Payson, Arizona, Part Two

Payson, Arizona, Part Two

The Payson visitor center and Payson Ranger District office loaded us up with so many pamphlets and maps I knew we’d never see it all in the week we had allotted. The following are sights we managed to fit into our schedule from October 6 – 12, 2019.

Pine, Arizona

A 20-minute drive from Payson on scenic route 260 takes drivers along a road with wonderful views of the mountains and forest, past the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park (more about the park later), and into Pine, Arizona. Four Mormon families established Pine in 1879. The 2010 census showed approximately 1,963 residents. This compares to Payson, which had a population of 15,301.

“Open house” signs enticed us to follow the arrows. We weren’t in the market to buy, just playing lookie-loos. A family of elk crossed the road in front of us so we stopped to wait for them to pass. Another car came up behind us. They didn’t have patience for the elk and drove around. We could almost hear the epithets they hurled our way as they zoomed by. Where we live, we stop for deer and wild turkeys on the road. It’s better than running into them and wrecking our vehicle.

The elk made it safely across the road

Strawberry/Pine Fall Festival

After touring the house, we found the main road lined with trucks and cars, and people walking around. “Oh, look. Kettle corn,” we said in unison. The popcorn vendor wasn’t sure what was going on, but the banner across the road advertised The Strawberry/Pine Fall Festival, so we walked down the street, peeked in a few antique and craft stores, and cruised the vendor booths. The limited storage space in the fifth wheel prevents us from buying stuff while traveling. I did splurge on a few bookmarks, though.

Judy Bottler had photo bookmarks for sale at the Strawberry/Pine Fall Festival

Three miles further north is Strawberry, which is even smaller than Pine. They claimed 961 residents in 2010. Many of the houses, cabins, and cottages in both Strawberry and Pine are vacation homes or rentals, which increases the population at times.

Strawberry, Arizona

In Strawberry we stumbled upon the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona. District #33 in Strawberry Valley was established in 1884 and still stands in the same place where it was built.

Strawberry School House

Besides a school, the building served as a meeting place, social center, and a church. Closed in June of 1916, by 1961 only the log frame remained.

School bell

On August 15, 1981, the Pine/Strawberry Archaeological and Historical Society dedicated the structure as a Historical Monument after they renovated the school. It is open to the public from May through mid-October on weekends and holidays. https://www.pinestrawhs.org/schoolhouse.html

Furnishings inside the schoolhouse

Driving through Strawberry, Pine, and even Payson, we noted homes hidden among shrubs and trees. This is what Paradise, California, must have looked like before fire wiped out the entire town in November 2018. Only a few residents in these communities had protected their homes from fire. Did most of the occupants not get the memo to create a defensible space zone around their home, or did they choose to ignore it? I could easily see how the entire communities of Strawberry and Pine could go up in smoke. I wish them well and pray it never happens.

Pine View Loop Trail

The Pine View Loop trail wraps around a hill for 2.8 miles. Wandering through piñon and ponderosa pines, and alligator junipers, Jon made it without trekking poles along the up and down trail with occasional switchbacks. This was his longest hike yet after his sciatic pain had disappeared.

Jon ditched his trekking poles for this hike.
This is the bark of an alligator juniper

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

After thirty years on the State Parks Board priority list and a few approvals by the state legislature to purchase the land, lack of funding delayed natural bridge becoming a state park. The board finally purchased the 160 acres on October 1, 1990, and the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park held its grand opening celebration on June 29, 1991.

Tonto Natural Bridge

Believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, the 400-foot long tunnel contains turquoise pools fed by a natural spring. The park offers several short trails making this a perfect place to bring young children.

Watch for slippery rock

We managed steep hills and a scramble over huge boulders and rocks along the Anna Mae Trail. The trail ends at the cavern under the bridge.

The trekking poles came in handy on the boulders and slick rock

While working my way over the boulders to reach the opening, I passed a woman sketching on a pad. We spoke a few words and I found a spot to sit and take photos. A few minutes later, the woman, Kathy Mann from Canada, asked if she could use my camera to take a photo of me sitting on the boulder.

Photo taken by Kathy Mann with my camera

Without thinking, I handed over my Sony and turned my back. After several minutes, I turned around to see if she was still there. She said, “Just a few more.”

I’m used to taking photos, not modeling for them, but if I could help an artist in her work, I was glad to do it. I sent the photos to her a few days later and hope to one day see her creation. Her paintings emote a sense of calm and peace. If you are interested in seeing her work, go to kathymannfineart.com.

Waterfall Trail is about 300 feet long and ends at a waterfall wall. A walk down approximately 120 steps takes visitors to an extremely narrow and short space to view water flowing out of the side of the cliff. More than five people created a huge crowd, making it difficult to maneuver. Kids will most likely enjoy the cool spray from the falls on a hot day. For us, it was a disappointment.

“But, I want to stay here where it’s cool.”

The short trails to the third and fourth overlooks provided additional views of the bridge. At the fourth overlook, Jon pointed out the hole in the walkway where you can look through the grates to see the water from the bridge top. It wasn’t that spectacular, but at least it was something different.

