Ads 468x60px

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tucson Area

Santa Catalina Mountains at Catalina State Park
Since the last entry we have spent three weeks in the Tucson Arizona area.  Our first stop was Catalina State Park.  This beautiful  park is located approximately 10 miles from official Tucson.; but, in reality the city has grown up to the park entrance and beyond..  Just across from the park entrance is a large shopping center with restaurants, specially shops, a theater, and the ever present Walmart. George loved it.  Make a left turn on highway 77, at the entrance and it is mostly city all the way to official Tucson, a city of over half a million people.

Good Dog
George joins the birders
Home Sweet Home
The park itself is insulated from all this and we had a quiet two weeks there.  The park backs up to the Santa Catalina Mountains.  It is used  by campers and locals alike for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and group outings.  Shortly after our arrival George and I participated in a “bird walk”. She seemed to enjoy it.  I thought it was just a VERY slow walk with strangers and another chance to discover how little I knew about something.  We did other hikes together and alone.  I took Teal up a moderate sized hill just behind the camping area and discovered that her tongue can get almost as long as her legs.  She kept at  it and made it to the top and back down all the while navigating through the cactus.  What a dog!

We saw others with bird feeders so we had to have some too.  They worked too  we attracted  humming birds, wrens, doves and other birds I can’t name.  Great fun.  One afternoon we heard canine barking, yelping, and other sounds followed by the sound of what we interpreted as something being crunched.  George was convinced that this was a group of coyotes grabbing a rabbit or perhaps a campground pet.  Could be, I guess

Biosphere II
We toured the Biosphere 2 (earth being Biosphere I) and would highly recommend a visit.  We had a very personable guide who blended humor and the ability to credibly answer all the questions our small group could muster.  Thanks to our friend Glenna Druyestein for the tip.

Bumble Bee
We spent the good part of a day at the Pima County Aviation Museum.  I think I may have liked the place a bit more than George.  At one point (about two hours in) she commented that, "There are sure a lot of airplanes!".  Indeed there were.  She hung in and I think we saw all that were on display.

 Bike envy started to set in as we saw folks peddle around the campground so we purchased a couple of used bikes from a Craigslist listing.  A nice young man delivered them to the park entrance.  When he arrived the rear tire on George's "new" bike was flat so he went across the street to (Walmart) and purchased a new tube, fixed the tire, and even included another tube in case the front tire went flat.  We learned he was a fireman and that his wife is five feet tall.  All that and the price was right too.  He represented the Tucson population well.

We made two new friends, John and Connie, at the campground.  They were camped next to us and I expressed my approval of some anti-war bumper stickers their truck was sporting.  It turned out that they were campground volunteers from Minnesota.  They live on a "small" farm of 300 plus acres.  I guess the shock of finding a like minded couple camped next to them in Arizona was such a surprise they invited us over for cards and popcorn.  A nice evening,

What else.....Oh, we celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary at Catalina.  We had dinner and a movie.  Both were pretty good.  This day reminded us of many things including that our boys should probably start planning for our 50th.  And....we met Ronald McDonald in Tucson.  We had stopped for a quick bite at his restaurant and while standing in line, in he came.  He was in fine form.  He was packing a ukulele.  He asked if George and I were on a date.  We were in fact on a cheap date.  He asked what kind of music I liked and when I answered "classical"  he began playing something on the order of 'flight of the bumble bee' (we're not sure now).  It was sort of classical and he was pretty good.  After our short tune he was off to charm some kids.  Truly a special treat.

Sundown at Gilbert Ray
Daytime view
After we left Catalina we moved about 30 miles to the west to Gilbert Ray campground.  This  county campground is named after a man who spent his career working for the PIMA county in the recreation area.  Each of the campgrounds we have visited seem to become our favorites.  First Dead Horse Ranch, then Catalina, then Gilbert Ray.  The location is remote.  It is located on a winding narrow paved road with a plethora of whoops (up and down sections of the road where you want to go 'whee" if you travel at any speed).  Again the campground was mostly empty with the larger 'loops' closed to minimize maintenance  I suppose. Every campsite was beautiful and most were private with wonderful desert vegetation.

