The California Deserts

March 28, 2019 – Last I wrote I believe we were in Yuma, readying to travel north into the deserts of Southern California.  We’re now out of the deserts so must be time to take you on that part of the journey.

3/2/19 – First we went up to the Salton Sea, a short drive.  Short history:  The Salton Sea is 236′ below sea level, and is in the Colorado Desert.  Over many thousands of years the Colorado River has shifted course and alternately filled & emptied this low area, but the most recent inflow was accidentally created by engineers in early 1900s.  As the Colorado R. has increasingly been controlled by dams and canals for development and agriculture in the desert, canals were dug from the river to the valley.  As the flow increased, it overwhelmed the engineered canal and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for 2 yrs, filling the historic dry lake bed and creating the modern sea, before repairs were completed.  In the 50s it enjoyed success as a resort area, but in time the salinity increase, pollution from agricultural runoff and other sources, and dead fish contributed to the decline of the tourist industry, it’s popularity to decrease and basically be abandoned.

It’s an interesting thing to see and walk miles of salty shore.  There’s more to see, abandoned resorts and settlements, but geothermal activity is also visible, mudpots and mud volcanoes.  We camped right on the salty shore but only stayed one night.

3/3/19 – After a nice sunrise over the sea we headed a few miles west to Anza Borrego Desert State Park.   You heard all about the super bloom in the Calif. desert?  Well this is where it was!!!  OMG, it was so gorgeous!!  You wouldn’t believe.  Flowers I’ve never seen or heard of.

A lot of other interests at Anza Borrego too.  Huge metal sculptures all over the place, miles and miles.  Some rich guy (or I believe his estate) commissioned the sculptor to construct them on his lands and is now open to the gawking public.  They’re amazing tho, representing creatures who once lived on this land.  You can just see them roaming the badlands.

There were canyon hikes to climb:  Hellhole Canyon, these very different from the Big Bend Canyons, they’re all up, up and up from the valley of flowers through rocky washes, to little waterfalls . . . or not.   Jackalopes among the flowers.  Lots of spiny cacti.

More creature sculptures in another location.  Look at the detail of the feathers and the claws.  Beautiful flowering barrel cactus.

A difficult hike up a stony hill to ruins of an old homestead.  Why did they build up there, they had to CARRY everything up!!!!  For the breathtaking view!  In the photo of the view looking down, if you can zoom in and look closely you might be able to see the dot that is my car, just left of center.

An area with petroglyphs and morteros and other evidence of ancient cultures living in these rocks.  Amazing rock formations.

A drive over 4×4 roads (I’m so glad I have all wheel drive!  It has paid for itself many times.) out into the badlands to view them from breathtaking, I mean took my breath away as I approached the cliff’s edge!!! points within and above.

I spent my birthday here at Anza, this is the hike we took looking for Glorietta Canyon.  Started out innocently enough, then where did that trail go?  Bouldering, scampering over rocks and boulders, and seeing lovely flowers and views along the way.  Never found Glorietta.

Another somewhat difficult straight up hike on Alcoholic Pass Trail.  Spotted a horned toad, tho it’s really a lizard.  Great views, in one direction toward the valley below were farm fields, citrus orchards, right in the middle of the desert.  Irrigated from the Colorado River canal system, via the Salton Sea!?!  And of course more great flowers who don’t need artificial irrigation.

There was more, so much more, to Anza Borrego.  I think my favorite so far.  I know I said I’d post fewer pictures, and these aren’t even very good, and we still have more desert to go to.  We were here more than a week, had trouble leaving.  But leave we did.

3/11/19 – On to Joshua Tree National Park.  The flowers may have been even better here, but only in one area.  Right where we were camped in the middle of them.  Could smell them from the campers.  Ahhhh!!!

And of course there’s more to JT.  Joshua Trees for example.  They’re yucca that grow large and branch like a tree.  And they’re blooming too!!!  And Cholla Cactus.  They say their spines will jump out at you as you pass!  Watch out!!

And more amazing rock formations.  Yep, that last one’s called skull rock.

We were here 5 days and a couple of them were quite windy, too windy to even enjoy a walk among the flowers.  The hikes were mostly among flowers and interesting boulders, so I actually enjoyed a couple of days just sitting out with the flowers near the camp.  On the 17th we moved on north to the next desert.

3/17/19 – Mohave Desert National Preserve.  I had very special camp neighbors, Theresa and Ed, musicians from NC so got to enjoy some fiddle & hammered dulcimer music.  Nice!

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Another highlight here was a trail called the Rings Loop Trail.  It circles around a ridge then cuts through via Banshee Canyon, a twisted passage through a rock barrier with rings embedded in the rock for hand and footholds in the steepest areas. !!  Ha!!  I hiked around the ridge which in itself was pretty amazing – changes in the rock formation all around and the views.  Made it climbing over boulders into the canyon to the wall of rocks that I wasn’t willing to even try since I was by myself.  I was hoping to at least SEE the rings, knowing there was a good chance I couldn’t climb them, but I didn’t.  Disappointed, I hiked back the mile and a half around the ridge.

The next day I hiked to the other end, to see the rings from the top.  Ha again, not even.  It was a struggle for me just to get to the overlooks (the blue railings).  This is one of those times I say loudly “I wish I’d done this earlier, when I was younger and more fit”.  A reminder to you, do it now, don’t wait until . . . .