The backside of the Tonto Bridge, or is it the front?
The Gowan Trail was closed to hikers
Through the grate at the top of the bridge

Mogollon Rim

Mogollon Rim (pronounced mōgə-yōn, mo-go-yawn, or muggy-on, depending on your source) is a 200-mile geological formation composed primarily of limestone and sandstone. It runs across Arizona from northern Yavapai County in the west to the New Mexico border in the east and forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. Piñon pines, junipers, and ponderosa forests abound on the plateau.

Mogollon Rim

North of Strawberry is Arizona Forest Road (FR) 300, a dirt and gravel road that skirts the Rim for 43.3 miles from State Route 87 to State Route 260. FR 300 intersects with the General Crook Trail, a historic wagon route used in the 1870s and 1880s to provide logistical support for General George Crook in the U.S. Army’s war against the Apaches. Since we started our day too late to drive the entire route, we settled on checking out a few spots on the west end to get a feel for what the road had to offer.

A little bit of fall

Land south of the Mogollon has an elevation between 4,000 and 5,000 feet while the plateau rises to 8,000 feet.

We saw plenty of trees with their tops loped off

The forest is the last place I’d expect to see a typewriter. But there it was as if someone staged it just for me to come take a photo.

This typewriter has seen better days

Another day we drove out to the east end where parts of the rim are visible from the highway without driving on dirt roads. The visitor’s center had already closed for the season so we snapped a few pics and climbed back in the truck.

The valley below Mogollon Rim

We stopped in at The Tonto Creek State Fish Hatchery located 21 miles east of Payson off Route 260 on Tonto Creek Road. Although the visitor center had already closed for the season, the building was open.

Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

Displays inside gave information about how the fish eggs are imported from other hatcheries and grown at this facility. The Work Projects Administration (WPA) originally built the hatchery in the early 1930s for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

I think they need a new life ring

The hatchery’s expertise is hatching and growing trout eggs to three-inch fingerlings and nine-inch catchable fish. Once matured, approximately 165,000 rainbow trout, 400,000 brook and cutthroat trout, and 150,000 Apache trout are stocked in Arizona waters.

Stream at the watershed

That wraps up our time in Payson, Arizona. For those who can’t take the Phoenix heat in the summer, Payson seems to be a good place to cool off and enjoy the Rim Country great outdoors.

As our time in Payson ended, we turned our focus on Phoenix and visits with family and friends.

Safe Travels

Payson, Arizona, Part One

We left the nearly 100-degree temperatures in Gila Bend for cooler weather in Payson, Arizona, on October 6, 2019. When our escort led us to the rear of Payson Campground and RV Resort, we cheered. Another week without freeway noise sounded good to us. The dusty roads and campsites surrounded by tall hedges and trees made us feel like we were in a National Forest campground.

Campsite at Payson Campground and RV Resort

Green Valley Park and Lakes

One of the highlights of Payson is the Green Valley Park and Lakes. The 45-acre property is home to the Rim Country Museum, the reproduction of the Zane Grey Cabin, and the Haught Family Cabin. Anglers are welcome to fish the well-stocked lake, sailors with non-gas powered vessels are invited to glide across the calm waters, and bird lovers will enjoy the waterfowl that live in the area or visit during their migration.

Green Valley Park Lake

Walkers, runners, and parents with children in strollers find the 1-mile concrete trail around the large lake and the amphitheater a great place to enjoy a bit of exercise. Children even have access to a playground.

Green Valley Park

The amphitheater is used for the 4th of July and Memorial Day events, summer concerts, and as we found out during our visit, the Annual Beeline Cruise-In Car Show.

Green Valley Park amphitheater

When we heard about the car show, we didn’t expect much. Cars had arrived from Phoenix and other Arizona locations as well as from neighboring states. Someone made an announcement over the PA system that this year’s event was the largest ever. They had slots for 225 cars but ended up with over 240. Fortunately, the group was able to accommodate everyone who arrived. Jon and I spent about two hours gawking at the classic cars and snapping photos.

If you’re not interested in photos of classic cars, just roll on down the page.

The Halloween Roadster
Ah, there’s the boy that made the music play, skulls rattle, and dog bark.
Delivery sedan
Mad Max car
Chevy Apache stepside pickup
Family picnic time
1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Country Club Convertible
At the Carhop
My first car was a white two-door 1970 Datsun 510 with a black vinyl top. I wanted the butterscotch color, but it wasn’t in stock. Fifteen years later when I could afford the aftermarket paint job it was time for a new car.
1980s icon Bob’s Big Boy
Jon owned a blue 1963 Volkswagen bug with a ragtop moon roof.
Payson’s first firetruck. The museum is taking donations for a restoration project.
Jon also owned a Metro after he crashed his 1955 Chevy
I don’t think this Jeep spends much time 4-wheeling

Taking photos with someone proves that photographers put their own personal spin on their photos. Jon took pics of the cars with their hoods up, showing off the power plant and/or the wheels and tires, while I took pics of quirky autos like the Mad Max, the Halloween Roadster, and Carhop.

Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin Tours

 The Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin are only viewed through a docent-led tour. Sadly, no photos are allowed inside the museum or cabin, and the museum’s website does not contain any photos. Only people lucky enough to travel to Payson and take the tours get to see the wonderful displays and artifacts inside. It is a small space, and I understand they need to limit how many people enter the museum. However, it would be nice if they shared their images so more people can enjoy the exhibits. Perhaps someday they can record a tour or take photos to post on their website.

The first National Forest Ranger building. Through the door and window are displays of objects used years ago.

The displays included artifacts and stories about ancient civilizations that populated the Rim Country, continued with early settlers, the June 1990 Dude Fire that took the lives of six firefighters and destroyed the original Zane Grey cabin, and a feud deadlier than the Hatfield-McCoy feud. The Pleasant Valley War (also known as Tonto Basin Feud, Tonto Basin War, or Tewksbury-Graham Feud) racked up an estimated death toll of 35 – 50 from 1882-1892, while 13 people died during the Hatfield-McCoy feud. For those interested in learning more, Wikipedia has detailed information on the conflict, and Zane Grey based his novel entitled To The Last Man: A Story of the Pleasant Valley War on the war.

Reproduction of Zane Grey’s Cabin

Through architectural plans, the historical society was able to recreate the Zane Grey hunting cabin. The structure contained one large room that served more like a meeting room than a place to sleep and cook. In fact, there were no facilities for cooking and sleeping. The hunters must have cooked and slept outside in tents.

Zane Grey Cabin replica

The docent-led tour of the Zane Grey Cabin included historical background of the author ‘s life, his time in Rim Country, and his career as an author. Grey’s books line the shelves and his typewriter sits prominently on the desk. Apparently, years after Grey’s death, his wife was cleaning out and giving away belongings. She gifted the typewriter to a young man who worked for her. He kept the typewriter safe for many years until one day he arrived and donated it to the museum.

The Haught Cabin

The Haught cabin is also on the premises at Green Valley Park and Lakes. Imagine living in a 10’ by 18’ dirt-floor cabin without windows with five children and a mother-in-law. That is what Sarah Haught did after she and her husband Henry arrived in the Arizona Territory from Oklahoma in 1897. Territorial settlers sure were hardy folk.

Haught Cabin
The cabin is staged inside as if only one person lived there, not eight. Did hammocks hang from the walls?

When the nearby spring dried up, they took apart their little cabin and moved it to Little Green Valley where they settled next. Years later, Henry and Sarah’s daughter continued the family tradition by living in the log cabin with her husband Henry Garrels and their 5 sons. When Larry Hammon acquired the property in 1999, he contacted the Rim Country Museum to see if they were interested in relocating the structure. Again, the cabin was dismantled and then rebuilt where it now stands next to the museum.

Restaurants

While in Payson, one must eat, so we tried out a few local restaurants. We stopped in for lunch at Miss Fitz 260 Café. I had a cheeseburger with potato salad (with bacon, yum), and Jon chose chicken fried steak. We both enjoyed our meals with Arnold Palmers.

We felt privileged that Duza’s Kitchen had room for us at lunch. The comments about Mensur Duzic, the owner and executive chef, and her restaurant in Phoenix were glowing, and previous customers promised a drive to Payson for her food. The turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich on Asiago bread was delicious.

Duza’s Kitchen
Mensur Duzic is the woman on the left

Fargo’s Steakhouse was the perfect setting for celebrating the one-year anniversary of my surgery and Jon’s pain-free back and recovery from Bell’s Palsy. The menu offered so many choices that they are sure to please everyone’s palate. We enjoyed good food, great service, and best of all, spending our special day together.

Fargo’s Steakhouse has much more than steak

That’s enough for now. Stay tuned for next week’s post when we venture outside the city limits.

Safe Travels

Respite in Gila Bend, Arizona

Peace and quiet and wide-open spaces are what we needed after the big city sights and sounds of San Diego. Although temperatures approached 100 degrees, Gila Bend KOA seemed like the perfect spot to get away from the ants that invaded our coach and the roar of the freeway outside our bedroom window.

The Ranch House at Gila Bend KOA

We checked in at Gila Bend KOA on October 3, 2019, for a three-night stay. This RV park has been our go-to campground whenever we pass through the Sonoran Desert. Each year we arrive anxious to see what improvements the owner Scott Swanson has made since the previous year. A major street resurfacing project was underway when we arrived, closing off the main road. Our escort led the way along an alternate route to our site. This was the best site we have ever had at this campground.

Our campsite at Gila Bend KOA

A new gate at the entrance prevents people from entering that do not belong. Unless I missed it during our last visit, the Solitary Confinement shelter was a great addition for folks who want to enjoy a little solitude.

Step right in for your solitary confinement

Chairs have been placed inside the two cubicle-like spaces with a view of the usually dry creek lined with palo verde trees. Don’t even think about talking while cocooned in solitary,  it’s not allowed. And pets and loved ones must stay at home.

