Friday, January 31, 2014

Getting WOWed by Nature in Tucson

Last year we spent a month in Tucson at Justin's Diamond J RV Park. This year we're spending a month right next door at the quirky, rustic Desert Trails RV Park. I'll get into details on this park when I do my review at the end of our stay, but for now let me just say this place is unique and very friendly.

Many of the sites at this park back up to lush Sonoran desert vegetation and we were fortunate to get one of those sites. Almost every RVer in this park sets up multiple bird feeders so birds of all types abound here. We've seen Sparrows and finches, hummers, quail, thrashers, pyhrruloxia, cardinals, phainopepla, owls, hawks, kestrels, road runners.

Our neighbors are close but they are friendly...the real bonus here is the desert vegetation behind our rig.

This very lightly used path behind our rig meanders to the park office and is full of birds.

Yesterday I had an amazing bird encounter...and foolishly did not have my camera at hand. I was sitting in my camp chair, Rosie on leash on another chair 3 feet across from me and I saw a road runner walk out from under our steps and slowly continue right in front of me! It paused, less than two feet away, and eyed Rosie's tail hanging off her chair. It puffed up its crest, showing a streak of bright orange along its cheeks, then sauntered on towards the garden. At this point Rosie saw it and was instantly on high alert determining if this bird was too big to bother with. We were both terribly excited by this of course; I ran for my camera and then we both had to sniff around hoping to see this beautiful bird again!

Our full timer friends, Mike and Keyna, are spending a week at the RV park next door so lots of hikes and dinners are on the agenda. Our first outing took us on the ~5 miles Starr Pass/Yetman Trail loop. This trail has nice variety, passing through a canyon where a couple of crested saguaros can be found and climbing to the top of a rocky ridge for views of Western Tucson.

This crested arm is a new find this year.

Hans and Mike on the trail with Cat Mountain in the background.

Keyna picks her way down the trail among colorful boulders.

Dinner at Mike and Keyna's.

The past couple of nights we heard owls nearby. This morning I was excited to hear them as daylight was breaking...perhaps with daylight I could get a decent photo. There are a couple of giant eucalyptus trees behind the park office and park regulars told us two owls were trying to take over a hawk nest. I witnessed some of this ongoing power struggle today.

Great horned owl sitting on the nest.

The second owl perched nearby.

One of the Coopers hawks that keep dive bombing the owls.

Lots of fun and excitement here in Tucson these days!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Campground Review: Picacho Peak State Park, AZ

Oh it's good to be back in the desert, especially the Sonoran desert. It's greener than the desert we are used to in California and it's got my favorite cactus sentinels standing watch over the landscape: saguaro's. We've had a gorgeous three nights at Picacho Peak State Park.

We had site B-14, a perimeter site, perched at the convergence of several small washes. The sites are huge and well separated, and have electric hookups only. Potable water is available at the dump station and it's easy to fill your tank on the way into the campground. Perimeter sites are preferrable to center sites, many of those were very barren and open to all the other center sites. Take a good look at Google Maps when selecting a site.

Though the campground offers wifi for a fee, we used our own with a super strong Verizon signal. Restroom/shower facilities are large and clean and free.

Interstate 10 and train tracks run about half a mile away so you do hear freeway noise, but it's muted and it's neat to watch the colorful freight trains roll by regularly (no train whistles). The Park is situated between Phoenix and Tucson so the trails can be busy on the weekend.

Minutes after setting up camp I walked Rosie outside and we saw a mama javelina with two babies running through the wash! Minutes after putting out a bird feeder we had Gila Woodpeckers feeding! Hawks circled overhead each day.

Several miles of trails are available at the Park promising outstanding views and an excellent workout among the cactus.

This was a wonderful place to stay, especially if you have a perimeter site. We would definitely stay here again. Rosie loved it too!

Perimeter site B-14.
We can sit overlooking the washes watching for critters.

We circumnavigated the lava hill in the above photo and found morteros!

Fabulous sunsets!

I am so happy and content I'll just sun myself right here on the rocks.

Rubbing my back on the rocks is awesome!

This is the life!

Can we stay here forever...please?

Monday, January 27, 2014

We're Back on the Trail With a Doozy - Picacho Peak

Seems like it's been months since we've hiked any really fabulous trails. Our stay at Picacho Peak State Park got us out of our rut with a real challenge. Located between Phoenix and Tucson on I-10, Picacho Peak juts up out of the desert and grabs your attention.

We're in gorgeous Site B-14.
Picacho Peak is the pointy peak right above the back of the trailer.

There's several miles of trails in the park but just one goes to the top of Picacho Peak, at 3,347 feet. The Sunset Trail is 6.2 miles RT, out and back...with some serious cable climbing to the peak. Gloves are recommended for this hike!

Sunset Trail approaches the peak from the South.
We're headed for the point on the right above.

This really didn't seem like cattle range, but there they were!

Lovely layered mountains in the distance.

The first two miles of the hike are easy, the trail winds through rolling hills covered with creosote, palo verde and saguaro, cholla and barrel cactus. Then the trail starts climbing and before long you're looking up at this:

Yeah, that's straight up...prepare yourself for a few photos of Hans' butt!

Hikers dwarfed by the cliff side.

A trail did not exist before the cables were installed!