Parts of I-40 is now what was the infamous Route 66.  Some of Rt. 66 is not on I-40, fun to hit some of it.  The Oasis at Goffs.

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3/19/19 –  On to the next desert – the BIG one!  Death Valley National Park, the largest NP outside of Alaska, with over 3 million acres of federally designated Wilderness.  You might expect a desolate, baren place, but it’s anything but.  Lots of variety of landscapes and terrains: rocky peaks, sand dunes, colorful volcanic residues, mining ruins (including 20 Mule Team Borax) twisted slot canyons, salt flats, and fantastic views of it all.  View of the Basin of Death Valley from Dante’s View, 5000 ft. above.  The Badwater Basin, a surreal landscape of salt flats, the lowest point in North America, 282 ft. below sea level.  The top right photo looking up from the basin, Dante’s View is up there, and the white dot in the middle is a sign that marks sea level.  The bottom 2 are views of wonderfully colored and designed hillsides viewed from Zabriskie Point.

The fabulously multicolored hillsides on “Artist Drive”.

The hike not to miss in Desert Valley – The Golden Canyon Trail to the Red Cathedral!!  Yep, another canyon, another challenging scramble up, over, around and through boulders and rocks.  More wonderful amazing rock formations and color, as the names imply.  It was edgy and questionable toward the top, but I managed this one all the way.  All those rocky photos are OF the trail!!  And the reward at the end!  Beautiful and majestic.  Worth every step, over, under and squeeze.

I met Theresa and Ed on the trail!!  Fun.  Much more, but lets scramble on.

3/22/19 – Drove all the way through Death Valley.  Did I mention that it’s BIG!!  Over mountains, into valleys, continuing west, more mountains, more valleys, fabulously beautiful drive.  Landed at Lone Pine/Mt. Whitney.  This part of the journey was a bit of a pilgrimage for me, Mt. Whitney is where my partner, Yahoo, died in a mountain climbing accident.  For many years I’ve wanted to come here to see where she launched into the next realm.  She had flown into Las Vegas, rented a car and driven through Death Valley to Lone Pine, so I retraced much of her drive getting here.  It was a powerful experience to be here with thoughts of her and wishing she was here with me this time.

It is a beautiful place.  Campground right at the base of Mt. Whitney and the Sierras.  And in front, the Alabama Hills.  What a view in all directions!!  Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 at 14,494 ft., the campsite was at 5,000 ft.  I couldn’t hike into Mt. Whitney because it was closed, still winter up there.  I did manage to get to the snow line, where it was in the misty clouds.

Had a great hike and drive through the rocks and arches of the Alabama Hills.  Many old westerns have been filmed here, looks very familiar.  And Theresa and Ed were here too!!!  We knew we were on the same course, but it sure is fun to have a traveling community to run into sometimes.

Look at those beautiful red flowers (may be Indian paintbrush) growing right out of the rock.

3/27/19 – So, that’s pretty much the end of the California Desert Tour.  It is too cold in the higher elevations still so I’m headed south and west to the coast.   Stayed overnight in Bakersfield where I wrote most of this.  A real culture shock!!  But at least nice to have some internet to get some work done.

Next time, see you on the Pacific coast.

Rolling on,

Lynn and Xena

 

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Snowed in in Tucson

March 15, 2019 – Another sunny but extremely windy day here so spending more time inside catching up on computer.  Hope it calms down enough for a hike later.  Backing up a month again.

2/17/19 – From Alamogordo drove south on 70 and stopped for a cruise around/walk around the White Sands.  Another pretty amazing natural phenom.  The whitest sands you’ll ever see, blowing around in the wind, huge dunes, people allowed to slide down them in a certain area.  The sands shift so much they have to scrape the roads almost daily, sometimes the roads shift and move.

Moved on south to Las Cruces where I stayed a couple nights, got an oil change & general check up on Highlander, shopping, mundane life stuff.  Planned to camp in BLM land at Organ Mtns-Desert Peaks, recently named a National Monument by Obama and status threatened by Trump, but once again wind blew me away.  Beautiful spot tho, did a lot of driving around through it.  Was also hoping to go NW to Gila Cliff Dwellings Nat. Mon. from here, but the weather forecast is calling for cold and snow, so that’ll wait til another trip.  There WILL be another trip!!

2/19/19 – Back on the Interstate!  Not much going on this part of the route, back through Shakespeare Ghost town, Dragoon & the “Texas Canyon”, Saguaro NP and to Adobeland in Tucson.  After a beautiful simultaneous full moon rising/sunset setting, 2 days of rain, freezing rain, snow, hail!!!  Tucson!! Makes for beautiful scenes tho – snow covered Kitt Pk 25-30 miles away taken from my camper, and an icing on car and camper.

It was nice to visit with Earth again tho we were both sorta “snowed in”, trying to keep warm in our respective “cabins”.

9/24 – Pulled out of Tucson, headed back to Yuma.  This time went west of Yuma into California to join the women’s caravan from RTR at the American Girl Mine BLM camp.  Met up with a few women I’d met at RTR and a lot I didn’t know.  Plus reunited with Ursula who had travel a different route this last month.  We continue to explore traveling together to Alaska, at least off and on.

Went back to the dentist, got my crown.  Hiked the rocky hills, good views of the desert below and dispersed camping within, and the mountains across.  Also drove over to the Imperial Sand Dunes.  More strange sand deposits, not white tho.

That light line across the 3rd picture is the sand dunes from afar.

