Most of my "cooking" for this trip consists of boiling water to reconstitute dry food or make my morning coffee drink. Mostly I boil water in my 12v HotPot. But, when time and location allow, I use the Kelly Kettle (or volcano kettle). It was originally used in Ireland in the 1890's. Although it comes in different sizes and materials, I use a small aluminum one ... enough to boil about 2 cups of water. The kettle is a double-walled chimney where the water is filled between the chimney walls and a small fire below quickly boils the water inside.
The great thing about boiling water this way is that fuel is almost always available. For the demonstration pictures, I used 2 old campground rules & regulation sheets, and two small visitors brochures ... about 6 sheets of paper total ... which I would have usually just thrown away. You can also use small twigs, pine cones, dry leaves or other types of tinder. Here are some pictures that I took while camping on the Gila River, NM.
To make my coffee drink, I gathered up everything I need: Kelly Kettle, strips of paper for fuel, lighter, and my coffee cup (with the instant coffee+ inside).
Then I crinkle some of the strips of paper and put in the bottom container.
Fill the kettle (double-walled chimney) with water.
Put the kettle on top of the bottom container and lit the crinkled paper through the vents below. Then I fed additional strips of paper to keep the fire going through the hole on top.
After a few minutes, boiling water!
Because fire is coming out of the top, you can't use the handle like normal to lift it up. Rather, you lift it up with the handle at a 90 degree angle, using the chain to tilt the bottom up to poor the boiling water into your cup.
I also have some accessories -- grill grate, pot, lid/pan, pot handle, and brace for the pot or pan that fits on top of the kettle -- and it all nests together to fit into a little bag. Good for cooking for one.
I got my Kelly Kettle on eBay ... the best price I found ... shipped direct from Ireland!
This first run through New Mexico was cut short due to high winds (a regular occurrence in the spring I've been told). But, I did check out the Gila Cliff Dwelling NM and the White Sands NM while I was there.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings struck me differently than expected. I was thinking I'd probably be awe-struck by the ingenuity of the Mogollon peoples who built adobe rooms and conducted their society in these caves. And I certainly was amazed, but, more than that, I found myself identifying with them. The trek up to the caves was a peaceful walk along the canyon floor, up stone steps, to their built-in village. Once at the caves, the sense of place was strong ... and the outlook into the canyon and up to the mesa beyond was satisfying to my soul. I kept saying to myself ... "I could live here." (... and I would definitely get in better shape from the climb up and down, too!)
The night before my visit to the cliff dwellings, I stayed at a local NFS campground and enjoyed a great moon rise over some cliffs across from my campsite. I arrived early enough to enjoy a bit of down time and to watch the turkey vultures, with their huge wing span, ride the warm air currents rising from the cliffs. I loved going to sleep and waking up with the sound of the Gila River below.
The following morning I visited White Sands NM (before the heavy winds were to begin). The sand is pure gypsum and so white that it hurt my eyes to look at it without sunglasses. The gypsum is washed into the desert valley from the surrounding mountain ranges. When the water drys and the wind blows, dunes are formed ... 275 square miles of sand dunes! I loved learning about the plants and wildlife that live in or next to these dunes ... my favorite plant being the Hoary Rosemarymint with it's small violet flowers and leaves that smelled like mint when crushed.
The most fun sighting at the dunes was a bus full of school kids sledding on the sand like it was snow ... only they were in shorts and barefoot!
After overnighting in Quartzsite, I visited Casa Grande NM, site of a prehistoric 3-story building (and town) of the agrarian Hohokum people. Amazing ... two round holes in the building line up perfectly with the sunset on the summer solstice ... and two square holes line up with a cycle of the moon that happens every 13.5 years ... amazing. The company that built the covering structure for the 3-story ruin in the 1930's, is the same company that built the Empire State Building.
Then I spent time at Saguaro NP ... did a few hikes, scenic drives, watched & listened to the wildlife, enjoyed the wildflowers, and the stately saguaro cactus forests. The park is divided into an east and west district, with Tucson in between. I spent a day on each side. Can you find the little lizard found on one of my hikes in the picture?
