Snyder Hill Days – Winter Journey – February 2018

February 6th-12th

During our days at Snyder Hill BLM, west of Tucson, I go for a hike at sunrise every morning, around the hill and a couple of times to the top of the hill. I especially enjoy seeing the Palo Verde with their chartreuse trunks and branches and the ocotillo with their sparse desert ambiance.

Walking around Snyder Hill
Palo Verde on Snyder hill

View from the top of Snyder Hill. We are the camper right in the middle.

One day we meet our special RV friends for breakfast at a cafe we discovered on McKinney Road.  They were camped close by at Gilbert Ray campground and this cafe is on the route to their next destination. Coyote Pause is a nifty place, a lot of ambiance, good food, with a courtyard of interesting little shops and galleries. We have a good visit, getting to know each other better, and sharing stories about our travels and rock collecting adventures.

Coyote Pause for breakfast with our special RV friends
Nifty location with a courtyard and little shops
Coyote Pause: good food, good service, and good conversation with our friends

A couple days later, for my birthday, I treat Clifford to breakfast at Coyote Pause. After a very good meal, we browse through the shops in the courtyard there. An artist’s gallery is filled with beautiful artwork of all sorts and I buy a couple of small prints depicting the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. We also explore Buffalo Trader and Clifford buys me a very colorful pair of pants, light and loose, which will be great in hot weather.

Carol’s birthday

I especially enjoy the evenings when the last rays of the sun light up Snyder Hill with a warm golden glow.

Golden glow on Snyder Hill

We are greatly disappointed to learn that a wildfire in the Dragoon Mountains, which was to be our next destination, will prevent our camping there. The day before we are scheduled to leave, however, we receive word that the evacuation order will be lifted in time for us to go there as planned. Hooray!

Sunset from our campsite at Snyder Hill





Winter Journey – Kit Peak – March 2017

Saturday March 4th Saturday March 11th

We are still at Synder Hill BLM dispersed camping area west of Tucson. This week is centered around getting the Suburban ready to be our towing vehicle and Terry ready to be towed, with lots of help from our friend, Dan, who is quite the clever and helpful guy! Electric brakes, new hitch on the Suburban, new tongue hitch on Terry, repairs to the roof, and so on.

Carol and Clifford at Synder Hill BLM area west of Tucson, Arizona
Terry and Suburban at our Synder Hill BLM campsite

Highlights include: a trip to Tucson for errands and finding a new Bookman’s store, which was a great place to hang out, with good finds for both of us; editing and emailing several chapters of Princes of Purt to Ang – we are nearing the end of this book, (the next in the Novels of Shannon series by Angela MacDonald); blog writing when the laptop battery is charged; cello outside on rare calm days; calls with my daughters – always great to talk to them; and a play-day with Dan, which includes breakfast at the Three Point Cafe and a trip up the Baboquivari Mountain to the Kit Peak National Observatory, with a stop at a small farmers market on the way back to camp.

Kit Peak National Observatory – Arizona


Heading up the Baboquivari Mountain to Kit Peak – notice the observatory on the peak to the right
Another view of Baboquivari Peak
Baboquivari Peak, sacred to the Native Americans of the are, as seen from Kit Peak
Friend Dan, Carol, and Clifford at the Kit Peak Visitors’ Center

Tomorrow we will continue our journey northward, slightly retracing our previous path before heading into new territory.  It has been a good stay, but we are ready to move on.

Moonrise over Synder Hill

Winter Journey – Saguaro NP – March 2017

Wednesday March 1st is a beautiful blue-sky day. We run a couple of errands in the morning, and then drive out to the Saguaro NP, which is not far from Synder Hill where we are camped. This park is a fine example of the lushness of the Sonoran desert with its variety of vegetation, including blooming shrubs, several varieties of cholla, ocotillo in bloom, and great tall saguaro cacti. Because of the rains in the December and January, the desert is more green than usual.

Ocotillo in bloom – Saguaro NO
Majestic Saguaro – Saguaro NP

We go to the Visitors’ Center and then decide on the loop drive that will take us to Signal Hill. Signal Hill has a day use area and there is a nice hike to a rocky hilltop where there are petroglyphs. In addition to the petroglyphs at the viewing area at the top of the mound, we spot other petroglyphs on rock faces that are mostly unseen unless one happens to look in the right direction at the right time.

Petroglyphs at Signal Hill in Saguaro NP
View from Signal Hill – Saguaro NP
Petroglyphs on rock faces at Signal Hill – Saguaro NP
Petroglyphs on rock faces at Signal Hill – Saguaro NP

On the way out, we take the wrong road and miss seeing flowers that I was hoping to photograph. We plan to come again, so I hope to catch them next time.

Late afternoon sunlight at our campsite at Synder Hill.

Thursday, March 2nd – today is another beautiful day. We reorganize the tubs – Clifford’s books and scientific instruments – in the back of the Suburban, making things neat and accessible. Clifford had ordered a radio, which has arrived at a UPS store in Tucson. He drives in to get it, but I stay at camp and take advantage of the nice day to play cello outside, the first time in quite awhile.

