Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Part 5 of Spring Habitat Travels

Tucson to Camp Verde!
View all Homeward Bound Photos

Friday, April 4
Tucson to Camp Verde  (216 miles)
Loop around Sedona area (87 miles)

     We are on our way northward today!!  A quiet morning around the CHRPA resort as we pack up, unhook, and pull out around 8:15.  I finally gave up and switched the time in the truck back an hour, figuring we would be back in Pacific time in Nevada anyway.  Our only soirĂ©e back to Mountain Time will be our brief drive across southern Idaho on Monday! 
Final shot of downtown Tucson with
Catalina Mts. in distance
     Smooth sailing through the morning traffic of Tucson, enjoying a few downtown views against the Catalina Mts. as we head north toward Picacho Peak.  I need a bathroom stop at Picacho, which also results in the purchase of a few t-shirts at the gift shop next to the restrooms.  Ooops! 
Picacho Peak
  Through the middle of Phoenix from I-10 to I-17.  Not impossible!  We had hoped to find a travel plaza on the north side, but nothing was clearly marked and I must have read my gas buddy on the phone wrong because we didn’t see the station at the exit, so we drove on!  Was going to make getting clear to Camp Verde a little tight, so we pulled over at Black Canyon and paid the $3.69 for 8 gallons worth.  Ouch.  The station I had been looking for was $3.35.  MUCH better! 
     North of Phoenix the landscape changes dramatically.  First a gradual reduction of saguaro cactus, more rocky hills, and then we climbed – up a pass that wasn’t even marked on the map!  (Just west of Aqua Fria National Monument which was only designated with the road to Bloody Basin. Intriguing! )  At the top of the pass, we opened out to a large plateau of ….grassland!!  NOT what we expected!! 
....to this?

From this....

     A series of ups and downs, and we entered in and out of Prescott and Cocino National Forests.  What trees comprise the forest, I’m not sure.  All I saw were juniper and occasionally cottonwoods and mesquite!
Dropping down into Verde Valley
     We dropped down into the Verde Valley, elevation around 3100’, and then up slightly to Exit 289 and our Distant Drums RV Park.  It is a VERY nice resort park, but our W&E only site only cost $28!  Beautiful bathrooms, pool, hot tub, exercise room, and big laundry.  Nice.  We had to unhook to fit into our space, but that’s ok because we were planning to take a drive to check out Montezuma Castle National Monument and Sedona area. 
Our afternoon 'jaunt'
     We grab a little lunch while perusing the information given to us at the desk, and shortly before 2 we take off on a little loop drive. My turn to drive!  Back down the freeway a couple miles to Hwy 260 north toward the town of Cottonwood.  We travel up the Verde River, which at times looks like it is carpeted with cottonwood trees.  (BTW, there is cottonwood ‘cotton’ just outside the trailer at the moment. J  Love the stuff!)  The cliffs around us are mostly white strata – almost chalky looking in places.  We try to find the Tuzigoot National Monument, but it is further in the wrong direction than we anticipated, so we turn around. 
The red rocks above the town of Sedona
     Now we travel northeast on 89A toward Sedona and gradually giant cliffs with red lines of strata appear before us.  As we near town, the cliffs start to take on the individual personalities of separate rock formations.  We drive through Sedona, pleasantly surprised by the overall look.  We spy a Wynham WorldMart resort even!  The commercial touristy district is at the far eastern end of town – crowded and packed with people walking among the shops. 
Bridge picture over Oak Creek
         We continue past Sedona itself up the Oak Creek canyon toward Flagstaff.  This is NOT the route we will take with the trailer.  We go about 6 miles up to Slide Rock State Park.  Thought about going into the park, but they wanted $10 just for a day visit!  So we turned around.  (At this point Rick was driving, as he got tired of taking pictures for me!)  We stopped at a bridge overlook, the point where a side canyon meets up with Oak Creek.  Beautiful views, especially with the new growth colors of all the cottonwoods!
         We then head south on Rte 179 toward more rock formations and the interstate freeway.  We stop to wander up a trail abit to where we can get a good view back toward all the redrock.  Pretty spectacular.  By this point, my camera battery had died and I was taking pictures with the phone!  Later, as I tried to take a few sunset pictures, I discovered I had reached the max of pictures that the phone can carry!  I hadn’t deleted anything all trip from the phone, even though most of them had been transferred to the dropbox!  Once I deleted a few, I was able to take a picture of the sunset.  (It didn’t turn much in the way of color, anyway!)
Pano from one of the sceniec vista points. 
Montezuma's Castle National Monument
         Montezuma’s Castle closed at 5pm and we drove into the parking lot at 4:46.  OK, not a lot of time to explore!  I got my passbook stamp and we ran out the short walk to take a look at the cliff dwellings.  These were about 100’ above the base of the cliff, but the vegetation along the creek was beautiful and lush – cottonwoods, sycamore trees, and thick grasses.  Also part of this monument is Montezuma’s Well, a natural sinkhole ‘lake’ fed by springs (to the tune of 1.5 million gallons of fresh water daily!)  Native Americans constructed an irrigation channel from the overflow point to water their crops. 
         We tried to stop at the Casino for their Happy Hour drinks and appetizers, but the smoke was pretty overwhelming, so we left.  Back to the trailer to scavenge whatever we could find for some dinner.  I ate more of what I had for lunch: salad with a few tortillas chips and some of my salsa for dressing! 
         Had trouble with the internet this evening, so once again nothing is getting posted.  Sorry people!  I would say maybe tomorrow, but I seriously doubt if we have a connection at the luxurious Alamo RV Park!!  We are just hoping for some gas stations!  Discovered it is further from Vegas to Ely than we thought, and we will need a few more gallons to make it all the way! 
        This is a quiet park.  So sirens, helicopters, or army planes filling the night air with their sounds!  Hope I can sleep!!  G’night. 
Sunset from trailer on mountains beyond Verde Valley

