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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday February 22nd – We pack up this morning, as we are heading back to Joshua Tree NP; driving south through the park it is the shortest route to get us back to Tucson. Looking at the calendar and the atlas, we make travel plans so as to camp in the park and have a day for exploration. We find out at the entrance gate that finding a spot could be an issue, as several campgrounds are small with a 16’ limit. Luckily, the first campground on our route is Belle with an available campsite even though the sign says FULL. We pull into the spot,
but before we set up, we walk around the campground. Many of the sites are quite close together, so we are more than happy with our lucky find.
After we get set up, I walk out through the Joshua trees to the hills, which are giant boulder piles.
I find a nifty little arch, so go back to our campsite to get Clifford so he can see it, also.
After looking at the arch, we walk to another rock hill and find a vantage point from which to watch the setting sun.
Because of the wind, we go inside once we get back to camp and do our usual evening things, grateful for the opportunity to be here.
Thursday February 23rd– Super windy and cold, but beautiful blue sky this morning.
Today was meant to be our exploration day, but it is so cold and windy that we don’t leave until early afternoon. We plan to just drive around, but not do any hiking. However, when we get to the Skull Rock turnout, the sun has warmed the air enough that we do go for a hike.
Then we drive through Jumbo Rocks Campground, as it is the largest campground in the northern part of the park. The landscape is interesting, but the campsites are small and really really close together – designed for friendly people camping in tents, I guess.
At Hidden Valley, we find a pretty spot in the picnic area, but it is so windy that we end up sitting in the car to eat.
Then on to the trailhead and do the mile hike in Hidden Valley, which is a nearly-hidden lush desert valley where cattle rustlers used to hide their stolen cattle.
The tall hills that surround this valley are big piles of boulders, for the most part, and we can see where a creek sometimes runs through the valley bottom. We are protected from the wind here and warmed by the sun. What a great hike!
Back at camp we have dinner and do our usual evening activities.
Even though we are leaving in the morning, there isn’t really much to pack up this evening, as it was such a short stay. It is so pretty and unique here, I would love to stay longer, but Tucson is waiting.
Sunday February 19th – We are grateful for the stay at the Walmart parking lot during the rain, but today we pack up and head back to the BLM area north of Joshua Tree. This time we go in on a better road and find a spot that is higher ground with some gravel. I am still not thrilled with it, but it is better than the first spot. It is not as trashy, so easier to clean up around our spot, and there is a creosote bush – something green and alive.
I make a firepit by digging a shallow wide hole in the sand. Becka calls and while we talk, I walk down the road to the nearest houses, trying to figure out which house she and Mike lived in. My quiet-time today is a late afternoon walk, picking up trash across the desert and salvaging what I can for a campfire.
My request to Higher Self: rather than being discontent when a great campsite is not available, be content and joyful no matter where we end up parking.
Monday February 20th – Coolish morning, perfect for a campfire in the sand firepit.
The neighbor, John, comes over, as he is interested in our solar panel. We visit a bit, and he will come back later to talk to Clifford. I make a pot of tea and write in my journal before getting on with the day. Sunny, so laptop is charged and I am able to do some editing today.
Play cello outside for a bit, but the wind comes up, so the session is short-lived. I cannot deal with the stand blowing over and music spilling all over.
Later John comes over again to talk to Clifford. They have a good conversation, as he is also a scientist and they have similar veins of knowledge and experience. Although this BLM land is not that scenic to me, at least I feel peaceful being here.
Tuesday February 21st– Beautiful sunrise and I am doing my job per the birthday poem by Mary Oliver: I stand still, being astonished, loving the world, and feeling more connection to this rather barren land.
I make a campfire and John comes over to visit and enjoy the campfire with me.
Today Clifford and I have to make another trip to Yucca Valley, this time to get propane and water in preparation for our moving on. We go the Joshua Tree Saloon for lunch – Becka’s recommendation –and I browse the sweet gift shop next door, buying a few small gifts there.
We go to the post office and pick all the mail that has been sent to us: our mail from a Wallace, a Quartzfest T-shirt for Clifford, and a backup battery for my laptop. Back at camp, John comes over with his son to talk to Clifford. I want to play cello, but again it is too windy.
Later, as the sun sets, the wind dies down – too late for cello, but I have a little campfire and sit out to write in the journal before going in to begin sorting six-weeks worth of mail.
