Cactus Forest Days – Arizona – January 2020

Monday January 13: One reason Clifford and I decided to camp at Cactus Forest, northwest of Tucson, is that, besides liking this unique dispersed camping area,

….it is near enough to Tucson to have our “big city” day. The most fun stops are Bookman’s and Trader Joe’s, but other necessary errands and shopping fill the day.


Driving out of Tucson at rush hour is NOT fun, but dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Marana on our way back to camp is enjoyable. Returning to camp long after dark, we unload groceries and soon head to bed.

Tuesday January 14: I am up in time for photos at sunrise, always a good start to my day.

Sunrise at Cactus Forest

It is great to have a day just to hang out here, especially having the time as well as pleasant enough temperatures for Clifford to play dulcimer outside while I play cello. I’ve also had fun playing around with the Snapseed app on my phone.

Playing with Snapseed

Daughter Becka calls and explains the recent “cow game” photo she sent, which was the result of an older couple hitting a black cow as they were driving down the mountain and nearly hitting Becka and her friend, who were driving the other way. Becka and her friend called 911 and helped the older couple until police arrived. Thankfully, everyone was okay.

Later, I walk down the road for photos at sunset, enjoying the ambiance of this desert forest.

Nearby Picacho Peak – Painterly (not Snapseed)

After dinner, I do a blog and then write in the journal before heading to bed, a good way to close the day.

Arizona Here We Come – January 2020

Thursday January 9: Clifford and I have enjoyed our stay at Elephant Butte New Mexico State Park, but today is moving day and we are heading further south. Although our destination is Quartzsite, Arizona, we will only go as far as Lordsburg, New Mexico, today.

It is a chilly 27 degrees as we pack up and the drive is windy, south on I-25 and east on I-10, all the way to Lordsburg. After stopping for gas, we make our way to Veterans Park on the outskirts of town. Clifford discovered this place by doing some research and it proves to be a good spot to spend the night. Hardly anyone is here this time of the year and we are able to pick a spot along a row of picnic tables and small bushes. We park and level, happy to be off the highway and out of the wind.

I mostly read the rest of the evening, but step out for a nice shot of the sunset.

Sunset from Lordsburg, New Mexico

Clifford is focused on music for the dulcimer. The wind picks up in the night and there is a bit of rain.

Friday January 10: Due to the wind, we decide to stay here at Veterans Park today. I walk out to the gate in the morning and plan to walk about later when it is warmer, but it is too windy and I stay inside Cougar the rest of the day. Thanks to cell service here, we are both able to continue with projects.

Veterans Park

Saturday January 11: It was a chilly 22 degrees overnight here at Lordsburg, but calm this morning.

After a quick breakfast and making tea for the thermoses, we are on our way, east on I-10, grateful for the calmer day.

Mountains of southeast Arizona ahead
Arizona, here we are
Rocky landscape of southeast Arizona

As we approach Tucson, the desert basin is a sea of water and mud flats, which is something we’ve never seen before on our travels through this area. Driving through Tucson on a Saturday morning is a good move and we get through the city without any problem.

At Red Rock, we turn off I-10 and take the frontage road to the county road that leads to Cactus Forest, the BLM dispersed camping area where we will be staying for a couple days.

Cactus Forest

When we arrive, most of the sites big enough for RV’s are taken, but the one we camped in last year is available. We pull in and get set up almost exactly where we were a year ago.

Cougar in Cactus Forest

It is like visiting old friends as we recognize various cacti that we became acquainted with when we were here before.

Old friends

What fun to be here again.

San Rafael Swells, Utah – October 2019

Monday October 7 – Clifford and I have enjoyed our time at Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada, but it is time for us to continue the journey to home-base in eastern Utah.

I only have time for a couple photos before we get packed up and begin today’s travels, leaving the park at 9:30 a.m.

Last morning at Great Basin National Park
Grey Cliffs

Today our destination is the San Rafael Swells west of Green River, Utah. We travel highway 50 to Delta, Utah, and then zig-zag through prairie and canyon country of western Utah to I-70. We continue east, traversing the ups and downs and curves of the mountains and canyons of central Utah.

