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Sunday, February 5, 2012

 From Georgiana's journal:
12/26/11 Today we arrived at Twin Peaks campground at the Organ Pipe National Monument.  We now have a new favorite.  It is a beautiful place,  the desert is green and healthy looking.  The location is about five miles from the Mexican border.  Very quite and not many campers present.

12/27  We drove down to Lukeville USA (population about 35) which is right on the border today.  There is a great view of the tall fence stretching as far as you can see in either direction.  I don't think it is working very well though as you can see border patrol folks stationed miles and miles inland.   What a waste.  We were just making the trip to see the place and to check out the post office.  However, for unknown reasons Chuck drove right up to the border crossing .  Apparently once you go that far there is no backing up (spiked barrier and all).  When  Charles explained we really didn't want to enter into Mexico the armed guys (one with a machine gun) moved some barriers and we drove back into the US.  Dumb gringos.

In the afternoon we drove the 21 miles Ajo Mountain Drive within the park.  Very pretty country.  The cactus and trees look much happier down here (as apposed to the Tucson area). 

This is a pretty big campground.  There are 208 camping sites with most of them empty right now.  We've had quite a bit of wind for the past couple of days.  There is no shortage of little lizards running about.  The shower here is run by solar power so don't plan on any morning showers.  We have done quite a lot of hiking here usually during the heat of the day (not too smart).  Lot's of sweating going on between us.   Additionally, the stress from overheating (I assume) caused me to break out with cold sores (I, of course, did not complain).  We had several days of 70-80+ degree weather.  We spent 11 days here.   We stayed at this wonderful park until our mail caught up with us.  This took 10 days.

A very nice spot but it requires planning as there are no grocery stores or laundry facilities for miles.  Ajo (au ho) (Ajo is the Spanish word for garlic) was the place for that.  Ajo, it turns out, is was the home of the first copper mine in Arizona.  Mining finally ended in the 1980's.  "Now Ajo is home to retired people, to Border Patrol agents, and some young families."  According to a lady I met at the laundry, Ajo is either the full-time or vacation home to lots of Alaskans.  One day there were four folks from Alaska doing laundry at the same time so she might be right.  It is a run down place for the most part.  Alaskans in favor of the Pebble mine should come and visit this place; it isn't pretty.

1/1/12  We had New Years dinner with a  nice man from Calgary Alberta.  His name is Jim Johnson and he was traveling about the US with his dog (named for a Star Wars character which we can't remember).  He was the very first person we had met who sold surplus oil field equipment online.  Who knew.  We had our usual pork and sauerkraut.  We couldn't take a chance on an non-prosperous new year.  We hope it works.  Jim enjoyed the dinner and he said he planned to carry on our tradition.

1/6  We left Organ Pipe and traveled back to Catalina State Park at Tucson.   Charles' Canon camera developed a problem and his eyes were driving him crazy so we decided to go back to where both could be addressed.  We got our old campsite back next to Connie and John.  It took a while but Chuck got his eyes checked and new glasses were ordered.   The camera had lost a spring and that was replaced.   We met Margaret and Dave from Minnesota and Leo and Pat from Ontario and had dinner with them at  Connie and John's.  The night before we left Catalina for the second time we had a BBQ dinner at our campsite.  Someone who shall remain unnamed under-cooked the chicken; but people were kind enough to eat it anyway.  Lucky for us we were leaving town.  Some very nice folks.

1/13  We left Catalina State park early and headed down to another Arizona State Park-Patagonia.  A very nice campground, right on a lake, but kind of noisy and not too much privacy.  We went on a self-guided bird walk and saw lots of waterfowl,  a snowy egret, a couple of great blue herons, a red cardinal, a mountain blue bird.  Part of the walk was through cattle grazing land and we walked right through the bunch.  It didn't seem to bother them.  I guess they were used to visitors.  We did a bit of bike riding as well.  We enjoyed watching a young girl ride her bike and scooter around and around the loop we were camped on.  Chuck took her picture and she brought us some small cup cakes she had made.

