Marooned at Cochise Stronghold – March 2019

Wednesday March 13: Very windy and overcast this morning in the Dragoon Mountains of southeast Arizona.

View to the east from Cochise Stronghold dispersed camping area

I feel bad for the folks in tents with all the rain, and especially the family who packed up their tent last night, but couldn’t get out as the creek crossing was impassible, and spent the night in their car. They did make it out this morning, but an RVer who watched them said that it was real iffy. The young fellow in the maroon van parked near the van ladies leaves but comes back shortly. Rollie goes out to get propane and he makes it through the crossing with his little 4-wheel drive S10, but on his way back, the fellows from Santa Fe with their big Ford F350 are stuck in the crossing. Luckily, he is able to pull them out. We later heard that the Forest Service guys coming out to check on things got stuck there also. Our musician neighbors, Jerry and Sonja, stay inside their little camper much of the day. Later, Rollie and I walk down to the creek crossing closest to the dispersed camping area, usually a mere inch or less across the road, but we can’t even get across without getting quite wet – and this is not even the main creek crossing.

The creek below the usually shallow crossing

Other than the disruption caused by the high water, our day proceeds with the usual activities of study, editing, blog writing, email, and so on. Rollie comes over for dinner – chicken and rice – and I win a game of cribbage before doing dishes.

Staying cozy in Cougar: basil, sprouts, kombucha, and tea in the corner

Thursday March 14: I go out first thing this morning to get photos of the light on the mountain moments before the sun rises and the color fades.

Golden light before it begins to fade

Rollie drives himself and me to the main crossing to see how high the water is. It is quite high, though not quite as high as when the Santa Fe guys got stuck. We meet more of the neighbors throughout the dispersed area who are walking or driving out to check on the crossing, including the fellow in the maroon van. We chat with him a bit and after awhile he decides to see if he can make it out. We wish him good luck and off he goes. The van ladies, Beth and Sally, had planned to leave today, but when I show them photos of the crossing, they decide to stay another day. I also show the photos to Jerry and Sonja, and they also decide to stay. Crossing with so much water could cause damage to rigs or vans, so almost everyone in the dispersed stays put and we don’t see any traffic to or from the campground further up the road.

Creek crossing – not as high as yesterday
Barricades moved aside by brave or foolish travelers

In the afternoon, it is warm enough that Rollie and I play music outside with our neighbors, Jerry and Sonja. The van ladies come over, as does a friendly guy camped in a van and a guy on a bicycle. Clifford is outside playing his dulcimer, but puts it aside to be a part of the blue-grass audience. We really have quite a good time, having more musicians and an audience. Being marooned and getting to know people has been interesting.

Later, Rollie fixes Beth’s Mr. Buddy heater. Rollie is really a great camping companion, having saved our hide a time or two. Editing, journal, and posting a blog fill in the rest of the day. I fix tacos for dinner and lose the cribbage game. It was a fun day getting to know people a bit more and playing music with the neighbors. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet up with them again sometime.

Last Days at Cochise Stronghold – March 2019

Friday March 15: Lots of people are leaving Cochise Stronghold today, as the creek is down enough to be safe. The van ladies and the musician neighbors are among those who are leaving. I will miss them.

Clifford and I work on some CI projects, taking care of email and writing a fund-raising campaign for the book project — the story behind Carnicom Institute. Tacos for dinner again and lose at cribbage again and do dishes again. After running the generator awhile, my laptop can be used and I edit photos for the next blog, a good ending for the day.

Saturday March 16: After breakfast, Rollie and I take our trash up to the campground and visit my camp host friend, Jimi.

Cochise Stronghold is at the base of that mountain

When Rollie and I get back to our camping area, Clifford and I run into the little town of Sunsites, only to discover that the post office and the little market are closed. We are able to take care of a couple things, but mostly it was a waste of time going in. The fun part of the outing was going to Marcia’s Garden again to buy a couple more items. It is a tiny, but delightful shop and I enjoy spending a few minutes there.

