Hi there~ It has been many weeks since our last post but we have excuses 🙂 Our main plan for this summer’s adventure is what I have been calling the “middle bits”. The areas of southern Utah: Bryce, Grand Staircase – Escalante, Capital Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Moab and on north somewhere. WELLLL… even though this post isn’t about any of those places, we have in fact done a bit of the above and there will be a post about that coming soon along with Ed’s wonderful photos. The excuse for the delay is twofold. First, southern Utah is for all practical purposes off the grid (cell phones included) and we couldn’t do a post. And second, there’s the issue of Ed’s totally unexpected emergency detached retina eye surgery complete with a 2-week restriction on not only travel but reading and using his laptop! So apologies for the delay and we hope you enjoy the below 🙂 Oh, and yes he’s doing well thank you! *************************************************************
After a quiet night’s sleep at Black Jack Campground we headed on down Rt 78 which for a ways goes through some pretty mountain country
78 outside of Blackjack and the forest.
but soon opens up and isn’t as nice. We picked up US 191 heading for Safford, (which is sorry to say downright ugly) and then onto Interstate 10. We had planned to drop south to one of our favorite places, Bisbee, AZ but when I phoned the campground in town they said they were completely booked. Soooo we decided to head on to Oro Valley just north of Tucson and one of our other favorite spots, Catalina State Park, but when I phoned they also were full! Our nonstop good luck seemed to be on hold, (it was Friday night and weekends are often busier) so we headed for Gilbert Ray Campground just west of Tucson where it’s first come first served and we hoped not full.
Just behind our campsite at Gilbert Ray where it was not full, but in fact almost empty. Over in front of those mountains is Old Tucson which was built to make movies and has only expanded and grown with many more movies and TV shows. You can take a tour but we didn’t.
We took a short walk at Gilbert Ray to enjoy the cacti just coming into bloom. This is a Cholla (choyya) a group of cactus that is perhaps Marti’s favorite.
Every time we’ve been in the Tucson area we’ve planned to go to the Pima Air & Space Museum not for the museum as much as the airplane boneyard. This time, other than new tennis shoes for me that was the only thing specifically on our MVL (Must Visit List). We have really been enjoying not planning things out much (or at all) this year but sometimes a little advance research is highly recommended. Turns out one CAN NOT visit without a 10 BUSINESS DAY ADVANCE REGISTRATION!!! We have NO IDEA what this is about but find it absolutely ridiculous. Consequently, it will remain on our MVL for another time. 😦
We ran errands, did some shopping, (did not find my tennis shoes at Fleet Feet but they’re on hold for me in Scottsdale), and had a good steak dinner at The Keg where we always go when in Catalina, where a camping spot had opened up on Saturday 🙂 Interesting side note: The Keg was the name of a steak restaurant we went to in St. John’s, Newfoundland last summer, so we did some checking. Not only are they the same, it’s a Canadian company. The one in Oro Valley is better 🙂
Other than hiking, our favorite thing to do at Catalina is to watch the stars come out and if we are there at the right time of the month, the moonrise over the Santa Catalina Mountains. For my photographer friends, this is hand-held at 1/10 second ISO 1600, just sayin’. 🙂
Wanting to get on north but also working out a plan to catch up with fellow RV full-timer friend Suzanne (who we last saw in St. John’s) we headed for Prescott another of our favorite places.
Looking back towards Thumb Butte (on the right) and the Prescott Valley on the left we took a little walk one day.
We did a couple of our usuals, Bill’s Pizza, the Phippen Museum plus a nice visit with Suzanne and then headed for Flagstaff, one of my favorite places.
In Flagstaff, we did a few errands, had lunch at the Bun Huggers which was recommended on roadfood.com… don’t bother, it’s just a very mediocre burger and then went to see the Lowell Observatory. This place has been on our list each time we’ve visited Flagstaff and since we’ve managed to do a couple of “looking at space” things this trip we made sure to go. The very wealthy Percival Lowell was awarded a Harvard degree with distinction in mathematics in 1876 and then went on to running a cotton mill for 6 years. For most of the 1880’s he traveled and lived in the Far East returning to the US in 1893. Fascinated with Mars and wanting to study it extensively, he selected a site (the first time anyone had purposely done so) with elevation, remote and most always clear skies and established his personal observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona Territory in 1894.
The 13″ Astrograph, a type of telescope used to take pictures only was used to discover Pluto in 1930. Note the wooden film plate at the bottom.
An 11×14 BW film was used by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 to make comparative images to note that what turned out to be the object we call Pluto was moving across the star field which does not move.
A note about camping in the Flagstaff area: The first night we checked a couple boondocking areas. Probably in response to the fire ban and extreme dry conditions we found that a number of the forest service roads, including FS 6051 were blocked. We did go out an unmarked FS road (off Snow Bowl Rd) where we saw a couple of folks but it was VERY rough and VERY unlevel.
