"Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt" US Forest Sevice

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chiricahua National Monument

Interstate 10 seems to have a high wind warning in place every time we drive across southern Arizona and New Mexico. Fortunately, this time the wind was to our back. A huge dust storm from the south welcomed us as we arrived in Willcox and got settled before the highway was closed for a few hours due to the blowing dust. It seemed like the perfect day to stay inside and read.
The next day, we got up early for our hike. The temp was 46 degrees and windy. We had to adjust our layers of clothes a few times until it was just right. Good thing we keep plenty of clothes in the backseat of the truck for "just in case". We added gloves and headed down the trail. We were the only people on the trail for quite a while. I guess the other people waited until it warmed up before starting.

I am leery of trails that start with a steep downhill. You know when you are returning and tired that you must go up.

 The most noticeable natural features in the monument are the rock pinnacles that the monument was created to protect. Rising sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, many of these pinnacles are balancing on a small base, seemingly ready to topple over at any time. The Civilian Conservation Corps, during their occupation here in the 1930s, named many of the rock formations that can be seen today.

The Apaches considered this to be the land of the Standing Up Rocks. The formation of these rocks started with a volcanic eruption 27 million years ago. Cooling and uplifting created cracks and joints in the rocks. Ice and water erosion continues to enlarge the cracks as weaker material is washed away.

The hike was a great 6 miles out and back.

More rocks

We continually noticed the hard work of the CCC to protect the land and provide good trails as we walked.

We were inspired as we turned around to go have our picnic.
We met a fun couple from Juneau, Alaska as we hiked. They are on the road for four months while their house is rented by legislative delegates while at Alaska's capitol.

Crocodile Rock?

I must say that once we returned that Subway sandwich tasted so good as we sat in the sunshine on a warm rock! It warmed up to 59 degrees. Perfect hiking weather.

I just missed this guy as I stepped over a rock!
 We had to drive from the highway for 35 miles to get to the park but it was well worth the effort. The Chiricahua campground was tight and no reservations were available. The  campground in the town of Willcox worked out just fine. This was a quick stop for us but a good one.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hanging with the birders in Patagonia Lake State Park

We really weren't familiar with this Arizona State Park until our friends, John and Chris, decided to become rangers here for the season. They invited us down. We hadn't seen them in quite a while since they too are on the road a good deal. We took them up on the offer.

The more south we traveled, the higher the mountains became and the trees began to show up.

This part of Arizona is a big draw for birders. Since it is so far from anywhere and the moon did not come out until almost dawn, there were more stars in the sky than I have ever seen.

It was spring break and the kids and families were at the beach or fishing along the shore. It was fun to see a dad walking the birding trail this morning with his brood in tow. At night, it got very quiet. I bet everyone was tired.

There was actually a sighting reported while we were here. 
This is a V.I.B. (very important bird) area.  There was an Ocotillo forest in Sonoita Creek. But with the dry climate and high elevation, they had not leafed out but had lots of buds that should be something to see now that it is supposed to rain today.
The Blackhawk Trail connected to the Sonoita Creek Trail and had several off shoots to extend the hike to 3-4 miles. It was a toasty morning so we called it a morning when we returned to the lake.

Once we returned from our hike, I felt the need to drive the 20 miles to the Mexico Border in Nogales to see the "Wall". It made me sad but far smarter people than me understand the need. I have taken care of border crossers that have had unfortunate circumstances that ended them in the ICU of the hospital I was working in Tucson. I am glad that I just have to take care of them as "people" and not have to make decisions about what to do with that entire situation.

The Wall

I like Ranger John's pimped out ride.

I didn't get a picture of Ranger Chris in her uniform but did get one when they came to have dinner at our "place". Then we spent the evening visiting next too the fire that John provided. The people we meet along the way make our adventure even better.

A male Vermillion Flycatcher 

Our morning walk along the bird path before we loaded up to head to Willcox.

The ladder back woodpecker was hard to get a pictures since he was speedy and after food. Do I sound like a birder? Not so much. These are pretty common here.

 Chris brought some great treats for desert from this bakery in Patagonia. We managed to find our way as we passed through this artsy town and got a couple of morning treats to get us the 90 miles for our next stop.

