Cochise Stronghold Days – Winter Journey – February 2018

Thursday February 22: Today is “stink repair” day, which includes drying out every damp corner, removing any affected window moulding, and cleaning the fridge. Many things got damp during these last rainy days.

Then Rollie, Ninja, and I go for a hike, finding a place to sit in the sun out of the wind.

Hike in the Dragoon Mountains
Great rocky mountainside
Rolllie and Ninja sit in the sun out of the wind

Back at camp, I do some editing, write in the journal, and send a few texts before going over to Rollie’s camper to play music. I play guitar to his mandolin until my fingers get tired, then switch to viola and he plays guitar.

Little viola

Chicken dinner at our place. Both campers are small, but it is fun to do stuff together.

Friday February 23:  The mountainside is golden in the first rays of the sun. Great blue sky, calm but chilly this morning.

Golden mountainside at first light

I go for a hike up the mountain by myself, as it is a bit too chilly for Rollie and Clifford is focused on his ham radio.

Rocky hike
Century plant and great blue sky

Today is errand day, but we also do some exploring with Rollie, going to nearby Pearce, almost a ghost town. It was an active gold mining town founded in 1895. It grew to a population of 2,000, but several disasters including a cave-in, flooding, and faulty wiring caused havoc, resulting in the mine being closed in 1942, although the town was largely abandoned before then.

Soto Bros & Renaud – Farm implement store (as far as I can tell from researching it); now renovated with plans to open as a museum
Pearce Store – now an antique/2nd hand store
Old Pearce Post Office – 1895 until the 1960’s
Outside what was perhaps assay office

We also go to the cemetery, a bit neglected, but a part of the history of this once lively place. We wander around looking at headstones, noting how many children died. It was a harsh life, especially for women and children.

Pearce Cemetery

Clifford and I go on to Sunizona for propane and the laundromat. Browsing the thrift store right next door to the laundromat is a fun way to spend the time while clothes wash and dry. We both get a few things here, including a cribbage board. Back at camp, we put stuff away and have a late dinner. No music today, but all-in-all, it was a productive day.

Rendezvous at Cochise Stronghold – Winter Journey – February 2018

Monday February 19: Very windy all day with hard gusts that shake our little home.

I start the morning with a walkabout n the misty rain to see how much water is flowing in the wash.

Misty rain in the morning
The mountain behind Cochise Stronghold Campground in mist
Running water in the wash

With the rain last night, the waterfalls on the rock face of the mountain have been reinvigorated and I estimate from the water in a free-standing pan that the Dragoon Mountains have received about 3″ of rain in the last several days.

Waterfalls reinvigorated

In the afternoon there is enough sunshine to charge my laptop for a few minutes so I can do some editing, but most activities during the day are non-electronic related. Dinner is simply soup and salad, since I am not crazy about cooking and cleaning by lantern light. Living in a cute homey but small camper can be stressful when the weather is not conducive for spending time outdoors.

Tuesday February 20: High today is only 53 and the wind is chilly, so no morning walk. But later, as some blue sky appears, I do a good walkabout up the mountain and then out to the road and back to the campsite via a long loop. It is good to spend time outside.

Hiking in the mountain with a view

Back at camp, I make a list of things that can be done that do not involve power: Hike, take photos, write in journal, read a book or magazine, play viola, play guitar, color, sing, clean a cabinet, clean the floor, meditate, go visit someone, dance, write postcards, write a letter, gather wood for a campfire, build and sit by a campfire (if it’s not too windy), mindmap a project, cook something, gather rocks, knit, tidy camper, tidy campsite, add to planner, study up on essential oils, make coffee and take time to enjoy it. If the cell is charged, then I can add texts to family/friends, practice Morse code, and peruse cell pics.

Non-power options

Since cell is charged a bit, I check FB, post a pic, and text with Rollie – he is on the east side of Tucson tonight, having left Parker, Arizona, this morning, and he will be here sometime tomorrow. Big smile! Now I can add play cribbage and music with Rollie to the non-power list.

