Aqua Fria National Monument – Heading North – March 2018

Wednesday March 21: Clifford had a rough night, but we are still planning on leaving Molino Basin Campground this morning to begin the journey back to Monticello, our Utah home base. Besides the packing up, we – and Rollie – also have to stop for gas, water, and propane. It is early afternoon by time we finally leave Tucson.

Good-bye to the saguaros on Mount Lemmon

So much traffic, but we make it through Phoenix without mishap. We are now on I-17 and take exit 259 to the Agua Fria National Monument, which we learned about from our musician camping friend, Rachel.

Rock formations in Agua Fria National Monument

There is some confusion about which side of the highway we are supposed to be on, and after driving a ways on the road to the west, we backtrack and enter the national monument on the east side of I-17. The road is not great, but we find a spot about a mile from the exit where both we and Rollie can get set up on fairly level ground.

Boondocking in the Agua Fria National Monument

First thing we do after getting set up is pick up trash – lots of it. Ugh. But on the plus side, the ground is strewn with beautiful variegated quartz rocks and other rugged and colorful stones.

Clifford is feeling worse, so goes down for a nap before the propane is turned on. I can’t get fridge or range working, but luckily Rollie comes over and figures out the problem. I have soup with Rollie for dinner, as Clifford is not up to eating tonight.

Thursday, March 22: There was some rain in the night, which seems surprising in this unusually dry desert landscape.

I am up before sunrise, but I left my camera at Rollie’s last night, so miss the shot of the rising sun. I go on to his camper to get the camera and stay to visit a little. Clifford is feeling better this morning, but weak.

After breakfast, Rollie and I go for a hike to the rocky hill top and then beyond to look at the pinkish rocks.

Rollie, Ninja, and I hike to the top of the hill behind our campsites
Pinkish rocks in Agua Fria National Monument

Though the sky is dull overcast, the rocks are still interesting to see

Back at camp, I edit for awhile, then check texts and FB. A couple of my kids call – good that we can get cell service at such a remote location. Later, Rollie and I do music at his camper; too windy outside.

After dinner, we get packed up as much as we can (mostly we had not unpacked at this stop), as we will be heading toward Sedona in the morning. There must be more to see at this national monument, but it will have to wait for another time.


Last Days at Molino Basin – Winter 2018

Sunday March 18: I have tea with Rollie after taking photos of the creek with my smaller older cell and Clifford’s newer bigger one.

Photo at the creek

I like the bigger brighter screen, but the color seems just a bit off.  This photo taken with the canon camera for comparison.

Dark clouds move in and it looks like it could be a big rain, so I cover the fire wood and such, but the rain is brief and doesn’t amount to much.

Walking to the far end of the camp, I discover that there aren’t many spots suitable for trailers, so we were really lucky to get this nice big level spot where we and Rollie could both set up our rigs.

Campsite at Molino Basin: Rollie on the left; Carol & Clifford on the right

I edit for awhile, the second book of Ang’s “Dragons of Va’ha’den” series. Then Rollie and I play music in the tipi tent. It is small, but more room than either his camper or ours.

Evening light on our mesa

After dinner, Rollie and I play cribbage and he wins by one point!

Sometime during the day, the ongoing power issues, even with the new batteries, is resolved. I don’t know what Clifford figured out, but sure glad it has been taken care of.

Monday March 19: It is a beautiful morning, and even though I thought about having a campfire for the morning chill (it is 34 degrees), I decide against it as I don’t want smoke to mar of the air. It is warming up nicely, anyway.

Beautiful morning at Molino Basin

I go sit by the creek for my quiet time, then make my organic French press coffee and sit in the sunshine to write in my journal. Rollie went to Tucson first thing this morning and when he returns we do music outside, the usual in and out routine: too hot in the tipi tent, too windy outside, but the music goes on.

Then we all go down to the Babad Do’ag Vista Point to get cell service, taking care of emails, downloads, texts, and so on. Merri sends pics of the continuing snow in Montana, while we enjoy a 70 degree day.

Saguaro and ocotillo at Babad Do’ag Vista Point

Our camping musician friend, Rachel, has returned to Molino Basin, so we are once again able to play music with her. We play until it gets too chilly out, then we all go to our respective traveling homes.