This is basically the end of the first phase, Winter in the SW, of this year’s travel plans.  From here I start the Spring phase – crawling up the west coast, California, Oregon, Washington and BC.  Not literally the “coast”, tho plan to hit it some of the time.  So with this beautiful last sunset in February, I’ll close this blog.

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See you in California next time.

Xena and Lynn

 

More Big Bend and Beyond

March 14, 2019 – I know it’s been a long time since I last posted and got frustrated after running out of space for photos.  I finally got back on the site and figured out how to delete photos, but I think it may have deleted them from the published posts too.  So if you’re looking at old posts from last year, probably no photos.  I’ll be deleting more and be posting fewer from now on.

2/11/19 – I left you in Big Bend, so will continue with a little bit more there and then move on.  We were at the Santa Elena Canyon.  In addition to just being there, hiking into the canyon, an exciting thing that happened was that I saw a couple of kayaks way down in the Rio Grande.  I took some pictures of them and when we were driving back, incredibly I caught up with them at the put-in down the road.  I showed them the photos and got their email address and was able to send them the pictures.  They were very excited, never having seen themselves from that angle.

The last picture is a farewell to the Santa Elena Canyon taken from an overlook on the road.  Then a very long drive back to camp.

2/12/19 – Today is my last day in Big Bend, decided to take it kinda easy and stay close to camp, since everyday I’d basically been making coffee, packing food and taking off and driving a lot.  It’s a huge National Park.  You may recall the first day I went across the Rio Grande to Boquillas, MX.  There is also a canyon trail there and since it’s close I went back.  These 2 canyons are at opposite ends, east and west, of Big Bend, after the Rio Grande snakes it’s way all the way around the “big bend” of the border between TX and MX.  Another fabulous hike into a canyon.  Initially it climbs to a great rock overlook of the river and entrance to canyon, then down and back up again via a series of switchback steps to overlook the river in the canyon.  Then descends again to the river floodplain and walks along paths until the beach ends and the river meets the canyon walls.

Went back to the campground and had lunch, then went to the hotsprings for a dip.  What a wonderful way to end a week at Big Bend.  But that wasn’t the end after all.  While walking Xena, saw a nature trail from the campground I hadn’t taken yet so decided to.   Went through some interesting wetlands and ended up going up a large mound where there were all of a sudden a lot of people.  And a gorgeous view of the sunset.  Right place, right time, but I had no idea what to expect and didn’t have my ph. with me so no pics.

2/13/19 – Packed up and drove back to Davis Mountain.  And finally got that bungee replaced!  Did I say that when I went to do it before discovered the screw hole was mangled and couldn’t.  Ended up JB welding a length of aluminum to the aluminum on the camper, drilling a new hole and riveting the bungee on.  Thanks to my friend Mary who’s hosting at Davis, she found supplies I needed in the town and borrowed rivet gun from maintenance at park and we were able to do it.  Also, thanks to Mother Nature for slacking off on the wind!!  Would not have been possible in wind.  Of course I had to take most everything out of the camper and put it down so while we were at it I squeezed in between the roof panels and replace a piece of weather stripping that had loosened itself.  Fun!!!

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2/15/19 – From Davis, I wanted to take a different route back to Yuma where I have an appointment to get my crown in Algodones.  Certainly for variety, but also wanted to avoid El Paso at all costs – biggest snarling highway interchanges I’ve ever witnessed.  So I went due North to Guadeloupe Mountains NP.  It’s a fantastic natural mountain scene and highway 54 goes around/through the eastern part of it.

The campground was small, cramped, on a mountainside and very windy.  Plus it was full, so I kept going.  Too late to take a hike and I’m adding a week to the trip back, so on to Carlsbad, NM.

2/16 –  Carlsbad Caverns.  Fascinating!!!  Magical!!!  Amazing natural wonders!!!  I think I took a couple hundred pictures.  A few, starting with the entrance.  They’ve done a fabulous job of lighting.

Wish you could see them all.

In the afternoon, moved on north to Artesia and turned west on 82, no idea what I’d find.  For miles it was desolate flat desert, then it suddenly started gaining altitude, and losing temp.  Went from 3300′ to 8700′ and Alpine forest, and back down, from 70F to 30 and snow, and back up!  Wheee, what a ride.  Cloudcroft, Snow Canyon.  All camping areas were closed,  and in Lincoln National Forest dirt roads into the mountains for dispersed camping were really steep and scary.  Ended up in Alamogorda for the night.

That was a lot of excitement for one day, from caverns (didn’t even check to see what the elevation is there) to desert to snow covered mountains!

I will close here for now.  Computer battery running out and need to charge.  It’s cold and windy here, hard to go out even tho it’s deliciously sunny, but think I’ll go take a hike.

Til next time,

Lynn & Xena

 

Big Bend – are we there yet?

Feb 7, 2019

We left off yesterday at Terlingua/Study Butte, just outside the west entrance of Big Bend so lets go on in now.  First just some scenes of the drive in.

 

How to describe Big Bend.  800,000 acres.  Mountains surrounded by vast desert, sometimes called sky islands.  From an elevation of 1,800′ to nearly 8,000′.  Massive canyons carved out by the ever changing Rio Grande.  Extreme diversity of plant and animal life from the desert floor to the green forested mountains.  So much awesomeness!!!