Wednesday, February 15th – We are up at 8:15 a.m. CT (Clifford Time, which is actually 6:15 a.m. in California – just so you know we are not slouches), packed, hooked up, and ready to leave by 11:15 a.m. I say good-bye to our desert home at Cottonwood Springs Campground and we are on our way.
We head north through the Joshua Tree National Park, passing by the Cholla Garden once again, and into new landscapes.
The land becomes even more boulder-strewn and the first Joshua trees appear.
Arriving at 29 Palms, we head west to the town of Joshua Tree. On the north side of town, there is an ancient now-dry lake bed that is a BLM dispersed camping area. Once we arrive, we pull off the rather narrow dirt road to set up camp. It is very barren land and I am not thrilled with it…. so different than the lush desert where we have been the past two week. There is only one type of shrub growing here, something that looks dead, across the entire expanse of desert. Not even any creosote, which seem to grow everywhere in the desert. We get set up and then head to town to check out the post office.
Back at camp, I play cello – this is a good place for it – no neighbors near enough to be disturbed by my somewhat rusty playing. We have cell service here, so are able to check email and do texts without having to drive anywhere. So those are the good things about being here. It is interesting that my daughter Becka lived right near here and could look out on this desert from her backyard.
Thursday February 16th – Some clouds and a little breeze this morning. Harder to find a place that seems right for a morning quiet-time walk. There is plenty of desert here, but it is not inviting to me. Although not close, there are RV’s in every direction, nothing seems to be alive, and trash everywhere. I pick up trash in ever-widening circles around our campsite, but there are also no dumpsters, so we are stuck with whatever I pick up.
Today we go to Yucca Valley, about 10 or 12 miles from where we are camped, as we need supplies and the town of Joshua Tree is too small for shopping.
Back at camp, I play cello a bit. There is a forecast for heavy rain in parts of California, so I put everything that is outside under a tarp. I am a bit uneasy about what I am hearing about this rain, as it could be a lot. However, Clifford is not concerned, so here we are – even though he had to use the come-along to help a couple of fellows get unstuck from the mud just across the basin from us. Hmmm…….
Friday, February 17th – It is 31 degrees this morning, cloudy, and very windy.
A local guy on a 4-wheeler comes by to warn us, and others, about staying if the rain develops as forecast. This dry lake bed will become a bog. He has had the experience of seeing people stuck out here for a month. Well, being stuck for a couple days is one thing, but being stuck for a month is something else. So we pack up and head to the Walmart at Yucca Valley to hang out until the rain passes. This gives us the opportunity to get a bit more shopping done, use a bathroom with flush toilets, and take care of internet business, since cell reception is good here. In the cold and blustery wind, we walk to the Panda Express for dinner, which will save cooking and cleanup in our modified parking lot set up. There is rain in the evening and during the night, along with high winds. I am relieved to be here where we know we will not get stuck in the mud.
Saturday, February 18th – Light rain off and on all day. Doesn’t seem like as much rain came in as forecast, but better safe than sorry. Our bathroom is leaking through the light fixture, so obviously there was enough rain and wind to cause a bit of damage and leakage. I do only a limited amount of editing, as we cannot set up our solar panels to charge the laptop while we are here; there is no sunshine, anyway.
It is while we are here that our friend Dan in Tucson sends a cell pic of a 1999 Suburban that he thinks we might be interested in. It is for sale for a reasonable price and from talking to the owner, it seems that it has been well taken care of and is in good condition. So, after talking about it, we decide that we will return to Tucson to see and drive it. We have to stay in this area for a few more days to get mail that has been sent general delivery to Joshua Tree. We will move back out to the desert tomorrow, but plans are made to begin the trip back to Tucson.
Sunday, February 12th – I am up before sunrise again today, which I enjoy, as a stroll in the desert in the quiet of the morning is a great way to start the day.
Today Clifford rewires the solar panel so it can be either on or off the controller. At one point, he thinks he has fried the controller, but luckily a fuse prevented damage. Whew! Next project is hooking up the new backup camera to the back end of Terry (our camper) and installing the monitor in the Blazer. I help with both of these projects, which takes up a large chunk of the day. Later we journey down to Bajada, as Clifford has a business call and I walk about taking photos, as usual, and send a few more texts.
