Archive for January, 2009

California Here We Come…

Friday, January 30th, 2009
Chris gets his wood inspected

Chris gets his wood inspected

We left Saguaro NP pretty early hoping to secure a cool spot in Joshua Tree National Park.  Rumor has it that they fill up on the weekends and since our rig is so big we need as many choices as possible.  On the way, yes, we got pulled over again.  While going through the Arizona/California Border Inspection Station, we were called out to have our wood inspected for bugs.  Even though our friendly inspector found some worms, we were allowed to leave with our wood and a promise that we would leave it in the truck until we burned it. As we were finally going somewhere that allowed fires we were glad.

Coolest Campsite Ever!

Coolest Campsite Ever!

The campground in the park we were shooting for was “ok” but for the cost it offered very little.  We decided to take a chance and head further into the park to find a better location at a more reasonable price per night.  The ranger suggested trying “Belle”, which was close to where thought we wanted to be. The result, as you can see, was awesome!  

View of the campsite from the rocks

View of the campsite from the rocks

Kim finally got to camp in her city of rocks. The rocks are White Tank Granite. It is an igneous rock which formed when hot magma was pushed up from deep within the earth and forced into the overlying rock in a process known as intrusion (more plagiarizing).

Timer shot of the day

Timer shot of the day

Our first day in the park we headed out on the motorcycles.  The park roads offered some interesting twists and new and different views.  Beautiful mountains in the background, cool rock formations, and lots of Joshua Trees…

Old Mine on the Lost Horse Mine Trail

Old Mine on the Lost Horse Mine Trail

We decided to get our exercise in and hiked the Lost Horse Mine Trail, a 4 mile roundtrip.

Arch Rock at White Tanks Campground in Joushua Tree

Arch Rock at White Tanks Campground in Joushua Tree

On our way back to the campsite we stopped for a quick look at the Arch located in a different campground.

Spiny Desert Lizard

Spiny Desert Lizard

We ended our day with a campfire and hung out with some of the locals…

Last Day in Arizona

Thursday, January 29th, 2009
San Xavier del Bac Mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission

We decided to head out on the motorcycles to visit some of the historical sites in the area. Our first stop was the San Xavier del Bac Mission just outside of Tucson. The present Church was completed in 1797.  The San Xavier Mission is acclaimed by many to be the finest example of mission architecture in the United States. It is a graceful blend of Moorish, Byzantine and late Mexican Renaissance architecture, yet the blending is so complete it is hard to tell where one type begins and another ends (proudly plagerized from the website).

Titan II Missile

Titan II Missile

Our next stop was the Titan II Missile Museum. This museum houses the only remaining Titan II Missile in its actual launch silo. There were originally 54 sites housing silos with Titan II Missiles, 18 in Arizona. These missiles were created during the Cold War as a retaliatory weapon in the event the Soviet Union launched nuclear missiles at the US. The purpose of these weapons was for them to serve as a deterrent and maintain the peace, because if they were ever fired there would have been Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). 

Kim launches the missile

Kim launches the missile

During the tour, the guide explains the extensive steps for activation.  Kim was chosen to turn the key and launch the missile during the demonstration.

On Friday we are traveling to Joshua Tree National Park in California.  Chances are good that we will not have cell/internet service… We will update as soon as we get to civilization.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Sabino Canyon

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
Hummingbird in flight

Hummingbird in flight

On Monday we decided to go to the Arizona Senora Desert Museum, which is actually a zoo and garden much like the Living Desert in New Mexico.  We were lucky to have free tickets, compliments of friends we met at dinner on Sunday.  The habitats were very natural and we saw some great wildlife.  We also really enjoyed the succulent garden and learning the names of the many cactus we have been seeing in our travels. We have been trying to get a picture of a hummingbird in flight for years. Just outside of the hummingbird exhibt, this guy allowed us to check one item off of the bucket list.  We also captured several of his friends in more static poses in the exhibit. 

Are you loking at me?

Are you loking at me?

There was a great large cat exhibit.  Aren’t they cute? 