We arrived on a Monday and Tuesday morning found us on a nature walk led by Ed from the county.  Ed did a good job of naming and describing the cactus, bushes, and birds that appeared along the way.  He even looked the part of a naturalist.  He did appear a little nervous at the start when a supervisor showed up to give Ed what looked to be an evaluation.  She hung around a bit then split.  We've all been there I guess.

We took a part of a day to drive down to Green Valley.  It is about 30 miles or so south of Tucson down I-10,  It appears to be a retirement community with some copper mining activity.  We had lunch and then drove around looking at some houses George had found on the computer the night before.  The newer places we viewed were just too close together to suit us.  I rather liked some of the places that were older.  They had larger lots and there was some variation in style.  We both decided Green Valley is probably not for us.  Part of a day doesn't give the place much of a shot, but I think we are too young  (as least at heart) for the place.  We were also disappointed by the evidence of mining right in sight of town.

Saguaro NM Pictoglyph
Sign on hiking path
Near Gilbert Ray campground is the Saguaro (sa-WAH-row) National Monument and the Arizona Desert Museum.  We went to both.  The Saguaro NM has two sites: the eastern most site is near Tucson and we visited it in 2007. The eastern site is the more developed.  The western site (near where we were camped) had a great visitor center and a dirt road through the desert to tour.  It was dusty (as expected) and the cactus looked stressed, perhaps by a freeze.  There were some good hiking trails along the way though.

We spent most of a day at the Arizona Desert Museum.  What a treat.  We found ourselves wishing we had all the grandchildren with us.  Perhaps a few at a time.  We left Teal in the trailer (no dogs allowed) and drove the 3-4 miles to the museum to catch the 10:00 'free flight' demonstration.  This approximately one hour show had ravens, owls, and hawks (and their trainers) strutting their stuff.  I did my best to get some good photos with mixed results.  The crowd really got into the show.  We looked around at other animals for a while (I petted a King snake-George said no way) and then we went back to check on Teal.  We returned for the 2:00 free flight demonstration this time featuring Harris hawks.  I think there were five of them.  These shows are narrated and these birds know how to hit their marks.  After the show we spent a few hours looking at coyotes, cats, a bear, deer, javelina, and other birds and mammals.  I guess we are not too old to go to the zoo.

Brown Mountai
Christmas Eve and day was spent at Gilbert Ray.  We hiked up nearby Brown Mountain on Christmas day The way we did it the trip was about 5 miles round trip.  George said it was enough.  I think is was our first Christmas hike.  When we returned I almost cooked a small prime ribbed roast. on the grill.  I had resolved not to overcook it and I was successful.  A good meal none the less. 

The campground had a strict 7 day stay limit (although it was mostly empty) so we hit the road west and south for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument when our time was up.  We'll start there next time.

Best wishes to you all for the new year.

George and Chuck

Sunday, December 4, 2011

California and Arizona Part One

View from Cottonwood AZ

Hello to all.  To continue the report on our travels…

We spent 15 days in November in Needles California.  We learned that staying more than about a week in one place is too much for us.  Perhaps this will change, but for now we will be cutting down our stays to about a week.  The weather there was pretty good.  Cool in the evening and not too hot during the day.  When weren’t exploring the area we spent our time learning to live in the trailer and observing others in the RV life.  While there were new folks coming in everyday to spend just one night, it seemed that the majority of the park residents were spending the winter or lived there full time.  Mostly everyone was friendly (especially to Georgiana).  George’s assessment was that the RV park was a nice place to stay, Needles not so much.  Other than the weather a main park attraction seemed to be the rates   We signed up for a month long stay (because it was cheaper than the daily or weekly rates); and our stay for the 15 days cost us about $15 a night and if we had stayed twice the length the cost would have been just a little more than half that amount.   People had been coming back for years and years and we witnessed more than one new arrival greeted by those already there.   There were lots and lots of Canadians in  the park; a most agreeable nationality.  There were also crazy people.  We met a couple  who were living in a trailer even smaller than ours.  She seemed ok but he was certifiable.  I was doing something with the trailer shortly after we arrived and this gentleman stopped by to say hello and inform me (in about 10 minutes) that Mexican gangs had been chasing him because he had discovered the Lost Padres Mine and that the gang would have caught him except he was able to find a medicine man to say some magic words, that he could read mountain features leading to old Spanish mine locations, that the contrails above us were actually “chemtrails” (look it up, I had to),  that the US government were building highways from the Gulf of Mexico north to aid in the Chinese invasion of North America,  and of course he had seen aliens. And there was much more.  Thankfully, his wife came by to lead him off after a short time.  After that I tried to limit our conversations.