Synder Hill Cello

In the afternoon we drive back out to the Saguaro NP, but today I don’t see the flowers in bloom. Too bad, but it is nice to be there again and take a few more photos.

Cholla in Saguaro NP
Late afternoon sun on cholla – Saguaro NP
Saguaro NP

We explore the Gilbert Ray Campground, located near the park. The campsites are very close together, but there is enough vegetation to provide a sense of privacy. In the evening, after dinner and cleanup, I do some bookwork and take care of emails, while Clifford works with his new radio.

Friday, March 3rd – A super windy day. Our friend Dan comes, and he and Clifford go to Tucson to take care of errands in regard to getting the Suburban ready to tow Terry: wiring for the electronic brakes, different ball hitch, a new tongue jack, and other such stuff. While they are gone, I write postcards to send to family and friends; too windy to play cello. When the guys get back, we go to Three Point Cafe for lunch. In the afternoon, after talking to Becka, I go up Synder Hill to take photos of the setting sun.

Sunset from Synder Hill – Tucson, Arizona

Back at camp, I download my camera – over 300 photos since my last download. Later I edit Princes of Purt – the next book in the Novel of Shannon series by Angela MacDonald (an exciting series for epic fantasy readers) – until the battery on my laptop goes dead. This was a good productive day for both of us!

Winter Journey – Belle to Suburban – February 2017

Friday February 24th – It is 27 degrees and a bitter cold wind – kind of limits outdoor photos, but we are leaving this morning, anyway.

Leaving our campsite at Belle Campground, Joshua Tree NP

We head on south through Joshua Tree NP, warm inside Blazer, noticing how green the desert is.

Once on I-10, I have cell service and catch up on texts, emails, and calls with my cell.

Rock formations along I-10 in Arizona

We take the Buckeye exit before Phoenix and drive on out to the Buckeye BLM Recreation Area. We find a nice spot not far from where we were last time we were here.

Overnight at Buckeye BLM Recreation Area
A walk in the desert before sunset

The temperature is mild enough that I play cello outside a bit, go for a walk at sunset, and then edit for my authors in the evening. Clifford does his usual evening stuff, but less with the radios than usual, since he is not taking time to set up antennas.

Saturday February 25th – We pack up and head out first thing this morning, stopping in Gila Bend for gas. On the outskirts of Tucson, we stop at Cracker Barrel for lunch – what a nice break from driving! West of Tucson, we travel to the Synder Hill BLM dispersed camping area. The spot where we parked in January is available, but there are several noisy generators nearby, so we go in search of a different spot and find one that is much better – level and a couple of mesquite trees beside a wash.

A couple of mesquite trees for shade

We have a little shade, a nice front yard, and a view of Synder Hill. Although Synder Hill is not my favorite camping area, our spot is a fine place for the time being. We get set up inside and out, including antennas, then sit out in our lawn chairs to enjoy the warmth of the late afternoon sunlight.

Sunday February 26th – I enjoy a campfire this morning as I sit outside and write in my journal.

Morning campfire at Synder Hill

Our friend Dan comes and we have lots of projects that he helps with, especially as he brings a ladder so we can get up and do some work on the roof. We go to the town of Three Point about 12 miles away for lunch at the Three Point Cafe. Tiny town, but it has an Ace Hardware, a gas station, and a small market where I buy local honey. Back at camp, it is too breezy to play cello outside and even though we thought we were charging batteries while we were gone, a fuse is blown, and nothing is charged. My laptop dies while I am editing photos. I am trying to “go with the flow,” but this lack of battery is frustrating. I am so far behind with posts, I wonder if I will ever get caught up. Arrangements are made to meet the Suburban and its owner, Marty, tomorrow.

Monday February 27th – Dan comes here and then we all go to meet Suburban and Marty. Clifford drives Suburban; Marty drives Blazer. Then the men share what is known about the vehicles. In the end, an agreement is reached with Blazer being part of a trade. Plans are made to meet at the DMV tomorrow to give us time to clean Blazer out and go to the bank.

I learn that my daughter Katie, who owns the house in Idaho where we live in the upstairs apartment when not traveling, has moved her family to the house, opting for a more simple lifestyle. It will be fun to have them as our downstairs neighbors when we get back to Idaho.

Tuesday February 28th – We get up early and clean out Blazer, which takes some work, as we carry much of our stuff in the back, not to mention ham radio gear, backup camera, and such stuff that has to be dismantled to be removed. A 12-volt vacuum cleaner and a good wipe-down makes Blazer look pretty good. We meet Marty at the DMV: all the formalities and exchange of money and titles takes place. The Suburban is ours!

Suburban and Clifford at Synder Hill

Back at camp, we load everything from Blazer back into Suburban and are pleased with how much room we have. A sprinkle of rain creates a rainbow – a good sign.

A rainbow – a good sign
I love seeing a rainbow

It is too windy for cello, but we go for a drive at sunset to try out the “new” vehicle, which will be so much safer for us and more comfortable, also.

Going for a drive in Suburban at sunset