Marcia’s Garden

Nachos for dinner tonight and my turn to win at cribbage. After dishes, I post a blog of our camping in Capitol Reef in October.

Sunday March 17: I am up in time to take photos of the golden light and then walk down in the ravine to see if the water is still flowing… and it is.

Golden first light
Water still flowing in the ravine

After breakfast I drive up to the campground to talk to Jimi, as we had tentatively planned on a hike today. However, Clifford and I have to pack, as today is our last day at Cochise Stronghold and hiking isn’t fitting in well. In the afternoon, Rollie and I play music and have a campfire. Dinner is a little of this and that, as left-overs need to be used up before we leave. Cochise Stronghold has been a great stay, but it is time for us to move on.

Waterfalls in Cochise Stronghold – March 2019

Tuesday March 12: The rain that started yesterday evening here in the Dragoon Mountains of southeast Arizona continued throughout the night and into this morning. From where we are camped in the Cochise Stronghold dispersed area, I can hear the waterfalls roaring off the mountainside. I run outside first thing to take photos of this phenomenon. While I am taking photos, I see Sally, one of the van lady neighbors, also taking photos and I show her a different vantage point. While we both take photos of the amazing waterfalls, we strike up a conversation. She is about my age and has recently begun the nomad life in her van, but she has had great independence of thought and action as a sailing captain.

The waterfall phenomenon
Waterfall – a closer view

After coffee, journal writing, breakfast, and new kombucha tea, I go out to take photos of the creek, which before the rain was a dry wash, but I can’t find a spot that I like. As I’m poking around for a better view of the creek, I end up near the “gnome home” spot and find the water running off and through the boulders to be quite interesting.

Going on, I slowly make my way up the mountain until I am right at the largest waterfall. Some young guy is there, also, and as I’m heading up and he’s heading down, he offers to take my photo by the waterfall. Okay, good – proof that I actually made it this far up the mountain. I find a different route down to avoid wet sliprock faces.

Back at camp, I tend to the usual business of posting a blog, checking email, doing some agent research, and other such stuff. Later, Rollie and I go for a wet walk through the campground and talk to the group of guys from Santa Fe who are camped not far away. They tell us that the water is high at the creek crossing between us and the outside world. Camp host friend, Jimi, was going to come visit us today, but the creek crossing between us and the campground further up the road is also high. We are all sort of marooned at our various locations.

Cochise Stronghold dispersed area

In the afternoon, Rollie and I play bluegrass in his rig – a nice-size motorhome with room to invite the van ladies, Sally and Beth, over to listen. Later we have nachos for dinner, I lose a game of cribbage, and finish out the day writing in the journal.

Cochise Stronghold Days – March 2019

Friday March 8: After breakfast we go to Pearce/Sunsites, the nearest town to Cochise Stronghold where Clifford and I are camped in the dispersed area. Several errands: post office to pick up mail, the Farmer’s Market, the little grocery store for local honey, and Marcia’s Garden where I buy lotions made from goats’ milk and essential oils. A shopping trip to Marcia’s Garden is on my priority list when we are in this area and I buy enough for the coming year.

Marcia’s Garden

Back at camp, we take care of calls, emails, texts, and editing, some of which are related to Carnicom Institute business. I finally start a new Facebook account, as FB has not responded to any of my attempts to access the account I’ve had for years, which was messed up when my phone “died” last month. I’m not too pleased about the situation, but I still want to share photos and blogs of our travels, as well as stay in touch with family, real friends, and photo group friends. In the meantime, I’ve gotten further behind with posting blogs, and now I’m starting over without recovering many of my previous friends and followers.

Saturday March 9: Beautiful light on the mountain, but frozen fingers at 27 degrees this morning.

Rock cliff face beautiful golden from the early morning light

We sort the mail that we picked up yesterday, I send texts to family and friends, and take care of other domestic chores. My brother Rollie and I walk down the other branch of the dispersed area. The road is really bad, but high clearance vehicles are able to get in and there are a couple of people camped in that area. Nice walk, as it has warmed up to mid-60’s.

