Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 27, 2012 - We drove south to Madera Canyon this morning to do a little hiking.  Madera Canyon is a popular birding destination about 20 miles south of Tucson that starts at 5,000 feet in elevation and goes up to about 9,500 feet.  It was nice to get to a higher elevation to hike among real trees.  There is still snow on the peaks of the Santa Rita mountains.  We’ll be returning to this area to spend a week hiking the trails in this national forest.  Today, we were just checking out the many hiking possibilities.  We also found a nice RV park nearby where we can stay when we come back.

Today, we will be moving our RV a few miles north to Gilbert Ray campground in Tucson Mountain Park.  We will not have internet service at this site.  I’ll be back in touch by the weekend when we get settled in the RV park near Madera Canyon.

Pat hiking in the mountains at Madera Canyon

Tom by a Sycamore tree near a creek in Madera Canyon

A pretty mountain shrub we found at Madera Canyon

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 26, 2012 - Today we drove up the road to Saguaro National Park West to hike and check out the Visitor Center.  Along the way, there was a man at one of the pullouts with his car hood raised.  (Tom says it wasn’t just any car - it was a 1973 Datsun 240Z.)  We stopped to find out if he needed help.  Sure enough, he was glad to be able to use our cellphone to contact AAA for a tow.  After a quick stop at the Visitor Center to get a trail map, we hiked up a wash to see the colorful display of blooming wildflowers.  We found a shady, CCC-constructed picnic shelter for a rest, then connected with other trails to make a loop back to our car.  It was a really pretty hike with wildflowers, cactus, rocky cliffs, and even an old mine.  We returned to the Visitor Center to look at the displays and watch the park movie.  After the movie, the curtains parted to show a full view of the outside desert.  What an ending!

Poppies and Lupines in the wash

Flowers and rocks along the trail

Tom and I went back to one of the pullouts in Tucson Mountain Park near sunset to watch the desert change in the cool of the evening.

Saguaro skeleton at sunset

Prickly Pear (with flash) at sunset

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 25, 2012 - We went back to downtown Tucson this morning to check out the 17th Street Market.  We thought it was going to be an outdoor Farmer’s Market spread out along 17th Street, but it was an indoor, specialty grocery store.  We bought a few special groceries (like Wisconsin summer sausage!) and took off in the car to explore the desert.  We made a big loop, going south through the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, east toward Green Valley, and back up to Tucson.  Ate dinner at Los Nopales, a Mexican restaurant across the street from our RV park.  Tom ordered fish tacos and is ready to go back again for more.

Pat outside Los Nopales Mexican restaurant

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 24, 2012 - This morning we went to the El Presidio historic district of downtown Tucson.  A small Spanish fort was built here in 1775.  Now the streets are home to shops, restaurants, museums, government offices, and park areas.  We wandered through the streets and ended up at Enoteca, a pizza and wine bar, for lunch.  We sat at the bar and had a great conversation with a Milwaukee transplant to the Tucson area.  She talked to us about places we might want to see while we’re in southern Arizona.  She also told us that we had stumbled into one of the best restaurants in town!  I love sitting at the bar in small restaurants.  We always strike up a great conversation with anyone else sitting near us.    

We fell into a heat-induced state of laziness when we got back to the RV.  Temps reached 80 degrees today and the RV was very warm.  Charles J. Brady states, “The real measure of a day’s heat is the length of a sleeping cat.”  Our cats were stretched out to their full length.  It cools off nicely at sunset, though.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 23, 2012 - We spent the day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  It is one of our favorite places to go when we're in Tucson.  The Desert Museum is a zoo, a natural history museum, and a botanical garden, all in one place.  We love watching the outdoor raptor shows where trainers bring out owls, hawks, ravens, and even a roadrunner to allow them to move in free flight.  They always come back for a tidbit of food tucked into the crevice of a branch or the fingers of the trainer's leather glove.  The Desert Museum is an awesome place to learn about the plants and animals of the Sonoran desert.

Gray Hawk at Desert Museum Raptor Show

Great-horned Owl at Desert Museum Raptor Show

Trainer "calling in" one of the hawks in flight

Roadrunner at Desert Museum (This gal is in training!)

Taking a break from the heat in the Desert Garden

When we got back to the RV, I discovered that I had left a cupboard door open in the bedroom.  Cooper and Teva, our bored cats, had pulled a bag of catnip out of the cupboard and had a great time of their own this afternoon.