On my way eastward, I took a 40 mile diversion to overnight at Chiricahua NM with those wonderful rock formations that look like they are going to topple over any minute. I'm so glad I decided to visit this place at the last minute. Legend has it that you can see the great Apache Warrior Cochise's head looking skyward in the distant rocks.
On my way back to I-10, I took the dirt road over Apache Pass to Fort Bowie NHS.
The desert of the Southwest is beyond big. It's hot and dry ... and it's also diverse. I was astonished at the number of different types of cacti, shrubs, trees ... I'm glad I was here in the spring to enjoy the blooms.
I've been waiting for a letter to arrive and the weather to clear ... now I'm ready to roll again. I had the good fortune of spending more time with brother Gary and Mary in the Coachella Valley (CA) area. I also hope to meet up with them again later this spring when they camp host at a Utah State Park.
I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay with fellow Vandwellers on Pahrump BLM land ("van" being a loose term in my case) -- a like-minded, interesting, and kind tribe of campers. I met Charlene, an online friend, face-to-face for the first time. She's collecting abandoned turtle shells. Together we visited some local sites including the China Ranch Date Farm on a hidden oasis in the middle of the desert ... their date shakes were especially yummy. Charlene is very clever, using the sun's heat to cook and heat water in glass or plastic containers painted black.
I also had the pleasure of getting to know several other vandwellers after having visited their websites and reading their posts these past months. Katie (two knives and dog Mutt) is a dear and a kindred spirit. I hope to meet up with her again while in Pennsylvania. I also enjoyed meeting Bob (and dog Homer) whose web site is full of great information which I enjoy and learn from. Steve (and shy girl Tory dog) provided a central gathering place for the group under his canopy. Cheri (and 4.7dog Tony) is especially kind and is good to hang with ... she makes the most beautiful wire wrapped stone pendents. Brian (the younger and dog Stella) is quite handy, making an outdoor shower from PVC pipe while I was there. And PJ, like me, is in a passenger vehicle which he regularly works on to make more "vandweller worthy." And we all were camped at Wayne's "Place" ... having spent the last ump-teen winters on this particular piece of land.
I felt comfortable with these vandwellers ... even playing Katie's guitar a bit. I hope to share camp with them again.
Death Valley was amazing ... humongous and hot! I drove in from the north end, taking the 75 mile Big Pine Road, 50 miles of dirt road. About 25 miles of it was bone-jarring washboard driving with several small washouts and large rocks to scrape the bottom of my car if I wasn't careful ... driving about 15 MPH on the worst of it. What an experience ... and I would do it again in a heartbeat! I arrived at my campsite at Mesquite Spring just as the sun was setting.
I spent 3 days driving and visiting the park ... barely scratching the surface. My favorite highlights include the pup fish at Salt Creek, the colorful mountain sides on Artists Drive and the spring wildflowers.
Pup fish are a highly specialized species, living in extremely salty water that can vary from almost freezing to almost boiling. They come out in the spring before the creek dries up. At about 1.25" long, they are very active little buggers. The males stake out little spawning beds and protect them with a vengeance. They fight other males, making the shallow water ripple with their on-going duels. When a smaller female enters, he fertilizes her eggs with a very quick side-by-side squiggle. Salt Creek flowed through both barren land (like the the picture with the pup fish) and some marshy vegetation. Me and a couple of pesky horse flies made the hike. (Can you spot one of those flies in the picture?)
My pictures do not capture the subtleties and striations of shades and textures that surround death valley ... from the salt flats to the sand to the vegetation green with spring. The most amazing show of rock colors was on Artists Drive.
Because Death Valley is mostly shades of greys, browns, beiges and whites, other colors really stand out. This spring, according to the local paper, is the 3rd best wildflower bloom in the past 20 years. The predominate flower color is yellow from the Desert Golds. Purples, violets, and white wildflowers were mixed in there too. To round off the show, joshua trees, cacti and yucca were in bloom as well.
Wildflower pictures taken in or near Death Valley (Tecopa and Pahrump).
We got a few inches of snow last night. So, this morning we went a little ways up the mountain from the lake to find a good sledding spot. Basically, my sister-in-law Mary and I watched while my brother Gary entertained and frighted us with his sledding antics.