Kofa NWR: Part 3

December 14, 2018 (Day 4)

Sheila and I took the girls for a long walk after brunch. We continued to search for the elusive desert tortoise. We searched a wide wash for tortoises, but we still didn’t find one. Later in the day, Paul decided to hike up some of the large hills around here. Geocaching is not allowed in the refuge — no man-made things are allowed to be left behind. However, Paul found the cache of all geocaches! Here are his words and pictures:

“While hiking, I came across an unusual rock formation. Inside the rock formation was a tobacco tin with a miner’s claim from 1949. I don’t think it has ever been disturbed. I left the claim in its original place.”

December 15, 2018 (Day 5)

We had read that some people hike up the opposite side of the gorge toward the palm trees. We decided to give it a try. There isn’t a path, but people have done it. We have no idea how people do it, unless there is a sort of path somewhere that we couldn’t find. Once it got really rough and involved much scaling of rocks, I left Paul and Sheila and started my descent. I can go up, but I have a fear of going down. (I get dizzy and unstable). They kept at it and leapt over major cracks and scaled boulders. They pushed their limits, but still never made it to the palms. A+ for effort! We are left wondering how people make it up that side of the gorge.

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Find Paul and Sheila


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My Descent — no path

After Sheila’s dogs have dinner, they get a little treat — like dessert. Poppy is now in on this tradition. Here she is waiting patiently for Kenzie and Bunnah to finish their dinners so that she can have a treat:

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Sunset through the Airstream windows:

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The evening was calmer and warmer, so we had a campfire — our first one this winter.

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Kofa NWR: Part 2

December 12, 2018 (Day 2)
Hiking the Palm Canyon Trail

After a leisurely and hearty camp brunch, Paul, Sheila, and I took all three dogs and hiked up the canyon trail. Since our campsite is relatively near the trailhead, we walked. Sheila’s dogs are seniors. Kenzie, the Westie, is 12 and Bunnah, the Scottie, is 10, but they did the rugged steep trail with us like champs. On the way down, we took a little break and Bunnah took a wee nap.

Here we are still climbing, but we looked back to see if we could find our camp. Can you spot the Airstream?

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Can you spot the Airstream?

Little did we know that our timing was impeccable. It’s great that none of us wanted to leave first thing in the morning. We arrived just as the sun was illuminating the palms.

You have to look up to see the palms:

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These are California Fan Palms, and they are the only native palm trees in Arizona. There are several theories on how they got into these canyons and other niches. It’s likely the seeds were spread by birds or coyotes thousands of years ago. They continue to survive due to the micro-climate in the protected canyon. The decaying fronds fall to the ground, decompose, and create a new growing medium for new trees. They are self-sustaining. There are other trees in other niches, but these are the most dramatic.

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Other palms in niches

The girls at the end of the trail

Here is our view from the top. Can you still spot the Airstream?

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On our way down, we saw a couple of lizards, but no other wildlife.

After an exhilarating day, we were treated to another spectacular sunset.

December 13, 2018 (Day 3)
Searching for Desert Tortoises

Yesterday, we met a fellow Canadian on the trail and he said he saw tortoises. The three of us humans left camp without the dogs, because this time we were hiking across the desert, through washes, and scrambling around cholla. It’s a good thing we left the dogs at home because the ground was covered with an assortment of sharp thorns. Sheila came near, but didn’t touch a teddy bear cholla, but one grabbed on to her bare leg. There is a reason why they are nicknamed “jumping cholla.” Ouch!

We searched hard for tortoises, but we didn’t find any. We will try again tomorrow.

And more desert beauty as the sun goes down

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge: Part 1

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December 11, 2018

Palm Canyon Road

The Kofa refuge was established in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. Because this is a protected area, there are some regulations, so it isn’t as open as using BLM land. For example, you can only camp within 100 ft of the road, and camping is only permitted for 14 days within a 12-month period. Also, pets must be leashed or contained at all times. Like BLM land, camping is free.