Feb. 8 – Starting out closest to the Campground on the east side, we went to the Boquillas Canyon and Border Crossing.  After going through the very small Port of Entry, passport in hand, you walk down to the Rio Grande and folks from the tiny Mexican village of Boquillas will row you across the river.  That’s how you get to Mexico at this border crossing!  Then you can go up the river bank to the village on a burro, a horse, in an old truck or walk.  Burro!  In the village are a couple of restaurants.  Tamales for lunch.  Many of the people make crafts to sell to the tourists.  This little village is very poor, they rely entirely on tourists business.  It’s tiny, not like other large border towns.  All I could think was how they suffered during the shutdown, and they don’t get their back pay.  I heard that after 9/11 the US closed this crossing and didn’t reopen it til a few years ago.  The folks here pool their money so it doesn’t matter who you buy your trinkets from.  Their English is very good.  It’s all very sweet – and sad.  I wanted to buy some of them all, but settled on the Roadrunner and Occatilla.  Many of the napkins and dish towels said “No Wall”.  The Bluebonnets were blooming.  Had to make it a kind of short visit as Xena was in the car at the border crossing.

Also took a short hike to an old ranch with historical information about how folks tried to farm this desolate country, and to a hot springs which was developed with small lodge and store in the 30s only to last a few years.  After this excursion I drove through desert to the main Visitors Center, taking some of the dirt roads deeper into the back country of the desert along the way.  A fabulous VC.  Among other great interactive and educational displays at the Visitor Center, I watched their video which was probably the best of all the National Park videos I’ve seen.

 

Feb. 9 – A long drive again to Chisos Mountains, a beautiful steep winding climb into the mountains, with more short hikes I could take with Xena in the car.  Breathtaking views of mountains and surrounding desert.

Back at camp, after an amazing day of sights, a great sunset.

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Feb. 10 – Lots of driving in such a large park, again.  Today went on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, in all a 30 mile drive to Santa Elena Canyon on the west, opposite the Boquilla Canyon on the east.  But we didn’t make it all the way today, just too much to see.  More magnificent mountains.  Took several trails, to an old ranch again, Burro Mesa, the Chimneys which had great views, and ended at Mule Ears.

I have a million pictures but you can probably tell from these that it was cloudy and rainy these days so they aren’t very good.  It was getting late and much more to see so just turned around and drove back to finish this magnificent drive tomorrow.  Two coyotes ambled across the road on the way out.

Feb. 11 –  Drove quickly without stops back to Mule Ears to start the rest of the scenic drive.  Could see Mule Ears many time, from different viewpoints.  It’s just so identifiable.  There is an area here called Badlands that looks very different from the rest of the mountains. (first picture).

On to Castellon, where there are ruins of a cotton plantation and cotton gin, an army outpost, later trading post.

Then the crown jewel of it all, the Santa Elena Canyon Trail.  You hike right into the canyon, high rocky elevation first then down to the Rio Grande.

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Well, well.  I just hit my limit of photos.  I’ll see what I can do about upgrading tomorrow, too late tonight.  More to come.  Glad I got at least one picture of the canyon in tho.  So magnificent.  And to walk right into it.  WOW!

Happy Trails,

Lynn and Xena, tho Xena didn’t get to enjoy much of this trip.  Poor puppy.

 

West Texas, Oh My

Feb 20, 2019.

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I apologize for being so long posting here, and appreciate all the texts and emails you’ve sent wondering if I was OK.  Just West Texas, the wild west, very little connectivity plus so many miles to drive and hike and things to see and do.  Here goes, this is gonna be long.

Jan. 29 – If you remember last time, I had to get a new windshield.  I couldn’t drive for a few hours after it was done, as soon as I could I was moving.  First went back to Painted Rocks Petroglyphs near Gila Bend to meet up with a friend who was there.  She’s been traveling over a year with her horse!!  In a trailer of course, not riding her, tho riding all over these western desert hills like in the old wild west westerns.  We’d missed meeting up several times last year when we were both traveling, so this time couldn’t let it pass. She also travels with her cat, she attached a small wire crate outside an open window for her to be outside but safe.

Remember when I was at Painted Rocks earlier my ph was dead so didn’t get any pictures so I did this time.

After a couple of days, we kept moving south toward our destination – Texas.  Stopped over at Ajo and a quaint little tiny town called Why, and camped at a BLM site there.  Feb. 1 found us at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  More fantastic desert mountains and cacti.  Organ Pipe Cactus has many trunks coming up from the ground, unlike the Saguaro with it’s one main large trunk that branches with arms.  All so amazing.  Some of the barrel cactus had started blooming.

From there we went to Tucson and met up with Earth, another old friend at Adobeland, a women’s land there.  Great to reconnect after many years.  We went to Saguaro National Park West and drove the scenic drive, another fabulous drive.  On the way west I’d stopped at Saguaro NP East but it was during the shutdown so only got to drive through.  This time able to visit the visitor center and get my passbook stamped.  🙂

There was also a pile of volcanic rocks with petroglyphs here, a much higher climb to get to them.  There was a rattler in the middle, appropriately right under the spiral, which means snake.  The bottom left picture shows the spiral at top, the snake is on the bottom rock. The picture on the right is close up of rattler right in the center.  Well camouflaged, same color as rocks.

The next day I went to the Desert Museum, it was raining, 90% of it was outside and it cost $20 (senior), so I decided not this time.  But there was a handler with an owl outside, a beautiful barn owl.  This is not a picture of a picture, it is alive, perched on the handlers gloved hand.  The other pictures are random cactus all around my “yard” where I was camped at Adobeland, including one growing out of the bumper of an old bus.