Creek crossing on the walk

Back at camp, Rollie and I play bluegrass music, inviting the neighbor with the banjo to join us. Also invite some folks walking down the road to join us – just to listen. Clifford is always an appreciative audience, but it is fun to have others play and listen, also. The muffins that are baking turn out great, so we share fresh hot muffins with the neighbors, along with the music.

Chicken for dinner, but no cribbage tonight, as Rollie is figuring out his travel plans for visiting our cousins who have moved to Dallas.

Sunday March 10: This morning I start a campfire and Rollie joints me. When it gets warm enough, he gets out the mandolin and plays while I write in my journal. Later I meet the van neighbor and we visit with the neighbors that Clifford and I met the first day. Kind of interesting that we are all from or have lived in Montana and are familiar with the same places.

Campfire in the morning

After lunch Clifford and I take care of CI email and I post a blog from September travels. We have breakfast burritos for dinner, and Rollie and I play a game of cribbage before I get the dishes done.

Monday March 11: Mostly sunny this morning, and Rollie and I go for a walk down the road through the dispersed camping area and up a bit of a trail.

Back at camp it is warm enough to play music outside in the shade of the trees at our campsite. We meet the ladies, Beth and Sally, camped in vans near Rollie’s rig when they come over to listen. They are not planning on staying long, but fun to meet them.

Sunshine and shade before clouds move in

By afternoon it has clouded up considerably; by time dinner and cribbage are over, it is raining. After dinner I send the blog of September travels to “new friends” on FB to get former friends to recognize the “new” me. I do hope taking the time to post blogs on FB adds something interesting to someone’s day.

Rain moving in

Cochise Stronghold – Arizona – March 2019

Sunday March 3: Packing up is easy this morning, as we didn’t unpack much while here at the SKP RV Park in Benson, Arizona. Our destination today is Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains of southeast Arizona.

Approaching Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains

We are surprised when we get there to find that the dispersed camping area is full. Since we know the area, we are able to find a rather hidden spot to back into, once a road along the ravine, now mostly overgrown. It takes considerable wrangling to get in fairly level with room for the antenna and the slide out. Once we are in place, with the awning out, the table and chairs in a sandy area behind, lanterns hung up, and some of the tall dead grass cut back with scissors, the place looks quite homey and comfortable.

I go say “Hi” to the neighbors, as they were kind enough to offer to share their large space, which we declined. They are musicians, so maybe we will get together for a jam session one of these days.

In the evening I play viola while Clifford has a call with his brothers. Dinner is late, just soup and sandwiches, as I don’t feel much like cooking and cleaning this late in the day. I write in the journal while he plays dulcimer, a nice way to end the day.

Monday March 4: I am delighted to see the gold morning light, which only lasts a few minutes, on the Dragoon Mountains. This rocky section of the mountains is known as Cochise Stronghold, as it is here that the Chiricahua Apache chief, Cochise, managed to evade US soldiers for a number of years.

Morning light turns the rocky mountainside golden
Our tucked in spot in the morning light

This morning I walk the length of the dispersed camping area, both for exercise and to see what’s available for my brother Rollie when he gets here. There isn’t much available this morning, so we’ll see how it looks later. Back at camp, after breakfast, I make coffee and sit outside with Clifford while he plays his dulcimer.

In the afternoon I drive to the regular campground a couple miles up the road to visit my camp host friend, Jimi. We have a nice visit and plan for a hike later in the week. During the afternoon, a large party leaves the dispersed area, so there is a good big spot for Rollie when he gets here.

Rollie and his rig

Once he is set up, I invite him over for dinner. After dinner, I barely win a game of cribbage and then play viola before tackling the dishes. Too late to write in journal tonight.

Tuesday March 5: Down to 34 degrees this morning, a bit on the cool side, but not nearly as cold as the -16 degrees that our siblings are experiencing in Montana.

Today is a camp day, building a fire pit, playing bluegrass music with Rollie and the neighbors, sending texts with photos to family and friends, domestic chores, and in general enjoying being retired.

Making kombucha tea

Wednesday March 6: As soon as I get up, I go walking, taking photos of the great morning light on the stone mountain behind us.