Rollie brings over some fish, which I cook for dinner, and tonight I win the game of cribbage before taking care of dishes and the usual evening routine.

Tuesday March 20: Another beautiful day here at Molino Basin Campground, and our last day, as we will be leaving tomorrow morning. I visit the creek, walking up the dry creek bed, then sit in the sunshine to write in the journal.

Dry creek bed
Sunrise at Molino Basin Campground

Rachel comes over and we do music one last time, as she is leaving for Colorado. Maybe our journeys will bring us together some time down the road.

Music with Rachael and Rollie
Rachel sings for us

I cook nachos for dinner over a campfire, our last one here. After dinner, we start getting things packed up as much as possible so as to minimize what will need to be done in the morning. This has been a good camp for us with lots of music, making a new friend, hikes, and enjoying the mountain desert landscape.

Mountain desert views from Molino Basin

I look forward to another stay here if our travels allow for such.

More Molino Basin – Winter Journey – March 2018

Friday March 15: My day at Molino Basin Campground starts with a hike to the creek for photos and quiet time.

Creek side quiet time

Today is catch-up day after our long day in Tucson yesterday. Dishes are done, sundries and clean clothes are put away. Rachel, our camp neighbor, stops by and we look at maps together. She knows of dispersed camping areas that we are not yet acquainted with. Rollie and I play a game of cribbage before I start editing, finishing up The Keeper and the King. Too windy to do music outside, so Rollie and I just work separately in our own campers – good time for me to really focus on viola technique. It is fun learning to play the little instrument, but I have to say (in my opinion) that violins and violas are not very ergonomic compared to cellos, and I miss playing my cello.

Saturday March 16: Overcast, then clearing, then cloudy and gusty – guess it is spring weather. After sitting by the creek a bit, I have tea with Rollie. He is feeling off today – a bit dizzy. I give him some good salt to put in his water and we go for a hike on the portion of the Arizona Trail that parallels the campground.

Views from the Arizona Trail

Walking back down the road, we visit our musician friend, Rachel. She is getting ready to leave, but we talk her into singing and playing for us, and I record her singing her beautiful Desert Song. We will miss her.

Our musician friend Rachel sings for us before she leaves

After breakfast Rollie and I do music in the little tipi tent, kind of crowded, but it breaks the wind so we can play outside. Then we all go down to the Babad Do’ag Vista Point, which overlooks Tucson, as we can get cell service there. We catch up on email, phone calls, and texts.

Babad Do’ag Vista Point
Rich sunset colors at Babad Do’ag

At sunset at the vista point, some girls pose for each other on the rock wall, which makes me very nervous for fear one of them will fall, there being quite a drop-off beyond the wall. But they survive and I get a few photos at sunset.

Sunset at Babad Do’ag Vista Point. The girls’ heads, as they stand on the rock wall, can be seen to the right of the tree.

Back at camp, after a dinner of stir fry veggies and rice, Rollie and I play cribbage before I do dishes. Planner updates and journal are the usual closing of the day.

Saturday March 17: After my morning creek time,

Dry creek bed

Rollie and I hike up the creek on the other side of the highway, a trail that we saw below us when we and Clifford hiked the Arizona Trail to the saddle. It is really quite beautiful along the creek, and we hike until we get to a section that is too steep to interest us today.

Hiking up the creek with Rollie
Trail gets steep
Hanging out with Rollie and Ninja before we hike back to camp

Back at camp, after I tidy up the Suburban, Rollie and I do music, sometimes in the tipi tent and sometimes in the shade of the gnarly oak tree. It is too warm and too crowded in the tent, too windy out in the shade. Other than the in and out, the music goes well. After snacks, Clifford and I head to Tucson, as we are getting new batteries for the camper. On the way back to camp, we stop at the Molino Basin Vista Point for photos of the ocotillo. It was not the best spot and I didn’t have the right shoes to hike down into the ravine, but I got a few photos of these unique cacti in bloom.

Ocotillo in bloom

The usual evening routine of dinner, cribbage, dishes, planner, and journal finishes out the day.

Molino Basin Days – Winter Journey – March 2018

Monday March 12: Today is mostly a mundane town (Tucson) day.