One of the most fascinating areas I’ve been through is in southeastern AZ.  Wild West Country, Cochise, Geronimo, Earp, OK Corral country.  And physically breathtaking.  I-10 goes through an area at Dragoon called Texas Canyon, which cuts through the mountains and made me stop in my tracks.  Smart, there’s a large rest area there.  Another interesting stop on this route at Shakespear Ghost Town in New Mexico.  Read The Women of Shakespeare.

One last night before TX, I tried to camp at Rock Hound State Park in NM.  Campground is perched on a mountainside, the wind was howling right into it, I still hadn’t replaced my bungee and I said “Nope” and went on down the road.  Ended up staying at a very nice rest area outside El Paso, full of other campers/RVers.  They allow overnights at rest areas in TX.  After El Paso, you are in West Texas, nothing – get gas in El Paso or run out before the next station!!

Feb. 5 – Finally, West Texas!!  Next stop was Davis Mountain to visit with another old friend Mary (old as in haven’t seen her in 30 yrs!!) who is fulltiming in her RV and was hosting there.  Really enjoyed getting reacquainted and discovering our mutual love of traveling. Davis Mountain is really nice, great skyline drive or hike to the top with fabulous views.  It was built by the CCC and some buildings and stone work remains.  Interesting rock formations that look like they’re standing up side by side, making a fence. Or have blown over.  Amazing what that volcanic action and erosion can do.

That building is a shelter at the top of the skyline drive for viewing built by the CCC. The 2 before it are views from the top.  And doesn’t Mary look smart in her uniform and on her Gator!

Ft. Davis is below, an old fort built to protect the settlers from the Indians, who’s land they just happen to be stealing.  If you were reading my blog last spring you’ll remember my visiting a lot of forts on the east coast and being interested in the part these forts played in our history.  Here we are in the wild west, more forts, more history of aggression, this time protecting the westward movement of gold diggers and settlers, from the very people whose land it was.  As I found in the east, these forts were often short lived.  Ft.  Davis was built in 1854 and abandoned in 1861 as all troops were needed for the Civil War.  Reoccupied in 1867 to help bring about the “peaceful settlement and development of the region.” Peaceful?!?!  Then completely deactivated by 1891.  I’d say that’s a lot of taxpayer money gone to a fort that lasted less than 50 yrs, part of that time abandoned, and I understand there are many in the west.

Here’s an interesting factoid.  It was named for Jeff Davis, who was at the time Secretary of War.  Imagine, the Sec’y of War for the federal gov’t becoming the president of the Confederacy!!!

Another point of interest:  From 1867 – 1881, after the war that supposedly freed them. black soldiers were the only troops stationed here, after that both black and white were here in segregated units.  Yet another interesting one: the first black graduate of West Point, Henry Ossian Flipper, born a slave in GA, was stationed at Fort Davis.  While there he was accused and convicted of embezzling funds, falsifying records and lying, and was dismissed.  In 1976, the army reviewed his case and corrected it to show he was honorably discharged.  In 1999, Pres. Clinton pardoned Lt. Flipper.

Feb. 7 – After a fond farewell to Mary, we’re off to Big Bend!!  Oh my, what a BIG Park!!  Just look at a map of it.  I camped at the Rio Grande campground on the east side, lotta driving to see the whole park.  Spend a week there, and oh what a marvelous week.  It is so magnificent because it is miles and miles of desert, huge mountains, the big river (tho it’s rather puny, guess it’s been practically drained dry by irrigation and development up river), and the fabulous canyons it carved throughout.  As elsewhere throughout the west, Xena can’t go on the trails, so my hiking was limited to less than 3 miles each so she wouldn’t be left in the car for more than an hour at a time.  Anyway, if I’d hiked any more, I’d have been there 2 weeks.

I’m going to start out with a tour of Terlingua, just before you enter Big Bend, along with Study Butte.  Turlingua is another ghost town, an old mining town.  Another thing that seemed to be short-lived, mining towns.  Started in late 1800s to mine cinnabar, a mineral that produces mercury, it was over by the 1930s.  Today you see ruins of many buildings and a cemetery.  It has become a bit of a tourist/artsy area and some folks have built new homes, or cabins, or placed RVs, within or next to some ruins, sometimes using walls either for structure or courtyards.  If you can enlarge the picture at the top right (below), you might be able to see some of them.  I found the cemetery very interesting, not for the names and dates as much as for the mounds of rocks, the ancient crosses, the coins that seem to continue to be placed on top of some.  In some cases you practically have to walk over one grave to get to another, yet it seems so much honor is present.

Well, we’re still not really in Big Bend, but it’s getting late and I need to stop.  I’m going to go ahead and post this because there have been times when I kept it to finish later and then lost it.  Don’t want to have to do all this over.  I’ll finish tomorrow.  It’s so long anyway, you’ll need to read it in sessions.

So, hasta manana amigos y amigas,

Lynn

 

Beyond RTR

Jan 27, 2019 – Pilot Knob BLM, Winterhaven, CA.  We’re just outside Yuma, AZ, but the official location is Winterhaven, CA and I thought it was exciting I’ve finally made it to California!!

