Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Monday, March 30, 2015

My First Campsites

Since I've had several questions about my campsites while being a snowbird, I'll go ahead and blog about what I've done so far.  I've stayed at 4 Arizona back country sites:  BLM land in Ehenberg, Tonto National Forest, Aqua Fria National Monument, and Prescott National Forest.  All of these locations allow free dispersed camping.  Typically that means that nothing is provided -- no water, garbage disposal, toilets, etc. -- it's carry in, carry out.  My camp site in the Tonto National Forest was an exception to that rule, it had pit toilets with a table and fire ring at each site.  Otherwise, it was still carry in, carry out.

My Ehrenberg camp, under the Ironwood Tree.  (2/10 - 3/3/15)  

I didn't set up a camp at Agua Fria NM.   The river was too deep for my Prius to ford; so, I couldn't go very far into the back country.   Instead, I found a small site up on a hill overlooking the road through the National Monument with I-17 a couple of miles in the distance.  I didn't set up camp there for a couple of reasons:  1) I was only going to stay for a couple of nights, and 2) I felt exposed as I could be seen for miles around.  The good parts were that my views were breath taking, and I had great Internet access due to being so close to I-17  The only time I'd ever been checked-up on by a Sheriff was at this site.  He just saw that I was in my car, waved, and backed down the hill.

Tonto NF campsite in the Mesquite Forest, next to the Verde River.
The trees were just starting to leaf out.  The site came with a table,
so I didn't set up my kitchen, nor shade umbrella. (3/6-3/16/15)  

But, when I'm at a location for any length of time, I'll set up camp.  I look for a shade tree where I can set up camp just north of it.  At Ehrenberg it was a Ironwood tree.  I was in among lots of Mesquite trees in the Tonto NF.  Here in the Prescott NF, I'm north of a large Juniper.  I want to take advantage of the shade so I pitch my tent as far under the tree as possible, and set up my kitchen so that it gets early afternoon shade.

More Mesquite Trees across the road from my campsite.
The grass was over a foot tall.  Sunset, Tonto NF,  3/13/15.  
In an earlier post I shared about all of the extra stuff I was going to bring because I'd be a snowbird instead of a traveler (tent, kitchen, shade umbrella with base, more water containers, etc.).  Mostly, I've been happy that I carried all of the extra items.  One questionable item is the umbrella with it's cast iron base.  It's big and heavy to bring along.  And, in Ehrenberg it was too windy to use; in Tonto's Mesquite Forest it wasn't needed; but in the Prescott NF I'm really using it for the first time.  By the end of this 4-months, we'll see if I'd be willing to take it snowbirding again.

Prescott NF campsite.  (3/18/15 - present)  
Originally, I was going to use my 2-person tent for a bathroom.  But, it was too akward.  So, the tent became my storage space for food, kitchen supplies, water containers, and a dirty clothes bag.  I love it.  I purchased an instant tent that's well made and quick to put up and take down.  If it's going to rain or blow, I put my chair, side table, and kitchen table (partially folded down) into the tent and out of the elements.  Also, before bed or when I go into town, I'll usually store my kitchen items in the tent (stove, utensils, paper towels, garbage bag, etc.).

Last night's sunset as viewed from my front windshield.
 (Prescott NF, 3/29/15)  

Note: Here's a blog post by my friend Bob Wells whom I'm current camped near.  He talks about camping among friends here in the Prescott NF.

Friday, March 27, 2015

February and March
Snowbirding Locations

I've been snowbirding for almost 2 months now; at my mid-point. I left Fall City the first week of February, a month later than planned (after recovering from the flu, a reaction to the shingles vaccine, and the Seahawk's Superbowl loss).

I migrated down I-5, overnighting in Canyonville, OR and Gustine, CA before landing in Southern California.  The next couple of days was a whirlwind and a joy as I hopped from Tustin, Anaheim, Murietta, and Cathedral City to visit, breakfast, laugh, have dinner, get hugs, do technology, watch softball, and just have fun spending time with friends and family. Then I was off for some serious snowbirding in the desert southwest.