The Santa Catalina Highway makes its winding way through a saguaro forest between Molino Basin and Tucson

Clifford, Rollie, Ninja, and I go to SW Strings again and I try other violas; Rollie buys a nice guitar case. We go to La Mesa RV to look at trailers and motor homes. The service is bad, but we do see a trailer that would suit our needs for space for Clifford’s research. At Camping World, the service is great, but none of the trailers in our size range have a floor plan that will work. We are not really in a buying mode, but it is fun to look. Brief calls and texts are made while we are still in town with cell service.

Back at camp, after we unload groceries and sundries, Rollie and I make a campfire and play music outside. We have dinner together and chat until 11:00 p.m., so it is late by time I finish my evening routine and get to bed. Clifford is always up until the wee hours with his ham radios, so late doesn’t mean much to him.

Tuesday March 13: One thing I like most about this campground is the great little creek that runs through it. This morning, I hike along the creek and find a nice boulder to sit on for my quiet time.

Sitting by the creek running through the Molino Basin Campground


Being present for the sunrise

Back at camp, Rollie is ready for a walkabout, so we hike up to the group site and then hike down the Arizona Trail to our campsite.

View of the mesa from the Arizona Trail

When Rollie and I do music today, Clifford takes cell videos of us to send to Katie, since she might want us to play at her coffee shop in Wallace. I even play a piece on the viola, but it is too long to send. Oh well… at least I can play some tunes, even though I’ve only had the viola for a little over a month.

Lots of editing for Ang today and am nearly finished with The Keeper and the King. Then nachos for dinner and I just barely win a game of cribbage with Rollie before tackling the dishes.

Wednesday March 14: I am awakened at 5:30 by Rollie yelling at someone. Turns out some guy was shining a light on Rollie’s stuff – generator and bicycle and such – most likely with intent to help himself, but Rollie saw the light and went out and told the guy to get lost, but not in those words! Anyway, not a great start to the day.

First light on the mesa

Once it is light, I go sit by the creek awhile before getting ready for another day in Tucson.

Sitting by the creek for awhile

Clifford is picking up a radio that he ordered and we need to go to the laundromat. Once there, we try using the hotspot that was supposedly installed on his cell phone. However, it does not work, so we go back to Verizon and talk to someone else, and it turns out that his phone is not hotspot compatible. We have to go buy a different phone and then back to Verizon to have it activated. This is after going to SW Strings to try violas again, thinking of trading up to a better one, but I like mine better, so it was a waste of time going clear across town. It seems the whole day was spent running around, not very productive, but at least he has his new radio and we have clean clothes.

By time we get home, dinner is late. No journal, planner, or music today, and dishes are left for tomorrow.

Mount Lemmon – Winter Journey – March 2018

Saturday March 11: Cloudy and a little cooler with a bit of rain this morning and a high of 65 degrees today.

I hike a ways on the Arizona Trail where it parallels the Molino Basin Campground and come out at the group site. Nice hike and scenic. I receive a text from our new friend and fellow musician, Rachel, who has gone to Cochise Stronghold to camp. Although I can receive her texts, I can’t send any out from this location.

Arizona Trail where it parallels the Molino Basin Campground

Back at camp I make tea, then visit Rollie and we look at maps in case he decides to leave before we do. Today I tackle domestic chores, cleaning out the closet, which tends to become a jumble since so much stuff has to go in that storage space.

In the afternoon, the clouds open up a bit, so we decide to drive on up the highway to Mount Lemmon at the end of the road.

Hoodoos along the Catalina Highway, also known as the Mount Lemmon Highway
Rock formations along the highway

I want to stop at some of the vista points while the clouds are still dramatic, but Clifford wants to get to the top first. The clouds are not nearly so dramatic on the return trip, but we stop at Windy Point Vista on the way back down the mountain and spend some time meandering about this rocky outcrop of stone.

Rollie and Carol at Windy Vista. Photo by Clifford

We make another stop on our way down the mountain, and even though we have traveled down for some time, we can see the highway far below us.

This is what happens if you drive too fast on this highway

Back at the campground we are surprised to see that Rachel has returned. We have hopes that she will be able to come to our campsite for a jam session, but she finds a spot at the far upper end of the campground, too far for a get-together this evening. However, we look forward to playing music together one these days while we are all still here at Molino Basin.

After dinner, Rollie and I play a game of cribbage before I do dishes. Planner and journal, but no editing today, due to taking time for the outing to Mount Lemmon.