View from the Solitary Confinement

Patio and fireplace behind the Ranch House

Although Gila Bend boasts a Dollar General, Family Dollar, and a Carniceria, for shopping we prefer to drive to Buckeye for our groceries. The Butcher & The Farmer Marketplace had everything we needed under one roof.

The Butcher & The Farmer Marketplace in Buckeye has everything you need

We took Old US 80 to Buckeye, a scenic route that winds through farmland, around lava flows, and past The Co-op Grill.

They went thataway

Operating farms and dairies and smaller ranchettes also lined the road. Dotted here and there were a few properties that appeared abandoned.

Acres of cotton fields
A cotton blossom

The highlight of the drive is the Historic Gillespie Dam Bridge and Interpretive Plaza. Unfortunately, someone had removed the interpretive part of the plaza leaving only the sign supports. Never fear, Wikipedia to the rescue to fill in the details of the artifact’s history.

The interpretive Plaza lacked information signs

The concrete gravity dam on the Gila River was constructed during the 1920s for irrigation purposes. In 1927, the steel truss bridge opened to traffic and incorporated into the highway system as Route 80.

View of Gillespie Bridge

It carried US 80 traffic until 1956 when the bridge was decommissioned. On May 5, 1981, the bridge earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge across waters

It carried US 80 traffic until 1956 when the bridge was decommissioned. On May 5, 1981, the bridge earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The ramp to the overlook

Following extreme rainfall in 1993, a portion of the dam failed, remnants of which can be seen from the road.

Gillespie Dam

Driving through Buckeye we noticed the school looked like it had been recently renovated. Across the street stood a two- and three-story brick building that housed the city offices and chamber of commerce. It all seemed too fancy for such a small town until I learned the population approached 69,000 people, about 10 times what I thought, and was the fastest-growing town in the US during 2017.

Buckeye city offices
An homage to the cotton industry
Garden behind the city offices

Before we left Gila Bend for cooler climes in Payson, Arizona, we drove east on Interstate 8 to see if any progress had been made at Big Horn Station since our visit in February 2018. Our post, dated March 3, 2018, titled Gila Bend and Ajo, Arizona,  here provides more detail of the historic property.

Not much improvement happening at Big Horn Station

Refreshed from our respite in Gila Bend, it was time to move on. Payson, here we come. But before we go, here is a sunset photo.

Can there ever be too many sunsets?

Safe Travels

Late Spring 2019 Tour

Week One – Kickoff

Aah! It feels good to be back on the road exploring these great United States. Between heart surgery and recovery for me, and sciatic nerve pain for Jon, we were ready to roll.

We pointed at the landscape that zoomed by as we left the Bay Area. “Look over there,” I said. “The hills were still green in the Tri-Valley. At the Altamont Pass they turned the color of a teddy bear.” Further on, the fruit and nut trees along Interstate 5 had already leafed out, and newly planted crops painted the San Joaquin Valley floor in patchwork fashion.

We stopped for the night at our favorite way station in Bakersfield, the Orange Grove RV Park. Dove calls, the chip-chip-chip of quail, and the trilling and singing of other birds welcomed us to the grove. Sure, we have birds in the Bay Area, but the abundance of birds nestled in the orange trees was like a chorus.

Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield, California

Guests are allowed to pick the fruit when in season so long as they don’t use ladders or climb in the trees.

It seems like we are seeing more and more solar panels in use where ever we go.

Solar Panels at Orange Grove RV Park

The next day, we continued oohing and aahing over the landscape. The sage, bristlebush, creosote, Joshua trees, and grasses colored the desert terrain green. Even yellow mustard still bloomed in the higher elevations.

A train of black tankers with double engines at the head, mid-train, and rear worked its way through Tehachapi pass. We wanted to know what the tankers held, where they were going, and where they began their journey. Our curiosity and taste for adventure returned quickly after the nine-month absence.

Lake Havasu City (LHC) came next so we could say hey to my sister Merri. Unfortunately, she had to work so we didn’t get to spend much time together during our three nights there. A breakfast meet-up at The Red Onion downtown and a quick goodbye at her place of business would have to suffice. We’ll have to make sure our next visit coincides with her days off.

A mural in downtown Lake Havasu City

One day while in LHC, Jon and I walked along the channel south of the London Bridge.

Lake Havasu City is home to replica famous lighthouses from across the United States. This one is of Currituck Beach Lighthouse constructed along the channel walkway.
The channel is a great place to boat and people watch
These little blackbirds are a common sight
JT taking a rest with the London Bridge in the background

We stopped in at Kokomo. A refreshing Mai Tai and a slice or two of pizza was the perfect snack.

Kokomo is not only a place to get drinks. You can play corn hole, drop a basketball in a trash barrel or jump in the pool for a game of volleyball.

Then we wandered about before making our way back to Rotary Park. It was a good thing the walkway included plenty of benches to sit and take a break in the shade. After almost a week of very little sciatica, Jon had trouble walking without pain for more than a few yards. We discussed turning back home, but he would not hear of it so we pressed on.