The RTR ended on the 21st.  Every day was full of more seminars and meeting and getting to know wonderful folks, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, great discussions and music around our rainbow campfire, viewing the full moon and eclipse in a big sky (tho a little bit cloudy).  There are lots of other RV groups who have meet-ups or rallies in and around Quartzsite during the winter, it’s the western snowbird capital! I went to the RVing Women rally nearby.  Don’t know if I mentioned but at WRTR I met up with a woman I met it North Dakota last year.  She’s from NorCal and went to the RVW camp along with some of her CA friends.  So I went over and visited her there and checked out the RVW happenings.  I’ve been debating whether to join them, it’s a club that costs $$.  Think it’s not really my style – Big Rigs and Tiny Dogs!!!  But enjoyed some quiet time with Meggi and Nikki (her little dog, tho she’s in a Pleasureway camper van).  There was a group of Schoolies – school bus conversions – nearby, very interesting and creative RVs, mostly young people with children.

On the last day of RTR there was a “van burning”, a tradition for the last few years.  They built a little camper van out of plywood, during the 2 weeks people write and draw comments and sign it, then the last day it’s burned in the big main firepit.  Someone also wrote appropriate words to Willie Nelson’s song “On the Road Again”.   Such fun!!

Great connections were made.  I took pictures of some of my favs along with their rigs.   I’m absolutely sure we’ll keep up with each other and meet up along the road, travel and camp together, in the future.  In fact we have already.  Here’s a few.

1/21 – Right after the RTR I went to Palm Canyon section of Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.  3 other of our group were already there, one left, another showed up.  The next day 2 left, 2 more showed up.  The next day I left, and the day after that the last 2 left.  Most of us were planning to go to Yuma and the Mexican border, and ended up at the same BLM camping area, Pilot Knob.  Over the next couple of days, 4 other women joined us.  See what I mean?!  I think we’re all having a little separation sadness, even tho we are all solo travelers, like solitude, and were in fact were ready to leave the crowds of RTR.  Here we are.  I know it won’t last, when we leave here we’ll all scatter., but keep in touch and have later rendezvous.

The amazing palms in the middle of the desert canyon, far away and closer, but nowhere near!  Sunset coming out of it, reflecting off the red rocks.  All so amazing, may be one of the best places I’ve been.

A Spiral Labyrinth, more wonderful sunsets in the desert.

The last day at Quartzsite, the winds really picked up, gusting to 30-40 mph.  It continued while at Kofa, day and night. s really eas It was pretty uncomfortable and scary in the Aliner, tho others were rocking and rolling also.  It made me start thinking I might want to change and get a camper that’s just one piece.  Also even tho popping it up and down is easy, only takes a minute or less, but setting up everything inside and putting it back when setting up and breaking camp is getting old.  Just need to think about all the pros and cons.  I love, love, love all the windows, the light, the views, which I’d give up with any other little camper.  Nothing’s perfect.

We came here because Yuma is a large enough city to have all the services and stuff we need and want, from auto & camper repairs/parts to natural foods stores.  Plus going across the border to Los Algodones where there is inexpensive dental and eye care.  Snowbirds get those taken care of here since Medicare doesn’t cover teeth and eyes until it becomes bad enough for surgery.  I have a broken tooth so made an appt for dentist.  Also got another pair of glasses.  It is also very quick.  Others who are full timers have their yearly checkups and teeth cleaning.  Also cheap prescription and over the counter drugs.  And of course all the inexpensive Mexican “stuff”.   I have mixed feelings about this, it surely shows us how ridiculously expensive medical care and drugs in US are.  These are US trained docs.  It also shows how these docs can make more catering to the US tourists with these low prices than they can their own people who are often too poor to even afford these prices.  As far as the “stuff” is concerned, There’s a lot of beautiful stuff here and a lot of junk.  I find it appalling that US citizens bargain the already low prices.  These folks are poor!  They work outrageously hard, and do stuff we would never do, and yet the Ugly Americans dicker a $35 beautiful Mexican blanket down to $20!!!  All for the fun of it, they say.  They also say the Mexicans enjoy it.  Ha!!  I don’t think so.  I bought a hammock swing and paid full price – $25 and wouldn’t think of bargaining it down.  I’ve seen them for $250!!

That last photo is our group here at Pilot Knob.

So off to Mexico a couple of days.  I’m also in Yuma because one of the bungees on my camper came off.  These help raise and lower the roof panels and keep the 2 roof panels from flying apart.  Had to order from the factory, not Amazon, and they won’t deliver to general Delivery and it’s definitely NOT 1 or 2 day.  So I found a repair shop who would accept it for me in Yuma and now I wait.  Then yesterday I discovered a crack in my windshield!!  Not one of those little bings, but a 5-6 in. long crack.  There are several little chips, one of them right on the edge spread to the crack.  Not repairable, whole windshield will have to be replaced.  Luckily my insurance covers it, but they can’t get to it til Tuesday.  So I’m here a couple more days.  At least one other woman here is also waiting til probably Tuesday for a part, so even if the others leave, one will be here.

So that’s where we are today.  Waiting, but enjoying the company and the warm, sunny AZ/SoCal desert.

Til next time, Happy Trails,

Lynn and Xena

Arizona and the Rubber Trampers

1/15/19 – Quartzsite, AZ

It’s raining and cold in the desert, seminars have been cancelled and I’m hunkered down and staying warm in my cozy tin tent home.  Everyone else is also and you can bet are catching up on the internet, making it very slow.