Too windy for cello today – darn.
In the evening, I write the blog to go with the photos edited last night, so I will be ready for the next internet outing.
Monday, February 13th – I walk about the desert for my quiet morning time, trying to capture starbursts… and sometimes they work.
Back at camp, I sit outside to write in my journal until the wind drives me in. I do a lot of editing today, since being outside isn’t so fun with the wind. Clifford is focused on his radio gear, getting things to work as they should and making contacts all over the world. In the evening we go down to Bajada to take care of business. Clifford needs to stay current on emails regarding his non-profit and he has another business call; I post a blog, take care of my emails, and do a quick check of FB.
By time we get back to camp, it is too late fix a real dinner. Clifford heats up a can of soup; I have a smoothie, followed by yogurt and fruit for both of us – our usual bedtime snack.
Tuesday February 14th– It is cloudy and calm this morning as I do my desert walk and this morning I go all the way to the arroyo at the base of the rock hills, and there I find a patch of ocotillo in bloom. What a treat that is! Wish I had explored here sooner, as this is quite a lovely place.
Back at camp, Clifford sees the Valentine card I left for him, and he makes breakfast for both of us. We sit outside to eat and I write in my journal, until the wind, which has now come up, drives us inside. I spend much of the afternoon editing and then hike in the afternoon, in spite of the wind. My plan was to hike toward Cottonwood Springs and where the trail crosses the arroyo, head back up the arroyo to where I found the ocotillo patch this morning. When I get to the arroyo crossing, I am not sure which branch to take to get me to the right ravine. I’m not worried about getting lost, but I am concerned about missing my way and not getting to the ocotillo patch before shadows overtake them. I try going along a ridge-top instead, until I come to a narrow spot that would be foolhardy to try since I don’t have my hiking sticks with me. Instead, I backtrack and then cut across to where I know where I am. After taking a few photos and making a short cell video, I go back at camp and talk Clifford in going to the arroyo with me to see the ocotillo in bloom. We also explore a few places along the arroyo where springs must have been, as there are willows and other non-desert plants tucked in here and there.
Back at camp, I organize the Blazer and begin packing up what I can, as tomorrow is moving day. I would stay longer if we could; the desert here has been quite a delight to me.
Saturday February 11th – I am up in time for a pretty sunrise and find great delight in walking about catching silhouettes of yucca and creosote bushes with the sunrise colors as the backdrop.
Behind me to the west, as the sunrise fades, the moon is just setting.
I sit outside and write in my journal until Clifford is up. Then we drive down the road to the Bajada Nature Trail to check email before heading to the nearby village of Chiriaco for a late lunch, part of the extended birthday celebration. Clifford buys me a pretty pair of earrings and a pint of local honey, which was very sweet! Sometime, either coming or going, I post another blog and get a couple of texts sent off.
Great cumulus clouds have built up during the day
and by evening, the sunrise is especially spectacular.
After sunset as the evening coolness comes on, I make a campfire, which I haven’t done often on this journey because of the wind. After the fire dies down, we go inside for dinner – a cup of soup – since we had a big late lunch. Into the later evening, I edit photos, losing track of time and going to bed at midnight, which is way late for me.
It was a very pretty day with good fun activities.
Friday February 10th – we are going on an outing to the Salton Sea for my birthday. It is the first birthday without my mom to share the experience with me, which is sad for me, but other than that, I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to have Clifford as my spouse, to be in a good place where I find beauty every day.
Our trip to the Salton Sea is south from Joshua Tree National Park, where we are camped, through the hills to the lake. The road meanders through badland canyons, not climbing as much as I thought it might in seeing it from Joshua Tree NP.
We smell the Salton Sea before we see it. It is an “accidental” sea caused by flooding of the Colorado River in the early 1900’s and would have been a fine lake except for agricultural practices, including the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that run into this body of water and have no way out. It is quite a desolate “sea,” being way too salty due to this agricultural run-off, killing many species of fish. Very little vegetation grows along the shore and a murky sky adds to the sense of desolation.
We visit the Visitors’ Center and learn about the Salton Sea and then have a picnic at a sheltered table a ways from the beach.
After our picnic, we walk down to the shore. The beach is made of shells, not sand, and the carcasses of thousands of fish line the shore, causing the stink we smell.
