Cactus Forest – January 2020

Sunday January 12: There is a little frost on the outdoor tables this morning at Cactus Forest BLM dispersed camping area where Clifford and I are camped, having arrived yesterday afternoon. This area is northwest of Tucson at the Red Rock exit and about 10 miles off I-10. It is a unique area due to the density and variety of cacti that grow here, truly a forest of cacti. Not the best place for little kids, dogs, or big rigs, but for us, one of our best finds.

I take photos at sunrise, but soon hustle back inside to warm up.

Cactus Forest at sunrise
Cougar in the forest at sunrise
Cactus Forest Morning
Cholla in the early morning

Later, when it warms up, I walk the road, surprised at the number of people camped here, as it is hard to see other campsites due to the dense growth.

Cactus Forest with Picacho Peak in the background

We play our instruments outside, work on various other projects (ham radio for Clifford; editing and blog-writing for me), and I finish reading Old Lady on the Trail. This has been an interesting book to read, since Clifford and I did a fair amount of backpacking when I was in my 60’s, but not anything like Mary Davison.

The evening sunset provides the opportunity for the classic saguaro-in-the-desert-at-sunset photos.

Saguaro in the desert at sunset

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.

Last Days at Elephant Butte – January 2020

Sunday January 5 to Wednesday January 8: The days go sweetly by as we tend to our projects: dulcimer and ham radio for Clifford; walkabouts for photos, writing blogs, editing, playing viola for me. We are really enjoying our spot on the bluff overlooking Elephant Butte New Mexico State Park where we are camped.

Sunrise at Elephant Butte State Park
Morning saunter along Elephant Butte Lake
Sunlight on growth along the shore
Elephant Butte State Park
A wintertime bush at Elephant Butte State Park

We make a couple of trips to Truth or Consequences, once to get updates on my laptop and another day to run errands in preparation for leaving Thursday. It has been a good stay, but it is time for us to head to Arizona.

Yucca pods
Elephant Butte State Park

One More Outing – November 2019

Wednesday November 20th, the day after our return from the Colorado trip, it rains all day, and by Thursday, the rain has turned to snow, but not a lot of snow, just icy.

Rain all day and the birds come for seed

By Saturday, with a sunny sky and warmer temperatures (43 degrees), we decide to explore boondocking spots past the Wind Whistle Campground where we stayed on our way back to Monticello in October. It is too chilly to sit out for a picnic, so we have our picnic in the car, but we happy to be out and finding new places to camp.

Exploring in the Canyon Rim Recreation Area
Snowy LaSal peaks seem to float above the valley

On Monday, we make a trip to Blanding, where I ace my Utah driver’s test. Stopping briefly at Recapture Reservoir on the way home, I take photos of the reservoir with the snowy Abajo Mountains in the background

Recapture Reservoir with snowy Abajo Mountains in the background

Walking to the post office on Tuesday is darn chilly, with a high of 28 degrees and a stiff wind. I’m eager to mail the San Juan calendar to family, as two of my photos were chosen as insets to the main pages.

A cold day for walking

Thursday, Thanksgiving, I send photo greeting to family and friends via text and messenger. Dinner is a little fancier than usual, but not the huge production that it was when I had a family at home. Light snow falls all day.

The photo used for Thanksgiving greetings

Snow continues on Friday. We drive to the market for a few groceries and the Merc for more birdseed. I enjoy watching the birds through the sliding glass doors and the birds are glad to have the seed. In addition to the usual juncos, sparrows, and finches, there is a flock of red-wing blackbirds. Even the ravens come to the yard and when they drop down, everyone else leaves.

At first light, the birds start coming, mostly the redwind blackbirds here
Ravens are King

This past week has been focused on pre-travel preparations, cleaning and reorganizing inside Cougar, paperwork, and preparing house and yard to be left for the winter. In addition to travel preparation, I’m also focused on writing blogs and editing for three authors, trying to get as much done as I can while internet and power are readily available. Although Clifford’s ear has bothered him a lot, he continues with his projects and his packing for the winter journey.

Happy to have a warm home on these chilly days

And thus ends November 2019.

Last Days at Seeley Lake – September 2019

September 10 & 11 are our last days at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana. We’ve certainly enjoyed our beautiful and peaceful spot here, but we have to move on so we can see family and friends before we head back to home-base in southeast Utah.

The great trees at our campsite

On one of these days we visit a friend who lives in the valley. He sure knows about good food and we have a superb lunch. It is a really good visit.

An outing up the valley

On the way back to our campsite at Seeley Lake, we explore another lake and at a pullout alongside the highway, I have only one minute to take photos as the last light of the setting sun is reflecting off the water.

Reflection of the setting sun

The next day, I have a campfire in the morning, my last chance here.

Coffee and journal at the campfire

During the day, I spend as much time as possible at the lake. I love seeing how the light changes the look of the lake and the mountains.

Midday at Seeley Lake

It is also a good day to play our instruments outdoors.