Last entry I just got us into AZ after being chased by tornadoes in TX and snow in NM.  Most of the time in AZ has been dry, sunny and cooler than usual, I understand.  So no complaints about a rainy day to rest and be a little slower paced.

12/29/18 – After the first AZ night in a Walmart, I drove west on I-10 and stopped at the Saguaro National Park.  It was a beautiful sunny day and felt great being back into my mode of travel to see the country instead of running from weather events.  The Park’s visitor center was closed and no rangers of course because of the shutdown, but the park’s scenic drive, trails and day use was open, no fees being collected.  Lots of people were here, not only are we paying millions for this temper tantrum shutdown, the government isn’t collecting income from the parks and other national sites.

The forest of Saguaros is just amazing and beautiful.  Along with the long views of the Sonoran Desert where the sun shines more than 300 days a year!

 

The big one at the top is looking straight up at it, the “arm” next to right is the top, the big one is overhead!  BIG!

And other desert plants.   Cactus and other desert plants are designed for this extreme but predictable climate, global climate change is a challenge for them and desert wildlife, as well as for humans.

After a few hours communing with the cacti, we continued on, got onto I-8 to Gila Bend and a little beyond and off the highway to Painted Rocks Petroglyphs site.  It’s in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and an old landyke friend Puck is “vandwelling” there for the winter.  Enjoyed a couple of days visiting, sharing meals and catching up on the last 20 something years of our lives, in addition to the beautiful landscape and petroglyphs.  The first time I hiked to the patroglyphs Xena was with me, got there and they don’t allow dogs.  Shucks!!  Next time, without Xena, my ph. had died so didn’t get pictures.  Double shucks!!  Promised myself I’d get some on the way out the next day, but totally slipped my mind.  😦 .  Here are some of the dramatic scenery in and around the BLM land.  Seems everywhere is surrounded by mountains, very dark, rock desert mountains.  Can you see my Aliner in the second picture on the right?

The petroglyphs are recordings from prehistoric and historic civilizations, ancient villages along the Gila River. (plus a few contributed by more modern folks, aka grafitti, disrespect.)   Archeologists have dated them from at least 1400 years ago. It is a sacred place for the local native peoples including the O’Odham, Piipaash, Yavapai and others.

Here is at least a picture of the entrance and a couple I got off the brochure.  But you know what petroplyphs look like.

12/31/19 – We left the petroglyphs and drove first up to Phoenix area, had hoped to have a visit with a friend who has winter place in Apache Junction community but she had left ahead of me for the WRTR. Turns out she hadn’t, it had turned cold (low of 21 while I was at Painted Rocks) and she stayed with the warmth.  Got back on I-10 and drove on into Quartzsite.  This is the center of the RVing snowbirds of the west, Q itself is full of very crowded RV parks, full of big rigs, and lots of temporary tent vendors, especially focused on RV stuff.  I heard there’s a full time population of a couple of hundred and a winter population of 1/2 million.  The town totally depends on these 3-4 months for their survival.  Surrounding the town is BLM land, thousands of acres of land that no one else wants.  It’s scrubby desert for miles and miles and miles.  Again, everywhere you go it seems you are surrounded by mountains.  And the sky, Oh, the sky!  So big, wide open, stars seem so much closer, larger, the milky way is so very visible.

All the RVing, vandwelling, boondocking groups from giant rigs with folks who are always hooked up to people living in their cars, Priuses even.  There are a couple roads running out of Quartzsite (Q) into the BLM land and vast space for boondocking, without any amenities.  And here we are, the Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous!

It’s very hard to fully describe this experience.  It’s a combination of teaching/mentoring women new to this lifestyle, and making and renewing connection with others who share the desire to meander around the country in a small home on wheels.  The RTR has the same goal, with obvious difference.  I want to refer you to an article in Wired magazine, https://www.wired.com/story/youtube-boomers-vanlife-bob-wells/.  I hope that works as a link.  It’s about the guy who started it and describes the RTR and it’s goals and philosophy well.  Some of these folks are living this lifestyle by choice, some out of necessity.  The WRTR grew out of a Women’s meeting at the RTR, recognizing the need for women only space, especially because some women find themselves living in their car out of necessity because of divorce and no/little income, loss of home, and some are hiding from abusers.  Bob and Suanne, the woman who got the WRTR going, have started a non profit to assist those here out of necessity who need assistance, just to survive.

So, what am I doing here?  You probably know I’ve been following some bloggers and websites and FB groups for RVers or camperers for quite a while now.  So naturally I ran into CheapRVliving and RTR and was fascinated.  The more I’ve been traveling in my little camper, the more I’ve leaned toward boondocking, primarily because of expense.  If you go out in your camper for a weekend or a week, campground fees are doable, but if you’re out for months or years, paying $25 a night isn’t.  Plus campgrounds are crowded, l like to be in nature, often in isolated places or with folks who enjoy the same instead of sitting in their big rigs, watching TV while the dishwasher does it’s thing.  Of course when I’m at the big National Parks, which I also want to see, there are crowds and I often use the crowded campgrounds, but I’ve learned to find more remote National Forest campsites nearby.  And that’s what I want to learn how to do more, find safe remote free or cheap campsites in or near the places I want to see.  And I want to learn how to manage without the electricity and water hookups, the bathrooms and showers.  As some of you know, I got solar before I left on this journey.  That’s what this is about, both the skills and meeting others who like the same, establishing friendships and sometimes having travel companions.  I have found a few women this time interested in loosely caravaning together to Alaska this year.  Nice!

