Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Settling in at Santee Lakes

It's nice to have a month in one place. Santee Lakes has a beautiful RV park, one of the best in San Diego, and we are here at the right time of year...Santee can be very hot in the summer.

Lots of visits happening with family and friends. Plenty of time to relax as well as hiking well known local trails and exploring Santee which we were not too familiar with. Meeting some great people in the park.

We've picked up some things we left in storage because we didn't have room in our old truck to haul it to Oregon for the transition. Hans has spent some time organizing his CD collection while I cooked up some banana bread and biscotti.

Consolidating the CD collection into binders while listening to an amazing variety of music.

Spending the morning creating deliciousness...I love my little kitchen!

Rosie didn't have any projects to tackle...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rosie is Home! And we are settled for the holidays...

We've arrived in San Diego, our former home town. We're staying here for two months to visit family and friends over the holidays, so posting will probably be light for a while. Our exact location is noted to the right.

The best part about returning to San Diego is: we got Rosie back! We feel like a complete family again!

Rosie enjoying her window seat. The table in front is a cabinet that holds her litter box. This cat is styling!

We were really concerned about the stress on her with our transition to Oregon and not knowing what would be involved in starting our nomadic life, especially since we didn't have set plans and we knew we'd be staying with people with dogs and other cats some of the time. My parents had recently lost their last beloved pet and were happy to take her temporarily, problem solved!

Arriving in town yesterday we'd made arrangements for my parents to join us for dinner so they could drop her off and see our new home (my parents are long time RVers, that's where I grew to love the lifestyle).

We were so happy to see Rosie settle in quickly. It was obvious she was still comfortable around us and simply needed to explore her new surroundings. We're glad we are spending a month at this park so she will get really comfortable before we start the nomadic wandering again.

We're gearing up for a big Thanksgiving feast at Hans' brothers and lots of socializing in the near future. I've got food on my mind so I'd like to share a few recipe adaptations and recommendations...

Heidi Swanson, who blogs at 101 Cookbooks, has a wealth of amazing vegetarian recipes with beautiful pictures to boot. This recipe: Spicy Green Beans and Tofu was adapted from her recipe here. My adaptations included streamlining the procedure by sauteing the green beans in the same skillet (instead of boiling them) and I substituted smoked paprika for a lovely smokey flavor that really enhanced the dish. The leftovers were good heated up with some leftover spicy sausages.

Here is a recipe for Cheesey Cauliflower and Bacon, adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen Twice Baked Cauliflower. (My family will recognize this as being "Cindy Potatoes" made with cauliflower.) My adaptations included not mashing up the cauliflower very much, no lowfat cheese, and substituting greek yogurt for the sour cream because that's what I had on hand. I put the dish together in the morning, stowed it in the fridge all day, then baked it for dinner. It was delicious freshly cooked and the leftovers were just as tasty the next day.

Many thanks to my sister for turning me on to this recipe for Chunky Chicken Chili, we have a new favorite, quick and easy, yet really tasty chicken chili. That recipe is delicious as written. My adaptations (because there are always adaptations!) are to use way less butter, substitute half and half for the heavy cream, use ancho chili powder, and substitute greek yogurt for the sour cream.

And last but not least a little sweet/tart treat: Cranberry Orange Muffins, adapted from My adaptations were to use half whole wheat flour and replace the white sugar with brown. I didn't have enough orange juice from the one orange I zested and squeezed to equal 3/4 cup, so I added fresh squeezed lemon juice and one single serving container of apple sauce to make up the 3/4 cup required. I also did not sprinkle sugar on top, figuring it had plenty of sugar already. We loved the explosion of tart cranberry with each bite (I think I added more than 1 cup of cranberries to the batter because they are just so good!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Campground Review: Quail Run RV Park, Quartzsite, AZ

We wanted to scope out Quartzsite when it was quiet because we'll have an opportunity to camp here when we travel from San Diego to Tucson in late January. That's when Quartzsite is really going nuts with RV-related madness. We figure we'll dry camp in January, but for now we wanted hookups and laundry.

