Saturday, November 14, 2015

2015-34 An Excursion to Mt Lemmon (A BONUS REPORT)


Mt Lemon Day Trip

What a fun tour group!

A Bonus Report:

Elaine and John
Ada and Jack
Ruth Ann

62 Miles, and approx. 2 hours drive

Departure:  9:30 am

As the winter season begins here in Tucson for all of we Rv-ers seeking sunshine and fun activities, Elaine commented to a small group of us that she had downloaded a free app onto her smart phone.  The app called the Mt Lemmon Science Tour is a guided voice tour of the route leading up the mountain.  Additional slide photos and info are also available on the app, not for viewing by the driver of course.

So on Friday, we all piled into two cars and began the 62 mile drive which would take almost two hours to reach the top of Mt. Lemon.  With a short stop at Mc Donald’s for coffee and to help Jack set up the app on his phone, we were off and touring.

the tour begins

The tour takes us through 4 or 5 bio-life zones starting of course with the desert, grasses, low pine scrub and forests on up to the taller majestic pines and Douglas firs.  Seeing a thick green forest of pine trees is such a refreshing change from the desert scenery we enjoy all winter.  Lots of geologic and bio diversity information as well as history are presented along the tour.  Elaine and John had connected their smart phone to the cars stereo system so we had awesome theatre sound for the presentation.  John was the driver extraordinaire as he stopped at many of the pull-outs along the way to give us all a chance to ewh and awh over the scenery and of course take pictures galore.

the first bio-zone

looking down on Tucson

I particularly liked the road leading up to the top of Mt Lemmon as it was well paved, lots of curvy twists and turns with breathtaking views all along the way and best of all there were guard-rails everywhere.  Tons of hiking trails and camping sites are available all along the way.  Not too many could accommodate a travel trailer or RV unless it was under 25 feet and had it’s own power as the campsites all appear to be dry campsites.

touring girls

beautifully maintained road leading to the top

The tour with all of it’s stops including lunch at the very top which is at an elevation of 9,100 feet and return trip takes pretty much all day so if you go plan accordingly.  Talk about having fun, our group was perfect, having lots to share along the way in between our educational tour presentations.  Elaine was the social director, John the skilled driver and the one with witty comments, Ruth Ann sharing her many years of experience in travels and family history moving out west to Colorado provided tons of perspective on life out here.  I of course took as many pictures as I could and contributed a few bits of hopefully fun banter along the way.

bio zone 2, the grass zone

the road ahead

Cascade waterfalls and pools below

overhanging the highway


what a fun road

Elaine in flight

two flighty birds

best tour guide award goes to....

Returned to Desert Trails:  3:45 pm

Ps, we even saw small patches of dirty snow left over from last year.  Imagine!  Before descending back to desert level where the temperatures were a pleasant mid 70’s.

On Top of Mt Lemmon

a rare sight to see a forest in Tucson.... called Sky Islands

the small village of Summerhaven on top

radio towers

and the trip back down

Just one more adventure to check off my ever expanding bucket list.  Though I will probably do this one again as it was so much fun.

the entire photo journal on PICASA

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2015-33 Cottonwood and Wickenburg Arizona (LAST REPORT OF THE SEASON)


Cottonwood Arizona
Wickenburg Arizona

Campground:  BLM land outside of Cottonwood.  14 days free camping.  This is a dry camping area off of Thousand Trails Road.

Campground:  BLM land operated by Wickenburg.  $8 a night for a dry camping site.  No water, elect. Or dump station.  Desert scenery and a pretty deep wash to drive into to get to campsites.  Caution upon leaving as the sandy road gets very loose around one corner.

Cottonwood, BLM land
what great vistas

road leading into the BLM campsites

As an Rv-er sometimes it’s hard to decide which direction to go.  After realizing that I had plenty of time to arrive at my winter destination in Tucson, I decided to take a bit of a side tour and head to an old haunt of mine, Cottonwood Arizona.  Besides, I may still get the opportunity to hit the two other spots along the way as I eventually head south again.  Giving me a triple whammy of places to visit.

I took a route that would take make along many back roads instead of the Normal I-10, I-17 routes.  By taking hwy 60 and hwy 74 I was able to pass through some small towns that still have the flavor of the old west.  Salome, Aguila,  and Wickenburg.  The first two tiny towns surprisingly had many productive farm lands in the valley’s surrounded by rugged mountain ranges.  The closer I got to Wickenburg, the more I saw of the majestic Saguaro cactus and lots of jumping cholla cactus.  The scenery is quite dramatic around this western town of Wickenburg where I’m told they are getting ready of a large rodeo.  The town has lots of vintage cowboy western architecture with just a hint of modern amenities and new adobe homes going in to make it a great place for me to come back to and explore a bit more.  Unfortunately with an almost four hour drive today and attempting to beat a heavy thunderstorm moving in before arriving in the Cottonwood area,  I didn’t have a chance to take pictures along the way.  Such a shame too, since the scenery was new and fresh to me and I would have really liked to stop and get some great shots.

After getting onto Interstate 17 heading north of Phoenix, I had forgotten how exciting the scenery along this highway is.  The mountain ranges close in a bit more as the road climbs from about 2,000 feet up to over 5,000 feet before descending once again into my destination area the Verde Valley at 3,100 feet.  The north and south bound lanes are separated by wide swaths of rock outcroppings, dotted with tons of Saguaro cactus.  Wow, just wish there were turnouts for scenic picture taking and owing and ahhing.

Ominous dark clouds slashed with lighting bolts were getting precariously close as I headed straight towards them.  With rain drops coming down more frequently, I finally turned off onto Thousand Trails road and my destination, the free BLM land campsites.  Circling the first dirt loop in the high desert, I pulled into what I hoped would be considered a campsite in between a couple other camper around the loop.  I quickly unhooked the camper, hit the auto level for the leveling jacks and got inside the camper just as the downpour began.  Opening the slides to the camper, I was “home-again” at my next campsite.