Wednesday February 21: Breezy and cool with a mix of blue sky and clouds throughout the day.

Morning light on the mountain subdued by the clouds

When Rollie and Ninja arrive, I show him around so he can pick a campsite that will work for him; he decides to share our site with us, as that will make it easier to visit back and forth for music and meals.

Rollie sets up next to us at Cochise Stronghold dispersed area

After he is set up, we drive through the entire loop to look for firewood that has been left behind by other campers. Then we head on up to the Cochise Stronghold campground so Rollie can meet the camp host, our friend, Jimi, and we make plans for a hike on the Cochise Trail later in the week.

More blue sky by afternoon

In the evening, we play music at Rollie’s camper; fun to play viola with his guitar, now that I can play a few more tunes, and of course, the mandolin and guitar as we were doing earlier in the winter.

Overcast over the mountains again as the sun comes and goes

I make a big pot of chili for dinner at our place – too cool and windy to eat by a campfire, but fun to share the meal in the comfort of our little home and catch up with the events of the last couple weeks.


Hiking in the Dragoon Mountains – Winter Journey – February 2018

Saturday February 17:   I go for a walkabout first thing to check on the water in the wash.  It is far from flooding, but fun to see a stream where a few days it was dry sand.

Stream in the wash near Gnome Home
Lichen-covered tree seems odd in the desert
Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains of SE Arizona

As fog rolls in, I go out again to take photos.

A text from our Cochise Stronghold Campground host friend, Jimi, suggests a hike this afternoon, so I go on up to the campground.

Creek crossing on the way to Cochise Stronghold Campground

We hike up the trail to the pictographs, an interesting trail, not really for the casual hiker, but not too strenuous, either.

Pictographs in the Cochise Stronghold

Instead of hiking back down the trail, we hike down into the ravine, which now because of the rain holds a flowing stream, and make our way down around boulders, dead fall, and shin dagger yucca – wicked little desert plant best seen at a distance.

A stream in the ravine, dead fall and boulders
Waterfalls along the way

I learn that the bubbly scum I’ve seen on pooling water is from the abundant yucca, since the rain has saturated the soil enough to get the roots. The soaptree yucca derives its name from the soapy material in its roots and trunks which made this plant a popular substitute for soap. (

Bubbly scum from yucca roots and stems carried down the mountain


Pond of “yucca soap”

Sunday February 18: Still cool and mostly cloudy this morning, but enough sun to hang out everything that is wet from the rain that leaked in a couple of the camper windows.

First light on the mountain behind our campsite
Golden light of morning even though mostly overcast

In the afternoon, beautiful cumulus clouds form over the mountain with the sky a gorgeous blue backdrop… quite wonderful to see.

Beautiful cumulus clouds form in the afternoon

Message and pic from Ang showing two feet of new snow. Guess the high of 66 here today would seem like a heat wave to my kids and siblings in Montana. I miss seeing my kids and siblings and feel a little sad that we are so far apart.

Big wind and more rain in the evening and during the night.

Dragoon Waterfalls – Winter Journey – February 2018


Thursday February 15: Rain and wind all night here in the dispersed area outside Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains. A couple windows are now leaking, so we redo the tarp to cover both the vent and the windows. Looks like we have a project to take care of when the weather is warm and dry.

Rain all night and much of the day in the Dragoon Mountains

I walk down the road, rather enjoying the rain, and down to the wash at the base of the mountain to a cool little spot that I call the Gnome Home.

Walkabout in the morning
Walking in the wash at the base of the mountain
Trail up the mountain
Gnome Home or portal to another universe

Or perhaps it is a portal to another universe! Later in the afternoon, another walk on a trail through a narrow meadow-like area takes me to a natural enclave, a grotto of sorts.

“The Grotto”
Yucca and manzanita in the rain

These hidden places are quite a delight to me.

Clifford prefers to stay in the camper working on his ham radio projects.

Cell service is weak here, but we do get messages and calls in and out. The evening is the usual routine, using only lanterns as there is not much solar power happening these days.