Ehrenberg sunset on Valentine's Day.   XXOXOO for John :)  

First, I spent almost 3 weeks in the back country of Ehrenberg, AZ (BLM land). Here I got to see a few good vandwelling friends again, and meet some new folks too. But, mostly I just enjoyed the quiet and warmth of the desert. The closest camp to mine was about 50 yards, the furthest about 300.

Sunset through a dust storm, Ehrenberg, AZ (end of February)  

After Ehrenberg, I made a quick trip further south to Los Algodones, MX for some cheap meds and vanilla extract.  There was a storm brewing and I didn't want to be caught in the desert back country, so decided to spend the night at Yuma's Mittry Lake (BLM land) until the roads dried up.  I really enjoyed the dramatic skies and wildlife. But, it rained very little.

Great White Egrets roosting below my campsite at Mittry Lake.
Not a great photo, but a great memory.  By sundown, the snags were
full of about 20 egrets.   (3/1/15)  

My friend Sunny was in Apache Junction, AZ again this year; so, I was glad to meet up with her for a few days. We toured Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West and drove The Apache Trail. I highly recommend both activities.

The entrance area to Taliesin West gives a sense of the
architect's aesthetic throughout the complex. (3/4/15)  

Spire designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as
part of a proposed state capitol complex
designed in the 1950's.  (3/4/15)  

Last rays of sunlight on the Superstition Mountains,
as taken from the Goldfield Ghost Town. (3/4/15)  

Canyon Lake on The Apache Trail.  (3/5/15)  

Tortilla Flat, AZ Saloon on The Apache Trail.  Here you have a
seat at the bar in a real saddle (Sunny) or ride bare back on a
carved horse''s butt (Suanne).  (3/5/15)

Layers in the rock as seen on The Apache Trail. Amazing!  (3/5/15)  

Some dirt road sections of The Apache Trail in the distance, with
ocotillo ready to burst into bloom in the foreground.  (3/5/15)

The dam on Theodore Roosevelt Lake.  The Apache Trail. (3/5/15)  

From there, I went to the Cave Creek Ranger District Office for Tonto National Forest and inquired about dispersed camping. The ranger eagerly pointed out various options, including one that didn't require a permit (free) -- Mesquite Campground – that's the option I chose. The drive to the campground was beautiful among rock formations and saguaro cacti, partially paved and partially a graded dirt road. I selected a small campsite right next to the Verde River, in the middle of a Mesquite forest. After 10 days of soaking in this beauty, I decided to meet up with some friends again.

Campsites at the Mesquite Campground had fire rings and tables.
Here I'm relaxing while viewing the fast-flowing
and muddy Verde River. (3/7/15)  
A few days later, they turned down the water flow from the reservoir up river.
You can see on the trees below how high the water was, and it's still muddy.   

Soon the river was down to a trickle, and clear.  (3/13/15)  

Saguaro Cactus Forest across Horseshoe Reseviour, about
2 miles upstream (by road) from my campsite.  (3/13/15)  
At sunset a storm rolled through, making the scene look
more like Halloween than Spring time.  (3/13/15)  

Once I got back onto the Internet, I found that my friends were going to move to cooler weather in a few days. So, rather than back track and spend time in 90 degree heat, I spent a few nights at Agua Fria National Monument (BLM land). Here it was cooler and on the way to the Prescott National Forest location where I'd hoped to meet up with folks.

Leaving Agua Fria as storm clouds were gathering.  (3/18/15)  

With another storm brewing, I didn't want to be stuck in the back country of Agua Fria until it dried out. So, I decided to see if I could find my friends in the Prescott NF before the roads became impassable. Based on directions from a couple of years ago, I found them just after they had arrived themselves. Good thing; it poured that night and into the next day.

A look down the road from my current camp site in the
Prescott National Forest.  (3/22/15)   
Now, after 10 days, I'm loving the weather – 70's during the day and low 40's at night. It's a juniper forest, with prickly pear cacti, grasses, and other plants that I can't identify. My friends have camped here before and tell me we'll have a wild flower bloom next month. Already I've noticed some color – purples, yellows, and the reds/oranges of the Indian Paintbrush. It's here that I'm writing this blog.

Preview of some wildflowers.  Dainty yellow things next
to my camp.  (3/22/15)