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 22, 2012 - Tea in bed... A slow start to the day... We must be retired.  We hiked a loop trail in Tucson Mountain Park, just minutes up the road from our RV park.  We could see the Old Tucson Studio in the distance surrounded by acres and acres of cowboy and cactus country.  Many TV westerns and movies have been filmed at the studio.  It felt like stepping back in time to look out at an old western cowboy town dotting the landscape. 

Tom on trail in Tucson Mountain Park

 Old Tucson Studio, where westerns were filmed
We stopped at Coyote Pause Cafe for a late lunch and ate the best Quesadillas of our lives.  We’re going back for more before we leave the Tucson area.  I’ll experiment with making them and pass on my recipe to you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tucson (AZ) Western Way RV Resort - 8 miles

Feb. 21, 2012 - We are settled into a new RV park today and loving it.  Western Way RV Resort in Tucson is nice.  Tom and I sat by the pool this afternoon, went to an authentic Mexican restaurant for dinner tonight, and walked the desert trail behind the RV Resort at sunset.  We saw two coyotes on the trail and then heard a pack of them howling.

It has been fun to meet people from other parts of the country and Canada as we stay in the RV parks.  We have Wisconsin neighbors now from Janesville, the city we lived in during our Wisconsin years.  There's a Wisconsin potluck next Monday at the Activity Center - a chance for all the Cheeseheads in the RV park to gather and socialize.  Every RV park that we have stayed at has had a very busy schedule of events.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gold Canyon (AZ) to Tucson (AZ) Desert Trails RV Park - 116 miles

Feb. 20, 2012 - We had to move from our site at Canyon Vistas RV Park since someone else has it reserved now.  So we decided to head south to the west side of Tucson.  We want to check out Saguaro National Park West as well as the Desert Museum and Old Tucson in this area.  We found a place to stay at Desert Trails RV Park, but it is only going to be a one-nighter!  RVs are packed in tighter than sardines in a tin can!  The place is rather old and tacky.  The facilities remind Tom of an aging hippie.  Or maybe an aged hippie.  The people are friendly, though.  We have found friendly people wherever we go.

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 19, 2012 - Kayaked on Canyon Lake, about 15 miles east of Apache Junction, this afternoon.  It was breezy and cool, but the paddle up a small side canyon was awesome.  We were surrounded by high canyon walls, cacti and grasses.  We even saw a Kingfisher fly by.  Water in the desert is a very special feature.

Tom kayaking into a small side canyon

The end of the watery canyon

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 18, 2012 - A day of rest... I really needed it!

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 17, 2012 - Hiked the Peralta Trail today.  It was quite the workout, gaining 1400 feet of elevation in two miles on a rough and rocky trail.  The view of Weaver’s Needle from the top, though, was phenomenal.  We found a “Vista Rock” on which to eat our lunch and take in the expansive desert landscape. 

Expansive view as we climbed the Peralta Trail

Higher still on the Peralta Trail

Tom at the top of Peralta Trail with Weaver's Needle rock formation

Peralta Trail view
I was tired again tonight... Imagine that!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 16, 2012 - Today we drove a 120-mile scenic loop along Hwy 60 to Globe (AZ) and past Roosevelt Lake on Hwy 88.  Twenty miles of Hwy 88, south of the dam forming the lake, is a narrow and winding dirt road with steep canyon drop-offs to the Salt River below.  It was a beautiful drive through amazing high-elevation desert.  We ate a late lunch in Tortilla Flat (population 6) in an Old West eating establishment where the walls and ceiling are lined with dollar bills; some layers are 2+ deep!  I fell asleep when we got back to the RV.  When I woke up, Tom had chocolate-covered almonds on our dining table -- a great dinner for me with a glass of red wine!

Bridge across Roosevelt Lake inlet near dam

Dirt-road drive along canyon

Tom at canyon overlook

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 15, 2012 - Tom and I went back to the First Water trailhead to hike the Dutchman Trail in the Superstition Mountains.  It was a leisurely afternoon hike with lots of rest and snack stops.  Every time we pause and stop, we see so much more.  Tom pulled his harmonica out of his day pack several times and practiced Red River Valley, one of the songs that he knows.

Tom called Melissa (the other appraiser in his office) and found out that she had been stung by a scorpion while in the shower when she was visiting her dad in Arizona this past week.  She ended up in a hospital for two days and received six anti-venom injections!  When I went to the shower house at our RV park tonight, I really searched the floor for scorpions before stepping in!  Yikes...