Afternoon light begins to color the clouds
Evening light across the lake

In the evening, we pack up as much as we can so as to get an early start in the morning.

Lakes and More Lakes – September 2019

Saturday September 7: It is a cloudy drizzly morning here at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana where Clifford and I are camping, having arrived just a couple of days ago.

Campsite at Seeley Lake Campground

I make coffee and then walk to the lake, taking the trail past the beach and along the shore to the woods. I have my journal and sit on the bench that overlooks the lake, but is too drizzly to write, so I just read a poem by Mary Oliver and listen to a morning meditation on my cell. It is a nice peaceful way to start the day.

Trail along the lake to the woods
My favorite bench

By time I get back to our campsite, Clifford is up and we have breakfast. Today we need to go to Seeley Lake (town) to pick up our mail, so we decide to take the opportunity to explore a bit, going first to Lake Placid, discovering some dispersed camping spots on the way to this lovely mountain lake, and then taking the loop back to Seeley Lake.

Creek crossing on Lake Placid Road
Lake Placid
Lake Placid

The only problem is that what is on the map and what is on the ground don’t relate much and we end up at a place called Hidden Lake. It is an okay place for tent camping, but we wouldn’t try bringing Cougar here.

Hidden Lake

The road back to Seeley Lake is sketchy and we are not even 100% certain we are on the right road until we reach the outskirts of town. We pick up a few groceries at the market, then head back to camp. I play viola while Clifford naps, and later, after dinner, he plays dulcimer while I get the next photo/travel blog ready to post. It certainly was a fun day!

Arrival at Seeley Lake – September 2019

Thursday September 5, Clifford and I leave our campground at Swan Lake Recreation Area in northwest Montana, heading south on Highway 83 through the lovely Seeley-Swan Valley. Great mountains rise up on either side of this valley, the Mission Range to the west and the Swan Range to the east. Our destination is the Seeley Lake Campground, about 60 miles down the valley from Swan Lake.

Mission Range in the Seeley-Swan Valley

We arrive before noon with numerous sites to choose from, although the three sites right along the lake are taken. We decide to look more closely at the loop where we have not previously camped, as the level sites were always taken. However, this morning, this loop is open and we pick a really great spot, level and spacious, with tall western larch and Douglas fir, and a view of the meadow.

A great spot at Seeley Lake Campground

Although I loved our spot at Swan Lake and thought nothing would compare to it, this spot at Seeley Lake, being more natural and wild is every bit as inviting to me. As soon as we are set up, I explore the lake closest to this loop, which happens to be where the water lilies flourish.

Seeley Lake

Friday morning is overcast with a drizzle, which doesn’t keep me from walking down to the lake for photos.

Drizzly morning at Seeley Lake
Drizzle turns to rain

As the drizzle becomes a steady rain, it turns out to be a good day for inside activities. Clifford works with his ham radios and I edit my daughter Ang’s novel Regent’s Way and write blogs. Cougar is cozy and we are comfortable.

A good day for indoor activities, cozy in Cougar

Last Days at Swan Lake – September 2019

Clifford and I close out August and begin September at Swan Lake Recreation Area where we have been camped for two weeks.

A favorite spot at the Swan Lake day-use area

One day we make a trip to Bigfork to the laundromat and a stop at Harvest Foods Market, which is a way bigger and better store than any other Harvest Foods I have ever seen.

Sign at the laundromat

On our way back to our campground, we go exploring. We find our down to Swan River where three young women are putting in kayaks to float the river. They ask me to take photos, which I do, of course.

Women on Swan River

Then on we go to a fishing access, which turns out to be a small lake in the mountains, Horseshoe Lake. The water is kind of murky along the shoreline, but there are turtles on the logs, which are fun to see, and the reflections on the water make it quite a pretty place.

Horseshoe Lake

Another day, since we will soon be leaving the area, we go to Bigfork again, this time to check out the brewery, having a local on-tap beer with our lunch, sitting out on the outdoor patio overlooking Flathead Lake. This is quite the lark for us, since we seldom eat out and seldom have beer. But it was fun!

View of Flathead Lake from patio at the brewery

The other days at the campsite are full of our usual activities: research, dulcimer, flying, and ham radio for Clifford; walkabouts, photos, blogs, editing, journal writing, and viola for me. Soon it will be time to move on, but for the moment, we are enjoying the peaceful beauty of this campground and nearby Swan Lake.

Sunset at Swan Lake

Fun with Family Days – July 2019

Wednesday July 17: This morning my brother Rollie and his little dog Ninja come out to the Bass Creek Recreation Area (Charles Waters Campground) in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana where Clifford and I are camped, as of yesterday afternoon. After he arrives and gets his motor home set up, he takes me to our sister’s place where my car has been stored all winter. All we are doing is getting the battery out to trade in on a new one. I say all, as I stand and watch as he wrestles with the tight space and the difficulties of getting the battery out.