We stayed at Quail Run RV Park, the "newest" RV park in town. It has 168 full hookup sites, paved roads, gravel sites with a concrete pad and our site had a tree. Restrooms, showers, laundry, clubhouse...all were neat and tidy. Daily rate is $34, less Good Sam discount.

The park was only about 10% full and doesn't really fill up until after the holidays. The month of January is 110% booked! We were pleased to see the managers assign sites well separated from other campers when the park has low occupancy. We haven't seen that same courtesy at other parks.

We started out with excellent 4G (4MB/sec) internet through our Millenicom service but it deteriorated for some reason and we switched to the parks 3G wifi and it worked reasonably well.

We still don't know if we will return in January, but I can recommend this park as a nice, clean place to stay if you want hookups in Quartzsite. Most RV park options in Quartzsite are pretty much parking lots, this one  was clean and friendly.

Our site #63

Looking down the row behind our rig.
During low occupancy this park is good about giving its customers some space.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Campground Review: Usery Mountain Regional Park

We moved just 30 miles SE from McDowell Mountain Regional Park to the lovely Usery Mountain Regional Park. You can read our experiences at McDowell here and here. McDowell is a mountain bikers mecca and Usery is a hikers heaven! Just the kind of places we like best.

Usery is less than 5 miles to the closest grocery store and gas station in Mesa, AZ. At night you can see the lights of Phoenix in the distance and hear the white noise of the city faintly as well. The access road to the park, while pretty busy during the day, is very quiet at night. Being so close to the city, this park can be very busy on the weekends and holidays.

Usery campground has paved roads, gravel sites, water and electric only, with dump station on site. Clean and convenient restrooms and showers. All sites seem to be pretty level and the perimeter sites are the most private. Sites have a table, fire pit and BBQ. We had fast 4G internet service here!

The park includes 30 miles of multi-use trails, an archery range, picnic areas and playgrounds and a nature center with many scheduled programs. We attended a talk about the venomous reptiles in the Sonoran desert.

There is also a shooting range about half a mile away from the park which you can hear during the day. When we arrived on Friday the shooting was sporadic, but on Saturday it was continuous all day long. Luckily it did not continue long after dark.

This was a beautiful park, close to services, with excellent 4G internet signal. We might stay here again, though we really liked the more peaceful feeling at McDowell.

Our site #12, a back in opening to the desert with a big, private sitting area.

Our view from our door. No campers in sight, and the road to the park is a good third
of a mile away and out of sight due to lush desert plants in this park..

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Usery Mountain Regional Park sits at the North edge of Mesa, AZ. It has 30 miles of hiking trails, a huge archery range, picnic sites and camping. This is lush desert landscape right at the edge of a big city so it gets a lot of use, especially on a cool Saturday which was our one full day here.

Here are a few pics from our stay at this very pretty desert park.

We were greeted with lush desert plants under brilliant blue sky just steps
from our camp site upon our arrival.
Hiking the Wind Cave trail on a cloudy Saturday morning.
The cave is the slim black horizontal slit near the top right of the hill.
The trail makes its way up the boulder strewn hillside to the yellow volcanic tuff layer,
highlighted with  bright green lichen.

A small portion of the wind cave...the remainder was full of other people! Being so close to a major city,
this park gets major use on the weekends.
This beautiful hawk was watching the crazy people hiking to the cave.
Even under cloudy skies the cholla seem to glow.
Sunsets have been spectacular here!
After glow

Friday, November 16, 2012

Campground Review: McDowell Mountain Regional Park

We chose to stay at McDowell Mountain Regional Park based on the glowing review by Wheeling It, and we agree with their assessment.

Roads are paved, sites are gravel with water and electric hookups. There is an onsite dump station. Restrooms and showers are clean and convenient.

Sites in the South loop are more level and better for big rigs than those in the North loop. In either loop, we prefer the perimeter sites as they are the most private.