Superstitions Wilderness view

Weaver's Needle view from Dutchman Trail

Tom playing harmonica along the trail

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gold Canyon (AZ)


A Prickly Pear heart for you

Woke up to rain and a dusting of snow on the Superstition Mountains.  Spent the morning reading and baking Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Hiked this afternoon after the rain stopped.  It was a beautiful, clear day to hike up a wash from the First Water trailhead in the Superstition Mountains - a great opportunity for taking desert photos.

Pat along creek in Superstition Mountains

Pat in rocky wash in Superstition Mountains

Saguaro cactus in Superstition Mountains

Close-up of Saguaro Cactus

 Made a special Valentine’s dinner when we got back - Tilapia, Sweet potato/Apple Saute, Broccoli & Onion, Spinach salad with red grapes & almonds, Temparillo wine from an Elgin (AZ) winery, and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Pat cooking Valentine's dinner

Valentine's Day dinner in the RV

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 13, 2012 - Took a day to drive into Mesa to do some shopping.  We also stopped at the Mesa Ranger Station to get information on dispersed camping.  We would like to try setting up our RV on public land and spending time in the open wilderness areas.  We are also thinking of trading in our RV for a smaller van-type RV, so we looked at several RV lots to see what they had.  The inside space of the vans is definitely tighter!  But they still have a kitchen and bathroom area as well as a couch that folds into a bed and storage cupboards.  A van would allow us to get off the beaten path and onto the gravel roads leading into wilderness areas.  It would be much easier to drive and would get better gas mileage.  Something new to think about...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 12, 2012 - Today, Tom and I hiked three miles, round trip, to a petroglyph site.  The ancient etchings were left by Prehistoric people.  Being a Sunday, we shared the experience with lots of other hikers and their dogs.  It was much cooler today, a great day for hiking.

Petroglyphs on rock (right side of photo)

Close up of petroglyphs

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 11, 2012 - Spent the day at the RV -- reading, relaxing, eating...

I’ve been pulling recipes out of cooking magazines the past few days, recipes that will work for RV cooking.  There’s not much work space in an RV kitchen.  Some recipes are easier to prepare in a small space with a limited pantry of ingredients.  It has been fun to create meals and snacks for the two of us.  We have been eating well -- Apple-Pecan Pancakes, Blueberry Pancakes, Scrambled Egg Wraps, a variety of Quesadillas, Tuna Salad Wraps, Broccoli-Apple Salad, Steamed Veggies on a bed of Jasmine Rice with a Mushroom Sauce, Spaghetti with Sauteed Veggies and Marinara Sauce, Salad Greens with Avocado and Hard-boiled Egg, Waldorf-Chicken Salad, Cous Cous with chopped Dates, and Dates stuffed with a Cream Cheese-Hickory Nut filling.  Mmmm!

Pat cooking in the RV kitchen

Cooper relaxing in the RV loft

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 10, 2012 - Relaxed by the pool late this morning.  I’m reading High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver.  I love reading regional books when I’m visiting an area.  We drove into Apache Junction after lunch to find a Visitor Center and to stop at their desert museum.  We received a “Welcome” tote this afternoon from Cal-Am Resorts, delivered by a Wisconsin couple -- a tote bag filled with a bottle of Sangiovese wine, two wine glasses, snacks and a hand fan!  Went to the Happy Hour by the pool from 4:00-6:00pm.  BYOB - We took a bottle of white wine and our two new wine glasses.  Listened to live music by The Calhouns.  Tom and I even danced a slow dance.  It has been ages since we’ve done that.  So nice.  We met a 79-year-old Arizona man who is still RVing.  He gave us lots of Arizona information and even called me a ‘Baby’ for whining on our last 4-mile hike in the Superstition Mountains.  He wore a great cowboy hat and was a real gem.

Tom signed up for one more week at this Canyon Vista RV Resort...

Gold Canyon (AZ)

Feb. 9, 2012 - Temperatures were warmer than normal today.  We decided to take it easy.  So, we drove the winding Apache Trail (Highway 88) along Canyon Lake and past Tortilla Flat, a weathered cluster of Western-style buildings with a cafe and country store, population 6.  It was a beautiful drive and we found a few places to launch our kayaks in Canyon Lake when we’re ready to do some paddling.  We ate a late lunch at Los Gringos in Apache Junction - great Mexican food down here.  We chose to eat inside instead of on the patio because we were too hot to sit outside.  I’ve been getting hot and tired and cranky in the heat of this greater Phoenix area.  I napped when we got back to the RV.  This heat really zaps my energy.  I need to get acclimated to sunshine and warm temps! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gold Canyon (AZ)

We don’t have internet access at our RV site.  Tom and I walked down to the Activity Center today to post these entries.  We never know when we’ll be wired!