Love locks at the top of London Bridge
Trees are a welcome sight in 100-degree weather in Lake Havasu City
Closer view of the London Bridge

The weather forecast for May 19 predicted a high wind advisory for the state of Arizona and rain the next day in Cortez, Colorado, where we had reservations. We decided to skedaddle and called Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA for early arrival.

But before we left LHC, we stopped in to say goodbye to my Merri.

Bye, Merri. It was great to see you. Miss you already.

We made an overnight stay in Tuba City, Arizona, at the Quality Inn and RV park, and a quick stop at Four Corners Monument the next day.

Four Corners Monument
Photo op at Four Corners Monument

Then we arrived safe and sound at the KOA.

Site 46 at Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA
A bit of yard art at the KOA
View from the Cortez high school parking lot

Our decision to arrive early turned out perfect. Snuggled in our fifth wheel on Monday, May 20, we gazed out at RVers arriving, not in the rain as forecast, but in the snow. The freak storm surprised the park operators as much as it did us. Accuweather.com sure got it wrong. It wasn’t until late in the day the app actually acknowledged that snow had fallen.

Three little cabins sitting in the snow
A bit of green among all the white

The snow stopped after about four hours. I zipped up my jacket, pulled on my knit cap, and slung my new Sony A6500 around my neck. I needed some quality time with my new camera. The smaller form factor and weight was my goal for purchasing new gear. A bonus was the 5-axis in camera stabilization. I wasn’t sure I’d like going mirrorless. But so far I’m quite pleased with the lighter weight and stabilization. I rarely use a tripod and have noticed an improvement in the sharpness of my photos. Editing the raw images also seems easier and quicker.

Canon Rebel T3i with Tamron 16 to 300 zoom lens versus the Sony A6500 with 18 to 135 lens. Which would you rather carry around?
Ice on a branch
The snow melted fast once it quit falling
Little yellow wagon in the snow
Playground at Denny Park
Denny Lake with campsites in background
From 90 degrees in Lake Havasu to 30 degrees in Cortez, Colorado

For the past few days, we’ve stayed close to camp because of the weather, but also because of the return of Jon’s sciatica. The week before we left on this trip, Jon’s pain had eased considerably with physical therapy and exercises. After being on the road for a few days, the beast struck again. His walks of a 1/2 mile to a mile have reduced to a few steps. Will acupuncture give him some relief? “I’m ready to try anything at this point,” Jon answered.

Stay tuned for the results and a little bit about Mesa Verde National Park, if we’re lucky.

Safe Travels

From Tucson, Arizona, to Anaheim, California

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, we left New Mexico behind and began our trek back to California to meet up with family at Disneyland. First, the fifth wheel and truck needed a good bath after 52 days on the road, so we stopped in at Rincon West RV Resort in Tucson for four nights. Mid to late March seems to be a great time to travel in southern Arizona. The weather was great and the resort had plenty of sites available, unlike what we found in February the previous year.

Tucson, Arizona

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Tucson always feels like home. We need to spend more time there.
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Can’t beat the Tucson sunsets.

After our cleaning day, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to an RV show at the convention center and an early dinner downtown. At the RV show, we took a good look at motorhomes to compare to our rig. We didn’t see anything that would make us switch at this time. The thought of having to deal with maintenance on a motorhome plus a vehicle towed behind put the kibosh on a new rig. On the other hand, the walk around town and an early dinner was a hit.

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The chili pepper design is appropriate for a bus stop in Tucson.
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The Rialto Theater, named after Ponte de Rialto in Venice. I grew up in Rialto, California, where the town’s logo includes an image of the bridge.

Obon Sushi Bar Ramen served up a Salmon Poke and Tonkotsu Ramen that matched our taste and left us wanting more even though we were full. In between lunch and dinner is our favorite time to grab a meal at a restaurant because they usually are not too busy. With only a few customers, our server checked on us frequently to make sure our food tasted good and we had everything we needed. We topped off our meal with a scoop of the most flavorful green tea ice cream I ever tasted.

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Obon Sushi Bar Ramen

The next day’s forecast called for 80-degree weather and high winds in the afternoon, so we got up early for a hike on the Douglas Spring Trail that leads into the Saguaro Wilderness Area. Parking is limited so it’s a good idea to arrive early.

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As we walked up to the trailhead, we heard a coyote howl behind us. Then another coyote responded. I love it when nature comes out and lets us experience their lives. Several hikes ranging from .2 to 12.4 miles are accessible from the trailhead.

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Carillo Trail

We opted for the 1.5-mile Carrillo Trail cut-off and then returned thinking the strong winds would begin roaring through the canyons by early afternoon. We found a well maintained, easy to moderate trail with no signs of litter, which was remarkable given the number of hikers we met along the way.

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The trail starts out as a botanical garden of sorts with several specimens of the cactus such as this blooming ocotillo and saguaro.

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Blooming Ocotillo and Saguaro Against the Sky.
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Teddy-Bear Cholla
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View from Carrillo Trail
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Barrel Cactus
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The damaged saguaro lives on.