Western Utah from Highway 50
Western Utah from Highway 50
Zig-sagging through western Utah
Western Utah from Highway 50
Western Utah from Highway 50
Sevier Lake in western Utah, the remnant of a prehistoric lake
Western Utah from Highway 50
Western Utah from Highway 50
Autumn colors in central Utah
I-70 – Central Utah Canyon Country
Central Utah Canyon Country
Central Utah Canyon Country
Central Utah Canyon Country

I take a lot of photos, but hard to get good shots from the moving vehicle. I’ll have a lot to sort through.

It is a long day of travel for us, about 250 miles, and we are ever so glad to reach the BLM land at the San Rafael Swells, I-70 exit 131. We explored this area several years ago, so know that we can find a place to spend the night. We pull off the San Rafael Road at the first level turnout and do a minimal set up, as we will leaving in the morning.

San Rafael Swells BLM

We have soup and toasted cheese sandwiches for an easy dinner, and are treated to a beautiful sunset before the day ends.

Sunset color begins
New Mexico sunset from San Rafael Swells

Nevada Here We Come – October 2019

Wednesday October 2: Clifford and I are leaving Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho this morning. We have been camped here for the last several days as we waited out the storm that descended on the northwest, but today looks like a good day to travel.

It is 26 degrees as I hike up the trail to the lava knoll and take a few photos at sunrise.

Lava knoll
Trail to Lava Knoll
Craters of the Moon at sunrise
Good-bye to campsite blossoms

Then we pack up and are on the road by 11:30, traveling US highway 93 through miles and miles of lava fields, which give way to farmland. After stopping for supplies and gas in Twin Falls, Idaho, we continue south into the more rugged Nevada landscape.

Our destination is Great Basin National Park, but today we are planning on stopping in Nevada at a wayside stop that we see on the map near Jackpot, Nevada. However, when we get there, we don’t see it, so we continue on, not knowing where we are going to spend the night. Eventually snow-clad mountains make an appearance in the distance.

Rugged Nevada landscape
Mountains in the distance

We watch for other wayside pull-outs and find a good one just before Wells, Nevada. We park and level Cougar, with a small stand of junipers making a buffer between us and the highway. We are pleased to find this relatively quiet and scenic place to spend the night. We even have cell service!

Wayside pull-out near Wells, Nevada
Scenic landscape

Heading West – July to August 2019

Monday July 29: After Clifford and I leave the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival venue in the Bitterroot Valley, we head to Missoula for multiple errands, including new tires for Cougar at Les Schwab, and then spend the night in the Bretz RV & Marine parking lot. We bought Cougar here exactly a year ago, so it’s kind of a fitting one-year celebration.

My car, which I only use during the months in Montana, is making a nasty sound when I use the brakes, so we take it to Les Schwab on Tuesday for an inspection, and as we expected, new brakes are a priority for safety. They can do the work tomorrow morning if I am there before opening, so we spend another night at Bretz.

Wednesday July 31: I set the alarm, make coffee, and leave for Les Schwab, arriving before opening and being the first person in line. It is a good thing I am armed with cell and journal and an AARP magazine to read, as it is three hours later when my car is finally ready.

Clifford and I leave Bretz by noon and meet my daughter Ang in Alberton, thirty miles west of Missoula. It is great to have a bit of time to visit with her and we share a really good pizza before continuing west to Quartzflat Campground, another twenty miles to the west. This is a very convenient stop for travelers along the I-90 corridor, right at the exit to the rest area. We are spending the night here and we make our way to the back loop furthest from the highway and overlooking the Clark Fork River below.

Overnight at Quartzflat
Evening at Quartzflat

Thursday August 1: This morning we leave Quartzflat and continue another ten miles west to the Sloway exit. This is the first time we have camped here, and we pick the more open loop with pull-through spots, more convenient for setting up and also easy access to the Clark Fork River.