This place is an environmental disaster, largely unknown. Programs have been planned to improve the situation, but California does not seem to have the money required to implement and enforce these needed changes.
Although there is not much vegetation, one shrub seems to be thriving in spite of the conditions and is blooming abundantly. Sweet-smelling clusters of tiny pink blossoms are attracting lots of honey bees, the one encouraging sign of life here.
We spend a few minutes with the shrubs, enjoying their sweetness.
Then we drive down the road along the Salton Sea and check out a couple of primitive campgrounds. Although there is a nice campground at the Visitors’ Center, I would be reluctant to stay in either of the primitive sites, let alone pay money to do so.
We head back to Cottonwood Springs campground, stopping a couple times to check out the possibility of primitive camping here in the canyons. Definitely a possibility, should the occasion and need arise.
We make a brief stop at Bajada Nature Trail where I take a few photos while Clifford checks his email.
And then on to home-sweet-home at Cottonwood Springs Campground.
A dear friend called, leaving a voice message with a poem by Mary Oliver, which includes the line “My works is loving the world,” which I am doing. Some days it is easier than others, but it is the work that I do and that I share with my photos.
Monday February 6th is cloudy and windy, so it is an inside day and I get book work done, papers put away, bills paid, more postcards written, and cards written to donors to CI. In the afternoon I walk about through both loops of the campground to stretch my legs and get some good fresh air. In the late afternoon, in spite of the wind, I take a few photos; can’t resist the backlight behind the chollas.
I start reviewing an edited chapter of Ang’s book, but run out of laptop battery and have to skip several other projects that require the laptop. Sure wish we had a way to keep my laptop running even on the cloudy days.
Tuesday February 7this a very windy day and overcast. Clifford has business calls this morning, so we head to Bajada first thing. My laptop was not able to be charged, but I take care of a couple of emails and do a little research with the tablet regarding places to camp. After Clifford’s calls, we go to the little town of Chiriaco for brunch. There is a little post office in the antique store next to the cafe where I mail my cards and postcards, then browse in the antique store. While Clifford goes to the Patton Museum (interesting that there is a good big museum in such a small town), I sit in the car and write in my journal. I tried sitting at a picnic table, but it was way too windy.
Back at camp, I do more editing, as my laptop charged a little while we were gone. Clifford does Clifford stuff. It was a good day to spend taking care of business that might otherwise stay on a back burner.
Wednesday February 8this a town day and we head to Indio for errands, including the laundromat and the post office to pick up the new backup camera. I take care of some texts and emails from my phone as we drive back to camp, since there is good cell coverage along the interstate. Back at camp, we both take a nap, which I seldom do, but got up in time to take photos at sunset.
Later we both sit out, enjoying the mildness of the evening.
Thursday February 9th I make a campfire this morning and have some quiet time sitting out writing in the journal. After breakfast, I do editing for both authors so as to keep both books moving along. Not too windy, so take the cello out and play for awhile, still feeling rusty and noticing a soreness in my right shoulder that makes bowing feel less than graceful. Ah well. Ride my bike around the campground loop – I mean, since Clifford bought this nice little bike for me, I should ride it once it awhile.
In the afternoon I want to hike to Cottonwood Springs, now that we know where it really is. Clifford is working with his biochemical analyzer and doesn’t want to go, so I go by myself, making a big deal about it with the right clothes, the right shoes, carrying water and snacks (even though it is only a half mile away), a hat so I don’t burn my face, hiking sticks, and 2-meter ham radio. And cameras, of course, and cell phone for cell pics to send to family on the spot. It is a nice outing and the photos are better today with partial blue sky rather than the blah overcast of the previous trip here.
After dinner, I reorganize my clothes, which have become a jumble and finish putting away the clean clothes from yesterday’s trip to the laundromat. Clifford has already gone to bed by time I finish up. Wow, the days go by so fast!
Saturday February 4th is a beautiful blue sky day. We make a trip to the Bajada Nature Trail this morning to get cell coverage, as I need to download a document that I will be editing for a new author. I send a couple of completed chapters off to the other authors.
Back at camp, I play cello outside, first time in quite awhile. I feel a bit rusty, but am glad for a day warm and calm enough to do it.
While Clifford works with his radios and then does some experiments with his portable biochemical analyzer, I write a few postcards and a couple of Valentine cards and do a first pass on the document.