There are 50 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, including a competitive mountain bike track.

We stayed in site #62, a pull off site that has your RV door facing wide open desert; no roads, no RV's, no buildings, nothing but beautiful, spacious, open desert. The nearest neighbors are at least 100 feet away and out of view. Completely quiet and peaceful at night.

Site #60 may be my favorite site; it's another perimeter site and is a back in site and like the rest of the back in sites, it is wide enough for your truck or towed to park next to your rig. Site 60 has lots of privacy and beautiful saguaro views.

And to top it all off we met a lot of great folks here, including Harlan and Donna, owners of Bicycle Garage just down the road in Fountain Hills where Hans had his bike fixed; if you need bike repairs while in the area do check them out for quality work. We also had a very nice happy hour with Cliff and Sharon from Alberta and their sweet dog Toby.

We would definitely stay here again, but there are other nice parks in the area that would give us a new area to base out of that we might try (Usery Mountain Regional Park, Lost Dutchman State Park).

Pull out site #62 on the perimeter of the South loop. The only difficulty in setting up was positioning
 the rig next to that curb so our steps would fold out properly.

Nothing but desert in front of us. Big sitting area with table, BBQ and metal fire pit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

McDowell Mountain Regional Park, a Mountain Bikers Paradise

We've relocated to McDowell Mountain Regional Park in the NE corner of Scottsdale, AZ. We've got a campsite that opens onto nothing but desert and miles and miles of trails that are mostly used by mountain bikers.

We've joked with the other campers here that it seems to be a mecca for senior mountain bikers! At this time of year there are mostly seniors camped here and they are a healthy, physically active bunch.

The trails are awesome! Mostly hard packed desert dirt, meandering through cactus gardens, some lightly rocky sections, uphills are gentle, some swoopy sections through giant boulders, expansive views. Besides the 50 miles of general trails, there is a competitive track where you can test your skills.

The park was ravaged by fire in 1996 and you can see the scars on cactus throughout the park, but in the last 16 years the plants have come back nicely, making for a wonderful place to stay and enjoy the desert.

We've seen a coyote walk near our camp in the afternoon, then moments later call to his pack and listen for the answering responses. LOVE being in a campground with natural space around you, instead of neighbors all lined up in a row.

Sunrise from our camp site

Our camp site...nothing but desert outside our door.

This beautiful, old saguaro has burn damage but managed to survive the 1996 fire.

Mushroom granite rocks!

One of the swoopy sections

Monday, November 12, 2012

Campground Review: Rancho Verde RV Park

Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde, AZ is a lovely small RV park situated in a quiet neighborhood about a half mile West of I-17 as the crow flies. They have 40 sites, just a few are pull throughs. Paved roads, gravel sites with some grass and shade trees. Restroom/Laundry facility is clean and inexpensive.

The owners are friendly and have only owned the place for a year and a half. They work hard to keep it in good shape. They were happy to lend us a plunger for our toilet fiasco and followed up to make sure all was okay afterwards.

You can hear I-17 at night (when the skies are clear) and I was glad we had the windows closed and also glad we weren't staying at one of the other nearby parks that are right next to this busy freeway. The campground access road is very quiet.

We did not use the campground wifi, but our own Millenicom 3G internet service was intermittently slow, and Verizon cell service was good.

We absolutely would stay here again, would even consider staying for a month. Good central location in the Verde Valley, on a quiet neighborhood street, yet just a few minutes drive to shopping and several cute small towns and lots of hiking and great scenery. Very well kept park with good management. You can't go wrong staying here.

Our site #D2. The pull through sites are set up so another rig could be to our right
with their back end adjacent to our back end, allowing each rig to have a private sitting area.

View down the row behind our rig, back in sites on the left that back up to the
quiet neighborhood access road to the park.

View of the road in front of our rig. Laundry room on the right. A row of pretty, deep back in sites
 that are about 15 feet above the second level of this park where there are another 8 sites.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

There are No Boring Days

Today we wrap up our stay in Camp Verde, AZ, and what a stay it's been! The last 24 hours alone were filled with excitement...