We went down to Nogales to do laundry one day and had what was advertised to be  "authentic Mexican" food.  It was pretty good food but we've eaten something very similar in Anchorage.  Nogales is the border town directly south of Tucson.

1/16  We are on our way to Bisbee AZ this morning.  It was 50 degrees this morning at Patagonia.  It rained most of the night; the first rain we have had in weeks.

We stayed at the Queen Mine RV park in Bisbee.  The park sets right on the edge of one of the abandoned open pits.  Pretty ugly, but unique.  The park itself was great: warm showers, good laundry and convenient-within walking distance of Old Bisbee.  One morning Chuck took a tour of the underground mine (before the pit mining began).  I don't like going into holes in the ground. We toured the city and went to the Bisbee Mining and Historical museum.  The museum was great and we were fortunate enough to spend some time talking to a lady whose husband and father had both worked in the mines in Bisbee.  She told us a story about her dad bringing home pretty rocks in his lunch pail and then her mother would them give them away to visitors.  She said her mom had given away thousands of dollars   We could believe her given the prices we saw in the stores.  She said she had lived there 72 years.

While in Bisbee we took a drive and had a nice lunch at the Roundup Cafe in the small town of Elfrida.  The waitress was very friendly.  We continued up the road to Gleeson.  This was advertised as a ghost town, but we were pretty disappointed.  Not much there,  just some old  foundations and a restored jail which was closed.  From there we drove a gravel road the back way into Tombstone.  We had been there before so we just buzzed on through and returned to Bisbee.

1/19  We were out of Bisbee early and stopped at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Refuge near Elfrida (again).  There were thousands of sandhill crane and a wide variety of ducks.  It was a great morning walk.  You can camp here but it is dry camping.  There is a restroom but no showers.  As we worked our way toward Willcox we took a side trip to the Chiricahua National Monument to view the rock formations.  Pulling the trailer down the narrow road was an adventure but was well worth the sights.

As we retraced our path out of the park we pulled into a rest area so the three of us could use the restroom and discovered the Faraway Ranch.  What a wonderful place. The volunteer (from Idaho)  tour guide was so enthusiastic that you could tell he loved the old place.

We arrived in Willcox later that day and stayed at the Magic Circle RV Park.  This place is located right off Interstate 10 and is pretty noisy.  I spent the nights with ear plugs.  Otherwise a ok place to stay.

Fort Bowie
From Willcox we took a short drive to the trail head that lead to Fort Bowie .  We walked a short (about 4 miles round trip) path along a stretch of Apache Pass to the fort.  It was a great hike (Teal didn't think so, in fact I thought she might die) and very informative.  The trail is well defined with little narratives along the way.  We visited the Fort Bowie Cemetery, I think the oldest person in the cemetery was 56.  So far, this is my favorite hike.

Chuck and I drove down to Willcox Playa Wildlife Refuge to view sandhill cranes at dawn one morning.  It was 28 degrees.  This refuge is the winter home to 8,000 to 12,000 sandhill cranes.  It is quite a sight and very noisy.  As we were leaving the refuge we saw a coyote run across the road in front of us.  Fortunately no crane was in his mouth.

While in Willcox we also visited the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum.  We thought it was a fun way to spend some time and $3. 
Pancho Villa Campground
1/23  We are leaving Arizona today after visiting for two months.  I am looking forward to a change of scenery.  So on to New Mexico.  The scenery was much the same. We arrived at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico in the afternoon.  The park Ranger, John, was the friendliest park official we have met.  He was full of ideas of things we might enjoy doing.  This campground is the location where Pancho Villa's men attacked the US.  We watched a video which featured folks who survived the attack.  Very interesting.  We then toured the visitors center at the campground.  Worth checking out if you get in the area.

Risking our very lives Chuck and I drove the three miles to the border and then walked across  to Palomas, Mexico.  I don't mind saying I was nervous; but it was a piece of cake.  Except for venders trying to sell us CD and wallets no one paid attention as we crossed the border.

