool weather, pine trees, walking up and down the forest road, campfires with S'mores, chasing cows out of our campsite, and lots of running around and sight seeing in my Fit. (Have I mentioned how much I love my toad?)
Dale captured just a couple hours of sunshine on his solar panels each day.
They were indignant we were invading their grazing area.

On Sunday, we made a sobering trip to Water Wheel Falls, the location of a flash flood tragedy in July 2017. A family of ten were swept away and killed while enjoying an outing in the well known swimming hole a few miles north of Payson. It's a beautiful area and you can tell why it's inviting to so many, but the photos and flowers in the makeshift memorial put quite a damper on the place now. Dale, Hanna and I carefully picked our way up the rocky trail to get a glimpse of the waterfall, but didn't linger long.

On Thursday, we drove up to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, taking a picnic lunch along. It's been about 20 years since I've been there, but not much has changed. It's as beautiful as ever. It was a gorgeous day with sunshine and blue skies, and we enjoyed our sandwiches under a tree near the canyon's edge. Dogs are allowed in the park and on the trails around the picnic area and to the overlooks, but not on any of the trails down into the canyon. Dale and I were both nursing sore joints, so neither of us attempted the steep hike down to the creek.

This photo quality does not do the blue sky justice.
A couple days we drove east to check out Camp Sunrise (a free camp for children with cancer that was started when I worked at the American Cancer Society in the late 80s), and look for camping areas for future trips. Other days, we explored west toward Payson and beyond. One morning we stopped at the Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey cabin. The replica cabin was more interesting than the museum, but the docents were a bit too long winded and we left part way through the museum spiel, claiming hunger and fatigue. We went to the local Walmart several times, made a stop at BoSa Donuts, and took in a movie one day at Sawmill Theater.
We checked out progress on this future Tesla Supercharger in Payson.

The trees around our campsite blocked much of the sunshine and Dale's solar energy took a beating. He would not have stayed there had it not been for me enjoying the woodsy spot so much. After the long, hot summer, I had been longing for this cool getaway. But by Wednesday, the overnight temps were getting downright cold, and it was time to head south. We said goodbye before climbing into our respective Minnies and headed down the road, me home and Dale to sunny Bulldog Canyon, then Quartzsite.

Thanks so much Dale, for hanging out with me in the Tonto National Forest!
Our final campfire