February 19, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Mittry Lake Wildfire
Mittry Lake Wildfire

A Little Nightime Excitement and a Trip to the Picacho State Recreation Area

Mittry Lake Wildfire
Mittry Lake Wildfire

A slight smell of smoke woke me from a dead sleep the other night and I glanced out the bedroom window to the scene above. The wildfire was about 3/4 mile away at that time and the wind, fortunately was driving it towards the Imperial Dam, not towards the area I was camping. The fire smoldered for three days and the burn covered a distance of a couple miles all the way up to the road going through the Yuma proving grounds.

Imperial Dam LTVA Sunrise
Imperial Dam LTVA Sunrise

Just another desert sunrise from the campsite.

Picacho State Recreation Area
Along the Road to Picacho State Recreation Area

Picacho State Recreation Area

Picacho State Recreation Area
Along the Road to Picacho State Recreation Area

I was waiting for a day with blue skies and cumulous clouds to venture out the very washboarded 18 mile gravel road to the Colorado River and the Picacho State Recreation Area. I had those conditions when I left camp but the clouds were blown away by the time I reached the river.

Picacho State Recreation Area
Along the Road to Picacho State Recreation Area
Colorado River
Colorado River

The gravel road is dusty and washboarded, but there are no serious grades along the route and the road can pretty much be traveled by any type of rig. There is a nice primitive campground near the river, probably close to 50 level campsites with water and a dump station and when I was there only about five small camping units were present. Certainly a place to get away from it all, but I probably would not subject my motorhome to the washboarded road in.

Picacho State Recreation Area
Picacho State Recreation Area
Picacho State Recreation Area
Picacho State Recreation Area

There are a couple of nice picnic areas and boat launch ramps along the river.

January 13, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Date Palm Shadows
Date Palm Shadows

Imperial Valley of California (and a bit of Arizona)

A little change of pace for this blog entry, a little local info. The map below, from Google Earth, shows the boundaries of the Imperial Valley, from the source of it’s life giving water, the Colorado River on the far right of the map, to the final downstream end of the water flow in the Salton Sea, where all the salt laden drainage from the agricultural fields ends up.

Imperial Valley Map
Imperial Valley Map

The map below shows the detail of the Map Inset from the top map and depicts the area where I am staying, and exploring, this winter, truly just a tiny portion of the Imperial Valley.

Imperial Valley Map
Imperial Valley Map

The map below, shows detail from the Map Insert of the map above, and depicts the dam complex where the mighty Colorado River is diverted to the All -American Canal and the two other canals that distribute water to the agricultural fields of the valley.

Imperial Dam Complex Map
Imperial Dam Complex Map
All-American Canal
All-American Canal

This shot was taken just a half mile from where I am camped and shows the volume of water diverted towards the fields in California.

Ringneck Ducks on the All-American Canal
Ringneck Ducks on the All-American Canal

The canal is the only place I have found large numbers of ducks in the area. These are Ringnecks, but I have also found Mallards, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, and Canvasbacks.

Shades of Green
Shades of Green

Windblown spray from the irrigation system tints the greens of a field of salad greens.

Salad Makings
Salad Makings

The text below was gathered from various websites. The Bloomberg article I found quite enlightening.

Although this region is in the Colorado Desert section of the Sonoran Desert, with high temperatures and low average rainfall of 3 inches (76 mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to irrigation, which is supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Thousands of acres of prime farmland have transformed the desert into one of the most productive farming regions in California with an annual crop production of over $1 billion. Agriculture is the largest industry in the Imperial Valley and accounts for 48% of all employment. An environmental cost is that, south of the canal, the Colorado River no longer flows above ground at all for much of the year into Mexico.

A vast system of canals, check dams, and pipelines carry the water all over the valley, a system which forms the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID. The water distribution system includes over 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canal and with 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of pipeline. The number of canal and pipeline branches number roughly over a hundred. Imported water and a long growing season allow two crop cycles each year, and the Imperial Valley is a major source of winter fruits and vegetables, cotton, and grain for U.S. and international markets. Alfalfa is another major crop produced in the Imperial Valley. The agricultural lands are served by a constructed agricultural drain system, which conveys surface runoff and subsurface drainage from fields to the Salton Sea, which is a designated repository for agricultural runoff, with environmental considerations not yet solved.

A very interesting story on the history of water rights and fights in the Imperial Valley from Bloomberg can be read here.

It is estimated that more than 2/3 of the vegetables consumed in the United States during the winter months are grown here in the Imperial Valley.

Imperial County produced enough lettuce (including head lettuce, leaf lettuce and salad mix) to serve dinner salads to 2,352,000,000 people!

An acre of carrots can provide 320,000 people with a nutritious side dish.  Enough carrots were grown in Imperial Valley to serve a 1/4-pound helping to 75% of the Earth’s population!

