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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December 10, 2016 Quartzite, Arizona

Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise

Home Sweet Home, Back in the Desert!

Home Sweet Home in the Desert
Home Sweet Home in the Desert

My new home for two weeks, in the Roadrunner 14 day stay BLM area, about 4 miles south of the town of Quartzite, Arizona.

Home Sweet Home in the Desert
Home Sweet Home in the Desert

Anyone who has ever been in Quartzite for the RV Show probably wouldn’t associate this place with peace and quiet, but at this time of year, and in this particular location, peace and quiet it is, with almost total isolation, just the way I like it. My closest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away and all I can hear, day or night, is the sound of the wind. Weather is just wonderful, 70 and sunny by day, 40’s at night, just Paradise after the miserable cramped conditions at the Birdwatchers RV Park back at Bosque del Apache.

I left Bosque on December 2nd and headed west across the mountains to get here. Was a little bit nervous about snow at the higher elevations along the way here and did see a lot of snow covered ground, but, fortunately, the roads were clear and dry and I encountered no problems on my two day trip. I overnighted at Walmart in Payson, Arizona Friday night and arrived here in Quartzite where I filled my gas and propane tanks in town then drove the 4 miles south to this location.

Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise

Nothing much to photograph here other than the wonderful sunrises and my main goal for my two week stay here is to get all my Bosque del Apache crane and geese shots processed and to get them and a couple other wildlife slide shows completed on BluRay disc.

Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise

I have ventured into town a couple times to pick up various odds and ends for the RV at all the “outlet” ( flea market, junk ) stalls set up around Quartzite, but otherwise have been pretty much a home body here and simply have enjoyed the long anticipated solitude of the desert.

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October 12, 2016 North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Sunrise Angel Point
Sunrise Angel Point

Another Spot Checked Off the Bucket List

Left Red Canyon Campground around 8 AM for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and after Just three or four hours on the road (with a stop in Kanab for groceries and gas), I arrived at the National Forest’s DeMotte CG and luckily someone was just leaving Site #4, a pull through with solar and satellite access ( no trees ). Absolutely no Verizon here and it’s a 20 mile trip to the North Rim, but the North Rim CG is reserve only and completely full, of course, and too tree covered to work for me, so DeMotte CG it is for my North Rim stay.

Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Up before dawn the next day and made it to the North Rim Lodge area just before sunrise.

Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Took a few shots from the pathway around the lodge as the sun slowly rose and gradually brought the temperature above freezing.

North Rim Lodge
North Rim Lodge
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim Foliage
North Rim Foliage
Angel Point Pathway
Angel Point Pathway

I then took the short trail out to Angel Point, again doing more than a little huffing and puffing on the short hills due to the elevation of close to 9,000 feet.

Kaibab Squirrel
Kaibab Squirrel

I really had hoped to get some nice shots of the unique Kaibab Squirrel, a subspecies of the Albert Squirrel, found only on the North Rim. Unfortunately, I didn’t see all that many, and the few I did encounter were very camera shy.

Kaibab Squirrel
Kaibab Squirrel

That bushy white tail is something else!

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Angel’s Window

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

On my last day here, I took the road out to the Cape Royal vista point and walked out to the ” Angel’s Window ” overlook.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Now don’t get me wrong here, but I have never been all that overwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. I mean, yes, it is a geological wonder, but I have just never been completely awed by the vistas from either the South Rim or from the lodge area of the North Rim.

Angel's Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Angel’s Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

From the Angel’s Window area, I have to admit that I was impressed. I spent close to two hours here, until after the sun had actually set, and it was spectacular! Here, I can see why folks are so inspired by the Grand Canyon.

Angel's Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Angel’s Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

If the North Rim is on your bucket list, then make sure you take in sunset at the Angel’s Window, the Grand Canyon at it’s best.

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