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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ARIZONA to NEW MEXICO and BACK AGAIN

We are parked at the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Jct., Arizona, with the beautiful Superstition Mtns in our backyard. This is where I am writing this Blog. We're here for a couple weeks near my parents. 
The last I updated my blog we were leaving California and heading into Arizona. We camped at Picacho Peak State Park for a week. 

My parents drove down from Queen Creek and joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. It was nice to be together again. (Sorry mom, we should have taken this in the shade)
Picacho Peak has been used as a navigational landmark for hundreds of years 
While at Picacho Peak State Park, we decided to hike to the peak. This trail is not for the weak of heart. Even though the trail is only four miles round-trip, this hike will kick your butt.  I call it the "Hell Hike". Mile one is a relatively steep climb and I certainly got my cardio going. It is described as "primitive" and I should have taken that more seriously! 
When we reached the "saddle" I thought I had seen the worst of it. NOT!! From that point on there were steel cables for climbing or descending over steep rocky areas that kept getting worse. Fortunately, a nice lady gave me some gripper gloves. 
The Death Chute
After saying "forget this, I'm NOT going any further" two or three more times, we came to what I call the "Death Chute". I decided that I'd gone far enough. Of course, my brave hiking partner continued on. I was too spooked at this point, being uncomfortable with heights and so near the edge, I just sat down in the shade of a saguaro cactus and waited for Dick to return. Then we still had to get down! A good days workout.

We wanted to revisit the western town of Wickenburg "the Dude Ranch Capital of the World." We enjoyed walking around the historic part of town and it was especially nice because it was decorated for Christmas. At this point I was trying to get into the Christmas spirit. I live with Scrooge when it comes to decorations, but I did put up my tabletop RV Christmas tree.

Historic Wickenburg
The Jail Tree where townspeople chained lawbreakers in the old days.(No, that's not Dick)

We stayed a couple miles from town at a quiet, rustic boon docking campground across from the rodeo grounds. It's not fancy, and when it rained it smelled of horses, but it was quiet and only $5.00/night.





















I've been wanting to join the Escapees (SKP'S) RV Club. Dick has always said, "Like my grandfather, I'm not a joiner." His grandfather tried to join a club in elementary school. To join he had to go in the school outhouse and drop his drawers so when the next person went to use it they would open the door to a sight to behold. The problem was, the next person to open the door was the "school marm" and he was expelled from school. So he didn't join that club or any other for the rest of his life. Well, anyway, I joined the Escapees RV Club. We could take advantage of their $5.00 boondock camping now and then. Our first SKP park was in Congress for one night. Clean, quiet and friendly people but Dick's afraid to stay in these places too long. I think the problem is he sees many commercial parks that are gated and walled with razor wire like minimum security prisons and he's afraid he may not get out.

Friends from home were heading for Mexico for the winter and we kept in touch hoping to meet if we would be close enough in our travels. Since we were only a few hours from each other we made plans to meet at Lake Mead NRA near Bullhead City, which, by the way is across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nevada, where casinos lined the shore for several miles.


Lisa Grise and Carl Fromholz with Jemma, ready for a winter in Mexico.
Besides the kayaks, on the back of the truck are their bicycles and on the front is their motorcycle.
It was so good to be with them even if it was only for a short time. They were in a hurry to get down to the beaches along the Baja Peninsula. At least our visit was longer than last spring when they met up with us at a commercial park in Florence where they were asked to leave because their dog is a pit bull and their RV is older than 15 years. That was a bummer.

We have always heard about camping along the Colorado River off Hwy 95 along the California/Arizona border. We headed south, planning to stay on some recommended BLM (Bureau of Land Mgmt) land where it's free. We ended up passing several before and after Lake Havasu City. We stopped to walk the London Bridge but then continued on. The "Western Riviera", as it is referred to, wasn't at all like what we imagined. We were a bit disappointed.


The London Bridge, built in 1831, spanned the River Thames in London, England. It was dismantled, numbered and transported to America and reconstructed on the shore of Lake Havasu.
This year was the year to check out places we've always wondered about and Alamo Lake State Park was one of these. We headed across Hwy 60 through the town of Hope and then a dead end route 40 miles north to the park. 