The trailhead is at the end of a road near the entrance to the Tanque Verde Ranch. Our curiosity about the ranch led us down the road to see what there was to see. Turns out Tanque Verde is a dude ranch/spa type place that goes for an all-inclusive $409 per night. At this price three meals per day and access to all of the activities are included. Only want to stay the night and eat breakfast in the morning? The price is $149.

Since finding a site in Tucson was easy peasy, we risked fast-forwarding the rest of our way to Anaheim without reservations. After a quick stop in Yuma at Carefree RV Resort, a night at Banning KOA, and a night in the Inland Empire on the street in front of Jon’s brother’s house, we arrived in Anaheim on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

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Yuma also puts on a good sunset show.

Anaheim, California, and Disneyland

Anaheim RV Park was the perfect place to stay while exploring Disneyland. Not only are the sites spacious with concrete patios, the hibiscus, dwarf citrus, and cell towers disguised as palm trees were a pleasant change of pace from the desert scenery of City of Rocks, Tucson, and Yuma. Best of all a shuttle bus ran between Disneyland and the RV Park every 20 minutes for a small fee.

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Anaheim RV Park has wide sites and plenty of greenery.

When grandchildren have special moments in their lives, Papa and Nana must do what they can to be there. So it was when our granddaughter Maya’s middle school band and honor guard was invited to parade down Disney’s Main Street.

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My lovely family from the left: Jon, Laura, Jackson, and Chris. Maya was with her school group. We’ll get a glimpse of her later.

Jon thinks The Happiest Place on Earth is the most Frustrating Place on Earth because of the long lines and overcrowded conditions, so spending two days there wasn’t his idea of a good time.

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The Tiki Room is always fun.

During this trip, however, our daughter Laura served as our personal Disney guide, scheduling the rides to avoid the long lines and planning where to go for our meals.

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Disney is hard at work on the Star Wars: Galaxy Edge opening in 2019.

With the Disneyland App in hand, she had all the information she needed to make our visit as painless as possible.

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The Swiss Family Treehouse is now Tarzan’s home.
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Tarzan Treehouse
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Submarine ride and Matterhorn
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Tom Sawyer’s Island is still the best place for kids to get their wiggles out.
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This was the first time I saw this ship moving in the water.
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We paid extra for a spot on the concrete to see the Fantasmic Show. It was worth it.
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The Silvey’s waiting for the Peter Pan ride.

And here comes the band and color guard.

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Wells Middle School on Parade Route
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Maya in the middle.
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Wells Middle School parents and fans cheer the kids on.
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Jon’s favorite attraction at Disneyland is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, no line and a quiet cool place to rest. The fire truck looks like a fun ride, too.
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Stop in at the Emporium for gifts.
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Jon attended the flag retreat, which honors current and veteran military personnel.

We all had a great two days at Disneyland. Even though Jon said he had a good time, I’m sure he’ll say no the next time the opportunity arises.

Four more days in Anaheim. Hmm, what will we do?

Safe Travels

Willcox, Arizona

Day 15 of our 2018 Winter Tour took us to Willcox, Arizona. Our goal was to see Fort Bowie National Historic Site, another place we had seen while passing through the area on our way to somewhere else. It smelled like rain when we left Gila Bend, gusty winds and thick sandstorms pelted our rig through Casa Grande. The clouds finally cleared by the time we hit Tucson, but the wind stayed with us all the way to Willcox, finally dying down around 7:00 p.m.

The groves of pecan and pistachio trees in this part of Arizona always surprise me. After traveling miles with only the desert landscape to gaze at, acres of trees pop up like a mirage. We drove through Pistachio Alley on our way to and from Fort Bowie National Historic Site Trailhead. The trees with their bare limbs don’t look like much this time of year, but I bet they are majestic covered in leaves.

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Pistachio Alley

Fort Bowie was named in honor of Colonel George Washington Bowie commander of the 5th Regiment, California Volunteer Infantry, who first established the fort. The trailhead can be reached through either the town of Willcox or the town of Bowie. We selected the Bowie route to avoid what I gathered was a 10-mile drive on a graded dirt road over the Apache Pass. Going through Bowie, there is only about 1 mile of the dirt road.

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Fort Bowie Trailhead

Don’t expect to drive a car up to a visitor center at Fort Bowie. (Accessible travel can be arranged). A 1.5-mile hike to the ruins meanders up and down hills, through a valley, alongside a spring, and past a cemetery. Information signs reveal the historic significance of the ruins along the way.

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Creek Crossing at Start of Trail

We took our time stopping at the ruins, reading the information signs, taking pictures, and wondering how it must have been riding a stagecoach through the rugged land.

The rocks in the photo below outline the spot where a cabin once stood. A local prospector and well digger, Jesse L. Millsap, lived in the cabin, according to his nephew who visited his uncle in a Model-T Ford with his father.

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Millsap Cabin Ruin

It was a pleasure walking along with only the sounds of nature surrounding us. Without the noise of a freeway, trains, and airplanes, it was like experiencing what someone during the 1880s might have experienced. Standing near the ruins of the Stage Station brought the scene to life.