In the later afternoon, we hike to the rock hills to the east of us. It was fun, but I should have brought my hiking sticks, as hiking up into the boulder-strewn mountain was a bit challenging in spots.
We hike down a different way and come across what appears to be a stone fence. Wonder if that can possibly be a natural formation, but if it is man-made, how old is it?
As the sun sets, I walk about the desert, taking a few photos of this remarkable place.
Sunday February 5th is overcast and breezy. I complete the edits for the new author and write a blog/photos about our camping at Buckeye Recreation Area, and then we head down to Bajada Nature Trail so I can email the document and post the blog. Becka calls, so I chat with her and walk the trail while Clifford takes care of his email and a call or two. On our way back to camp, we stop briefly at the Visitors’ Center for more post cards and then drive out to the Cottonwood Springs trailhead parking lot. This oasis is much more impressive than the spot we hiked to from our campsite. Massive fan palms grow here and an even taller cottonwoods are nestled in and protected by the great palms.
We hike a ways beyond on the trail that goes to Mastodon Peak, but decide not to hike all the way to Mastodon Peak today. Instead, we go back out to Pinto Basin Road and drive north through the park until we arrive at the Cholla Garden – acres and acres of cholla growing to the exclusion of almost every other plant.
The conditions of soil and moisture and temperature are perfect for them here. It is really quite an interesting sight. It would be more dramatic at sunrise or sunset, but sometimes you have to take what you get!
We are back in time for one photo of a pastel sunset.
Wednesday, February 1st, is moving day. We are leaving La Paz, the BLM camping area a little south of Quartzsite, Arizona, and heading to Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. It takes us 2½ hours from the time we get up until we are ready to roll, including showers, a light breakfast, tea, packing, and hitching up. I remember the days with the pop-up when it would take three to four hours just for the packing and getting ready to hitch up. So much easier now!
We arrive at the Cottonwood Springs Visitors’ Center and campground near the southern entrance to the park in the early afternoon and find a spot on the outside of loop B. The sites are quite close together and it takes some wrangling to get Terry off the road and into place. She sits literally on the edge of the pavement on the side facing the picnic table and only a foot or two off the road on the other side. I am a bit dismayed at being so close to the road. However, there are water spigots, clean restrooms, and dumpsters at this campground – and we have a great clear view of the desert and the rocky hills beyond.
We pay our camping fee for the week and make the short trip to the Visitors’ Center for brochures, maps, and postcards. Back at camp, we sit outside enjoying the scenic view.
Thursday is a town day and we are headed to Indio to get set up for general delivery at the post office and to run errands. The smog and the jet trails are horrendous in this valley, almost a white-out. The great mountain beyond can scarcely be seen. I am so glad when all the errands are done and we are back at our campsite.
In the afternoon we hike to Cottonwood Springs, as there is a trail that leaves from our campground. At a wide wash, we head north toward a group of very tall tees we could see as we were walking along. The tall trees are eucalyptus, the cottonwood trees are old and dead, and there is one enormous fan palm tree.
The trail doesn’t seem well-defined, which seems surprising, since this is supposed to be a popular attraction. Later, looking at the postcards, the postcard of Cottonwood Springs doesn’t seem to match and we decide we somehow had veered from the trail and ended up somewhere else, which means we still get to look forward to Cottonwood Springs.
Friday morning Clifford woke up at 5:00 a.m., and since he is still on Mountain Daylight time, that means it is really 3:00 a.m. here. He is talkative, considering moving north in a week since the air quality is bad in this part of the state. I am unable to go back to sleep, so get up and make tea for us and write in my journal. After a couple hours, we go back to bed and get in a couple more hours of sleep.
There is no cell service here and my laptop needs charging, so I explore the desert, take photos, and write in my journal.
In the afternoon we head to the Bajada Nature Trail at the southern boundary of the park, as we can get cell service there. While Clifford is on a business call, I walk the nature trail, chatting with daughter Becka on the phone and taking photos of desert plants.
Before we head back to camp, Clifford and I walk the nature trail together; interesting how different the light is now.
Back at camp, while Clifford naps, I do some editing since my laptop charged while we were gone. We sit outside at dusk, enjoying the desert ambiance. After dinner, he works with his ham radios and I continue editing until time for me to get ready for bed. Even though we are close to the road, this is a quiet place and we are happy to be here.