Monday, March 31, 2014


We're finally back to a speedy internet connection! I'll let the photos tell of what we've been up to the last 5 days or so. The Chiricahua Mountains have been burned, and many of the trails and campgrounds have been closed or destroyed due to the fire or to the erosion and subsequent flooding that follows such a disaster. Only the Sunny Flat and Stewart campgrounds are still open, but they are really wonderful spots, very popular with birders!

Finger's lookin' good! And it was only 3 stitches!

Sunny Flat campground site #11

Site#11 looking the other direction
My first Australian wine! I bought it at the close-by Portal store. I call it "Transcontinental Medication" since it eased the pain of the finger!
The hugest bee I've ever seen
A big black lizard
A distant view of the surrounding mountains
A horned toad on a dusty road
A small waterfall
A view on the Ash Spring Trail outside of Herb Martyr campground
The last bit of the Ash Spring Trail, the road home
Ah, more wildlife
Here's a photo of the quaint Portal, AZ store where I bought (another - #2) bottle of Australian Moscato
This is supposed to be a birder's paradise, but we just saw this turkey...
Next day, the Portal Store again for yet another bottle of Moscato
A butterfly I spotted on the Nature Trail just outside of the campground
On our last day, we hiked a portion of the Burro Trail and I actually saw a "Trogon" - a little red-breasted bird that birders seek
At the top of the Burro Trail, we had lunch on this huge red rock overlooking a canyon
I saw at least 5 different butterflies I'd never seen before
There are oak trees, streams, flowers, grasses, and every once in a while, a cactus plant
A different cactus plant with 3 buds all in a row
A clear stream with colorful rocks

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Today I had a thoroughly modern experience. I had the great good fortune to meet, in person, someone I have only known previously in cyberspace.

Ravelry is a knitter's (and other fiber enthusiast's) site that boasts over 4 million members. I mostly "hang out" (read: post) with a group of charity knitters who knit wool clothing that is sent across the world to children in the harshest environments. We laugh, we share patterns and techniques, we talk about ourselves and our families and our jobs, and we support each other as we all participate in a concerted effort to bring warmth to those who need it most. It's an awesome place. But today, I actually met one of the people whose full name I didn't even know, who I wouldn't recognize without some "signal" (like spies!), in a place I've never been before.

Long story short (I know, too late!), It was great fun! We chatted and ate Mexican food (Mi Casa restaurant in Benson, Arizona - great food, intimate atmosphere, I highly recommend the Chimichanga Arizona and the Carrot Cake) and had the kind folks at the table next to us take a photo:
My (now real life) friend, Sandy and me (that's me on the left)
Sandy even gave me a loaf of her homeade rye bread! It's excellent!

UPDATE: As I was getting ready to post this, I stopped to slice another piece of the delicious rye loaf, and since I can't really be trusted with sharp objects, I managed to slice my finger instead! After a brief stint sitting on the back steps of the Chinook until I passed out (no additional injuries sustained!) and then being shepherded into the car by Darell, we went to the Emergency Room in Benson. I can't recommend it highly enough! Fast, courteous service and four neat stitches! I'm typing this with one finger! And the bread was so good we even ate the slice with the blood on it when we got back! Joking, we're eating the bread, but there isn't any blood on it. The stitches come out in 10 days. Wine and Ibuprofen are my current best friends.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Okay, so here's a bit of life on the road that people might not think about. Rodents. A few weeks back, when we were at the campground at Organ Pipe National Monument, it became increasingly common to see RVs and their tow cars, or trucks with trailers, with the hood up - as if it were broken down. I asked Darell about it, and he (because he hangs out all the time on RV forums, and knows this stuff) said that it's because when the hoods are down, rodents like to climb up in them and chew whatever they can up there (it's cozy, if you're a rat, I guess). By the end of our stay there, almost every vehicle had its hood up. Here at Las Cienegas, we get to see the tracks of so many different kinds of wildlife, and of late, we've noticed what looks like small tracks and a swoop of a narrow tail. Rodents. Yesterday, there were some of these tracks around our camp table and chairs. Today, when we came back from driving some backroads in the jeep, there was a dead Kangaroo Rat (they a bit cuter than regular rats!) right near the back door of the RV. Between this and the bullet holes on informational map boards in this area, spent gun shells strewn about, and seeing armed fellow campers (Arizona is an open carry state), we're thinking about moving on. The weather's nice, though!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014


The Empire Ranch Headquarters is a wonderful place to visit here in Las Cienegas. It is the site of a cattle ranch established in the 1870's and was given over to the federal government in 1988 as an historical site. It is also the only place here where there is potable water. And there is a restroom there, too! I didn't really know what to expect, but it turned out to be a great "museum" of a ranching house and establishment. You can take a self-guided tour around the grounds, even walking through most of the rooms of the house, and wander through the outbuildings (those that are safe, that is).

View from inside the ranch house
Something I haven't seen before: there is a little hand-crank contraption that shares audio information about the ranch. We learned that many Hollywood movies, with actors like Maureen O'Hara, Burt Lancaster, and John Wayne, were filmed at the ranch and its surrounds, as well as Bonanza and other TV show episodes. Then we got tired of cranking it and didn't learn anymore.