Friday February 16: Low and high temperatures: 50/56 degrees… hardly any variation all day long. There is fog in the morning and rain off and on all day.

Foggy morning

This morning is different, however, as we hear a sound we’ve not heard before and looking to the mountainside, we see numerous waterfalls, some of considerable size, dropping hundreds of feet down the rock face. So many waterfalls in the desert is quite an exciting event to see!

Waterfalls on the rock face of the Dragoon Mountains at Cochise Stronghold

Some of the waterfalls are large and powerful

Walkabouts in the morning and afternoon provide ample opportunities for photos, especially the waterfalls and little rivulets everywhere.

Little rivulets appear everywhere

Even the trail up the mountain where I walked yesterday is a running stream.

Yesterday’s trail is today’s running stream

I am more limited in my usual activities, other than the walkabouts, as there will be little laptop usage today. I write a couple short blogs, read a Dr. Oz magazine, play the viola, and practice Morse code.

We use only lanterns to light the camper for dinner, as well as the other evening activities.

Cochise Stronghold – Winter Journey – February 2018

Tuesday February 13:  No time for a morning walk at Snyder Hill, west of Tucson, as we are packing up and leaving for Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains, about 50 miles east of Tucson.

Leaving Snyder Hill.

We make stops for propane, water, and groceries, as well as picking up forwarded mail, so it is afternoon by time we make it out to the Stronghold.

This time we are camping in the dispersed area along the forest road that leads to the campground. This area will give us more space, more sunlight for the solar panels, and it is free. Between the recent wildfire and the forecast for inclement weather, no one is there and we have our choice of campsites.

Dispersed area

We find a spacious site and get tucked in between a couple of oak trees. Clifford takes care of the solar panel and ham antenna while I get the inside ready for us.

We pick a campsite and get set up

I call and/or text my kids to let them know where we are before going for a walk to explore. There are several other campsites that could have been suitable, but this one is good for this time of year. I am happy that it worked out for us to come after all, with the beautiful scenery and ample hiking opportunities away from traffic and noise. There is something about this place that really resonates with me.

Dragoon Mountains – a place that resonates with me

Wednesday February 14: It is cooler here today than the past week in Tucson, with a high of only 60. I send Happy Valentine’s Day greetings to my kids and my siblings. And, of course, Happy Valentine’s Day wishes to Clifford!

Happy Valentine’s Day to my kids, my siblings, and Clifford

This morning I explore the ravine at the base of the mountain, discovering faint trails up the rocky slopes. Walking the road that meanders through the camping area, I find more campsites and another trail up the mountain. I hike a short distance up the trail and sit on a rock there, with a great view of the valley below and mountains beyond.

Hiking up a rocky trail

Back at camp, after writing thank you cards to recent donors to Carnicom Institute, we drive out to the Peace post office and on to Marsha’s Garden, a great little shop of lotions, salves, soaps, creams, and candles made with goat milk and essential oils. I take my time selecting items to purchase, enjoying the wonderful smells of this delightful little shop.

On our way back to camp, even though it is raining, we drive on out to the campground to say hi to our camp host friend, Jimi.

Raining on the drive back to camp
Rainy view from the Cochise Stronghold Campground

Back at our campsite, we discover that our camper has leaked and our bed is wet, all the way to the mattress pad. Ugh. We soak up as much as possible with towels and let the layers dry out over the course of the afternoon. We put a tarp over the vent, as it appears the rain will continue. I am happy to be here and grateful for the rain!

More rain

Snyder Hill Days – Winter Journey – February 2018

February 6th-12th

During our days at Snyder Hill BLM, west of Tucson, I go for a hike at sunrise every morning, around the hill and a couple of times to the top of the hill. I especially enjoy seeing the Palo Verde with their chartreuse trunks and branches and the ocotillo with their sparse desert ambiance.

Walking around Snyder Hill
Palo Verde on Snyder hill

View from the top of Snyder Hill. We are the camper right in the middle.

