Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wish We Could Stay Longer at Catalina State Park

It's been a little greener and a little colder here in Catalina State Park. In the mid 20's every morning; around 10 degrees cooler overnight than South West Tucson. We had a frozen water connection the first morning, luckily we could still use the water pump and the water in our tank!

On our first full day we hiked lovely Romero Canyon. It's a beautiful steep and rocky trail that passed several streams flowing with snow melt. We hiked just beyond the Romero Pools at 3600 feet elevation. Had we been feeling up to it we could have continued all the way to the pass at 6000 feet! We even saw a skunk foraging on the hillside, he was moving too fast for me to get a picture though.

Early on the Romero Canyon trail you follow a stream cascading over boulders flanked by lush desert vegetation.

Flowers were starting to pop here and there along the trail.
These are Ragged Rock Flowers.

Rocky trail!

Lots of green on the hillsides, still some snow on the higher elevations.
This is Bighorn Sheep country, though we did not see any on this day.

A double waterfall at Romero Pools.
We loved that once you reach the pools area, there are grassy areas
and oak trees as well as the giant boulders in the stream.

Mexican Poppies are starting to cover the hillsides.

Back at camp on day two I had fun relaxing, soaking up the amazing view from our site and enjoying the wildlife.

This is a Round-tailed Ground Squirrel and he makes his home in our campsite.
He had no fear of us, just went about his business.

Vermilion Flycatcher. 
Jungle Kitty!
No cactus to worry about here!

While I relaxed at camp Hans went on a bike ride. He was scoping out the 50-Year Trail to see if I might enjoy it on day three...since it was pretty rocky I think I'll skip it! Yeah, I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to mountain bike trails...I prefer fairly smooth, rolling single track over rocky, bouncy, steep hilly trails!

Yeah, I know, this part of the 50-Year Trail doesn't look bad.  :-)

On day three we hiked a trail that wasn't on the state park map. It ended up being a five mile loop with a gorgeous, crystal clear stream at the halfway point. To access this trail go to the Romero Ruins trail head and keep right at the Y just before you head up the hill to the ruins.

Once you reach the creek, maybe two miles in, you can follow it upstream for a bit for some fantastic creek scrambling! Once you've had your fill of this pretty creek, head back to the main trail and continue on the loop. The trail comes out on the main road just outside campground loop A.

The water was amazingly clear.

We had so much fun traveling down the creek back to the trail junction!

This was a short but very worthwhile introduction to Catalina State park. We WILL return! We're off to the  Amado/Tubac area tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Catalina State Park is Gorgeous!

We made our big move yesterday a mere 30 miles NE to Catalina State Park. While we enjoyed our stay in SW Tucson right next to Tucson Mountain Park we were ready to have new trails out our door and Catalina provides beauty and trails in spades.

Our camp site is no less than fabulous!

Site B11 is a perimeter site, no one parked behind us, and the view is amazing!

Rosie was a little leary of being in a new place, but she's going to have to get used to that,
we'll be moving pretty regularly over the next month.

There are some pretty huge and amazing looking Saguaro's here:

While taking the short Nature Trail to stretch our legs we were delighted to have a Coopers Hawk swoop into a tree just a few feet in front of us!

The day ended with happy hour with friends and the glow of the setting sun on the mountains behind us.

Life is very, very good!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Campground Review: Justin's Diamond J RV Park, Tucson, AZ

Justin's Diamond J RV Park is a small family owned park on the Western edge of Tucson and the edge of Tucson Mountain Park. They have 115 full hook up sites, 18 of those are easy access pull-throughs for short term stays. Many folks come here year after year and get the very best sites which back up to open desert. The non-view sites are very good sized, with trees and bushes separating each site.

Roads are paved and sites are gravel. Utilities are at the back of the site. We finally had to break down and buy an extension for our sewer line since we were staying a month at this park.

During our stay the park started out about 75-80% full, with 90% of those folks being long-term (at least a month) stays. During February the park swelled to full capacity most nights, probably due to the two week gem show in Tucson.

We had a cheerful, enthusiastic greeting by one of the owners upon arrival and were given all sorts of info and discounts for sites in the area. We paid $520 for one month, cash or check only. (This price is different than is posted on their website which needs to be updated!)

There are a few planned events each week plus amenities such as laundry, pickle ball, horseshoes, library, pool table, mini golf. Wifi is available but we found it to be very slow. We had good 4G internet through our own Millenicom service. Verizon cell service was excellent.

The park is several miles from any services, but that also means it is nice and quiet at night on a lightly traveled road. There is a shooting range a few miles down the road so you do hear some shooting each day. A couple of days during our stay there must have been a shooting tournament because it didn't seem to stop!

