Roper Lake

January 15 – 21, 2019

Our first travel stop for 2019 was just the change of pace we needed.  No planes, trains, automobiles, and not even any motorized boats on the lake.  Truly a peaceful spot with lots of elbow room.

Roper Lake State Park

Arizona has really nice state parks if this one is any indication.  We booked this particular spot on the say-so of another traveler we met somewhere along the way.  I can’t remember now where or when.

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Turned out to be a great choice and we reserved the plum spot right by the lake with a view of Mt. Graham in the distance.  It even came with entertainment for the first three days.  The park staff was clearing the prolific cattails from the lake shore.  That whole endeavor took place right next to our spot with a paddle boat of some sort and a front end loader to heap up all the piles onto a truck for removal.

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Our peaceful spot at the foot of Mt. Graham, the highest peak in Southern Arizona at 10,724 feet.

Roper Lake is home to quite a few birds.  I enjoyed trying to capture them with my camera.  Mostly they were all uncooperative.

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This was my best shot of the Gambel’s Quail.  They are speedy little devils and run around making these bloop bloop noises with their little headresses bobbing.

The Snowy Egret was reasonably well behaved and sat still for me.

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Then there’s the Great Blue Heron we disturbed every day on our walk around the lake.  He was having none of it and I only got this much of him in retreat.  Other campers who are true birders told us about an Icelandic Gull who lives here, too.  He doesn’t belong, but we think he just retired to Arizona like everyone else.

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Then on the last night, we watched these eight chums ride the wind currents.

Mt. Graham

We enjoyed gazing at Mt. Graham from the park, but wanted to take a ride up to the top to see the views from there.

 

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The 20 mile drive took us up 6,000 feet in elevation with a temperature drop of 24 degrees.  I bet this is a prime spot in the hot summer months.

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Lots of snow up top and this big pile was from the snow plow.

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The road over the pass is closed from November until April, and we went as far as we could.  At this point the pavement ends and it’s not a trip for Bitsy.

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Jackson didn’t really like walking in the crusty snow, but he did it because we wanted him to.

Pat described this outing as an unexpected pleasure and I have to agree.

Next Up:  Kartchner Caverns State Park with travel friends waiting for us there.  See you on the way!

The Rest Of Tucson

January 1 – 14, 2019

The time has come to hit the road, and we’re excited to get back to traveling.  Seven weeks sitting still in Tucson was just what we needed though.  A little sightseeing, a little holiday merriment and some chores thrown in for good measure.

San Xavier Mission

Since we’re just miles away, I wanted to head over to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, an historic Spanish Catholic mission.  It’s perched on a hill overlooking the city.

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Also called the White Dove of the Desert, it was constructed from 1783 to 1797.  It’s undergone significant restorations to return it to its original splendor.

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Spectacular and ornate paintings and sculptures cover the walls and the church is still active.

The photos do not do justice to the artwork.  Even the prayer candles were lovely.

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We glimpsed the distant mountains through the courtyard arch.

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The mission has been damaged by an earthquake, lightning, and the elements over the years.  Here’s a peek into the wall structure.  When they attempted to restore the walls and rooftop, they found that modern mortar was causing even more damage.  The best material to use?  Traditional sand and lime mortar, and prickly pear cactus juice was the “secret ingredient” for long-lasting plaster.  By the way, I bought some prickly pear cactus jelly from the gift shop.  Gotta say I’m not a fan and my portion can go towards more plaster.

 

Next to the mission is Grotto Hill.  Two majestic lions mark the entrance to the walkway and look out over the valley below.

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Grottos and smaller alcoves surround the hill along the path, with candles and crucifixes adorning the prayerful spots.

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Originally part of New Spain, then Mexico, and finally the US with the Gadsden Purchase in 1854.  Quite a monument to the local culture and we couldn’t have picked a more gorgeous day to visit.

Mt. Lemmon

This mountain makes the news every night this time of year.  Snow or no snow?  Is the road closed or not?  Are the slopes open?  All that talk made us anxious to see it for ourselves.  We wanted to the take the kids when they visited, but the road remained closed at Christmas due to the snow in the higher elevations.  Mt. Lemmon’s summit is way up there at 9,159 feet.

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The road up is a winding 29 mile drive, just perfect for Bitsy.  At this stop overlooking Tucson we’re still in Saguaro territory, so still under 4,000 feet.  Much higher than that and it’s too cold for them.