So, I got to WRTR New Years Eve.  There was planned a fire circle but it was too cold.  Disappointing, but was great getting there early (it started Jan 4), volunteering and becoming part of and getting to know a smaller group of women before the estimated 1000 showed up.  There were lots of “newbies” and lots of experienced boondockers.  This was only the second WRTR, last year was only about 200.  The first couple of days of opening I worked at the entrance, directing women how to sign up, where neighborhoods were, general information.  There were so many women who broke down in tears when they came in, crying with joy that they were there, “home”, with relief they’d made that long drive, with trepidation what were they doing!  I was taken by surprise, didn’t expect that, so many looking for meaning in their lives, I’d say.  It was very moving.  A thousand or so women wasn’t crowded at all, it was very spread out and if you really wanted solitude you could go out even further.  Endless land.  There were neighborhoods:  Arts, music, rainbow, noisy, quiet, chem free/no smoking, etc.  Sound familiar?  We had scheduled learning sessions:  Hygiene, safety, how to find boondocking, using GPS, solar, etc. and anyone could sign up to share an interest or skill:  How to organize a small space, keeping warm, keeping connected to internet, etc., etc., etc.  So much good stuff. The central areas where these happened did get a little crowded during the activities, it was a lot of walking (much needed), and lots of day parking for those who needed/wanted to drive in.  Just like a town – downtown/neighborhoods/remote country.  The neighborhoods had regular fire circles, meal-time networking, you could visit any group, or even move from day to day.   “Find your tribe” is often repeated.

I don’t have pictures except of scenery of the surrounding mountains and cacti, some rigs and of course the most gorgeous sunrises and sets you’ve ever seen!  There was an agreement we wouldn’t take pictures of participants without permission because of the reasons given above, and mostly I just forgot, so much going on.  If you hover over some of the pictures there are captions.  Realized I could do that.

1/8/19 – After the WRTR, it was on to the RTR.  I questioned whether I really wanted to go, estimated attendance was 8-10,000!!!  I don’t like crowds – at all!!  WRTR had was enough.  As the time got closer we all talked, just about everyone felt the same.  One of us went in early and saved a spot, outside the actual RTR area, but close enough to walk in.  We all eventually said we would go, may only last a day, see how it is.  Our site is perfect.  It’s all desert that divided into areas by washes so end up being long fingers.  We have 3 fingers connected off the road so we can be together by crossing a wash.  We have a great fire circle, every night, really good conversations, continue to share meals some.  The seminars have been good and the crowds not bad.  There is only one rd leading into the main camp, one lane, so it’s been a bit of a challenge walking to the center.  Some of the washes are too steep/deep/rocky to walk across.  But we’ve made it, only one twisted ankle in our group, one broken leg I heard elsewhere.  8,000 people, you gotta expect, haven’t heard of any other accidents or incidents, no rescues.  Pretty amazing.  Seminars have included some of the same, some in more depth, as WRTR, like solar and all the possibilities of internet connectivity, which of course goes right over my non-techie head.  Also had solar cookers and they bought a bunch of panels, brought here to be installed.  Lots of folks with skills here to help people with all kinds of vehicle/camper issues.  Everything is free!!  A very large free stuff area, large triple bulletin board with free services as well as other stuff.  There was a great talk called the Healing Power of Minimalism, done by a Buddhist. So many things that even tho they aren’t new to me (or you) things I need to constantly repeat, be reminded of.  How much is enough? Really liked it.

One of the things important to this group is taking care of this land we all love to roam around.  You may be hearing of folks destroying public lands especially during the shutdown with no rangers or others overseeing them.  This group, and others like it, have been going out en mass and cleaning up the public lands.  Many were out in caravans (groups) cleaning up before they came to the RTR.  It is often discussed how important Leave No Trace is, we should always leave our camping area better than we found it.  As we hear of homeless people living on public land and leaving a mess, I really appreciate this attitude among what many would call “homeless”, what these folks call “houseless”, their “home” is on wheels, mostly by choice.  So less you go away thinking that’s what we’re doing out here, just want you to know it’s quite the opposite.  One of the things RTR teaches is how to take care of your own waste, ALL of your waste.  First of all – to make less, much less, minimalism.  And we know exactly how much we make and where it goes.  Otherwise when we throw it in a dumpster, have it picked up at the curbside, flush it down the toilet, it’s no longer our problem.  I guess this is one of the things I’m learning more about – how much I have, how much I need, how much I waste, how much is enough.

Enough here.  I was planning to go into town today to do laundry, shower, visit some of the other groups in the area, including RVing Women, Boomers, Solos, and shop.  But it has rained all day.  There is a “Big Tent” that starts Sat. of all RV stuff.  It sounds like a state fair, again not exactly my style, but I need a few things and maybe just want to experience it, so thought I’d stick around for it before I move on.

A few more photos, the only restrictions for picture taking at RTR was the presenter said whether it was OK (it was with all), and courtesy to ask permission of people.

1/16/19 – I wasn’t able to load all these pictures during the rain, when everyone was in their rigs using internet, so finished late this morning after folks were thru with their morning fix I guess.  As you can see the rains finally cleared out and for the millionth time there was a magnificent sunset.  Always the sunsets.

Until next time,

Lynn and Xena, in the AZ desert