Arizona Trail Hike – Winter Journey – March 2018


Saturday March 10 – This morning Rollie and I have a campfire and music outside at our Molino Basin campsite before it gets too windy.

Morning at Molina Basin Campground – the white square in the center is our camper

Then we – Clifford, Rollie, and I – decide to hike a bit of the Arizona Trail, as it goes right through the campground. It is a scenic trail, in a desert sort of way, very rocky, but decent.

Clifford and Rollie on the Arizona Trail above Molino Basin Campground
Clifford and Rollie on the Arizona Trail
Looking back toward Molino Basin Campground
Rollie looks down at the campground below
Clifford and Rollie look toward the saddle
The trail to the saddle

We hike to the first saddle, maybe a couple miles, and sit on a rock outcropping to enjoy the expansive views.

View from the saddle

The wind starts to blow and within minutes it becomes quite chilly. I am sure glad I had a windbreaker and stocking hat with me. Rollie and Clifford also put on extra layers. Ninja, Rollie’s little dog, is the only one who seems unruffled by the change in temperature.

Ninja is unruffled
Rock formations seen from the Arizona Trail at Molino Basin
Close-up of rock formations

Back at the campground, we see a beautiful horse being groomed for a photo shoot; the location they choose is the gnarly oak tree at our campsite, so we sit back and watch as the photographer poses the pretty girl with the gorgeous horse.

After dinner, Rollie and I play a game of cribbage. Finish out the day with updates to my planner and writing in the journal.

Good-bye Cochise Stronghold/Hello Molino Basin – Winter Journey – March 2018

Tuesday March 6: Today is the day-before-leaving day, so Rollie and I say good-bye to Jimi, our camp host friend at the Cochise Stronghold campground.

Good-bye to Jimi, our camp host friend

We play music outside today – finally warm enough to do that. Pack up as much of the inside stuff as I can. Clifford saves his packing up for the morning, as he will be using the radios and antennas until late. We have an easy dinner of soup and sandwiches so that I have a minimum of cleanup tonight.

Wednesday March 7: We finish packing up and are on our way by 10:45 a.m, with Rollie right behind us. We take Cochise Stronghold Road to Dragoon Road for the first time, which saves several miles, and then east on I-10. We stop at Pilot on the edge of Tucson for gas, then head north across Tucson to the Santa Catalina Mountains and our destination: Molino Basin Campground.

The road up the mountain is a bit steep, but we take it easy, with Rollie following close behind us. Totally different landscape and vegetation than Cochise Stronghold; saguaros dominate the hillsides as we ascend.

Rugged hills of the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson
Catalina Highway leads to Mount Lemmon – Saguaros dominate at the lower elevation

We arrive at Molino Basin Campground in early afternoon and drive through looking for two campsites close to each other, but it is obvious this campground is catering more to tent campers than RV campers. We find a loop with a site big enough for both rigs, two picnic tables, bear boxes, a great gnarly oak tree, shrubs for privacy … hooray!

Our campsite at Molino Basin Campground in the Santa Catalina Mountains

After getting set up, Rollie and I do music outside. The neighbor across the road comes over with her guitar and wow, can she sing! Another camper joins us with his penny whistle. It is so fun to have more musicians – a real jam session.

Rachel joins us with her guitar and great voice

Later, I make nachos for dinner, but skip doing dishes, journal, and planner. Rare for me to skip these, but I’m beat from the whole move and set-up routine. But it was a good day with finding this nice big site to share and jamming with the neighbors.

Thursday March 8: Today is a town day with stops at Barnes & Nobles, Bookmans, Verizon to get Clifford’s phone set up as a hotspot, Trader Joe, and Natural Grocer. It is nice to be living out of town but with access to our favorite shops. Send texts and pics to a couple of my kids, Happy Birthday to my sister Nancy and a friend while we are still in Tucson, as we have no cell service or internet on the mountain.

Near sunset – view from Catalina Highway on our way back to Molino Basin
Last rays of the setting sun light up the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Friday March 9: There is an issue with the Verizon hotspot not working even when we go to a pull-out where there is good cell service. Clifford wants to get it resolved today, so we head back to Verizon. Turns out Clifford has to buy a hotspot-compatible phone. We run a couple of errands, including buying a new phone at Target and returning to Verizon to get it activated. Before we know it, we have used up a big chunk of the day.