Kofa is a contracted name from “King of Arizona”, which was the name of a gold mine in the area back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are several entrances to the refuge. We chose Palm Canyon Road, but some of the others are Blevens Road (Crystal Hill), King Road, Castle Dome Mine Road, and MST&T Road.

Although Palm Canyon Road is gravel, it is wide and graded. We had no trouble with things jumping around in the Airstream, nor when we encountered on-coming vehicles.

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We weren’t sure how far we would drive in. The camp host told us that we could go to the end of the road and there would be a turnaround in the parking area for the trailhead. We didn’t know how far the road went, but we found this site and pulled in. It turns out that there is only one more campsite beyond ours, but it is only big enough for a small motorhome or van. Here is our campsite with its spectacular views:

Our new Airstream is set up with 4 100W flexible solar panels and 4 AGM batteries. These have been sufficient for us so far. Water is always an issue when boondocking. We conserve as best we can, but water usage will determine how long we can stay here.

Desert Plants

We had rain last week, so the desert is quite green. We heard that the washes did flood. We wish we could have seen that.

Last year, we arrived after the ocotillos had lost their leaves. There are many in full-leaf here. Stunning!

Let’s observe the Airstream in its natural environment:

And that wraps up our first day in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

Becoming Yumans

We spent the last two weeks in Yuma. It was like coming home. We spent a lot of time in Yuma last winter. We attended a few events like the AKC dog show and the Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade, and of course, we hopped the border and went to Los Algodones for a day.

The Light Parade was one of the most interesting parades I’ve been to. Although it began at 6 pm, we arrived before 4 pm to get a good parking spot and a place to set our lawn chairs. We parked next to Little Caesar’s Pizza so we had pizza and wings before the parade began. Once the sun set, the lights came on and we watched floats, vehicles, dancers, and bands come by in sparkling waves. The theme this year was agriculture. It was fitting since you can’t be in Yuma without being face to face with agriculture wherever you go.

Dole had an interesting float. It included a large television monitor showing their workers in the fields:

The greatest crowd-pleasers were the low-riders! People were shouting “flip the switches!” What a fun show!

Even an Astrovan can be a low-rider!

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There were so many parade entries. After 102, I stopped paying attention to the number.

Even the dancers and bands wore lights on their costumes:

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A cow, a pig, and lots of bikes:

Continuing our focus on agriculture, check out this lemon! It was grown in Yuma. A friend’s friend grows these in her backyard. It has the texture of a Meyer lemon, but it’s enormous. Look at how huge it is compared to the normal fruit in the bowl. It dwarfs the grapefruits.

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Goodnight Yuma. Next stop, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

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Getting Warmer

November 18-20, 2018
Kings Row RV Park, Las Vegas

We stayed a few days in Las Vegas. We walked our legs off seeing the sights (which included the Strip as well as The Container Store and IKEA), but we also got our laundry done. We stayed at a very basic and vintage RV park called Kings Row. Our site was essentially overflow parking in an asphalt parking lot, but the facilities were better than average. The showers were large and quite nice with actual doors, shower curtains, plenty of hooks, and a shelf for bottles. This seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many showers are lacking these basics.

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November 21-25, 2018
BlueWater Resort & Casino, Parker, AZ

Next, we headed to Arizona to do some dry camping. Most casinos offer overnight RV parking for free or a small fee. BlueWater did not charge a fee even though there is also an RV park here. We planned our stay to include American Thanksgiving on Thursday. One of the restaurants at this resort had a Thanksgiving buffet. It included far more than turkey and the fixings. We left stuffed!

On Friday and Saturday, the 72nd Annual SCSC Thanksgiving Regatta was held on the Colorado River in front of the resort. There were many different types of boat races: K Boat, Grand National, Unblown Flat, Sportsmen Extreme, GPS 100, Crackerbox, Comp Jet, Formula Light, etc. This regatta was different than the Formula 1 races that used to be held in Saskatoon. This was a smaller venue and there were no Formula 1 races, but there was a Formula 1 boat that did the course for all to see. The Formula Lights looked similar, but smaller. There were a few accidents (crashes and flip overs). One driver had to be taken to hospital. The Crackerboxes were really fun, but those boats really took a beating. They started with 6 on Friday, but only 2 made it to the finals! There are 2 people sitting side by side in crackerbox boats and the engine sits in front of them. The Sportsman A Hydro races were exciting. The drivers try to duck as low as they can in order to be more aerodynamic. They just raise their heads in bends.