Feb. 8, 2012 - Tom and I hiked the Bluff Creek Trail in the Superstition Mountains today.  It was a rocky and rough trail and it was a very warm and dry day.  We took lots of breaks on our uphill trek to gaze out at the canyons and mountains of this fascinating desert landscape.  We hiked far enough to catch a peek of Weaver’s Needle, a dominant mountain peak in the Superstition Wilderness area.

Back at the RV, we met our New Hampshire neighbors while we were hanging out on our cement patio with the cats.  They invited us to join them and a few friends on their deck to watch the sunset tonight.  While we were talking, a coyote wandered through their back yard.  There are lots of coyotes in the area.  It was great to see one passing through tonight.    

We ended our day with a relaxing soak in the hot tub.  It has been a very good day...

Pat on Bluff Creek Trail in Superstitions Wilderness

Tom on Bluff Creek Trail with Weaver's Needle above his head

Pat on trail with Weaver's Needle showing through mountain saddle

Huachuca City (AZ) to Gold Canyon (AZ) - 159 miles

Feb. 7, 2012 - On the road again... We drove north to Gold Canyon, near Apache Junction.  Traffic was heavy going through Tucson, but we drove through scenic desert with cactus plants and a Superstition Mountains backdrop on the last part of the journey to Canyon Vistas RV Park, our home for the next week.  After backing the Winnebago into our site, we relaxed outside on our lawn chairs, drinking wine/beer and planning our day tomorrow.  Walked around the RV Park - this place is huge!  There are lots of license plates from Canadian provinces and our chilly northern states, friendly people with their dogs, a great pool area with spa along with a full activities calendar for active RVers.  It’s much warmer here than the higher elevation of the Huachuca City area.  It’s so nice to have the windows open at night.  Tom and I went for another walk after dark to see the full moon.  It’s so nice to be retired and relaxed in the great southwest.

Huachuca City (AZ)

Feb. 6, 2012 - We packed up this morning to move on to the Superstition Mountains.  Before we got ready to roll, Tom made several phone calls to the Apache Junction area to find an RV park for us and discovered that they were all full!  So, we decided to stay another night at the Mountain View RV Park here in Huachuca City.  Later, Tom made more phone calls and found an RV park near Apache Junction, where we got one of the last sites.  This is a very busy time of year in Arizona when all the Snowbirds flock down here to bask in the sun and warmth of the southwest desert. 

With a free afternoon, we hiked at the Ramsey Canyon Preserve, a Nature Conservancy preserve.  We got a great workout by hiking up 700 feet in elevation in just one mile to an overlook of Ramsey Peak and the canyon below.  This is a haven for a great variety of hummingbirds, but we didn’t see any hummers this early in the year.

Tom at Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Love You, Arizona

Lyrics to:  I Love You, Arizona
by Rex Allen, Jr.  (1981)

I love you, Arizona;
Your mountains, deserts, and streams;
The rise of Dos Cabezas
And the outlaws I see in my dreams;
I love you, Arizona,
Superstitions and all;
The warmth you give at sunrise;
Your sunsets put music in us all.

Oo, Arizona;
You're the magic in me;
Oo, Arizona,
You're the life-blood of me.

I love you, Arizona;
Desert dust on the wind;
The sage and cactus are blooming,
And the smell of the rain on your skin.

Oo, Arizona;
You're the magic in me;
Oo, Arizona,
You're the life-blood of me.

Huachuca City (AZ)

Feb. 5, 2012 - Tom dropped me off at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the afternoon main stage performance.  He took off to shop and hang out in Sierra Vista.  I have really enjoyed my time at this wonderful event.  Arizona is celebrating their centennial this year - 100 years as a state on Feb. 14.  The Arizona people have a great sense of pride in their land and their history.  It truly comes out in the songs and stories I have heard throughout the weekend.  "I Love You, Arizona" is a beautiful song that I heard more than once over the past few days.  I think I'm going to like exploring this amazing state.

Tom went to the Club House to watch the Super Bowl game tonight while I took off to write and hang out in the RV.