The winds were getting pretty strong as we arrived in Willcox. We were nestled between RVs once we got settled while the windstorm got stronger in the afternoon.
It was good to just take the afternoon and read and catch up on things since we had no internet or TV while at the lake.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Leaving Tucson's wildflowers

We got up early to take the trailer to All's RV repair shop. Their mobile RV service would have come to us but mentioned it could get pretty expensive if we needed replacement parts and a return trip. The hub was overheating because the brake needed an adjustment. They made those adjustments, checked the other wheels and we were out by 1pm. The mechanic asked how Mike knew there was a problem since we had just had the brakes and bearings serviced in Mesa before leaving. He is always checking to make sure things are in working order. At times, he will be sitting and suddenly say "What is that  noise?" and march around looking for the change in a sound. I think he is kind of weird but appreciate that strangeness about him. Usually, people end up in the shop when their RV starts smoking from overheating and the expensive damage has been done.  We were thankful for $106 bill and how good they treated us.
An announcement must have been made that the wildflowers along the Sutherland Trail in Catalina State Park were at their peak . As we were returning from our early morning hike, s herd people were heading up to see them.

I like getting out early to beat the heat and people then are back in time for brunch in a shady spot. But I bet when it cools down, sleeping in will be good too.

We saw these strange small holes in the ground on the trail with bees going in and out in several places. It turns out that 70% of bees in the US live underground. A few times while hiking we would walk into a small swarm of bees and then see these holes.

Leaving Catalina a day early to avoid the drive back north after the repairs, we had to find a place to stay until our next stop. March is high season for RVs in Arizona and can be expensive for a night if you can find a place. We checked out the Passport America near Tucson called Justin's Diamond J RV Park.  It turned out to be quite nice at $20 a night. We could see ourselves returning in the future to check out the trails directly from the RV park into the Tucson Mountain Park.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Back on the Road!!!

I let my manager at the hospital know that it was time for us to leave and she put me into inactive status. I can return in 6 months and still have a job. What a great job to be able to work 4 shifts a month and have the bonus of plenty of time off. I guess I wasn't ready for total retirement yet.
During the two hour drive to Catalina State Park, Mike noticed one of the trailer hubs was hotter than the others. He made an appointment to have it looked at before we leave Tucson on Monday. It is nice to have someone that pays attention to such things. He treats the trailer similar to a helicopter pilot and his chopper with his walk arounds before and during our trips.
This noisy cardinal caught our attention on our early morning hike to Romero Pools.

He and his friends were warming themselves in the sun.
This hike turned out more difficult than in the past. It has plenty of elevation gain with lots of obstacles. But even with a  7 am start and temps of 47 degrees, it heated up to a record heat wave (92 deg)  20 degrees hotter than usual.

Much of the climb, we were in the shade as the sun was rising. But once we started down to the pools, it was just hot.

We used our hats to pour the water over our heads to cool down but were once again dry in a mile.

We have visited this park several times but were happy to get in on another stay due to cancellations. We didn't have much planned since we weren't sure when we would be leaving Mesa. 

The brittlebush was out in full bloom and bees busy at work.
Each morning, we were up early for a bike ride or hike up the Canyon Trail which runs along the creek. This was a new trail for us. I had my gloves on the first couple of miles due to a morning temp of 47 degrees. Once the sun was over the mountains, we started removing things for the walk back down.
At night it was interesting looking for scorpions with our black light. This makes me rethink the whole sitting outside in my flip flops reading in the evenings as the sun goes down...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The desert is starting to bloom HA CHOO!

Before we started spending time in Arizona a few years ago, I never understood why anyone would want to live in such a place.  Now we find ourselves repeatedly drawn for different reasons. The main draw for us is the hiking and mountain biking in such a different environment of flora and fauna.
This year we ended up staying longer than in previous years. But now we have the go ahead. On our anniversary, Mike had a follow up appointment to find out the status of some biopsies. What a great gift, everything was good.
This winter has brought much more rain and the cactus are starting to bloom.

Over time, we have continued  the process of shedding our things. Our Jeep Liberty was an like an old friend that I liked to drive, a great vehicle for outings in the mountains and getting in tight places. Last year we brought it to Mesa and stored it for our return this winter. The hot summers are pretty hard on vehicles and we knew it was time for it to find a new home. I felt sad when we signed over the papers to the new owner but knew it was the right thing to do. It also feels good to let one more thing go.

 We started geocaching last year. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. There are also trackables,  a sort of physical geocaching "game piece.  They are moved from cache to cache by the geocachers depending on what the goal might be.
 1,400 CATCH-M trackables were released to geocachers in the USA to place inside geocaches. We received one and have released it in a nearby cache. It will be interesting to see where it will travel.
With the all clear from the doctor, it was time to make some plans. We were fortunate to get reservations for Catalina State Park due to cancellations and will stay here a few more days before starting our cross country journey. Got the "Hitch Itch" and sneeze (all of that pollen).