Wa:k Pow Wow in Tucson

March 11 & 12, 2019

On the way to Tucson, we stopped for 2 nights near Gila Bend, at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. We visited there last year and really enjoyed it. This time, Sheila and the girls came with us. There is nothing quite like boondocking on the desert.

March 17, 2019

The pow wow was held on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation. The San Xavier Mission is the prominent building on the reservation. This church was constructed between 1783-1797.

The dancing and costumes at the pow wow were impressive. There was so much energy! There are several annual pow wows in our home province of Saskatchewan, but we have never attended one. We will definitely attend one in the future.

And let’s not forget the fry-bread. Mine was stuffed with delicious summer squash.

Boondocking: Lessons Learned, Successes & Failures

January 4-18, 2019

When we were at KOFA in December, our black tank filled far too quickly. After one week, we had to leave and dump the tanks. It didn’t seem reasonable since we didn’t dump any dishwater down the toilet like we often do. Therefore, we did a bit of research and discovered that the bathroom sink drains into the black tank, and I wash my hands often . . . very often. Well, that explained that. Lesson learned.

While we were camping on BLM land outside of Quartzsite, we managed to boondock for 15 days before our black tank filled. We left with 35% water in our fresh tank as well. What’s more, after 7 days, I also hand washed our socks and underwear and we still had water to spare. Additionally, we had a heavy rainstorm and collected 2 buckets of water, which I used to wash my hair, bathe, and do some dishes. Success.

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Early arrival at the RTR

We have more than enough solar and batteries to last, even when we had rain for over one day. We watched Canadian news every night and kept ours and Sheila’s electronic devices powered. Success.

However, not everything was rosy. After one week, our hot water heater died. Again. Even though this trailer is new, we’ve had to replace to circuit board twice already. It is an Atwood gas-electric heater (but Dometic now owns that company). The circuit boards are from China and they are garbage. These water heaters are installed in many RVs and the boards (made by Kunshan Zhongding) are faulty. Fail. Luckily, we are “campers” and know how to heat water for dishes and bathing, but it was disappointing.

Of course, Can-Am RV came to the rescue and had Airstream ship a new circuit board to an RV park in Yuma. By the time we got back to Yuma, we had a new circuit board by a different manufacturer (Channel Products). Let’s hope we don’t have to replace this one in 3 months. We are feeling optimistic. Success.

The biggest challenge when boondocking is water conservation. Here are our tips:

  • no showers (We wash daily with just a small bowl using approximately ½ liter of water) and then we toss that water outside (if you are not in an environmentally sensitive area) or use it to flush the toilet
  • pay for a hot shower (In towns near BLM land, there are often entrepreneurs that provide hot showers for a fee. We paid $5 each for a shower at Rose RV Park in Quartzsite).
  • if it’s yellow, let it mellow . . . Yes, we have to do that. It isn’t pleasant, but neither is hitching up and driving to the nearest town just to dump the tanks.
  • avoid putting toilet paper into the black tank for #1
  • put a bowl in the bathroom sink to capture hand washing water and reuse that water for more hand washing, and then toss it outside or use it to flush the toilet
  • use paper plates and bowls (I still do the washing up 3 times per day, but using paper plates and bowls conserves a lot of water.)
  • cook on the barbecue (This also cuts down on cookware to wash)
  • eliminate water-intensive cooking (no pasta when boondocking)
  • dilute the dish soap (That way you won’t need as much for rinsing)
  • give your dishes a shower, not a bath (I used to fill up 2 dishpans: one for soapy water and one for rinse water. Now, I just wet the dishcloth and apply some diluted dish soap and then rinse each dish. In the end, I only use about ½ a dishpan of water)
  • use potable water jugs (We have 2 large blue jugs that we fill with RO water. It is easier to refill these in town than it is to hitch up the trailer to fill the fresh tank)
  • collect rainwater (It rarely rains on the desert, but if it does, collect some)

Here are Bunnah and Kenzie showing their blue water jug:

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Boondocking is for the dogs. Freedom!

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Kenzie and Poppy

After the RTR, we moved into the town of Quartzsite to meet up with the Airstream club. We enjoyed their company and the full moon.

After 2 1/2 weeks of boondocking, we returned to Yuma to do laundry, restock our supplies, and visit family.

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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