We did enjoy the drive up the Snow Bowl road to over 9000 ft. elevation and the ski area where there was not quite enough snow to ski down the mountain.
We also checked the boondocking site over by Walnut Canyon and it’s not very level and not pretty, so not for us. We did stay in a spot way out the fairly rough Naval Observatory Road that worked, but I would not take anything much bigger than us past the first section.
Tucked in the trees off of Naval Observatory road we boondocked overnight and Ed discovered a set of handcuffs burned up in the firepit. I kid you not!
Next morning we had a check engine light on and very little power but it was Sunday and Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff was closed. We checked into Greer’s Pine Shadows where we stayed once before. NEVER stay here!! They have no dump station, no showers or bathrooms, sites are tight, mostly permanent folks…. we knew all that from before, but we needed a place. We set up and after a bit Ed went out, raised the hood and checked the oil dip stick and put it back. He had no tools out anywhere just a rag in his hand as he stood looking at the engine. A man from the office (across from us) comes blasting out the door screaming at Ed that they don’t allow any mechanical work being done. Ed say’s “I’m just looking at my engine!” This jerk yells “Don’t give me no lip, I’m the manager and I’ll throw your ass out of here!” Ed, pretty sure the guy might slug him next, shuts the hood and comes in the RV.
Next morning first thing, we drove to Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff, getting there just after they opened. They said they make a point of trying to get travelers in and out fast. They not only get to us faster than they said they could, they diagnosed the problem, fixed it for cheaper than we expected and sent us on our way. Good folks!
We stayed the next couple of nights at the NFS Bonito Campground just outside of Sunset Crater. It is a wonderful, dry, first come first served campground, where there are water spigots, nice bathrooms and very few folks, at least when we were there. 🙂
Our camping spot next to the lava field at Bonito Campground.
That knob on the right between the trees is Sunset Crater in the setting Sun. This short walk is just beyond our campsite.
We had explored the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument following the 35-mile loop road around to the far end at Wupatki National Monument back in 2015. This time we explored the ruins of Wupatki and suggest them, and this whole area, for your MVL.
The Citadel is the first large ruin one comes to on the loop road from the north entrance. On top of a small hill with a view of the surrounding countryside, 800 years ago the Sinagua culture lived here.
Looking out from atop the Citadel there are in this photograph ruins of eight other smaller pueblos. Yes, Marti found them but they are very hard to spot.
Further down the loop road, Marti walked out to the two dwellings on either side of Box Canyon. The San Francisco Mountains and Humphrey’s Peak are in the background.
Note: Since we were here and in the last couple of weeks a great deal of Arizona including areas covered in this post are under complete fire bans including camping and hiking due to the extreme drought.
78 continues beautifully down to the valley and the unfortunately ugly Safford, Arizona.
Yet another kind of cholla budding into flower at Gilbert Ray.
Guess what…? more Cholla. There are so many different varieties.
Most plants in the desert can hurt you a little or a lot, but the flowers are magnificent.
The tall cacti, Suguaro are one our favorites because their expressive arm contortions are so much fun and now they even have flowers. This is the first time we have seen them in bloom.
Thumb Butte in the distance west of Prescott, Arizona.
If you just go for a small walk out of the campground into the forest and the wonderful lava fields at Bonito, particularly as the Sun is setting, you too can revel in the beauty left by the incredible forces of Mother Earth.
Such peace many centuries after such violence.
A short hike into the cinders. Life returns via a bazillion pine cones.
Marti sees creatures everywhere. Ed, however, being more practical wonders who or what is under that big volcanic rock that fell out of the sky one day about 900 years ago.
Further beyond the Box Canyon dwellings is the beautiful Lomaki Pueblo.
Taken from the Wupaki National Monument loop road, the San Francisco Mountains with Flagstaff, Arizona and the Snow Bowl ski area on the other side.
Wukoki Pueblo. Occupied from between 1120 and 1210 AD this unusual three-story tall pueblo sits atop Moenkopi Sandstone.
It is hard at first to visually discern where the natural stone outcropping ends and the cut stone masonry begins. The precision stonework is astonishing. Perfectly square, plumb corners, built by “primitive” people. They must have had some understanding of basic geometry.
Pardon Mart’s butt.
Room interior that shows holes for floor/ceiling joists in the tower room.
Remaining wood from the poles used as joists.
Wupatki Pueblo. The largest complex in the area.
Comprising over 100 rooms, a community room and a ball court, Wupatki is an extremely well preserved and extensive complex.
We say goodbye for now as Ed enjoys his wine while cooking dinner and watching the Sun set.