Bobcat

Bobcat

The next day Chris went out to explore the trails in the mountains east of Tucson on his motorcycle. Kim tackled the laundry, which had become a mountain of its own. She also enjoyed a little shopping at the plaza.  Yes, she bought another pair of shoes.

 

 

Kim finds out how cold the water is

Kim finds out how cold the water is

We had heard good things about the Sabino Canyon and headed there on Wednesday to hike Bear Canyon to Seven Falls.  
Chris takes a leap of faith

Chris takes a leap of faith

This was a great 4 mile (one way) canyon hike that included several stream crossings along the way. 

One of the waterfalls at Seven Falls

One of the waterfalls at Seven Falls

There were actually seven distinct falls at the top of the canyon.  We had fun climbing around on the rocks and having a snack while listening to the roar of the water.

End of the line on the Seven Falls hike in Sabino Canyon

End of the line on the Seven Falls hike in Sabino Canyon

After enjoying our lunch and rest we headed back out of the canyon. The reward at the end of the day was a stop at Gentle Ben’s Brewery in Tucson. Fantastic Beer and good fish tacos.

Tuscon, Hiking and Friends.

Sunday, January 25th, 2009
Lots and lots of Saguaro cacti.

Lots and lots of Saguaro cacti.

Gilbert Ray Campground is located just outside of the Saguaro (sah-wah-row) National Forest.  Although smaller than the eastern region of the Saguaro NF, there were over 45 miles of trails to choose from for a hike.   Although the views were not Big Bend, the vistas of saguaro covered mountains and valleys were quite beautiful. The saguaro cactus can grow to over 50 feet tall and are the largest member of the cactus family in the US. They generally take over 45 years to reach 6 feet tall and have a life span of 200 years.  They are impressive in both size and numbers in this area.

Kim and Chris at the top Mt Wasson.

Kim and Chris at the top Mt Wasson.

We decided to create an 8 mile loop from several trails, with the summit of the Wasson Mountain (Wasson peak is the highest peak in the western Saguro NF at 4,687 feet) as our goal. We were impressed with our timing.  We completed our loop in under 4 hours, leaving plenty of time to wash up for a visit with our friends June and John from Terlingua. 

 

Vic, Marie, June and John.

Vic, Marie, June and John.

As luck would have it, June and John were visiting family about 45 minutes from where we were staying.  We had a great visit and enjoyed celebrating John’s sister’s (Marie) birthday with a rib barbeque.  Hopefully, our paths will cross again int hte not so distant future!

Tucson, Mt. Lemmon

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

We arrived at Gilbert Ray Campground, just outside of the Saguaro National Park, on Friday afternoon.  After driving in the rain from Patagonia SP, we were happy the clouds gave way to some sun while we set up.  We were very happy with the views from our campsite.  As we sat contimplating what we would do that evening we watched the clouds and rain return.  To our viewing pleasure the result was a great rainbow (almost a double).  As rain was the forcast for the rest of the evening, we headed out for a night at the local casino for a little gambling and dinner.  We will be keeping our day jobs, as the jackpot was nowhere in sight.  Better luck next time.

Our first day adventures included a motorcycle ride around the area.  We weren’t exactly sure where we were headed but wound up on the Sky Island Scenic Byway heading up Mt. Lemmon.  Mt. Lemmon is the highest peak in the Catalina Mountains, a range in the Coronado National Forest.  The ride up Mt. Lemmon was filled with twists, turns, and views.   The eleveation ranged from 4,370 feet at the bottom to 8,000 feet at the top.  It was interesting to go from desert and cactus to fir trees and snow in a 26 mile span.

Road up Mt. Lemmon.

Road up Mt. Lemmon.

Patagonia Lake State Park

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Wednesday the 21st we decided to take advantage of our location since the weather was supposed to go sour. We tried the kayaks out on the lake and enjoyed trying to capture the water foul and wildlife in pictures.  The sky was incredible (the calm before the storm), which added to the whole experience.  We took off on the motorcycles later in the day and happened upon a great dirt road loop through the Coronado National Forest.  We looped from the town of Patagonia to Nogales.  Shortly into the national forest, both Kim and Chris heard terrible noises and immediately had horrible thoughts. Chris thought his bike was about to explode, Kim was worried about getting run over by a speeding truck behind her. It turned out to be two low flying military jets that flew directly overhead. There were also lots of Border Patrol Agents in the park since we are very close to the Mexican border.  The main dirt road was manageable for Kim but Chris was drooling over the less maintained side roads and the possibilities…  Unfortunately the weather caught up to us near the end of our ride and we rode part of the way back to camp in the rain.  At least it was warm and we were off the dirt!  This was the first inclement weather we have seen since we left Lake Livingston Texas in the beginning of December. 