Cougar at Cochise Stronghold

Today is a day of taking care of email, texts, phone calls, and trying to get a response from FB to reestablish my connection to my account. Clifford has a couple of business calls and works with his radios. Getting antennas just right seems to be an ongoing issue. It has gotten warm, 78 degrees, so we are able to do many of our activities outside. In the afternoon Rollie and I play music with our neighbors.

Our backyard – artistic rendition

Dinner, cribbage, dishes, and journal wrap up the day for me. Clifford, as usual, stays up later listening to his ham radio.

A Very Cholla & Saguaro Day – February 2019

Saturday February 16: It is a cool, breezy, mostly overcast day here in Cacti Forest northwest of Tucson. Whenever the sun breaks through, the cacti are illuminated and I run outside to get a photo or two before the next cloud takes over. Later in the day I walk east to the cattle tank, taking more photos, surprised at how chilly it is.

Cholla and Saguaro dominate the landscape

Luckily, the afternoon sun on the solar panels is enough to get the batteries charged and, therefore, my laptop charged. I work on projects, including downloading and organizing photos from the cameras, since I don’t have a cell phone at this point. Clifford keeps busy with his projects, also. In the evening, I play viola for a bit and Clifford plays his dulcimer while I do dinner dishes. This has been a very peaceful and productive day for both of us.

Sunset at Cacti Forest

More Cacti Forest – February 2019

Thursday February 14: I am up too late for sunrise color, but make coffee and get ready to go walking. Since I am walking in a place that I am not familiar with, I take a radio for communication and the knife my son Tye made for me. First I walk north, keeping an eye on the tallest saguaros. The thick growth of cacti is very disorienting and within minutes I could have been totally lost. It is certainly much different than walking in La Posa South where I walked in the desert every day, never losing my sense of direction. I continue walking, keeping a close watch on the tall saguaros, until I arrive at a large wash with lots of animal tracks in the sand.

Walking north

I have no desire to attempt to cross the wash, so make my way back to camp and then, crossing the road, I walk south, a gradual downhill with fewer saguaros to use as landmarks and more cholla… and javelina tracks…. so I don’t go all the way to the thicket ahead.

Walking south
Cholla in the forest

Back on the road and walking west, I go beyond the point where Clifford and I had walked together when first looking for a spot to camp. The cattle tank and the highway are to the east, so I skip that for now.

Walking west

Back at camp, we open our mutual Valentine Day card and then I make smoothies for breakfast. I stay busy with email, writing blogs, editing, and playing viola while Clifford works on his projects.

Afternoon in the Forest with clouds moving in

In the evening it starts to rain and we have a chance to try out our collapsible water-collection buckets, filling them all with rain water.

Friday February 15: The morning is overcast with mist and drizzle; temperatures are in the 50’s all day.

Morning mist in the desert

In connection with his research, Clifford is making contact with a lab in Phoenix today. The drive with all the traffic and the rain is stressful and I have to remind myself to breathe easy. Once we arrive at the lab on the far side of Phoenix, Clifford talks to a lab technician there and comes away with an idea for the next step of this aspect of the research.

Heading back to our campsite, we decide to stop at Cracker Barrel in Casa Grande, south of Phoenix, and after lunch we take my defunct cell phone to a Verizon store. It is verified that it did not get wet, but just died, and a replacement will be sent to me. That is good news!

Back at camp, we sit out in our little “patio” area and relax before I make nachos for dinner. The day was a bit stressful, so having this quiet forest is especially appreciated.

Relaxing on the “patio”
Quiet evening in Cacti Forest

A Word About Quartzsite – February 2019

Tuesday Feb 5: Real clouds and chilly wind this morning. I make coffee by candlelight and lanterns this morning, then head out for a walk in the desert. I find a place to sit and write in the journal, but the wind is too chilly to stay out long.