Notice the little white specks of people on the shadowed rock.
We hiked on a Sunday so the trail was pretty busy.

360 degree views from the top.
The circle of white specks on the right is the campground.

Slightly better view of the campground.

We're really happy to be at the top!

Going back down was even harder in some spots.

A little blurry but we were excited to see a pair of Peregrine Falcons.

A traffic jam on the side of a cliff!
Here's one of me for good measure...

This flaming red barrel cactus has an amazing view.

We'll be a little sore from this hike but boy was it worth it! It was the kick start we needed to get back into hiking mode. And a view like this is not a bad way to end the day:

A few days ago we received an email that we passed off as spam. I didn't even want to click on any of the links it offered thinking my computer might blow up or something! Turns out it was real and we are amazed and humbled to be selected as a Top 50 RV Blog of 2013 by Florida Outdoors!

2 - 3 years ago as we planned our escape from the corporate grind we read RV blogs voraciously trying to decide if full time RVing was right for us. Now this blog is a way of paying forward our own experiences for others looking at the RV lifestyle, or considering a hiking trail, or an RV park... But first and foremost this blog has been the conduit to community on the road. And for that we are immensely grateful.

A big Thank You to our readers!

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Few Nights in Yuma, AZ

Moving on after two months in San Diego, our first stop is Yuma, AZ for our annual dental cleaning in Los Algodones Mexico. Last year we had a decent experience at Bernal Dental Group so we decided to try them again (my review here).

Dr. Carlos Castaneda cleaned and polished our teeth for $40 each. We were each in the chair for about 15 minutes. He seemed to do a good job once again, but we both felt it was all just a little too fast and we wondered if the job was as thorough as it should be.

Leaving the dental office we noticed several hair salons soliciting customers and since I needed a cut and love a good deal decided to go for it. I couldn't even tell you the name of the salon or the young lady who cut my hair, but she did an excellent job for only $5.

Another bonus about our stay in Yuma was the opportunity to meet up with fellow RVers Sharon and Cliff. We have met up with these snowbird Albertans twice before and this time we enjoyed a delicious dinner at their RV. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo. Discussing dentists with them we learned they (and a bunch of their friends) have been seeing Dr. Maria Fonseca for years so we may try her for a cleaning next year.

Campground Review: The Palms RV Resort, Yuma, AZ

Our stay at The Palms RV Resort in Yuma, AZ was a new experience for us, it's a vacation home/RV resort where folks own their lots and make lot improvements if they so desire. When owners are not there or the lot is not owned, they are rented out. We got a great deal with full use of the resort amenities for $25/night.

Site #262

There are 453 large lots that range from a nice concrete pad surrounded by gravel to sites with a small storage building and pretty landscaping to elaborate custom built Spanish-style houses with lovely courtyards. It looked as though about one quarter of the lots had not been "improved" in any way, and about one quarter had homes on them.

One of the small Spanish style homes.

The Resort had just about every type of amenity you can imagine for an Arizona snowbird destination (except golf) and the grounds were extremely well kept. Decent location about a quarter mile or so from the freeway. We heard trains in the night but no train whistles.

Rosie enjoyed exploring a new location.

We were pleasantly surprised that no one tried to sell us a lot upon check in. We talked to several lot owners during our stay and it seems most of the owners are Canadian snow birds. Many folks who built small houses on their lot no longer even own an RV, this is simply their second home.

Tomorrow we're off to our next destination: Picacho Peak State Park.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

San Diego Wrap Up...Arizona Here We Come!

Today we wrap up two jam-packed months in our former home town, San Diego, CA. We've had so much fun reconnecting with friends and family and meeting up with fellow RVers both new and previously known. Now it's time to mosey on down the road, next stop Yuma for a few nights. We're looking forward to getting back into exploration mode! Here's one last look at San Diego...we'll be back next November.

First, in the ongoing effort to personalize our home on wheels we brought a couple new tiki-themed pieces on board. My mom is an excellent quilter and had been collecting tiki fabric for some time. On Christmas day we had our parents over for lunch and were gifted with two lovely handmade quilts!

Taken on Christmas day, Hans' mom and my dad help hold up two tiki-themed quilts my mom made for us.

Last year in San Diego we had Buzzy Meeker, a tiki carving artist, create a panel to cover up some funky metal work on our slide moulding. This year Buzzy carved a mask for a cool focal point on the slideout.

A custom carved tiki mask sets the mood on our slide out moulding.

Over the years we've had many, many good times with Martin and Estella and Gabi and Ted and we managed one last meal with them and actually got a group photo, with their dogs too!

Martin, Hans holding Chelsea, Gabi holding Toby, Ted; Estella and Lisa down in front.

Hans' band, The Sand Devils, played one more gig: The Winter Surf Fest, in Los Alamitos. They were one of six bands at the was day full of rockin' surf music and reconnecting with old friends.

Based in Northern California, Meshugga Beach Party plays Jewish surf music...FUN!

The Sand Devils rockin' the house!

We had a good long walk one morning from Ocean Beach to the end of Sunset Cliffs and back...almost 6 miles. The tide was high and the waves were large and washing the bottom of the OB pier.

There were far too many people we enjoyed spending time with that I did not get photos of...we were busy having too much fun!

First stop after departure tomorrow will be RV Solutions to replace a slideout seal. Then right back on the road headed for Yuma. Let the fun begin!