The weather cleared up the next day with sunny bright blue skies.  Not a cloud to be seen anywhere and would remain that way for the remainder of my stay.  My neighbor stopped on by to say hi and find out where I was from.  He and his wife are from West Virginia originally and he’s been full time camping for over 22 years and is 83 years young.  Gives me much hope that I’ll be able to do this for many years to come.

Solar Panels:  Update

I’m continuing to test out the solar panels and the battery capacity.  This is a big test as the evening are very chilly and the furnace needs to run throughout the night.  Knowing how much power I need to reserve for that purpose will let me know how much I can use in the evening for watching TV and being on the computer/charging the cell phones and e-readers etc.  So far these are the big energy users:

Microwave:  128 amps
Small one cup coffee pot:  47 amps
40” flat screen TV:  4 amps
LED lights, laptop:  5 amps
Furnace:  8 amps

I’ve been asked how long it would take to the panels to pay off by using them for camping.  I estimate it would take approx. 311 days of dry camping to make them pay for themselves.  However, the advantage of being able to camp in many areas that have no hook-ups for campers has expanded my ability to enjoy places I would never consider going too.  More remote places as well as many state parks out west that have only dry camping sites available.  Nice to know I’ve expanded where I can stay.

Jerome, the old mining town above Cottonwood and Clarkdale AZ 

Jerome Arizona

On Halloween day, I drove up to Jerome, the old mining town up on the mountain side overlooking the towns of Cottonwood and Clarkdale below.  It’s a wonderful old town with lots of artsy shops to explore.  And since the town is considered haunted with ghosts of yesteryear, what a perfect day to explore all it’s nooks and crannies.  The place was crowded with tourists, but I was able to find parking further on up past the fire station.  Figured their must be a large parking lot up there, as I saw a stream of tourists walking down the side of the mountain into town.  The local bars, restaurants and shops were hopping with happy tourists and locals enjoying a sunny fall day.  Easy to get your exercise up here as well, as the town is on about three levels so lots of walking up, down and along the main streets.

street scenes from Jerorme AZ

street scene

a beautiful new Wine tasting bar

Art gallery

back window of the art gallery

so many of the building are perched on the edge of the mountain

vintage vehicle on a car lift/old garage, now shops

This evening I’m heading into Cottonwood to have dinner with good friends John and William.  What a great visit with two friends who really know how to enjoy retirement.  Lots of cruises, often taking a month or two.


tires were only about 2 1/2 years old

I headed out of Cottonwood assuming a short hour and a half drive to Wickenburg.   Until I had a flat on the camper.  Actually the tread just pealed right off the tire with a loud banging sound as it blew up.  I’ve always changed my own tires, but thought, gee, I have Progressive Insurance with road side assistance.  And since I didn’t have the correct socket wrench to take off the tire, I called for assistance.  A couple hours later no road side assistance.  Called and discovered that Progressive didn’t forward the necessary info to the road crew so they never came out.  A couple hours later, a good Samaritan came by and helped me change the tire.

Oh and I’ll be getting new tires all around for the camper.  I'm going from an E to a G range 14 ply heavy duty tires.  I'm sure they will work out better than the ones that came with the camper and were only 10 ply trailer tires.  The sidewalls alone are well over three times the thickness of the E range tires.

wonderful sculptures depicting scenes for the early 1900's

Arriving in Wickenburg I planned on staying at the Fairgrounds campsite as it was advertised at only $5.  Got there and discovered it’s actually BLM land and Wickenburg now charges $8 for a dry campsite.  No services what so every.  What a rip off.  But I’ll stay for two nights.

I’m excited to explore the town as it appears to be a well preserved cowboy town from the old west.  Lots of historic adobe buildings, train station and authentic western bars/restaurants.  Which I did the next morning after having a decent breakfast in town.

Wickenburg downtown covers a little more than a four block area.  Lots of historic buildings and some nice government and community center buildings.  I used there library to get free wi-fi and charge my laptop and cell phone as it’s very overcast today and tomorrow and I’m trying to conserve my new solar/battery power while I continue to determine how much I can use.

One of the things I really enjoyed seeing are all of the bronze streetscape sculptures created by artist J. Seward Johnson and donated by the DeVore Foundation.  Many very wealthy residents have contributed to this small community of 6,000 which doubles in size during the winter months.  The bronze sculptures’ capture life as it was back in the early 1900’s.  They are so realistic it’s like looking into the past right before my eyes.  The Desert Caballeros Western Museum is a must visit.  Though they don’t permit photography on the main floor, I can tell you the exhibits are absolutely first class, western themed of course.  I particularly enjoyed the Michael Naranjo sculpture exhibit.  A Native Indian who was blinded by a grenade accident during the Vietnam War, he was able to turn his artistic talent into sculpting.  An entire room is filled with his depictions of the Native American lifestyle with commentary that bring each piece to life.  Touching is encouraged.

depicting the strong centuries of Spanish influence
in the area 

sculpture of man chained to the Jail Tree

The paintings and other exhibits all portray the western culture at it zenith.  A special photography exhibit featured an artist who has spend over 20 years documenting ghost towns throughout Arizona and the west.  Stunning scenes, many which have since gone to dust by now.  Captured on film creating a historical document of a moment in time.

more street scenes around Wickenburg

a true saddlery shop

depicting the first black woman in the
area to build a hotel and operate it.

a stunning Western art gallery
well worth the stop

one of the main streets in Wickenburg

Much more to explore in the surrounding area, which I will have to do on another visit.

Two more days before I land at Desert Trails for the Winter…
Have a super great day, signing off for the Season.

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