We visited a store called the "Pink Store" because of the store color.  There was so much to see, pottery, jewelry, was overwhelming.  Chuck knew this was his kind of place when they offered us a margarita as we entered the store.  He wandered around the store and drank a margarita while I shopped.   I bought a salsa bowl and he sprung for a shot glass and two bottles of booze.     While I was occupied with a phone call Chuck pumped the non English speaking lady bartender about  how to make a margarita.  He says he has it down.  He sure is drinking a lot of them. We had a nice lunch and then went through the US custom station and drove back to Columbus.

John the Park Ranger recommended a little Mexican restaurant in Columbus called "Three Salsas".  We stopped by one day and had a wonderful lunch.  Jose, the owner, was also the waiter.  His wife was the cook and everything was homemade.  The food was delicious. Jose couldn't have been nicer, very friendly AND he gave us soup and dessert at no charge. His wife didn't speak English but she had a warm smile.  Jose, I just wanted to hug him.  We also highly recommend this place.

Columbus is a very poor looking town with not much there.  When folks need to shop they drive to Deming,  New Mexico about 30 miles north.

When we arrived at Pancho Villa we purchased an annual out-of-state pass for all New Mexico state parks for $225.  With this pass we only pay $4 a day for water and electric hookups.  Or we pay nothing  if we dry camp.   Arizona didn't have anything like this; we paid $25 a day with water and electricity in their parks.

1/26  Today we moved to Rockhound State Park outside of Deming, NM.  Visitors are allowed to take home 15 pounds of rocks from the area.  Chuck found some treasures we will be packing around for some time.

I managed to catch a cold so I didn't do any rock hunting.  We looked around the town of Deming and it appears to be a poor depressed community.  They do have a great take out Mexican restaurant called Amigos.  We picked up lunch  one day for $3.70 each.  It was more food than either of us could eat.  Chuck went back the next day and bought a dozen tamales for $6.15 for the freezer.

1/29  We headed north to the City of Rocks State Park.  All the water and electric sites were full so we went the dry camping route.  No big deal.  This is a wonderful park and we had a great camp site.  I wish we had had a park like this when I was a kid. These rocks are beautiful.  Chuck, Teal and I enjoyed spending time walking through them.  We arrived at this park on a Sunday and there were kids running around in the rocks playing hide and seek.  It made me wish that all of our grand kids were with us.  We spent some time riding our bikes here.  This is my new favorite park. 

We took a day trip about 90 miles north to the "Catwalk" near Glenwood NM.  This is an excellent destination for a picnic and nature hike.  The walk is 2.5 miles roundtrip and well worth the drive and hike if you are anywhere near.

On our drive "home" we saw the first deer we had seen since we were in the Dead Horse Ranch State Park area back in early December.  On the last stretch back into the City of Rocks park we also saw seven antelope.

2/1  We are at Lake Roberts campground tonight in the Gila National Forest.  This is a federal park where we get to use our Senior Pass for a discounted rate of $7.50 per day for electric and water, but no showers.  We are the only campers here.  As you might imagine it was very quite.  This is a nice park overlooking the lake.  We stayed at this park two nights and the temps got down to 23 and 17 degrees.  There is a camp ground host but we've seen no sign of him or her.  This is our staging area  for the winding road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

2/2  This morning we visited Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.  The drive was a little over 20 miles from Lake Roberts and I spent some time squeezing the hand rest in the car.  There are some big drop offs.  We took the tour of the visitors center.  We watched the intro. video and we got all our questions answered by the helpful employees and volunteers.

It's about a mile round trip walk to see the Cliff Dwellings.  The first half has some steep sections, but we took is slow.  The Cliff Dwellings were amazing.  We don't know what a tough life is.

After we left the Dwellings we stopped at Doc Campbell's Post and did laundry and took showers.  The water for the showers came from a hot springs; very nice.  He also had homemade ice cream.

2/3  This morning we head to Truth or Consequences NM to decide if we are tough enough to continue moving up towards Santa Fe.   We'll take it from there next time.

(A special thanks to Dave and Margaret from Minnesota for cluing us into places to visit in New Mexico.)