I loved this sign as we left Hope, Arizona
We were the only campers in the non-hookup campground. It was a bit unnerving the first night for me. We were both reading in the quiet when all of a sudden there was a loud braying right outside our window. We knew there were burros in this park but I still jumped sky high. These illusive critters would only come around our campsite at night. 

You can barely see our motorhome - a little white dot on the
right in the distance overlooking Alamo Lake.

The view of Alamo Lake from our campsite.














The lake was full of waterbirds and 100's of Grebes. We loved watching the pairs mimic each other by bobbing their heads and dancing on the water. This Youtube video shows it exactly. It was the wrong time of year for their mating ritual according to everything we read, but that's exactly what they were doing.
Dick says they're practicing.
Youtube video of Grebes 


On our way to Organ Pipe National Monument we stopped for a night at Buckeye Regional Park, a free campground off the beaten track. Towards evening we went for a walk and as we passed by a campsite with several campers from Canada, they started talking to us. We had no intentions of staying but they were so much fun. We became fast friends and still communicate with them. That's the way it is out here on the road. Everyone is so friendly. We meet so many nice people. We want to reconnect with them all again. Some we do and some we still hope to. It was a nice quiet campground until about 1:30 a.m. when we were awakened by the sound of gunshots not too far from our motorhome. The next morning we went out to see if we could find any evidence. About 250 ft from us we found several brass casings from some kind of pistol. We figure someone didn't realize they were in a campground but out on a backroad somewhere target practicing. 

Dick is good at finding us out-of-the-way inexpensive camping places and they turn out to be interesting. We wanted to check out the Ajo area (pronounced Ah-ho) and heard about a golf course near the town where we could camp for free as long as we played a round of golf or ate at the restaurant. Dick says, "I don't play golf but I sure can eat."  We stayed a couple nights. Nice people, delicious food and quiet camping. We were the only ones besides the campground Host and he warned us to not open our door at night if someone asks for water. We are always told not to help illegals and to call the police because if we give them water they'll keep on going and get in worse situations further into the desert. (I still want to put bottles of water outside for them). The only wildlife we encountered were coyotes, jack rabbits and two great-horned owls.


In the center of Ajo is the Ajo Plaza, a Spanish town square built in 1917. This area is lined by tall palms and surrounded by mission churches and Spanish-style buildings.  I loved the beautiful architecture of this part of town.
On the way to Organ Pipe National Monument we went through the town of WHY, AZ. Why did they name it WHY? Two highways originally intersected in a Y-intersection. At the time of it's naming, AZ law required city names to have at least three letters.

We hadn't visited Organ Pipe since the early 90's. We watched a documentary several years ago that used night vision cameras to show all the illegals that passed through the campground. It was like watching a line of ants walking behind RV's. We didn't feel it was a safe place to visit. Things have changed with the Border Patrol presence. It was a good time to stay there and we were only a few miles away. A beautiful place with a great campground with huge spaces.


This memorial, next to a beautiful Organ Pipe Cactus, for Kris Eggle, is outside of the Visitor's Center named in his honor. Kris was a Law Enforcement Park Ranger from Cadillac, Michigan. He was killed in Organ Pipe Nat'l Monument in 2002 in pursuit of a drug cartel hit squad.  
We were also warned about how unsafe Buenos Aires Nat'l Wildlife Refuge is. We agreed we would only camp there if there were other campers. The visitor's Center was great and the Ranger and the volunteers all told us it was safe and where we could park. We would be the only ones but they said the only thing we would hear are the Border Patrol vehicles and possibly a Border Patrol helicopter. Then we saw where the volunteers park their RVs - inside an 8' fence with razor wire around the border. Plus, as the ranger got into his vehicle to leave, we noticed he was wearing a bullet proof vest. We had all intentions of leaving but it was getting late, so we parked the RV and went to look for wildlife on the 10 mile Pronghorn Loop. So much for not staying if we were the only ones.