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The scenery changes dramatically at the higher elevations.  There’s still plenty of snow from the dumping on New Year’s Eve and beyond.  And there’s our fir trees we’re missing down in the valley.  We had to tromp down a hill in some ankle deep snow to get this shot.

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It was fun to slide along in the snow at the summit like we’re cross-country skiing.

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Icing on the rocks busily dripping into the nearby stream.

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Someone’s little snowman looking out over the desert valley below.  This is one of Arizona’s Sky Islands.  According to Wikipedia, “Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments”.  Radically different is an understatement.

Around this location is where we had to swap drivers.  I got us into a spot with heavy snow that required backing down the road to get out.  You know I can’t back up the car to save my life and I kept getting caught up in the crunchy snow banks.  Of course Mr. North Dakota just zipped us right out of there and I resumed driving in a forward gear.

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We stopped at a few spots on the way down and we were in for a show at this place.  Rock climbers were just getting ready to ascend, so we had to watch.

It’s so fascinating to us since it’s something we cannot and would not do.  Brave people with no fear of heights.  This is also the spot where we stopped to use the “facilities”.  We’re in the Coronado National Forest, affected by the government shutdown.  No trash pick up so the bins were beyond overflowing and one of the vault toilets was truly gross.

This was the funkiest looking hoodoo on the drive.  I can’t decide what I see in it.  Some big animal head.  And here’s a look at the twisty road on the way down.

Other Stuff We Did

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You might remember that I took a pine needle basket class when we first arrived at Desert Trails.  I promised a photo of the finished product, but this is all you’re going to get.  I’m normally a finisher, but I determined this is not the craft for me.  I should have known since it involved a needle and thread.  Mom would be scandalized, but I have a much better appreciation for her basket-making talent after attempting this basket.  I put my ugly basket out of its misery and we salvaged the needle and sinew for another project that Pat is going to finish.

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I really hate photos of food, but I had to prove that I successfully cooked a baby cheesecake in my Instant Pot.  It was pretty good, too,  Just needed some sort of topping which I’ll figure out next time.

All the bins, drawers and hidey-holes have now been sorted and we’re much more organized for 2019 travels.  We didn’t actually get rid of much, but I did ditch the french press which I haven’t used in two years of travel.  Also got rid of the 9 x 13 food carrier since we no longer have a 9 x 13 dish and we don’t carry food anywhere.

Pat ordered headphones for watching TV and set up a nice charging station for all our devices and the headsets.  Why didn’t we think of this before?!  Our old ears are having a hard time sorting out the TV sounds from the passing sirens, nearby neighbors, rain on our thin roof, and the noisy AC or heater.  This is a genius move since Pat can watch TV and I can read and no one is bothered by my noisy chip bag habit.

The one disappointment was failing to get maintenance done on Lucy before our departure.  We should have known since our appointment was at a dealership.  We wanted to get a brake job and a coolant flush, neither of which was urgent, but a “good to do” according to Pat.  We scouted out the route so he could drive Lucy into to town without the benefit of my navigating – which isn’t always a huge benefit.  They also took down our VIN number so they’d have the right parts.  But, of course, they wanted to keep it overnight in spite of what was promised up front.  So Pat backs right back out of the service entrance and comes on back to Desert Trails.  We’ll just save all that stuff until we get to Springfield.

Jackson is going to miss his friends at the Desert Trails dog park, but we have tentative plans to meet up with Nancy and her pooches Toby & Roscoe when we are in Colorado Springs, and with Lynn and her dog Ozzy when we are in Denver.  We, however, are ready to get rolling and back to nature spots with a little more elbow room and less gravel.

Then there’s that one package I ordered that didn’t arrive before our departure.  The campground is going to hold it for me and we’ll pick it up when we go through Tucson again in February.

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I’ll end with this shot from the Mt. Lemmon sky island.  One of my faves from the day.  I love the blue layers of the mountains.

Next Up – Roper Lake State Park, a perfect change of scenery.  See you on the way!

Our 2019 Plans

January 1, 2019

Happy 2019!  May this year be everything you hope it will be.  2018 was year two for us traveling fools, and although we’re yearning for a little more routine and a little less rolling , we’re looking forward to our adventures for this year.  Before I jump into this year’s  master plan, I’ll share the 2018 favs.