Back at camp, Rollie and I go for a walk through the off-road campsites on the other side of the creek, a secluded area where tenting is the only option.

Secluded area

It is too windy to do music outside, so I edit for Ang for awhile and play viola before making dinner for us to share with Rollie.

Odd clouds, pretty colors

Chiricahua National Monument – Winter Journey – March 2018

Monday March 5: Today Clifford, Rollie, Ninja, and I go for an outing to Chiricahua National Monument in the Chiricahua Mountains to the west of the Dragoon Mountains where we are camped. I make thermoses of tea and coffee and get a picnic together for us. Then off we go.

It is about an hour’s drive from our camp to the Visitors’ Center. Very nice place with good displays, maps, books, and gifts.

A little stream flows by the Chiricahua Visitors’ Center

Then we drive the scenic road to Massai Point Nature Trail where there is a loop hike. Sure wish we could stop to get photos of the interesting rock formations on the way, but there aren’t many marked pull-outs.

Hard to catch photos from the window while cruising along the highway
Interesting rock formations line the highway from the Visitors’ Center to Massai Point

At Massai Point, we park and hike the scenic trail at a leisurely pace, Rollie and I both taking lots of photos. The rock formations here were created by a volcanic activity 25 million years ago. Over 2,000 feet of ash-flow covered the landscape and erosion carved out what we see now.

Rock formations seen from the Massai Point Nature Trail
Looking across the Arizona desert basin, we can see in the distance the Dragoon Mountains where we are camped
Rock formations seen from the Massai Point Nature Trail
Rock formations seen from the Massai Point Nature Trail
Canyons and rock formations created by millions of years of geological activity, including volcanoes, erosion, and plate tectonic movement
Massai Point Nature Trail
Rollie views the canyons beyond; Ninja had to wait in the car, as dogs are not allowed on the trail
Massai Point Nature Trail
Balanced rock seen from Massai Trail – close-up
Balanced rock seen from Massai Trail
Clifford on the Massai Point Nature Trail – reading brochure on the Chiricahau National Monument
Rollie on the edge

After this hike, we head back down the road and pull in at the campground, curious to see it now under different circumstances than when we were here about 15 years ago after driving over the Chiricahua Mountains in late December, pushing snow with the bumper of our 2-wheel drive S10. That was one of the dumbest (and scariest) things we’ve ever done.

Today is mild, mostly sunny, but windy, and the campground is quite full. We find a spot to pull over to placate the photographer (me),

View of rock formations from campground in Chiricahua National Monument

and then continue on down the road past the Visitors’ Center to the Faraway Ranch, so names as it was so far away from any other civilization.  There is a picnic area at the ranch and it is less windy at the lower elevations. We find a table in the sunshine and have our picnic before exploring the Faraway Ranch homestead.

Faraway Ranch so named because it was so far away from any other civilization
Brief Faraway Ranch background information
The land that became the Faraway Ranch

We missed the tour, but walk about and read the kiosks. It is interesting to contemplate what life was like for the people who were the first settlers of this land; not the first residents, as those Native Americans were being pushed onto reservations by this time. One can admire the courage and tenacity of the settlers, but one should not overlook the travesty of justice in regard to the Native Americans who lived on this land for centuries before.

Once the land of the Apaches

Back at camp I send cell pics to family and do some editing. Tonight we have a simple dinner of soup, cheese, and crackers, and then I play cribbage with Rollie before downloading my camera photos. Always fun to look at the photos after a day’s outing.

The March Lamb – Winter Journey – March 2018

Thursday March 1: March comes in as a lamb with a beautiful blue sky and it is relatively calm most of the day.

Blue sky and calm this morning. View from the campsite

When the sun warms things up, I play viola outside for the first time.

First time the viola gets to play outside

In the afternoon as Rollie and I play music outside together, the neighbor, Toby, comes over with a banjo and joins us in a few bluegrass pieces. Although he is not primarily a bluegrass musician, he is very talented and has a good voice, and sings/plays a few old blues pieces for us. It certainly is fun to have him play with us. Instead of running into Sunsites to the post office as planned, I make another campfire so music outdoors can continue.

Friday March 2: Another beautiful blue-sky morning.