Wickenburg Western Museum.
We left Needles on November 22 and headed south to Glendale (very near Phoenix) to spend Thanksgiving with my sister Marilyn and her husband Sam.   George saw her first (of two) roadrunners on the way.  We stopped in Wickenburg, AZ and toured the Western Museum.  Very impressive artwork.  My boys would have loved it.

Marilyn and Sam's Kitchen
Waiting with Treasures
Turkey Outside
We spent six days with Marilyn and Sam in their beautiful home.  We had a very nice Thanksgiving with  Marilyn, Sam, niece Sara and her friend.. We ate our first outside Thanksgiving. Marilyn and Sam went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and at home.  They showed us around the area and George got to do her first ever Black Friday shopping (though it didn’t turn out very well as the line to the cash register was so long they gave up and abandoned their treasures).   I encouraged them to hang in., but they wouldn’t. 
It was great to see Marilyn and to get to know Sam.
We left Glendale on the morning of 11/28 and headed  north towards Flagstaff. Three hot air balloons floated along the highway as we left town.  Our destination was the Dead Horse Ranch State Park which is pretty much located in the city of Cottonwood AZ.  The park covers 423 acres and is situated along and above the Verde River.  While there were beautiful campsites nearer the river we chose one up on a hillside with views of the city of Cottonwood and the old copper mining town of Jerome.   The park has hiking trails (which you have to share with horses, and horse poop), fishing, cabins for rent, and lots of places to camp.  There were few campers around during our stay.  We went for walks around the park, watched people fish in the “lagoons”, and just hung out.   Lots of park rangers and campgrounds hosts.  They all very friendly.  Unfortunately we only had two warm days at this park.  It cooled down and began to rain, then snow at the higher elevations.  The park had “freeze warnings” where they wanted your to disconnect your water at night, schools were closed in Flagstaff, and portions of the freeway that runs from Flagstaff to Phoenix were closed because of snow and weather related accidents.  Bummer.

Montezuma Castle
Tuzigoot Nat. Monument
Ed and Aggie
Being “toughened” from our years in Alaska we still went exploring-weather be dammed.  We did limit our exploring to around and south of Cottonwood though.   We toured the old town of Jerome which is now a tourist attraction on a mountain side.  We drove over the mountain to take a brief look at Prescott (which we learned is pronounced Prescett-like biscuit).  We went to the Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments.  Very impressive.  Our tax dollars well spent.  We also took a tour of Arcosanti.  This is an impressive physical representation of one man’s dream.  It’s a good thing we are living in a small trailer and have no home to send items to or George would have busted us.  She did purchase one Soleri Windbell.  Thanks go to Ed and Aggie Bostrom, old friends from Bethel that clued us into this place.  They live just south of Prescott.  We stopped in for a short visit and they were kind enough to share a meal with us.  Not just any meal but a meal Ed’s  mother used to make.  She would have been proud.

We had a couple of small Cottonwood items of note:

On 12/3 we went out in the morning  to do a bit of shopping and were prevented from doing so because the local Christmas parade was starting and blocking the street.  It was pretty cold as we watched from the car. The locals gave it their Arizona Christmas best.   There were kids, cops, firemen, cheerleaders, football teams, kung foo fighters, mayors from several nearby cities, Santa being pulled by a horse, and lots of tractors.  

George collects the sweets
Also for the 3rd we had purchased a ticket for the “Chocolate Walk”.  This was a deal where the city leaders and merchants got together and sold you a sack and a map.  This permitted you to walk around town and pick up a piece of chocolate at each store on the map.   It was kind of fun (I guess).  We went into some places we probably wouldn't have, got some candy, and gave the merchants a shot at selling us something.  They got us for a loaf of bread and a Mexican cook book from a second hand store.  Some of the candy looks pretty good.  I’m saving the potato dipped in chocolate for last.

We are leaving this spot in the morning and heading down to the Tucson area.  We hope it will be a bit warmer.

Chuck and George

SEND ME SOME COMMENTS.    Click the 'comments' link below and enter your comment.  You then sign in using an existing 'profile' (account type - Gmail, Facebook, etc.) or just use  "Anonymous" and then POST your comment.