One day we meet our special RV friends for breakfast at a cafe we discovered on McKinney Road.  They were camped close by at Gilbert Ray campground and this cafe is on the route to their next destination. Coyote Pause is a nifty place, a lot of ambiance, good food, with a courtyard of interesting little shops and galleries. We have a good visit, getting to know each other better, and sharing stories about our travels and rock collecting adventures.

Coyote Pause for breakfast with our special RV friends
Nifty location with a courtyard and little shops
Coyote Pause: good food, good service, and good conversation with our friends

A couple days later, for my birthday, I treat Clifford to breakfast at Coyote Pause. After a very good meal, we browse through the shops in the courtyard there. An artist’s gallery is filled with beautiful artwork of all sorts and I buy a couple of small prints depicting the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. We also explore Buffalo Trader and Clifford buys me a very colorful pair of pants, light and loose, which will be great in hot weather.

Carol’s birthday

I especially enjoy the evenings when the last rays of the sun light up Snyder Hill with a warm golden glow.

Golden glow on Snyder Hill

We are greatly disappointed to learn that a wildfire in the Dragoon Mountains, which was to be our next destination, will prevent our camping there. The day before we are scheduled to leave, however, we receive word that the evacuation order will be lifted in time for us to go there as planned. Hooray!

Sunset from our campsite at Snyder Hill





Synder Hill – Winter Journey – February 2018

Saturday February 3: High of 80 today here south of Quartzsite, Arizona, and the sky is clear, for a change. We hear about the inclement weather in the rest of the country. While I am grateful we don’t have to struggle with the hardships of cold and snow, I do miss the beauty of wintertime.

I go for an early desert walk this morning and then have breakfast with Rollie. Clifford is on his ham radio with the Early Bird Net.

Morning walk at Roadrunner

Later Rollie and I go for an exploratory drive, curious see what’s on down the La Paz Valley Road and find ourselves on the Old Yuma Road. We find more camping – some long-term and some 14-day-free areas. Good for future reference, but no great advantage over where we are now.

Back at camp, I do some editing until the laptop battery goes dead and then prepare a spaghetti dinner. The wind has died down, so we make a campfire and eat outside. We haven’t had a campfire and eaten out very often here because of the wind, so it is a nice way to end the last day of our stay here at Roadrunner.

Dinner at the campfire – last night at Roadrunner

Sunday February 4: Clifford is up at 7:30 and we soon start packing. It takes awhile, especially with the elaborate antenna and radio set up, but we are on our way by 11:00 a.m. after saying good-bye to Rollie. We’re headed to Tucson; he will be camping near Parker for a bluegrass festival there. Bill and Sally left for Montana a couple of days ago. It has been fun having family around.

We stop in Gila Bend for gas, and I have to say this is a fun place to stop.


Dinosaurs roam free at Gila Bend

As we near Tucson, we stop for a meal at Cracker Barrel, quite the treat, especially for me as I won’t have to fix dinner and do cleanup tonight.

An outstanding feature between Phoenix and Tucson

Then on to Synder Hill, the BLM dispersed camping area west of Tucson on Highway 86.  Synder Hill is just a few acres at the base of a hill, once outside of Tucson, but now surrounded by the expanding population. It is still a popular place for people who need a free and conveniently located place to stay while in the Tucson area. The nice spot we had last time is taken, as is every other nook. We settle for parking right on the side of the dirt road that meanders through the area, pulling in as close as we can to a little cluster of mesquite trees.

Getting set up at Synder Hill

Grateful for the mesquite tree at Synder HIll
Sunset colors on Synder Hill

We keep set-up simple, as we don’t plan to be here long and there is no room for anything other than simple, anyway.  Play guitar a bit, but it is not nearly as much fun without Rollie on the mandolin.

Monday February 5: Warm temps here in Tucson: 42/80. Living in Montana most of my life, I think of February as being the dead of winter. Not so here.