The best part about this park was access to trails right from the park. There are several acres of trails right out the back of the park and they connect directly to trails within Tucson Mountain Park. You can hike or bike for miles among beautiful Sonoran desert without hitting a road. Tucson Mountain Park itself is just a few miles drive away.

Our site, #C38

Looking down our row. Wide paved roads, with wide gravel sites.

Here are a couple of the sites that back up to open desert.

This crazy cactus is within hiking distance of the RV park.
We even had snow on Feb 20th!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wrapping up Our Stay in Tucson

We're nearing the end of our month in Tucson. It's been a great stay, with tons of hiking, a little biking and sightseeing, meeting family we haven't seen in ages, plus making new friends in the RV community.

While I was writing the blog Hans was creating this fabulous scramble...I'm a lucky girl!

Some random Tucson happenings that didn't make it in to other posts...
It rarely snows in Tucson and this former Southern California girl LOVED getting caught in it!
Rosie didn't like it much though!
Our final Tucson hike was shared with friends we met at our first RV park in Boise.
Having a post-hike beer with (from left) Carla, Steve, Don and Joanne, with Lanie in the fur coat.
We hope to see these British Columbians in their home town some day.

While in Tucson we purchased something I'd been coveting for a couple of months: good binoculars! After some research we decided to go with the 2012 Binocular of the Year: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x42.
For about $260 it came with a good padded strap, a harness, a soft cloth bag, and a semi-hard case.
These bino's work really well with glasses allowing us to wear our prescription specs.

We were able to hike to this crazy many-armed saguaro from our campground.
Curved Bill Thrasher seen on the trails behind our campground.
Checkin' out 4th Ave downtown...

How we feel in this wonderful nomadic lifestyle! FREE!

Monday we move to Catalina State Park for a few days...thus commencing our slow meander, moving every four to seven days, around Southern Arizona. We hope you'll check in as the scenery changes!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bridal Wreath Falls, Saguaro National Park East

Bridal Wreath Falls in Saguaro National Park East made for a pretty lunch break on our 8 mile hike yesterday. This hike is described as strenuous and it was, plus we tacked on a few miles to make it a loop.

Some of the pictures are a little off due to the strange lighting we had from the clouds and I had something on the shutter for a while. BUT, even though we hiked during the "dead" winter season, the landscape was beautiful and we really enjoyed this hike. I bet this hike would be absolutely gorgeous in the spring as everything comes alive around you.

We parked at the Douglas Spring trail head at the end of Speedway Blvd. This is an access point for a lot of trails. We took: Douglas Spring out to Bridal Wreath Falls, then returned via Three Tank to Wildhorse to Garwood. Once again we thank Saguaro National Park for having very well marked trails. There were signs at every intersection and everything matched the map.

The trail is excellent dirt/decomposed granite surface and as you head up and up and up to the falls it is strewn with many rounded rocks. The ascent to the falls is pretty consistently steep for about 3.5 miles. As you ascend the views expand before you of the Tucson valley, Catalina Mountains to the North and the Rincon Mountains to the East (you are climbing the Rincon foothills). You pass by several water courses which were dry during our hike.

The last mile or so before you reach the falls you enter a high grassy plateau, the saguaros and other cacti become sparse, grasses and occasional creosote take over and a few junipers spot the landscape. The falls are a cool, lovely respite from the ascent.

To make this a loop we chose to return by Three Tank trail which dropped us down a canyon next to a (dry) water way. At this trail head we were warned of recent mountain lion sightings so we were hyper aware during this section.

Looking North towards the Catalina's. 

A crested barrel cactus!

The grassy plateau leading to the falls. Still some snow on the upper Rincon foothills.

The creek tumbles over boulders below the falls.

Bridal Wreath Falls

It would be easy for a mountain lion to hide in these grasses!

One of the dry stream beds looking towards Tucson metro area.

A very bright spot in our day!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Loma Alta Trail Head - Saguaro National Park East

Today we hiked an easy six mile loop starting from the Loma Alta trail head in Saguaro National Park East with new friends Jason and Nikki who write the wonderful blog Gone With the Wynns. These young full time RVers have found a fantastic niche in which to make their living: video production for RV parks.

The highlight of the trip was seeing a large group of javelinas crossing the road as we drove to the trail head. This was a first for all of us and we were really excited! There must have been eight of them and I managed to capture three.

This hike was all about the views. Snow on the mountains from yesterday's storm that dropped several inches on the entire Tucson area plus lovely scattered clouds against the amazing blues of Southern Arizona skies.

Looks like an old water tank slowly disintegrating back into the land.

Jason's holding a snowball...we had patches of snow all along the trail.

The clouds kept getting thicker near the end of the hike.

Afternoon sun shafts through the clouds.