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Stage Station Ruin Where The Butterfield Overland Mail Stopped to Exchange Mules and Rest

Imagine 6 – 8 foot-high walls surrounding a kitchen-dining room where stagehands and passengers ate a meal of bread, coffee, meat, and beans for fifty cents and rooms where guests might rest while waiting for the stagecoach to continue its route. Also enclosed within the walls was a storage room for feed and weapons and a corral for mules.

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Stage Station Ruin

One of the biggest events that occurred in the area was the Bascom Affair. On February 4, 1861, Lt. George Bascom gathered with 54 of his men on a mission to find Cochise, the principal chief of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache. Bascom believed Cochise and his band kidnapped a boy and stole livestock and he was intent to recover both the boy and the livestock. The problem was Cochise and his band did not take the boy or the livestock and was insulted over the accusation.

The conflict lasted for sixteen days with both Indians and soldiers capturing hostages and executing them in retaliation. For twelve years tensions between the two groups continued until President U.S. Grant sent General Oliver O. Howard to join army scout Thomas Jeffords to make peace with Cochise.

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Location Where Bascom Unsuccessfully Pressed Cochise to Return a Kidnapped Boy and Livestock

The Post Cemetery predates Fort Bowie when soldiers of the California Column were interred there in 1862. Other graves include military dependents, civilian employees, emigrants, mail carriers, and three Apache children including one of Geronimo’s sons.

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Little Robe Possibly Died from Dysentery While in Custody of Soldiers Along with Other Geronimo Family Members

The ruin in the photo below is of a late 19th-century adobe building, which housed the Chiricahua Apache Indian Agency in 1873-77. Based on an archeology study conducted in 1984,  the building contained fireplaces, three rooms, and a wooden floor. A porch may have occupied the front of the building along with corrals at the back of the building for holding agency livestock. Adobe plaster covers and stabilizes the walls exposed by the archeologists.

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When Cochise died in 1874, he left a band divided in leadership and conduct. Some Apaches lingered on the reservation while others left to plunder Mexican Settlements.  U.S. Indian Agent Thomas Jeffords governed the remaining 900 Chiricahua Apaches at the Chiricahua Apache Indian Agency in 1875-76.

In June 1876, the government removed Jeffords and moved 325 Apaches northward to the San Carlos Reservation. Many escaped and fled to distant sanctuaries to renew hostilities for another decade.

Imagine a camp of several thatched wickiups like the one in the photo below. Clustered together but hidden for safety, camp life continued as it had for hundreds of years.  Men rode off to hunt for game while women harvested crops, prepared food, and cared for the children. The freshwater spring and other resources in the surrounding area supported hundreds of Chiricahua during the winter and spring seasons.

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Wikiup Hut and Ramada

A unique feature located in Apache Pass, and a cause of many conflicts, is a freshwater spring that flows from a geological fault. Native Americans relied on the water long before the emigrants and soldiers arrived on the scene. Eventually, the Chiricahua were driven away from their home.

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Apache Spring

The walk to the ruins was not strenuous, but we were glad to have plenty of water and a snack with us. It is also a good idea to take along a sweater or light jacket, depending on the time of year, in case the weather conditions shift.

The steps up to the big porch at the visitor center and a comfortable bench where I could rest for a few minutes was a welcome sight. Inside the building, are a small museum and the typical national park T-shirts, hats, books, and junior ranger paraphernalia offered for sale.

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Long View of Fort Bowie Ruins
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Fort Bowie Ruins
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Non-commissioned Staff Officer’s Quarters

We followed the docent advice and took the return trail back to the parking lot. Although the steep incline up a hill behind the visitor center was intimidating, switchbacks and flat stretches made the descent easier.

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Return Trail to Parking Lot

The best part was the spectacular views of not only the fort ruins but also the agricultural zones, valleys, and cities off in the distance.

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Views from Atop the Hill

We enjoyed our hike to the Fort Bowie ruins and wouldn’t mind returning some day during a prettier time of year. I’d like to see the pistachio and pecan trees dressed in their leaves and the ocotillo in bloom. Next time we’ll carry a full lunch in our backpack instead of the measly snacks we had packed.

Keeping with our 250 – 400 miles a day, Van Horn seemed like the next logical place to stop as we headed into Texas.

Joshua Tree National Park

From Prescott we headed toward Twenty-nine Palms, California, to explore Joshua Tree National Park, a place we had wanted to return to for many years. We checked in at Twenty-nine Palms RV Resort on October 19, 2017, for four nights.

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Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center

This desert area became a national park in 1994 after being set aside as a monument in 1936 by President Roosevelt. Jon and I had driven by the park several times going to and from other places and often commented that we needed to go back and spend some time. I was curious about what had changed since I camped at Jumbo Rocks with a group of friends while still in high school. Finally, I’d find out.

Oasis Visitor Center

We started our exploration at the Oasis Visitor Center where we picked up a pamphlet and a map of the 794,000-acre park. We also walked around the Oasis Trail with a volunteer ranger. She had a grade school teacher’s personality that roused our interest as she pointed out features of the palms, the different plants, and the animals that visited the pond. She explained that they do not trim the dead palm fronds from the trees because they serve as homes and protection for birds, owls, and other critters.