We had our first RV problem. Yep, the toilet stopped working, right before bedtime of course! After a fitful nights sleep full of toilet anxiety, Hans managed to fix it. Turns out I was using too much TP...lesson learned! Thank goodness it wasn't some warranty problem that would have changed our travel plans.

We met Annie and Roxanne of The Good Luck Duck in Cottonwood, AZ! So cool to meet these lovely women who are boondocking full time. They are a wealth of information on how to conserve resources (I could learn something from them based on the problem above!) and we look forward to seeing them again sometime on the road.

Just as we were wrapping up our rendezvous with Annie and Roxi it started to snow! As a southern California girl, snow is a novelty and I can't get enough of the white stuff. It wasn't even sticking to the ground and I was as excited as a little kid!

Between the toilet fiasco and the meeting of the full time RVers we went on an awesome hike: Parsons Trail in Sycamore Canyon. You have to drive 9 miles out on a dirt road that gets a bit rough the last mile or so, but a high clearance two wheel drive vehicle should be able to handle it. We hiked 3 miles into this ~4 mile trail and found it to be so lovely we will gladly do it again the next time we are in the area. We even saw a fox!!!!

We're headed for McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Scottsdale today. I'll leave you with a taste of Sycamore was so worth the drive out there.

Admiring Sycamore Canyon from the parking area. The only hill is the trail down into and out of the canyon.

The trail wanders along the creek among the for critters in the undergrowth!
The creek opens into small pools whose beauty simply takes your breath away.

There are several stream crossings.

See the flat ledge of rock just above the water? That's the trail!
Towering columns of basalt. The clouds are just barely starting to build up for the snow
that would fall in the afternoon.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hiking the Wet Beaver

Wet Beaver Creek is one of the few year round creeks in the Sedona/Verde Valley area. We hiked Bell Trail which follows within earshot of Wet Beaver Creek through golden grasses, red rocks, gentle inclines with stunning views. We made Bells Crossing our turn around point for a total of 8.5 miles...this is longer than the published mileage but I tend to have faith in the EndoMondo app mileage tracker we use.

This is said to be a very popular hike, but on a Thursday morning in November we had the trail to ourselves until the last mile or so.

Heading up canyon we took a side trail to check out the creek and surprised a couple of white tailed deer.
We heard later that they are generally very elusive and we were lucky to have seen them!

Red Rocks peeking out from the hillsides at the start of the trail. Notice the dark rock layer at the top of the hill,
Indian pueblos were once a part of that layer.

Evidence of the former inhabitants of the area. Keep your eyes peeled for these, they are not easy to find!
This had to have fallen from the top of the hill where the black rock layer is.
About 3 miles in the canyon narrows considerably and the trail climbs gently
up into the red rocks.

Love how the forces of nature have etched this pocket of sandstone!

Just before we dropped down to creek level we noticed how the creek perfectly
bisects these trees.

At Bells Crossing the canyon towers over the creek.
This serene oasis was a good place to relax for a while and be at peace.

On our return we spotted another piece of native art.
I wonder if our next stop, Montezuma Castle, may have been represented here.
It is just a few miles down the road...

Montezuma Castle

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Campground Review: Page Lake Powell Campground and RV Park

Page, AZ was an easy 75 miles East of Kanab. We stayed at Page Lake Powell Campground and RV Park.

There are about 130 sites, three quarters with full hook ups and cable (extra charge). Without cable the FHU site was $26/night, less Good Sam discount.

Sites are fairly good sized, though the pull throughs were a bit sloped in our row (we were in site #22). Gravel roads and sites. Trees are large and pretty but can be a slight problem, we ended up buying some pruning shears to deal with some small limbs in the way of our antenna, I'm sure they'll come in handy again! Also, sewer was placed a little too far into the neighbors site instead of being grouped near the water and electric. But we all had to deal with that, it was not an isolated occurrence.