Another blue-sky day

It seems a shame to have to run to Sunsites/Pearce for errands, but we have things to take care of – like post office and getting a few groceries.

Later, back at camp, Rollie and I walk down the road so I can show him a century plant. Lots of yucca and sotol around, fewer century plants close by. While we are out walking, we see a pickup/camper rig that is attempting to turn around on the other branch of road into the dispersed area, one that is not suitable for trailers. As we watch, the driver makes some very radical moves that no doubt left some scratches and dents. A bit scary seeing how some people drive their rigs – they really don’t know what they are doing!

Saturday March 3: A gorgeous morning, but windy in the afternoon. Today I am doing a photo shoot with Jimi, the host at Cochise Campground. Her uniform has arrived, so she is able to look official for the photos.

Jimi, Cochise campground host, is official in her uniform

We take the trail up to the pictographs for some of the photos and hike the loop around the Nature Trail, as well as going a ways up the Cochise Trail.

Jimi points out features of the pictographs

Between cell and camera, I have an assortment of photos of her daily activities as camp host. Back at camp, I edit the photos and put the best on a flash drive for her. These will be used for brochures and such as she sees fit.

After preparing the photo files for Jimi, I play cribbage with Rollie before making breakfast burritos for dinner for all of us. It is too windy to make a campfire or play music outside, so just do the evening routine after dinner cleanup and head to bed a bit earlier.

Monday March 4: This morning Clifford and I walk through the campground and follow a trail out to another road that heads up to the foothills of the mountain.

Walking a trail toward the foothills of the Dragoon Mountains

We also do a short hike up my favorite trail. I’m glad Clifford gets to see some of the places I have enjoyed during our stay here.

Later, Rollie and I drive up to the campground so I can give Jimi the flash drive with the photos from yesterday.

Acorn woodpecker, resident of Cochise Stronghold Campground in the Dragoon Mountains

While we are there, we look at the photo books she has made of her first and second years of hosting here and at Sunny Flats in the Chiricahua Mountains to the west. Her photo books are interesting and an inspiration to me to try one of my own.

After we get back to camp, Rollie and I join Toby for music, and since it is windy, we go down into the arroyo where it is calm, but shady and cool.

Toby and Rollie playing bluegrass in the arroyo

We play until we get too cold, and then head back to the campers to make dinner.

Snow Day at Cochise – Winter Journey – February 2018

Tuesday February 27: I have tea with Rollie while Clifford does the Early Bird ham radio net. Later Rollie and I go for a walk through the campground and down the road. Becka calls – not a good day for her, as her school had a 3-hour lock-down today because of a shooting threat, not to be taken lightly after the recent school shooting in nearby Florida. After we get back from our walk, Rollie and I do music together with Clifford as our audience.

Katie calls: big hassle with my car – it is buried in snow, but needs to be moved, and there is a mix up with the registration – a DMV error that happened when we registered the Suburban last spring. It gets straightened out, but only with time (Katie’s) and expense (mine). I wanted my car to be in Montana/Idaho for my use when I am there, but it seems to be an inconvenience for whoever is babysitting it. But at least her calling about it gives us time to chat about other things and catch up on the news.

Wednesday February 28: The rain in the very early morning hours turns to snow; it is blustery and wintry when I get up.

View from the camper door

I dig out my long wool coat, which I haven’t had to use in a very long time, and go for a walkabout to take photos of the snow.

Walkabout in the falling snow
Snowy road through the campground

Now, for most of the country, having snow in February is no big deal and everyone is tired of winter. However, this is the first snow I’ve seen in almost a year and I’m very excited about it.

Snow on Yucca

So, bundled up, I walk through the campground and revel in the beauty of falling and newly fallen snow.

Surrounding mountains almost lost to the falling snow
Continuing down the road
View to the east – no sunrise to be seen

After brunch with Clifford, I go about again, as the sky has opened up; a blue sky and sunshine on the snow are in complete contrast to the blustery morning.

The sky opens up
Snow on yucca
Patterns created by snow on scrub oak
Snowy yucca trios

Snowy yucca

Back at the camper, I play viola and write in the journal until Clifford starts a podcast with our webmaster. Since he needs quiet, I go play cribbage with Rollie at his camper and later we do music. The snow has melted away, but I’m happy to have been here to see it, to walk in it, to take photos of it.

It was fun while it lasted