Huachuca City (AZ)

Feb. 4, 2012 - Back to the Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering for a full day of music, poetry, and stories.  It all touched my soul and made me want to be a cowgirl!  Yip-pe-ti-i-ay!  I have never seen so many blue jeans, cowboy boots, big belt buckles, vests, cowboy hats, and mustaches being sported by the men.  The women were decked out in fancy skirts with fringe and cowgirl boots and leather vests and dangling earrings and cowgirl hats.  They were beautiful.  It was interesting to get a glimpse into the rancher's way of life.  It's a world so very different from the one I know.  I've always thought of cowboys as a rough and tumble kind of lot.  But their stories bring out the tender and loving depths of their human spirits.  I'm hooked.  I'll be looking for more Cowboy Poetry & Music Gatherings to go to in the future.

Huachuca City (AZ)

Feb. 3, 2012 - Drove 37 miles into Benson this morning to look around and see what we could find.  (There is a lot of space between towns in the Arizona desert.)  We found the Singing Wind Bookshop, a bookstore in two front rooms of a ranch house, down a half-mile dirt road.  The 82-year-old ranch wife started the bookshop many years ago to make southwest books available to readers.  The books are shelved on thick mesquite boards from floor to ceiling.  There was also a Used Bookstore in Benson with a vast selection of books.  If we ever choose an area to park our RV for months at a time, I'd stay near Benson so I could keep coming back to the bookstores.

Back at the RV, we relaxed and read before going into Sierra Vista for the main stage performance of the Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering.  It was a great evening of music, poetry, and stories.  We sat next to a woman with a stack of programs on her lap and found out that her husband and his horse were pictured on the cover of the program.  We also got to talk to Chuck Pyle (one of our favorite singer-songwriters) and his wife when I was buying his CDs after the show.  What an evening!

Program for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Patagonia Lake State Park (AZ) to Huachuca City (AZ) - 44 miles

Feb. 2, 2012 - Moved on late this morning to Huachuca City near Sierra Vista.  We're staying at Mountain View RV Resort where we have a good internet connection.  I never realized that I was addicted to the internet until I got into areas with no coverage!  We spent a relaxing afternoon in the RV.  The winds are very strong this afternoon; the RV is rockin'... and we're not doing it.   We went to the Club House this evening to listen to Dennis Gaines, a Texas cowboy storyteller.  He was great!  We can't wait to go to the Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering this weekend in Sierra Vista.  It will be a weekend full of cowboy music, stories, laughter and good times...

Tom editing my blog entries  

By the way, Happy Ground Hog's Day to those of you living in wintery climates.  Hope the ground hog has been good to you!

Patagonia Lake State Park (AZ)

Feb. 1, 2012 - Tom went into Patagonia this morning to get cell phone reception and a Wi-Fi connection.  He found a place for us to stay near Sierra Vista this weekend for the Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

We kayaked this afternoon.  It was a warm and sunny day.  We checked out one small inlet and heard the buzz of... could it be bees?  We didn’t linger to find out.  We’ve read enough desert warning signs to know that African bees can be a problem here.  It was a leisurely paddle, though, with more bird sightings.  Tom is still looking for the elusive Elegant Trogon, but then, so are a lot of other birders!

We played Cribbage after dinner.  It has been a long time since the two of us have played Cribbage together.  We played a lot in college, but that has been a long time ago.  We do play with a friend in Sequim (WA) and really enjoy a three-handed game.  Anyway, it was nice tonight to play a game together.  

Kayaking on Patagonia Lake

Patagonia Lake State Park (AZ)

Jan. 31, 2012 - We explored the surrounding area today.  Our first stop was in Patagonia, a small town along Highway 82.  We wandered through the shops and chatted with the owners.  The corner gas station caught our attention with this sign:

Patagonia's corner gas station

We ate lunch at a small cafe in Sonoita called The Cafe.  The Raspberry Chicken Chipotle Wrap was very good, but it left my tongue and lips burning!  Tasting wines at two wineries in the Elgin area cleared my palate.  We loved being greeted by five dogs at the Kief-Joshua Winery.  Great wines, too.

Tom and I kayaked on Patagonia Lake near sunset.  We are so close to the lake that we can drag our kayaks into the water from our site.  It was a little cool to be paddling, but it was so nice to be on the water surrounded by hillsides of scrub brush and cactus with flocks of birds around us.

Tucson (AZ) to Patagonia Lake State Park (AZ) - 54 miles

Jan. 30, 2012 - We loaded the kayaks on the car, attached the car to the RV, and headed south to Patagonia Lake State Park, which is at an elevation of 3,800 feet.  Our campsite for the next few days is close to the lake.  It is quiet and peaceful here. We spent the rest of the day birdwatching, reading, napping, snacking and sipping wine.

Tom says:  The hooligans love watching the birds but don’t really care for sipping the wine.

Tom relaxing at campsite at Patagonia Lake