The masked bobwhite quail are being bred in captivity on the Buenos Aires Refuge
and released to the wild. This refuge also supports the reintroduction of pronghorn.

Our camping spot in Buenos Aires Wildlfie Refuge with a view of Mt. Baboquivari 






















We've been hunting for "Utopia" as we travel. A place we may want to go every winter and call home base. Although, Dick keeps saying, "I'm not ready for pickle ball and potlucks yet." I'd like a place where we can walk or ride our bikes to town. We have always liked the quaint little town of Patagonia, Arizona and have visited there many times over the years. We decided this time we'd try out the little commercial RV park within walking distance to town. This little town is the closest we've found to what we're looking for, but the RV park leaves a lot to be desired. We'll keep searching and enjoy a visit now and then. We know Jim Harrison lives there, but he can afford to build a house exactly where he wants. I liked this person's Blog describing Patagonia: QUIRKY PATAGONIA AZ

The Gathering Grounds, one of our favorite hangouts while visiting Patagonia, AZ.

Ed Trautwein is one of those friendly people we met in our travels a few years ago. He was staying at the Benson, AZ. SKP's RV Park. We enjoyed a couple days with him there. This is a nice RV park for long-term camping. Very clean, large spaces with little casitas for each RV, nice amenities and activities, and the people are so nice. 
Visiting with Ed Trautwein
Our Michigan friends, Marlene and Dave Ferguson, invited us to join them at their campground east of Deming, New Mexico for Christmas. I wanted to be with good friends for Christmas. We stayed a week, enjoying time with them and joined in on the Christmas Day buffet. 
(If you didn't get Dick's Holiday letter, let me know and I'll send you one.)


Christmas Day at El Rancho Lobo RV Park 
Dave and Marlene Ferguson
Another little town we enjoy is Columbus, New Mexico which is right on the border of Mexico. It's not "Utopia" but we like walking or biking to town from our campsite at the Pancho Villas State Park. The town has a great little library, cafe, bank, P.O. etc...  The weather turned so cold during the end of December, so we spent a lot of time in the library. 

The little town of Columbus, N.M., library on the left. Yes, this is how quiet it is most of the time. 

We spent a lot of time in this relaxing room at the library.
One morning at the library, I overheard a man asking about lodging in Mexico and that his son and friend were hiking the Continental Divide Trail. Of course we had to talk to him. Here he is reunited with them on the last three miles of their hike. They left Jasper, AB in April with snow still on the ground. http://adoorstepadventure.com
The CDT hikers with only three miles to go to the border of Mexico
We spent our last night in Columbus on New Year's Eve. We can never stay awake to bring in the New Year. Out of a sound sleep I heard something like tapping on the motorhome. I woke Dick up to listen (he sleeps on his good ear and deaf in the other). We slowly lifted the shade and quietly opened the window to see what was going on. Then we realized it was gunshots coming from the Columbus neighborhood and then across the border, Mexico answering with gunshots. Was Columbus being raided again? We looked at the clock and it was Midnight - AHA, this was their way of bringing in the New Year. A bit expensive - and scary.

Michigan friends, Dean and Diane Tobias, met up with us on New Year's Day. They were traveling from Florida to California and stayed near us in Deming. We were at our third SKP campground. The four of us were driving up to Silver City to visit a friend for the day when we had to turn back because of a snowstorm! The weather has been very cold over the holidays. I'm not complaining, it beats what's happening in Michigan. 


The four of us decided even though it was cold, we needed to get out and move. 
Diane had an interesting suggestion - a nearby cemetery. 
Pictured - WWII graves

MORE PICS:
Longhorn Grill in Amado, AZ

Boo is always finding high places to hang out.

Interesting ways to travel

We drove to the Cochise Stronghold, a quiet place located in the Dragoon Mtns. in
South-eastern AZ.  Boulders, caves and canyons, we could see why this was once the hideout for Apache Raiders.
COCHISE STRONGHOLD HISTORY


Maggie is enjoying the Virgin Islands. We are still hoping to visit her.













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