The park is on the South edge of town and on a minor local highway (160) so it was very quiet at night.

Monthly sites are at the bottom, busier part of the park, short term stays at the top, with a row of permanently placed mobile homes at the very top. A couple rows of tent sites are scattered through the park and are very nice individually walled off areas with a tree and BBQ.

Very clean restrooms/showers and laundry (very inexpensive laundry). They also sell propane and other necessities in the office/store. There is an indoor pool and spa and a playground, as well as the neat sandstone formations right behind the park you can hike up, they connect you to the 8 mile Rimview Trail.

The park's free wifi worked well for us and we also had a decent but slow connection for our 3G Verizon signal.

We would stay here again if in the area due to spacious sites, how well kept the park is, and how quiet it was at night.

Front half is for monthly's and are more level, Top half are the short terms
and each row/site slopes down to the next row slightly.  We are in the next to last row.
Taken from atop the red hills adjacent to the park.

Nice, spacious site, we had to trim the tree a little bit. Those low walls behind us are the individual tent sites.
Hard to tell here, but our front jacks are very low and our back jacks quite high off the ground
 due to the slight slope  the campground is on.
View down our section with red rocks right behind the campground.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Page, AZ

Short travel days are wonderful! With a mere 75 miles from Kanab to our RV park in Page, AZ we were able to get laundry done and relax a bit before we hit the road, and we still got to Page about noon, leaving a good chunk of the day to get some needed shopping done.

Page calls itself the "Hub of the Grand Circle". It is smack dab in the middle of an area that includes the Grand Canyon, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Arches National Monument, Monument Valley, Capitol Reef and even more!

Personally, we would not want to drive the distances required to make this place our hub for visiting most of those sites. We try to keep our driving distance for day trips from any RV park well within 50 miles, then just move on to the next stop over.

Besides visiting Glen Canyon Dam, we've taken in a number of other beautiful sites. Here's a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. Also a recipe at the bottom of the post...

We hiked Bucktank Draw to Birthday Arch. The directions were slightly inaccurate, as we did not spy the arch until over 2 miles in, then you must head West at least a quarter mile cross country. The entire hike is through rather sandy terrain (the "draw" is actually a wash) and you are exposed for most of the hike so this would be pretty uncomfortable on a very hot day. Bring plenty of water as this is very dry country and you can get really parched!

First sight of the arch high on the cliff, we were actually quite a bit farther away from the arch than this pic suggests.
This is the terrain we scrambled over just below the arch wall.

Birthday Arch! 
We're in hoodoo land!

We decided to bushwack it back to the truck,
staying above the draw/wash so we could check out the cool rock formations.
We stopped by the lake at Lone Rock for lunch and got a sexy truck pic right on the beach! This fee area allows dispersed camping right on the waters edge.

Our awesome truck and my wonderful hubby at Lone Rock beach, Lake Powell.

We took a short hike to the lovely Hanging Garden:

A hidden oasis in a little alcove, only possible due to seepage from the sandstone.

It's a wall of maidenhair fern...

The Rimview Trail encircles the mesa that Page, AZ sits upon; affording beautiful views into Lake Powelll and the distant rock formations. It is about 11 miles of excellent single track for walking or mountain biking...though there are some spots where the trail would be pretty hairy on a bike.

Hiking the Rimview Trail in Page, AZ

And of course we couldn't visit Page without seeing the iconic Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River.

Horseshoe Bend

I am intrigued by how flat the land surrounding the river is...and then WOW, it drops into a chasm!

We've also met fellow Montana owners Dennis and Sheryl who are from Montana at our RV park.

That's it for us in Page this time around. We're heading South to Camp Verde for a few days.

Last but not least here's a recipe we enjoyed this week. This is my version of Chana Masala, an Indian spicy chickpea and spinach dish. This version is vegan and serves four good sized portions over rice. You can tell we are continuing our healthy eating on the road (not always vegan though, we eat just about anything)! Enjoy!