Mexico, NOT!

Mexico, NOT!

On Thursday we decided we would head into Mexico for a few hours since it was rainy and gray.  Not the best choice… We were seriously interrogated by the US border patrol on our way in, the traffic was crazy, and the truck was too big for the crowded streets of Nogales.  We decided to leave right away.  Crossing back into the US was eventful.  First, another truck hit our side view mirror, then there was the begging, and finally the hour long wait to squeeze through the border checkpoint with only inches to spare.  Time to head home and play Wii. 

Moving on to Gilbert Ray state Park tomorrow.

Welcome to Arizona

Monday, January 19th, 2009
Timer shot from our morning hike on the Guindani Trail

Timer shot from our morning hike on the Guindani Trail.

We headed for Arizona on Sunday the 18th. Our original plan was to go straight to Patagonia Lake State Park. On the way Kim called to check for site availability. Poor planning on our part, Martin Luther King day was Monday and with the long weekend the park was full. No problem, plan B, we stopped at Kartchner Caverns State Park, which was on the way. We made the most of our day there. Chris took care of a few items on the honey do list and Kim did some reading up for future planning. We met Anne and Bill Zeller, the camp hosts who were more than friendly. They suggested we take the Guindani Trail before we leave if we had the time. We decided to leave the next day, as we were looking forward to the Lake and using the kayaks. We did however do the hike before we left and it was a perfect start to the day. Good exercise and nice views.

Campsite at Patagonia Lake State Park

Campsite at Patagonia Lake State Park

We got the last hookup campsite at lake Patagonia which required some careful mauvering by Chris, as it was on quite a hill. We were psyched at the prospect of having a campfire at last! 

 

Jim and Ted
Jim and Ted

Our first night at Patagonia State Park proved to be very interesting.  We met Jim and his dog Ted (a black lab).  Jim hailed from Ontario Canada and was traveling and hunting quail, a new hobby for him.  We chatted for a while and decided to have dinner together.  He was more than happy to share the three quail he had caught that day.  We had a good meal, good conversation, and too much fun around the campfire.

Last Day in New Mexico, Riding and Rocks

Saturday, January 17th, 2009
Chris enjoys the view during his ride.

Chris enjoys the view during his ride.

Our last day in New Mexico… Chris was excited to get out on the trails with his motorcycle after seeing what was out there.  Kim graciously bid him farewell while she did some shopping and laundry.  Chris returned from his ride with a big smile. Although Silver City was not originally a destination he was excited about, he has now declared this area the first place he would consider a retirement location..

City of Rocks Vista

City of Rocks Vista

The last place Kim wanted to check out in this area was City of Rocks State Park.   Chris captured this picture on a hill looking down on the park.  As the story goes, City of Rocks SP was the result of volcano action near Albuquerque.  The exotic collection of volcanic “art,” set in the middle of a grama grass plain, was formed by a huge explosion called the Kneeling Nun eruption about thirty four million nine hundred thousand years ago. The “city” is a fantasyland of wind- and water-sculpted pastel rock columns. Only six other places in the world have similar formations.

Now thats a campground location!

Now thats a campground location!

 

Kim was very bummed when she saw the campground at City of Rocks.  We both wished we would have know it was there sooner.  Not only was there an RV section but there were also sites interspersed in the Rock City (very cool).    

Chillin at City of Rocks State Park

Chillin at City of Rocks State Park

We had fun climbing around on the rocks. 

Chris rises above it all.

Chris rises above it all.

 

  

Kim carries the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Kim carries the weight of the world on her shoulders.