We plan our errands for the day and the week so as to get everything done with the fewest trips to town. Today we are going to Southwest Strings, as Clifford wants to buy a viola for my birthday. I have missed playing my cello, but a viola is small enough to take traveling and has a nice sound. It’s not a cello, but it could be fun. So off we go and spend quite a lot of time looking at the very small selection of violas in a size and price-range that will work. I’m not feeling drawn to any of them, so am willing to wait until we get to Santa Fe where I can go to the Violin Shop for better selection and more helpful assistance. However, now is the opportunity, so after asking if they have ANYTHING else, they bring out a couple more instruments… and one of them is better and will work.  


I buy a book of Fiddle Tunes for the cello, as I plan to read base clef on the viola. Why not? Same strings as the cello, just a higher octave. Back at camp, I begin experimenting with this new little instrument.

Arizona Desert Days – January 2018

Sunday January 28: We are still camped at Roadrunner, the BLM campground south of Quartzsite, Arizona.  It is calm this morning, so I make a campfire and Rollie comes over to join me. We chat as we drink our respective hot drinks.

Campfire and our respective hot drinks

I was going to sit out after the campfire to write in my journal, but the wind comes up and I head inside.

In the evening, Rollie and I do music at his place, as it is too windy outside.

Monday January 29: Today is an errand trip to Parker for the things that we can’t do in Quartzsite, which takes a good chunk of the day. When we get back to camp, Clifford and I have leftovers for dinner. Rollie has already eaten with Bill and Sally, but he comes over for tea. While we are sitting out, Clifford spots the exotic lights that we have seen before in the desert. They are still a mystery.

Tuesday January 30: I take photos of a colorful sunrise,

Colorful sunrise. Little dots at bottom are campers: Rollie& Ninja on the left, Carol & Clifford center, Bill & Sally to the right


Vivid color every direction

then join Rollie at a campfire and write in my journal while he plays mandolin.

Campfire and journal while Rollie plays mandolin

Later, I send another set of edits to Ang and re-send agent letters, as she has had some problem with opening them. Internet communication is sometimes very iffy, both on my side and hers.

Later we all have dinner at Bill’s; he enjoys barbecuing and I am happy to contribute something other than the meat. Another campfire and music outside this evening. Not bad for a January evening.

Send cell pics to my girls. Staying in touch with my kids is important to me and really appreciate calls and texts from them. The cell phone has been/is vital for communication with all these dear ones.

Wednesday January 31: I am up early enough to get a few photos of the Super Blue Blood Lunar Eclipse. It was neat to see it, but my photos are not terrific.

Super blue blood lunar eclipse

This morning we all head out to Crystal Hill in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge south of Roadrunner for some hiking and rock-hounding.

View as we drive to Crystal Hill

This time I head down the wash and start looking at the west end slope of the hill. It is not so picked over here and I find a nice crystal as well as many beautiful quartz stones.

Crystal Hill west slope
Crystal found at Crystal Hill

Bill decides to go back to camp as the big dogs are restless, making it hard to search for crystals. Sally wants to stay, so she joins me on the west slope. We have a good time chatting as we look for crystals until Clifford and Rollie are ready to go. Back at camp, we all contribute our picnic food to lunch at Bill and Sally’s.

Since my laptop has been charged and the hotspot is working, I take care of email, FB, and editing this afternoon. I finish out my day with writing in planner and journal before heading to bed. Clifford continues with his ham radio experiments late into the night… and thus we wrap up January 2018.

End of Quartzfest – Quartzsite, Arizona – January 2018

Thursday January 25: I put the files for the Quartzfest photo contest on a flash drive, and Clifford and I drop them off at the Event Center on our way to Quartzsite for errands. Just the usual errands, except that we also go to La Mesa RV and look at trailers there. It is an info-gathering stop. They do not have much of a selection in the size that would work for us, but it was fun to look. 

Looking at trailers at La Mesa RV

We are in a thinking mode about how we might make a better arrangement for Clifford’s research while we are on the road. He does a lot as it is, but a dedicated space would be an improvement.