The Clark Fork River in western Montana
Camping at Sloway
Easy access to the river from our campsite

Shortly after arriving, my daughter Becka calls; she and her sister Katie and Katie’s boys are at St. Regis, only five miles further west, and they are coming here for a picnic. What a fun fun fun surprise! I am delighted to see my daughters and grandsons. We have a great potluck picnic, mostly yummy stuff that the girls brought, as we sit at a picnic table right near the river. What a happy start to camping here at Sloway.

Picnic with five of my most favorite people in the world
Afternoon light on the Clark Fork River

The rest of the day, I explore and take photos, and then finish edits to Ang’s second trilogy, Emperors and Exiles, (a good read for those who love epic fantasy), while Clifford sets up his ham radios and delves in to flying software.

Montana We Are Here – July 2019

Monday July 15: Today is a long day of driving as we leave southern Idaho and cross into Montana, traveling north on I-15, arriving at Divide Bridge Campground in the mid-afternoon.

Southwest Montana

This is a lovely BLM campground in a very scenic area alongside the Big Hole River, just a few miles from the little town of Divide, Montana. The campground is well-maintained with lawns and flowers on one loop, and left more natural on the other loop. Clean restrooms and good water are much appreciated.

We are happy to have arrived early enough to get a spot by the Big Hole River, in fact it is the spot we had the very first time we stayed here. It is not so hot here as it has been thus far on the trip, a pleasant relief. The mosquitoes aren’t too bad when we first arrive, so once we are set up, we sit outside for awhile, happy to be here with time to relax this afternoon.

Enjoying Divide Bridge Campground

When it starts to rain, the mosquitoes become problematic, so Clifford goes inside to take a nap and I walk about to take photos of the river and the flowers. Back at the campsite, since I didn’t have coffee this morning, I make a French press coffee and do some editing before starting dinner. After dinner, dishes are done, awing is in, herbs are in. We are mostly ready for leaving in the morning. We like this campground and wouldn’t mind staying longer, but we have places to go and people to see…. Family awaits in northwest Montana.

Big Hole River at Divide Bridge Campground

Checking out City of Rocks – April 2019

Friday April 5: Kind of a dark stormy looking sky when I go out this morning, creating a dramatic ambiance at City of Rocks New Mexico State Park where Clifford and I are camped.

The formation at the Visitors Center of City of Rocks State Park
Rays at sunrise turn the rocks golden

After breakfast, my brother Rollie, who just arrived yesterday, and I drive around the lava knoll, about a two mile loop. There are lots of sites tucked in here and there in the rocks around the perimeter of the loop, but not many are suitable for motor homes or even rigs as big as Cougar.

And more rocks

Clifford has an assurance that the missing penny whistle is at the Deming post office, so he and Rollie run to Deming together and I have Cougar to myself for a couple of hours. That is a rarity! I listen to CD’s as I put away groceries from yesterday’s errand day, sweep, and dance to music. When they return, Clifford finally has his penny whistle. Rollie brings his instruments over and we get set up to play bluegrass music outside. After only a couple pieces, the wind comes up, so we pack everything up and move over to Rollie’s motor home to continue playing inside out of the wind.

Rollie’s rig in the cul d sac near Clifford and me

We have a chicken dinner and then I play a game of cribbage with Rollie before taking care of dishes.

Saturday April 6: I have coffee with Rollie this morning at his rig while Clifford listens to his ham radio net. Back at our site as I’m making breakfast, the ham radio is especially static-filled, so I go out to the picnic table to eat and enjoy the sunshine.

Cougar at City of Rocks

After breakfast, Clifford and I take Rollie up to the viewpoint at the “Village,” as I call the nearby hill with the smaller cluster of lava rocks.

Going up to the “village”
Looking down at the City of Rocks
Cookes Peak to the east looking painterly from the view point

Back down at the “city,” we walk through the Botanical Garden to a much smaller outlying group of rocks.

Clifford on the trail to the outlying cluster near the Botanical Garden

Clifford suggests lunch in Silver City, which sounds like a great fun plan, so off we go, driving about 30 miles to the Adobe Cafe, our favorite restaurant in Silver City.