Morning in the desert
Ocotillo in bloom
A nice place to sit

Back at camp, after making smoothies for Clifford and myself, I get the journal caught up, take care of emails, send query submissions for Princes & Priests, send photos/texts to siblings and kids, hearing back that Montana is being hammered with blizzards. We have an early dinner, then go to Quartzsite for the Hardshell Harmony bluegrass concert, which was fun. Then back to camp and soon to bed.

Wednesday Feb 6: Chilly morning, only 38 degrees. I go for a walk in the desert, but don’t take time to journal there as we are headed to Parker today.

Sunrise in the desert
The sunflowers have made their appearance

The spaghetti special at the Blue Water casino at Parker, Arizona, about 30 miles north, is a big draw for Clifford. At Walmart we get groceries and I find the perfect backpack for my trip to Atlanta. I will be flying there later this month to visit Becka.

Thursday Feb 7: It is 30 degrees outdoors when I get up and not much warmer inside. When I light the stove and turn on the furnace, the propane goes out and I don’t get it switched to the other tank in time. With fussing around trying to get heat going, I miss the morning walk at sunrise, but go for a walk a little later. I end up in the wrong wash and disturb the camper up the wash from us by alarming his dog when I get too close. Oh well, no damage done.

A new color in the desert

It is after I get back that Clifford has a severe gall stone attack, which is quite alarming. Ultrasound helps and after he rests, he and my brother Rollie work on installing a Mr. Buddy heater for auxiliary heat. Once everything is in place, we discover that the hose that was purchased is the wrong type. We try Mr. Buddy out with a small propane bottle, finding it to be warm and quiet. We have a light dinner, but Clifford doesn’t eat much, as he is not feeling very well. We both go to bed early.

Friday Feb 8: It is even chillier this morning, 29 degrees outside. I don’t go for a sunrise walk, as I want to see how Clifford is doing when he gets up. Not better, not worse, so I go for a longer walk, taking photos of sunflowers and the desert rose (that is not a rose), and stopping at the topknot saguaro sitting spot for journal and coffee. My son Matt calls, so I chat with him as I walk back to camp.

“Rose” that is not a rose

Today we go to Quartzsite for a different hose for Mr. Buddy. Then on the way back to camp, we stop at the Tyson Wells market to buy t-shirts — 3/$10, finding that they are of good quality and well worth the money. Back at camp, we discover that we still wrong hose for Mr. Buddy, so we will have to go back again, but not today.

A word about Quartzsite: The town of Quartzsite, Arizona, at the crossroads of I-10 and US highway 95 has a resident population of less than 2,000 people, with infrastructure accordingly. However, during the winter months, especially January and February with the Gem Show and the RV Show, there are a million visitors, most of whom are camped in RVs in the BLM land surrounding Quartzsite. Take a grocery market for a town of 2,000 and expect it to handle the million visitors – you get an idea of how well that works. Same with the post office. There aren’t that many eateries in Quartzsite, considering the influx of visitors, but Silly Al’s Pizza, if you don’t mind the wait, is the best pizza ever with great service. Most of the town, as it is seen driving through or from above on I-10, is one giant flea market, with row upon row of white canopies housing every sort of merchandise imaginable. During the RV Show, the BIG TENT is set up, with hundreds of vendors selling their wares, while in the outdoor parking area hundreds of RVs are for sale. This year we did visit the BIG TENT during the last days of the RV Show (mentioned in a previous blog), and this week we went to one section of the flea market conglomeration known as Tyson Wells, mentioned above. Later we found out that there are booths that sell marked down canned and dry goods at a great price. One just has to get to know the place.

To me, Quartzsite and the surrounding BLM land seem like going to another country, not a 3rd world country with poverty and disease, but a way of life different than any other place I’ve been. Even though many of the motorhomes seen in the desert are valued at several hundred thousand dollars, the life-style is more down-to-earth. People sit out in lawn chairs watching the sunset, sand under their feet and a light breeze cooling the warmth of the afternoon, same as the folks in the simple 20’ camper trailer next to them. It seems to be understood that we are each and all merely sojourners in this land.

Carnicom Brothers – February 2019

Most mornings I walk in the desert at sunrise, as I love the quiet ambiance and the glow of first light.