There is also a .5 mile discovery trail that takes you back behind the ranch complex down to the nearby stream and some huge cottonwood trees.
The Heritage Discovery Trail
We spent the rest of the day driving on 4-wheel drive roads, just exploring the area. Unfortunately, the area's roads are not all signed, and the points of interest shared on the map billboards are likewise not well signed, so we didn't find the places we were looking for. We'll research some more on the internet, and see if we can locate some of the tomorrow. Also, the extent of the "wildlife" we encountered was not as wild as we would have liked:
Pigeons at the Empire Ranch site
A calf lying under a tree - Mom got a little concerned and started heading our way, so we got out of there!
Cows. One resting. One eating.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Today was a day of searching for us. Searching for a place to dump the tanks. Searching for a place to buy propane. Searching for a post office. Searching for a laundromat. Searching for a grocery store. And when we returned home, searching for my flip flops. We were only marginally successful. We started off by driving down to Patagonia, AZ, a quaint small town between here and Mexico. We found a laundromat (at the suggestion of the postal worker - we found the post office!); it was part of a small, private RV park on the outskirts of the town. I met an elderly man there, and he commented on my knitting, saying he hadn't seen anyone knit in decades! An aside: I didn't realize how much I would be knitting in laundromats on this whole journey, but, there it is! We also discussed Alaska, Jack London, and the weather in Patagonia, which he said sometimes reaches -8 degrees in the winter! While I was supervising the laundry, Darell went over to the "Ovens of Patagonia," a local bakery, and picked up some pastries and a loaf of multi-grain bread (okay, we weren't exactly searching for bakery goods, but, hey, if they present themselves.... Alas, the bread was gone within minutes. But the pastries made it home.
Cinnamon Roll and Carrot Cake for desert tonight!
We continued our searching for the other places, going through Patagonia State Park (very crowded, but looked like people were having fun), and down to Nogales, AZ, just at the border of Mexico. We did find a grocery store and got gasoline, but then headed home to find Darell's flip flops flip flopped across the campsite, and mine nowhere to be found. Windy, here, in our absence, I guess. I finally crawled under the RV and found mine. Now we're settled in and eyeing those pastries!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


We took a short hike out from our campsite, down the road, through a gate, and down to a stock pond - it's so odd to see water, when we've been used to the dry desert! There was a lone cow resting under a tree - I didn't get a photo because I thought I would see more, but that was it! One huge, black cow lying in the shade.
Stock pond, with our eastern mountains in the background
The road petered out after the stock pond, so we just wandered about the grasslands amongst the butterflies, the cow patties, and a trio of deer that we startled into activity. We finally came to a fence, and a cross-fence, with no outlet. We had to squeeze through a small space between the fence posts, but we made it!
Yes, we both squeezed through here - one at a time, of course!
Then we came to a cattle guard, turned left, and finally popped out at another cattle guard across the main road.

This was the view when we got back on the road and turned around
We hiked up a sandy stream-bed that was obviously a game trail - coyote, deer, cattle, and smaller creatures had left footprints (and other indications of their presence!) all through the wash. We stopped for snacks and water, and then walked until we reached a fence across the wash. As we climbed out of the stream-bed, we could see the Chinook just down the road! The perfect loop trail!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


We pulled up stakes this morning and have landed here at Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, between Tucson and Nogales. I knew it was supposed to be "grassland" here, but I was surprised to see so much rolling grassland and so many trees! This is a working cattle ranch, on public land (so dispersed camping is allowed in certain areas). It is really different from the desert landscapes we've been enjoying, and there is hardly anyone around (unlike the last week and a half, where we've been in busy campgrounds). 
Mountains to the east
There has been some gusty wind, but it's died down right now, and the sun just set behind the distant western mountains. A few dark purple clouds are giving way to the night, and the quiet is breathtaking.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Travel is so educational, and life on the road teaches one so much about one's self. For example, I've looked deep within myself and discovered that I have an innate ability to get lost, even when there are clearly marked trail signs. I've also uncovered a remarkable, almost extraordinary, tendency to misinterpret maps. I never really knew this about myself before. Thank goodness Darell is here to keep me "on trail" so to speak.

Today we hiked up to Wasson Peak, 4687 ft. elevation. We took the King's Canyon Trail to the Sweetwater Trail, then the final .3 of a mile up to the peak. That was a total of 3.5 miles - all uphill, and mostly steep. On the return trip, we took the Hugh Norris Trail, the Sendero Esperanza Trail, and the Gould Mine Trail to make a (gentler and somewhat level, with switchbacks and CCC stair steps) loop back to the trailhead/parking lot. The return trail was a bit longer, so the entire hike was just under 8 miles. This, after about 8 days of more sedentary pursuits. We're pooped. But the hike was fabulous, and the 360 degree views from Wasson Peak made it all worthwhile - you can see all of Tucson (and I mean all of it!) and for miles and miles around.
This is looking back towards the trailhead, on the trail up to the peak
Another view looking back from whence we came
Behind us, as we continued to ascend towards Wasson Peak
Teeny Darell included for scale (standing on the trail, facing right with backpack on, in the center, top third of the photo)
A fellow traveler - he looks happy!
Cactus flower with green stamens
Close up of green stamens
The trail out to Wasson Peak
Wasson Peak on the left, Tucson in the valley below to the right
This is taken from Wasson Peak, toward the trail we came up
A vista on the way back down
The same pink-blooming cactus plant as above, but towards the descending trail
Coming back down, on the awesome CCC-built trail