Imperial Valley has a well-known reputation for midwinter salad vegetables. Shipments of crisphead lettuce, leaf lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage start in December and continue until March. Asparagus is in-season January, February and March. Carrots are harvested January to June.

Spring production of warm-season vegetables starts in late April with the harvest of Sweet Imperial onions, sweet corn, bell pepper, chili peppers, cantaloupes, mixed melons and watermelons.

Lotta Lettuce
Lotta Lettuce

This is a shot of a field of lettuce in in the tiny Arizona section of the Imperial Valley. The scale of the leafy vegetable growing operation of the valley is hard to imagine if one has never been here to see it.

Lotta Lettuce
Lotta Lettuce
Great Egret
Great Egret
Mixed Plantings
Mixed Plantings

I don’t know the reason for this type of planting, but it does make for an interesting change of pace from the solid green fields that surround it..

Mixed Plantings
Mixed Plantings
Anise Harvest
Anise Harvest

I had no idea what this was that this crew was harvesting, but then a timely article on the front page of the Yuma Sun on Sunday had an article called “Reap the Harvest” and had an image and text describing what the crew was harvesting.

Romaine Harvest
Picking Romaine

It is almost incomprehensible, when one sees the scale of these operations and the miles of fields, that each head of lettuce, each cabbage, each broccoli or cauliflower, is harvested by hand. The vehicle behind the pickers is where the plant is washed and packaged for the grocery store shelf, then boxed for transport, a moving assembly line platform. The white school buses on the right, usually towing one or two Porta-potties, are used to transport workers about the fields.

December 30, 2017 Tucson, Arizona

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

A Short Stay in Tucson

Slowly heading east to the Texas coast and then on to Grand Isle, Louisiana, I had originally planned to stay and explore the Tucson area for a week or so while waiting for the strange Texas winter weather to moderate before heading that way. I have never been a big fan of city life, I just have no idea how people put up with the congestion. There seems to be road construction everywhere I went and traffic was just too much for me, so I ended up staying only two days.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

I managed to find the Snyder Hill BLM area just off Highway 86 that I had read about on some blogs.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

Not a terribly attractive place, located next to the highway, there are decent gravel interior roads, though getting off the highway into the site proved pretty touchy because of the road construction. There are no facilities here, no dumpster, water, or dump station and the folks camped here proved to be a mixed bag. There are some tenters here ( loud music ), but mostly used by self contained RV’s. Common courtesy, at least during my stay, was a little lacking here. The 5th wheel pictured above ran a light show on the side of his rig and found it necessary to run his generator ALL night.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

These folks across the way from me were nice enough to shut their generator down around 11 PM.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

There are many level spots with a little vegetation around them, but all of the nicer ones were occupied so I ended up setting up along the wide main gravel road within the site, as did most others that arrived after me. The price is right ( free ) but I doubt I would stay here again.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I drove north to the west section of Saguaro National Park my first day here and did the East section the next day.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I had visited this area several years ago, but still enjoyed the seeing the dense saguaro forests here.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I managed to handle all the dusty gravel roads in the West section of the park with no problems, the East section has a very nice paved eight mile one way loop road. I was there around noon and though the drive is very interesting, the harsh noontime light made me forget about doing any shooting. Definitely would recommend doing the East section in the early AM or very late afternoon.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Not much in the way of birds in either section of the park.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

I saw several Phainopeplas, but shooting a black bird under brilliant blue skies does not produce great results.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Still, I had to take the opportunity since I really haven’t had that many chances at this particular bird.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

The only other bird that showed itself was the Northern Mockingbird.

Pinal Air Park

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Driving east on I-10 just northwest of Tucson, you catch a glimpse of some brightly colored tails of some large aircraft, so I went online and found that what I saw was the Pinal Air Park.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Since it wasn’t that far from Saguaro N.P. ( west ), I drove up to investigate.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Unfortunately, you really can’t see all that much once you are there since the area is fenced and to really appreciate the scale of the place and the size of some of the aircraft there, you would need to be able to get inside. The part of the Air Park nearest the road seems to be a boneyard of older commercial aircraft.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Farther away, you can see some of the newer aircraft stored here.

Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

I drove up I-10 to visit the Sweetwater Wetlands, within the city of Tucson, to check out the birds there. This is a very nice city park where they treat waste water and have created several vegetation filled holding ponds that attract a great variety of birds. Apparently not that many in December it would seem.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

But after walking all the two plus miles of level gravel paths throughout the park and not taking a single bird shot, just saw a few sparrows and coots, with a couple ducks in the distance, I did come across the most cooperative wild bobcat I have ever encountered. This animal was obviously very habituated to humans.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

I almost walked right past it, no more than 15 feet away in the shadows on the side of the path. When I realized what it was, I figured as soon as I stopped and put the camera to my face, it would obviously bolt and disappear in the brush.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

Well, to my great surprise, that certainly didn’t happen … and I got to take as many shots as I wanted as it went about it’s business watching something on the edge of the water ( though it never did make any attempt to catch whatever it was watching ), then surprising  me by stretching out and relaxing, even doing some grooming, while I stood just 20 feet away.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

Finally it tired of playing wildlife model for me and slowly walked off …

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

… disappearing into the brush along the gravel path.

Sky Island Highway

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

I drove the 29 mile Mount Lemmon Scenic Highway ( Sky Island Highway ) on a warm early afternoon where the temperature at the base of the mountain, on the outskirts of the city, was a balmy 78 degrees.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

Arriving at the end of the road, at the appropriately named summit town of Summerhaven, located at an elevation of 8,000 feet, the temperature was a refreshing 55 degrees. As everywhere else I went around Tucson, this place was crammed with traffic, no place to park …. I can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer up here, when getting away from the scorching desert floor heat must bring a lot of the Tucson population up here.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

The highway is an interesting drive, with an elevation change of around 6,000 feet over it’s 29 mile distance. Lots of turnoffs with some spectacular vistas over the desert and the city of Tucson.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

I particularly enjoyed the hoodoos that tower over the road about two thirds of the way up the mountain. On this day, the distant vistas were a bit obscured by haze.

To return to my campsite from the base of the mountain, I had to travel through about ten miles of congested road through the city to get to I-10. At 2:30 in the afternoon, this ten miles took over an hour to do, untold number of traffic lights, a little road construction, and bumper to bumper traffic made me lose my desire to further explore the Tucson area. Can’t begin to imagine what that traffic would be like in another hour or so when there would be commuter rush hour traffic joining the parade. I simply do not understand how people can handle this sort of stuff on a continual daily basis.

So I will depart Tucson and continue on my way to Texas tomorrow. Watching the unseasonable cold weather in Texas, I will be stopping in Deming, NM for a few days to wait for the cold weather to break, and to arrange a FedEx delivery of my Revlimid to the Deming Walgreens. It looks like the weather will warm up enough to continue east by Thursday, but if not, I will stay put until the danger of ice or snow has passed.

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December 6, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, Winterhaven, California

Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite

Quartzsite to Yuma, Arizona and the LTVA at Imperial Dam

King Valley Road, Kofa NWR, Arizona
King Valley Road, Kofa NWR, Arizona

Before leaving Quartzite, Monday morning I took a drive down Route 95 and into the Kofa NWR on King Valley Road, hoping to perhaps spot some desert wildlife while exploring some new country. King Valley Road was a wide fairly decent gravel road, but 22 miles in, I made the disastrous decision to turn north and head up into the hills, hoping to get closer the rugged mountains. The road became narrower as I headed north and soon had turned into a one lane road with no good chance to turn around. Then, suddenly, the road turned from rough, hard gravel to crushed stone, as much as a foot deep and the the no clearance Prius started to bog down. The loose stone was piled up in the center of the road so I was scraping bottom and several times came close to getting stuck… and there was no way I could turn around, not that I would have dared to stop, since that would have definitely gotten me stuck.

  • So I continued to plow through the loose stone for more than a mile until I finally came to a short stretch of hard surface just short of an area where a the road went through a wash ( and would have been impassable for me and my Prius ) and I was able to finally turn around. Then I had to make the white knuckle drive back through the loose stone, praying I didn’t run into someone coming the other way since stopping meant definitely getting stuck in the quicksand like loose stone. No pictures to show for it and I have no doubt I probably have messed up the front end of the Prius.
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite

On to the Yuma Area

Having made arrangements to have my Revlimid FedEx’ed to a Walgreens FedEx Hold location in Yuma on Wednesday, I left Quartzite for the short 70 mile drive down to the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA ( long term visitor’s area ).

Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite

After signing in and paying my $40 for a 14 day camping permit ( you may also opt to pay $180 for a season long permit ), and filling up with fresh water and dumping tanks and trash at the wonderful facility here at the LTVA,  I was fortunate to find one of the best sites in the entire area unoccupied and set up camp. I am on a peninsula of gravel with no nearby neighbors with 270 degree views out over the wetlands below the dam on the nearby Colorado River. Daytime temperatures are in the 70’s with cool nights right now and the wind is blowing pretty consistently at 20 mph and sometimes more.

Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite
Imperial Dam BLM LTVA Campsite

I have an appointment with Shade Pro to have my main awning fabric replaced Friday afternoon at my campsite, then really have no plans for the rest of my stay here before heading east toward Tucson.

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