More flowers are blooming, which is quite delightful.

The short saguaro family

It is during these early days of February that the Carnicom Brothers Reunion is held in Parker, Arizona, about 30 miles north of Quartzsite. We first all meet in Quartzsite at Silly Al’s pizza, as brothers Jim and Frank arrive from California, and brother Gene with his wife Clare arrive from Texas. Clifford and I are close at hand, being camped at LaPosa South, just a few miles south of Quartzsite. We are seated at a big hexagonal table and have the best pizza ever, as well as really good service.

Carnicom brothers gather: Clifford, Frank, Jim, Gene and his wife Clare

The next day, we all gather at the motel in Parker where Gene and Clare are staying, and set up in a small lobby area to watch the Superbowl, with big screen, snacks and all. I am not too interested in the Superbowl, but I am really liking the power and free wifi – downloading photos from the “cloud” and preparing blogs. It is fun to see all the brothers, and I especially enjoy having time to visit with Clare during the couple of days of the gathering.

Frank, Jim, Clifford

Another big deal is that my daughter, Becka, has purchased a ticket for me to fly to Atlanta later this month to visit her there for the first time. That is very exciting and plans are made for a fun visit.

Besides the desert walks and the gathering of the brothers, the other usual activities continue: ham radio, dulcimer, and CI projects for Clifford; editing, blog writing, meals and domestic chores for me. Rollie and I do music most days, outside when we can, and he joins Clifford and me for dinner and a game of cribbage every evening.

I catch the sunset when I can.

Sunset in the desert

Last Days of January at La Posa South – January 2019

Although I think calling one day January and the next day February is artificial, merely a construct for the convenience of convention, like calling one mile Utah and the next mile Arizona when really the flow is continuous …. this blog is called Last Days of January. Usually blogs are based on the number of photos I want to share, not a certain set of days, but today I will honor “January,” and this blog will wrap up January 2019.

Waiting for sunrise

Almost every morning, I walk in the desert at sunrise and the day I got up too late, Clifford and I went over to Rollie’s place for a morning campfire.

Walking in the desert at sunrise
The sun peeks through
Morning in the desert

Every day I write in my journal, sometimes taking it with me on the morning walks, sometimes writing when I get back, sometimes finding a spare moment during the day. My favorite is taking it with me on the morning walks and finding a place to sit and write in the desert. And I visit “rose” on my way back to camp.

Journal writing in the desert
Good morning “Rose”

Almost every day I work on projects that involve the laptop: editing books, blog writing/posting, editing photos, agent research, and this week I completed and emailed nearly a dozen agent queries for Ang’s novel Princes and Priests. It’s all good and fine as long as the sun shines and the cell signal is strong enough for the hotspot to work.

Some days I walk in the desert at mid-day, most especially to visit the “rose ” that is not a rose, as I am able to see the tiny blossoms open at mid-day. I think it is actually some desert variety of globe mallow. And I find other little flowers along the way.

Almost every day Rollie and I play music with Clifford as our audience, although this week our sessions were short because Rollie has injured his shoulder. Every day Clifford works with his ham radios, plays his dulcimer, and works on CI projects.

The two things that are different this week: we go to the RV Show, which is a BIG deal in Quartzsite, drawing thousands of people, but it is winding down now and isn’t too crowded. We have time to walk the aisles of the Big Tent. Rollie gets a couple of things for himself, I buy a pair of silver-looking earrings, Clifford purchases a flag pole to use as part of his antenna set up. There are hundreds of vendors with a lot of interesting and useful stuff here and it is fun to look.

The other not-so-fun thing this week is that, after telling Clifford and Rollie how much I love taking photos with my cell phone, I am having problems accessing the photos and editing them. Big bummer. Online research does not come up with answers, but then the phone starts working again. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it was just a fluke and continue taking photos.

Every evening I make dinner for the three of us, Rollie and I play cribbage, and then I do dishes.

Sunset in the desert

Almost every evening I go to bed later than I really think I should, but there is so much I want to do, I squeeze in whatever I can.