2018 Favorites

 

Pat’s Favorite Photos —

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Sunset on Bensen Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park

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Ethan & Stephanie at the Tucson Desert Museum

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Pat & Sasquatch at Trees of Mystery in California

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Our camping spot in the Redwoods

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Mt. Rainier National Park

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Pat’s family gathering in Sturgis, SD

Judy’s Favorite Photos —

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Deer on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

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Judy & Lisa on Shi Shi Beach, WA in the frigid Pacific

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Pat at Lunch Creek, Glacier National Park

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Judy & Syd

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Sunset in Seminole Canyon State Park, Texas

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A boy and his dog

Jackson’s Favorites —

Beach runnin’, Beach sittin’, Layin’ in the grass, Treat eatin’ with Grandma, Drive supervisin’, Fetchin’, and Makin’ friends.

Honorable Mention —

Jackson & Glacier Peak, Bighorn Sheep in the Badlands, Sunset Bay Oregon, Fort Casey, WA, White Sands at sunset, Second Beach Washington, Judy on Shi Shi Beach, and Big Sky Country.

And just like that, the year is over.  Bitsy the toad has a few more dings from road shrapnel, and Lucy lost weight jettisoning the broken awning.  Now it’s time for the annual clean and sort through all the bins, drawers and hidey-holes.  It was amazing what we purged last year, so we’ll see how much we get rid of this time.

2019 Master Travel Plan

There are a few anchor points in 2019, so we just have to plan the parts in between.  Don’t hold us to this too firmly, although the reservations are shaping up nicely.  I just have to wait for some state park reservation windows and RV parks to open and then we’re golden.

January

For the first half of the month we’re still here in Tuscon doing chores to get ready for rolling.  Lucy needs a brake job and a coolant flush, so that should be an interesting process.  From here we bounce around southern AZ to a few state parks and meet up with friends we made in NM last year.

February

A few more AZ state parks.  Valentine’s Day will find us in Ajo, AZ to see the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the Mexico border.

March

Sedona for the entire month at two different RV parks.  And we hope to stand on the corner in Winslow, AZ at the end of the month.

April

Our first National Park visit of the year at the Grand Canyon, followed by the petrified forest.  From there we head to Colorado to spend Easter in Pagosa Springs, a cute little town we found last year.  And we’re taking a detour back to one of my 2018 favs – Abiquiu, NM.

May

Back to Colorado and we’re at our first anchor point.  We’ll be in the Denver area for about 10 days to celebrate Pat’s niece Rachel’s high school graduation.  From there we’ll finally add Nebraska to our camping map.  We’ve danced all around it but never camped there.  Then we add Iowa to the map for Memorial Day.

June

We make a brief stop in Illinois, and then it’s on to Wisconsin.  (Nancy L – this is for you.  We’re in Peninsula SP in Fish Creek, WI on 6/10-12 and in Ellison Bay for the 13th & 14th).  I’m looking forward to visiting my good friend Sue in Eagle River, WI.  From there we head to Michigan and officially start our tour of the Great Lakes.

July

Independence Day will find us in Burlington Bay, Minnesota where Pat will take his first backpacking trip of the year along the Superior Hiking Trail.  I’m available if anyone wants to join me for the week while he’s gone.  After this we put our renewed passports to use and head into Ontario, Canada – a new province for our camping map.  We’ll keep moving along the lake shore and head back to Michigan for a while.

August

This month finds us in Michigan, Ontario, and finally New York state.

September

Niagara Falls sounds good for Labor Day and we already have those reservations.  We pick up Ohio and West Virginia this month, too.  And we’re to our big anchor point of the year – 3 weeks in College Park, MD to visit our resident scientist.  We’re looking forward to seeing DC again and Ethan’s lab.

October

After we flee the big city and the beltway, we’ll head to a few favorite spots from 2016 – Shenandoah & Claytor Lake State Parks in Virginia.  Then it’s on to Waynesville, NC for eight days.  Pat’s planning his next backpacking junket there on the Appalachian Trail.  Again, I’m available for a visit if you’re interested!

November

After a brief stop in Tennessee, we’ll be entering Missouri and our destination to end the year.  Springfield, MO to be exact.  We have two weeks booked at our usual campground and then hope to have an apartment rented in time for Thanksgiving.  After almost three years on the road, we’re hoping to become “seasonal” travelers living near family.

December

Springfield, MO for Christmas, so come see us!

Where do we go from here?  We’re thinking that having a home base again will give us a renewed excitement for planning trips and rolling around when it’s not too hot or too cold.  At this point we think the summer of 2020 will find us heading back to British Columbia and the Yukon.  Or maybe a cruise, or who knows.

Next up – Wrapping up our Tucson stay and officially hitting the road again.  The new 2019 travel map is in place on the blog so you can follow along.  See you on the way!