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Oasis Trail at Visitor Center

The main highway traffic ebbed into white noise leaving only the sounds of wind whistling through the palm fronds, the trickling spring, birds trilling their songs, and scampering lizards and mice rustling in the brush.

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There’s a Spring Under All that Greenery

Along the path is a series of signposts that tell the story of what happens when a seventeen-year-old girl of the Chemehuevi falls in love with a white man. The story gave me a glimpse into the people who visited the oasis in the early 1900s.

Cholla Cactus Garden

Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes while navigating the quarter-mile loop trail in the Cholla Cactus Garden.

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Cholla Gardens
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Cholla Garden

Although the branches appear as if they are covered with something soft and fluffy, don’t touch. The prickly barbs will latch onto shoes and clothing and you’ll have a jolly time trying to remove them. The cone shapes tipped with yellow are what is left from the flowers that bloom from March through May.

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Cholla Close Up

Split Rock Loop Trail

Take the Split Rock short loop trail to see rocks and cactus up close, or extend the hike to a full 2.5 miles by taking the extension to Face Rock.

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JT Waving at Split Rock
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My, What a Big Toe You Have
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Sleeping Baby Elephant?
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Yucca Plant Cuddles With a Prickly Pear
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Stone Steps Mark the Trail
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Yucca Plants Hanging on to the Last of Their Bloom Stalks
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Balancing Rocks Are A Common Sight
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The Olympic Flame Just Like in Bryce Canyon

Joshua Trees

Joshua Tree National Park is unique in that it encompasses portions of both the Mojave Desert on the western half of the park and the Colorado Desert on the eastern half. The Joshua Trees, a species of yucca rather than a true tree, are most prevalent on the western side where elevations are greater than 3,000 feet.

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Acres and Acres of Joshua Trees
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Joshua Tree Forest

Skull Rock Trail

This is another loop trail and quite popular with cars and trucks parked on both sides of the road for about a quarter mile on either side. Start at Jumbo Rocks Campground, or at Skull Rock. There are trails on both sides of the highway and plenty to see.

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View from Atop The Jumbo Rocks

A sampling of plants seen on the trails.

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Or, is This a Baby Elephant?
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Skull Rock Crawling with People

Hidden Valley Trail

I think Hidden Valley Trail was one of my favorites. It’s such a surprise to break through the tight boulder formations and encounter a rock enclosed valley that cattle rustlers may have used to hide out.

 

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Yucca and Other Plants Find Cracks and Crevices to Grow
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Climbers Have Plenty of Spots to Navigate The Steep Rock Faces in Hidden Valley
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Look Ma, I’m King of the Hill
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Stairs Make the Trek Easier

 

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Hershey Kiss?

Keys View (5,183 feet)

Keys View overlooks Highway 10 and across the valley stands the Indio Hills.

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San Gorgonio Peak
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San Gorgonio Pass Looking West
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Coachella Valley In the Haze

 29 Palms Inn and Restaurant

 We didn’t expect much in the way of a decent restaurant in town since the main drag was where most of the fast-food chains set up shop. We were surprised, however, when we drove to the end of a road, skirted the pool, and walked into the restaurant at the 29 Palms Inn on the Oasis of Mara. They have been dishing up tasty food since 1928.

 

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29 Palms Inn Restaurant

 

 

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Dining room at 29 Palms Inn Restaurant

 

The inn includes several adobe bungalows, suites, wood frame cabins, and other accommodations guests wanting a quirky place to stay. Oh, the stories those bungalows could tell if only given a chance.

 

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29 Palms Inn Lobby

 

Camping at Joshua Tree National Monument

Camping is available year round. No reservations are needed during the summer when the temperatures rise to 100 degrees or more. October through May is the busiest time and mid-February to mid-May and holidays are the busiest. Two of the campgrounds accept reservations and six are first come, first served. By Friday morning, October 20, 2017, the campgrounds were already full. I’m glad we had arranged for accommodations outside of the park, although it would have been fun to look up at the pitch black sky and watch the Orionid meteor shower without ambient light getting in the way. Oh, about what has changed at Jumbo Rock Campground? Although I noticed a definite upgrade in the amenities, the crowded sites turned me off. Maybe Sunday through Wednesday wouldn’t be so bad.

Another Restaurant Recommendation

On our way from Prescott, Arizona, to Twenty-nine Palms, California, we passed through Wickenburg, Arizona, at lunchtime. The Tastee Freez looked to be the best bet in town, and we weren’t disappointed. Expecting only grilled hamburgers and French fries, this Tastee Freez, along with Sundance Pizza, has a large menu to satisfy any guest, including deli sandwiches and salads. If you are traveling through Wickenburg and it’s time to eat, don’t be shy about giving this Tastee Freez a try.

If the timing is right the next time we roll through Twenty-nine Palms, we’ll have to stop and explore more of Joshua Tree National Park. Plenty of trails still remain for us to take.

Coming up is the Borax Visitor Center in Boron, California, and then on to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Safe Travels