The following pictures were taken by our friend Sheila M. because I forgot my camera:

 

Goodnight!

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Poppy, Kenzie, and Bunnah (picture by Sheila M.)

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Zion National Park

November 17, 2018

We met up with Sheila and her girls (Kenzie and Bunnah) in Cedar City, Utah. We camped at The Home Depot for a couple of nights and then headed into Zion.

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Kenzie making herself at home in the Airstream

Even though I had read that there were some first come – first served campsites in the park, there were not any. They all were reserved 6 months in advance. We had to find a commercial campground outside the park. We chose the one right at the park entrance. We paid $72 CAD ($55 USD) for ONE night. Never in our lives have we paid so much for a campsite. I guess you pay for location, but that’s all we got.  We were expected to share a picnic table with our neighbour and there was nowhere to park the truck. However, we were close to the action, and by action I mean ZION!

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As soon as we unhitched, we headed into the park. We had an America the Beautiful pass from last year and it covered the admission for the 3 of us. We decided to drive Utah Highway 9 from the south to the east entrance. Oh the glorious views! This route includes the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, which was built in the 1920s, when vehicles were much smaller. This tunnel is 1.1 miles long and fairly narrow. Vehicles 11’4″ tall or taller or 7’10” wide or wider require traffic control and drivers must pay an additional $15 fee per vehicle. There are many switchbacks leading to the tunnel. It’s a wild ride! For this reason, we did not continue with the trailer to go on to Bryce Canyon.  We will go to Bryce on a different road another time.

Here are some sights along Utah Highway 9 inside Zion.  I have not adjusted any colors.  This is wonderful, colorful Zion! (Click to enlarge)

Checkerboard Mesa:

Once we got to the east entrance, we stopped for a picnic lunch. There are no picnic areas in Zion, so we just used the parking area at the entrance.  Afterwards, we headed back. The views were different in this direction.

We returned to camp to drop off the girls, and then we took the shuttle through Zion Canyon. This scenic drive is no longer open to vehicles. Park guests must use the shuttle. It has 9 stops.  We took the shuttle from the Visitor Center all the way to the last stop at the Temple of Sinawava. We got out for a walk along the North Fork of the Virgin River to the Narrows.  Most of the walk was quite lush, sometimes swampy, and incredibly spectacular.  There are hanging gardens throughout, but even in this damp environment, there are cacti. Zion is in the desert after all.

As we took the shuttle back to the Visitor Center, night was falling. The Airstream looked beautiful against the backdrop of Zion and a rising moon.

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Goodnight Zion. You are spectacular!

Not the Pony Express

November 14, 2018

Nevada to Utah

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This section of highway intersects with the old Pony Express Trail. At the rest stop, there are information signs, and you can take the gravel road which follows the original route. We stuck to the paved highway.

This stretch of highway is also part of the Lincoln Highway. We are now on the lookout for these highway markers after Eric “Nomadic Fanatic” posted YouTube videos of the route this past summer.

Nevada scenery on the way to Utah:

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Where are we now? Name that State!

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Glorious red mountains in Utah.  We stopped in Cedar City for the night (Wal-Mart). I’m getting screaming fast wifi from the neighbouring Home Depot. That’s how I am able to upload this post and the previous one. We are waiting for our friend Sheila and her pups to arrive tomorrow. We will head into Zion and possibly Bryce Canyon.

I need to state again how much I love travelling in the USA. The rest stops are plentiful and clean; the people are friendly and helpful; and where on earth do you find such varied geography? OK, Turkey has amazing geography too, but it’s not so easy to use an RV there.