 

Silver City, New Mexico

Friday, January 16th, 2009
Campsite at Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City

Campsite at Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City

We arrived at Silver City, located in southern New Mexico and smack dab in the Gila National Forest, on January 14th.   Chris was apprehensive about this stop, as he thought the places of interest sounded touristy.  The next few days would change his mind about this destination.  The campsite was surprisingly secluded, as you can see in the picture, since we are about one block outside of the city. 

Yes, that is snow you see...

Yes, that is snow you see...

Our first stop was the Gila Cliff Dwellings located deep in the Gila National Forest. Rumor and research described the road in as very twisty and turny. Although it is only about 45 miles from where we are staying, they recommend about 2-2 1/2 hours to get there. We decided that would make a great day trip on the motorcycles.  We had to dress warm, as we woke up to about 23 degrees. Good thing we brought our snowmobile gear. The ride was well worth bravng the cold. The road was a hoot and the views were breathtaking along route 15, also known as “The Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway”. 

Looking at the Gila Cliff Dwellings from below.

Looking at the Gila Cliff Dwellings from below.

The Gila cliff dwellings were built in the 1280s by the Pueblo’s.  The seven natural caves are high in the cliff and contain the ruins of the dwellings (about 42 rooms).  The vegetation and artifacts that are found around the cliff dwellings are a great representation of the Mogollon (muggy-own) way of life at that time.

View looking out toward the canyon from the Gila Cliff Dwellings

View looking out toward the canyon from the Gila Cliff Dwellings

 

Another view of the cliff dwellings

Another view of the cliff dwellings

Ansel Adams we are not but we liked the shot.

Ansel Adams we are not but we liked the shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tha Catwalk at Whitewater Canyon

Tha Catwalk at Whitewater Canyon

The next day we headed out to “The Catwalk” at Whitewater Canyon (another section of the Gila National Forest).  This impressive canyon is home to a walkway that was once a water line.  This pipeline was established to provide water to a mining town at the bottom of the canyon.  Those who worked the original pipeline coined the term “Catwalk”. 

Timer shot of the day by a falls at Whitewater Canyon

Timer shot of the day by a falls at Whitewater Canyon

There were lots of great little waterfalls along the way.  We enjoyed trying to capture them as we walked the canyon. 

Another waterfall at Whitewater Canyon.

Another waterfall at Whitewater Canyon.

The Catwalk hike ended after 1.1 miles. Trail 207 continued on into the Gila Wilderness and we decided to extend our hike to see more of the canyon.  We hiked on, sometimes over snow and ice, for another mile before we returned for a round trip total of just over 4 miles.

Gila National Forest

Gila National Forest

It was such a pretty day we decided to take a “scenic road” for part of the way back.  We enjoyed many views of the Gila NF along this route. Chris enjoyed using the 4 wheel drive in the truck (if it is a dually, does that make it 6 wheel drive?).

Guadalupe National Forest and the “Top of Texas”

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009
Kim and Chris near the beginning of the Guadalupe Mtn hike.

Kim and Chris near the beginning of the Guadalupe Mtn hike.

We decided to hit the Guadalupe Mountain National Park today.  The Guadalupe mountain range is one of the finest examples of a fossilized reef on Earth. Our goal, though lofty, was to conquer the highest peak in Texas (Yes, we went back in but avoided the law!).  Guadalupe Peak, at 8,749 feet and roundtrip of 8.4 miles (with an elevation change of more than 3,000 ft), was the prize.  This was definitely a challenge in itself but the temperature and wind didn’t help.  At the start of the hike it was about 45 degrees in the parking lot, which we thought would work well with such a climb.  Unfortunately, when we got far enough into the hike that we couldn’t give up, the winds got crazy.  By the time we hit the summit we guess it was about 20 degrees with the windchill.  It was so windy we couldn’t do a timer shot as the camera wouldn’t balance (And our fingers weren’t working so well either).  Kim’s pic of Chris won the summit spot but WE WERE BOTH THERE!!!.  There were some great views.  One of the coolest is the view of El Capitan from the Guadalupe summit.  On the way down we were proud of our accomplishment but also felt our age a bit.  It was worth it. 3 hours up, 30 seconds on the peak (the winds were ridiculous), and 2 hours down.