Back at camp, we get out our instruments to play some bluegrass music. I’ve gotten better with playing fiddle tunes on the viola, so it is a lot of fun to get together. For dinner, we sit at the picnic table at our site, and I almost get skunked at cribbage.

Getting the instruments out

Thursday July 18: Clifford and I make a trip into Missoula to get a new battery for my car and we go to Barnes & Nobles for our bookstore fix. Back at camp, Rollie and I play music again, dinner at the picnic table again, and I lose at cribbage again. LOL

Friday July 19: Rollie puts the new battery in my car, so now I have wheels. In the evening, several of my siblings and their spouses come to our campsite for a potluck dinner. So fun to chat with all of them, and I am so busy talking and eating that I don’t take enough photos!

The guys at the family potluck

Saturday July 20: Today is Alberton Railroad Days, a money-raiser for the town of Alberton, Montana. My daughter, Ang, is the president of the non-profit that puts on this event. Vendors, music, a parade, an Antique Auto show, and a shoot-out are among the activities. Rollie and I play bluegrass music as our contribution. After he and I play for our allotted time, he goes off to play with the Old Time Fiddlers, while I join up with another daughter, Merri, to look for the Golden Spike, which has been hidden with tricky clues to its whereabouts. No one finds the Golden Spike, so the pot will be bigger next year. It is late by time Rollie and I return to camp at Bass Creek.

Merri and I look for the Golden Spike

Sunday July 21: Today good friends come to visit. Ken and I have been friends since we were in 7th grade orchestra together. Ken, his sweet wife, Shelley Anne, and I hike up the Bass Creek Trail to a lovely calm section below a waterfall. It is so enjoyable to spent time together, having known each other for many decades.

Monday July 22: Today Rollie and I drive out to see our sister, Lillian, who lives not far from where our dad grew up, and about fifteen miles from where we are camped. We have lunch on the patio, appreciating the time together. While Lillian and I do some of my mending, Rollie plays fiddle tunes for us on his mandolin.

Lillian Carol Rollie
Lillian’s daisies

Back at camp, our sister, Nancy, comes out and we hike up the trail, enjoying the sounds of the creek tumbling alongside us. Back at camp, while I make nachos for dinner for all of us, Rollie and Nancy play their mandolins. What fun family days!

Bass Creek tumbles alongside the trail

Diamond to Southern Idaho – July 2019

Sunday July 14: As soon as we get up, I make tea and coffee for the thermoses. After yogurt and fruit for breakfast, we pack up the little that needs packing – we weren’t here long enough to really unpack much. Everything is in place and we are ready to leave Diamond Campground, south of Spanish Forks, Utah, by 9:00 a.m. This was such a beautiful spot, I am sad to leave.

Packed and ready to leave Diamond Campground, south of Spanish Forks, Utah
Leaving the campground toward Highway 6

Heading north on Highway 6, we soon enter I-15 and everything is good until we get to Provo. Without warning, we enter a construction area where the lanes narrow and curve this way and that, and the speed limit does not slow traffic down nearly enough. We are nearly side-swiped by a semi trying to come alongside, but he pulls back and we make it through okay. After miles and miles of fast-paced traffic, it is such a relief when we finally make it through the Salt Lake City complex.

We stop for lunch at Tremonton, Utah, then continue on north, still on I-15 until we reach the Devils Creek Reservoir, north of Malad City in southern Idaho.

Southern Idaho landscape north of Malad City

We pull off to check out boondocking here, and driving past the marina and the RV park, we find a fishing access at the far end of the reservoir. We park here and while Clifford naps, I walk down to the reservoir to take a few photos. The water is low, but the hills are very green for this time of year. I talk to a nice family of grandparents, parents, and kids playing and fishing at the water’s edge.

Devils Creek Reservoir

Clifford is refreshed from his nap and we continue on.

Heading north on I-15

A big thunderstorm near Pocatello, Idaho, cools the air from upper 90’s to mid 70’s, but once we are out of the storm, the temperature climbs again.

Thunderstorm near Pocatello, Idaho
The landscape changes as we near Idaho Falls
Beneath the sagebrush are glimpses of great lava fields

We are grateful to arrive at the Idaho Falls Walmart and find a spot to park along the edge of the lot where there is strip of grass, a few trees, and thistles blooming on the ridge above. We stock up on supplies and sundries at Walmart, then walk to the nearby Panda express for dinner.

Thistles bloom at the edge

Back at Cougar, we sit outside to enjoy the lovely sunset and the pleasant coolness of the evening, chatting as we watch the moon play hide ‘n seek with the clouds.

Great sunset seen from Idaho Falls Walmart parking lot

A hiss gives us but a second warning before the sprinkler system comes on. Our backsides are soaked by water hitting us full-blast as we dash inside, rescuing cell phones and books as we go.

It is not a restful night, as each time the sprinkler comes on, the water hitting the side of Cougar is deafening. There is also a lot of traffic, lights, and city noise – but it is convenient and free.