After we return from Silver City, I take my viola over to Rollie’s to play music. We start outside, but soon move in out of the wind. Darn wind – it is warm enough to be outside, but the wind makes it hard. It is fun to be playing music with Rollie, whether we are inside or out. As usual, Clifford is our appreciative audience and we are glad he is there.

I walk in the rocks at sunset, my favorite time to be there, along with sunrise, which is also a good time.

Walking in the rocks near sunset

Before heading to bed, I review The Four Agreements: “Don’t Take Anything Personally.” Sometimes the events in our lives feel personally hurtful, but the wisdom of The Four Agreements is worth taking to heart.

Sunset at the City of Rocks

Windy Days at City of Rocks – March 2019

Friday March 29: This morning at City of Rocks New Mexico State Park, I get up earlier than usual, still wanting to sleep, but also wanting to get photos at sunrise. Sunrise wins and out I go, taking quite a few photos, though the warm color doesn’t last long.

The warm color doesn’t last long
Artistic rendition

I walk to the Visitors Center and then around the loop as far as the Botanical Garden, taking a few photos before heading through the rocks back to our campsite.

Visit to the Botanical Garden
Trail through the rocks

Clifford and I work on fund-raising campaigns for Carnicom Institute again today and I finish editing the book proposal for an author that we know. I send a few texts with photos and check Facebook, posting photos there, but cell service is not great at City of Rocks, so don’t spend much time fussing with the net.

We have to pull in the awning because of the wind, which is strong enough to topple Clifford’s radio antenna. In fact, it is so windy I don’t even go out to take photos at sunset.

Saturday March 30: The wind continues with jet trails marring the sky; I scarcely go out for photos today.

Our front yard

We both work on fund-raising campaigns and email for CI. I send texts with photos to family, finish a blog, edit more photos, and take care of phone calls. Clifford plays his dulcimer and works on the presentation he will be giving in Santa Fe. Chicken and left-overs for dinner. Although we accomplished some stuff today, it wasn’t exactly a fun photo-opp day.

Sunday March 31: It is a chilly 34 degrees this morning, but not quite so windy as I walk down to the Visitors Center this morning. I am happy to see a good blue sky as I walk.

A good blue sky this morning
Walking in the rocks back to camp

Back at camp during my morning quiet time, I read the poem by Mary Oliver about the golden snow geese, which touches my heart, as I had that same experience at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico many years ago when snow geese were flying in right at sundown. Anyone who loves nature should read Mary Oliver’s poems. She has such a way of resonating with the soul.

Projects include another blog and working on the campaigns in preparation for the talk in Santa Fe. In the afternoon, Clifford and I both walk in the rocks, which is more fun than walking by myself.

City of Rocks State Park

It is not quite so windy, and when we get back to camp, we take a look at the awning to figure out why it has been hard to get in and out properly. We discover the side arm is jammed into the boom on one side. Once we get that fixed, we make a flow chart of the steps required to get the awning in and out, and post it on a 4 x 6 card above the door.

City of Rocks Arrival – March 2019

Wednesday March 27: Clifford and I are up a little earlier this morning, our last morning at Rock Hound New Mexico State Park. I make tea for the road, we finish packing and are on our way to City of Rocks New Mexico State Park by 9:30. It is not a long drive, as City of Rocks is only about 30 miles north of Deming, New Mexico. When we arrive, there is only one first-come first serve electric site open, and just as we are about to pull into it, some lady comes and plunks down a chair and sort of says sorry, not that she’s really sorry. She’s glad she snagged it before we did.

There aren’t a lot of sites in City of Rocks that are suitable for bigger RV’s, not that Cougar is huge, but she still needs more level ground and room for slide-out. We drive around and see a couple campsites that could work, and in the end we pick one near the “kokopelli site” where we first camped with our old Terry Resort trailer several years ago.

The kokopelli pictograph where we camped years ago

It is tricky getting backed into this site, but Clifford does an excellent job. Cougar is leveled, slide-out out, awing up, and we are tucked into the rocks with much more privacy than we would have had in the electric site. Also, there is immediate access to the rocks for hiking. So, in the end, this is a better spot for us and we are quite pleased with it.

Getting backed in
Cougar is tucked into the rocks

Once we are in place, I go for a walk in the rocks.