Friday January 26:

This morning after tea with Rollie, we walk down to the Welcome Center to vote on the photos in the photo contest. I see that I have two photos in the Nature category and one in the Technical category that have made it to the finals and are posted on the bulletin board.

Rollie and Ninja

Today I work on agent letters and prepare another page of edits for Ang’s “Dragons of Va’Ha’Den” fantasy series. My son Fin sends a short video, via FB messenger, of himself, his wife Mandy, and baby Mollie. So great to see them! It would be wonderful if they could come to the States for a visit.

We have stir-fry and rice for dinner and while we eat, Rollie tells us stories about his time in Kentucky and in the army. So much of his life I am unfamiliar with. It is good that we are getting to know each other a bit more as we travel together here.

Saturday January 27: Thirty-four degrees and a chilly wind this morning when I walk down to the Welcome Center to get catalogs and look at the swap meet. Later we all go down for the Closing Ceremony. Lots of items are given away during the drawings. The most fun is the photo contest results: I take first place in Nature, first place in Technical, and the Grand Prize, overall. I am quite pleased!

First place – Technical
First place – Nature and overall Grand Prize

Before the Closing is finished, we get word that Cousin Bill and his wife Sally are on their way to camp with us again and will be here shortly. Rollie volunteers to get his S10 and lead them in through the maze of RV’s where there was virtually nothing but open desert when they were here before.

This afternoon Amateur Radio Winter Field Day begins, which, although not part of Quartzfest, wraps of the week of concentrated ham radio for Clifford.

Off-Road Adventure – Quartzsite, Arizona – January 2018

Wednesday January 24: This morning I am up in time to get dressed, have breakfast, make a lunch, and head to the Welcome Center with Rollie by 9:00 a.m., as we are going on the Quartzfest off-road trip. We are planning on riding with someone else, as Rollie is not sure his S10 is appropriate for the off-road trip and Clifford is not planning on going; Suburban might not be ideal, either.

At the Welcome Center we see the line-up of vehicles; even though most of them are jeep-type vehicles, there are a few nice SUV’s that look a bit out of place, so Rollie asks the trip leader if his S10 is okay, and yes it is. So Rollie heads back to the campsite to get Ninja (who would otherwise have had to stay home all day) and his little pickup and we join the line-up. I count about 35 vehicles and we are somewhere in the middle.

The line-up heads south on 95, then off on a gravel road between the Crystal Hill Road and the Palm Canyon Road.

Heading toward the Kofa Mountains

Today we are heading into the northern end of the Kofa Mountains. After a few miles, we turn off the gravel onto a dirt road that winds around a rugged desert landscape, down and up rocky arroyos; a road of some sort, but quite gnarly in spots. I ask Rollie if he and the S10 are okay. He is having a great time pretending that S10 is a rugged little jeep and that it can go anywhere that the others can!

Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge

I take photos from the open passenger window as best I can, given that there is not a smooth moment anywhere.

Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge

We make a couple of stops – scenic spots, including a hidden springs, for people to walk about a bit, and a longer stop for lunch in a beautiful desert canyon. Rollie and I find a couple of right-size rocks to sit on to eat lunch and relax.

Different type of tree grows at a hidden springs in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge. View from the picnic lunch stop
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge. An arch is sighted
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge. Rugged mountains!
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge. Closer view of the ruggedness
Off-road adventure – the Kofa Wildlife Refuge

On the way back to camp, since the group is out of time for a stop at Crystal Hill, Rollie and I go there on our own.

Heading toward Crystal Hill

It is a fun place to hike a bit while looking for crystals and beautiful quartz pieces. We would have stayed longer, but Rollie is planning on heading to Quartzsite tonight for a music jam.

Back at camp, we have dinner, then Rollie heads to town while Clifford and I catch up on our day’s activities. I pick and edit photos for the Quartzfest photo contest, including a couple from our trip today. It sure was a fun day, but the outing tired me out and after sending pics to my girls, I to head to bed.