Looking back at our campsite
Meandering pathways

Thursday March 28: I get up earlier this morning so I can walk in the rocks at first light. Mucky haze on the horizon dampens the light, but I walk anyway, loving the meandering of the pathways through the rocks.

Big boulders reflect early morning light

This boulder pile out in the desert basin was created by a volcanic eruption from the Emory Caldera, centered near Hillsboro Peak at the southern end of the Black Range, 30 million years ago, with wind and water erosion shaping these monolithic blocks, some 40 feet tall.

Behind our campsite
Formations created from lava after a volcano 30 million years ago
One of numerous balanced rocks found at City of Rocks

In the morning we work on CI projects: emails and a fund-raising campaign. In the afternoon, I edit a book proposal for an author and Clifford continues his preparation for the talk to be given in Santa Fe in later April.

Near sundown, I go for another walk in the rocks, as the colors at the last light of day are quite spectacular.

Light from the setting sun turns the west-facing rocks golden
I am not the only one catching the setting sun
The setting of the sun at City of Rocks

After a dinner of breakfast burritos, I complete and publish a blog while Clifford watches documentaries on some of his favorite musicians. This was a very enjoyable day.

Cochise Stronghold to Rock Hound – March 2019

Monday March 18: Beautiful blue sky this morning in southeast Arizona. Kind of sad that we are leaving Cochise Stronghold where we have had a couple weeks of camping in the dispersed area, enjoying the great rocky landscape, the hiking, and playing bluegrass with neighbors who left yesterday.

Blue sky morning at Cochise Stronghold

My brother Rollie is also leaving, and I drive his S10 out of the canyon so he doesn’t have to hook it up to his motor home until we reach the straight and dry road past the creek crossings… much easier for his rig. Rollie is heading to Dallas to visit cousins; Clifford and I are heading to state parks in New Mexico.

Leaving Cochise Stronghold – looking back
Rollie hooking up S10 to Motor Home

Heading east, as we cross the deserts of Arizona and into New Mexico, there are numerous signs warning of sand storms in the area. Not too encouraging, especially since New Mexico has had severe winds recently, even blowing a train off a trestle. We are being quite cautious, watching the weather forecasts, and know today is our best chance to get across this section with only moderate winds.

One thing we are seeing as we drive are expanses of California poppies in bloom. There are not so many in New Mexico and I wasn’t able to get any good shots of the poppies from the suburban at highway speed. Oh well….

Poppies in southeast Arizona – seen from I-10
New Mexico landscape from I-10

At Deming, we go to the Dream Catcher Escapee RV Park. Dry camping is $8.50 per night and we find a spot along the outer edge by some little trees. We run errands in Deming, and then decide to forego the laundromat in favor of having a cup of tea and going to bed early.

Tuesday March 19: We don’t have much to pack up, so are on our way to Rock Hound New Mexico State Park by 10:00. There are only three electric sites left, so we take the one the host recommends, even though I would have preferred a spot on the outer loop. As it turns out, most of the spots are reservation only and within 15 minutes of our arrival, there are no spots left. We are surrounded by RV’s, but at least we have a spot. We need the electricity in order to take care of accounting, taxes, and preparations for the talk that Clifford will be giving in Santa Fe in April.

Lucky to have a spot at Rock Hound State Park

It is a beautiful blue sky day with only a light wind and, happily, I spot poppies here and there all about the campground. Hard to take photos, however, as the bright light reflects off the petals and they wave about in even the slightest breeze. I walk on the Botanical Trail, a pathway out into the desert with only a few signs to identify native vegetation, but a great view of the desert.

The desert landscape at Rock Hound State Park

I send texts and photos to my kids and siblings and hear back from several: Becka is considering a career change and Ang sends photos of the snow nearly obscuring the greenhouse, but veggies growing happily inside. At sunset, I take photos of the light reflecting off the west-facing mesa behind the campground.

Catching the sunset glow on the mesa

We have chicken, rice, quinoa, and spinach for dinner. Since we have electricity for the first time on this trip, we can charge laptops and really get some work done.