Camp Verde, AZ to Alamo, NV  (392 miles)
      I had to write this entry once before on an email since when we got to Alamo, the laptop had a 'corrupted user profile' and I couldn't even log on to the computer!  I sent a MAYDAY! to Jed and then discovered I also didn't have T-Mobile coverage.  Not a good ending to a good day of travel!  And the Alamos RV Park was reputed to have good internet!  I finally sent Jed an email on Rick's Kindle.   Re-reading my Kindle email has been a challenge as Auto-correct really did a number on sections! 
Ponderosa Pines!!!
Humphreys Peak
      We pulled out of Distant Drums Rv Park around 7:25am - a good early start!  Today is largely an interstate day!  We follow I-17 north toward Flagstaff.  It is a LOOOONG uphill haul as we gain over 4000 feet in elevation between the park and Flagstaff.  Around 5000' in elevation we encounter Ponderosa pines!  It looks like home!  Ahhhh!  A part of Arizona we could call home!  We could see the snowcapped summits of Humphreys Peak (Arizona's tallest) at 12600' directly to our north as we approached the city.  Lots of beautiful meadows and ranches south of Flagstaff amid the pines.  Perfect spots for the 'sunbirds' who flee Phoenix and points south during the hot times of the summer.  
     I had done my research the night before and had our gas stops outlined for the day.  First one, Exit 185 just west of Flagstaff.  Most of our stops will be at Flying J's or Pilots.  From here until Kingman I take the wheel (145 miles!)  Rick and I tried to remember the last time we had driven this stretch of highway.  Finally figured on one trip back from Jed's and it was late in the evening and most of it was dark,.  We spent that night in Kingman.  The other time was in 1994 coming out of the Grand Canyon as we headed over toward Needles and the Mohave.  So....this was one of the rare times in the daylight!!  It is not a flat section of highway!  Up and down the ridges as we saw peaks to the south and the canyon plateau to the north.  It was a pretty section of road to drive.  (Sorry, no picture....I was driving!)
Dropping down into the Colorado River canyon at
Hoover Dam. 
One state closer to home!
     We gassed up again in Kingman and grabbed a little lunch in the trailer.  Rick then takes the wheel again and we headed north on 93 toward Las Vegas.  This is a pretty time of year for these mountain stretches.  Granted, the monsoons green up the grasses, etc., but there are spring wildflowers out along the road here!  Mostly widespread patches of yellow flowers line the highway.  We cross over Hoover Dam on the new bypass - an impressive bridge - and on into Las Vegas.  Ah the city of glitz.  We cruise through, enjoying some of the freeway overpass art!  Stop at another Flying J north of town for more gas.  (The joys of the big trailer....every 150-200 miles!)  
Glitz town of Las Vegas
Roadside flowers...
     Another 80 miles from Vegas north on 93 to Alamo.  I forgot how pretty the Pahrangasat Valley is - first lots of cholla cactus, then Joshua trees in bloom, and finally up to a grassland elevation with marshes and ponds, especially around the wildlife refuge.  The road was lined with wildflowers: two different species of yellow, orange mallows, white Mexican poppies, and the vibrant fuchsia pink of cactus.  I was not expecting such a profusion of color! 
Nearing Alamo
   I called earlier today to make sure gas was available at Alamo, as we knew we couldn't get from Vegas to Ely on one tank. Yes!  At $3.76 gallon, but we didn't care at price here!  (Ended up we got free coffee with the fillup so that lowered the price!)
Our site at Alamo RV...and we
 did have internet!
I just didn't have a computer!
    We arrived at Alamo RV around 3pm.  Rick got set up in the site while I registered.  A nice pull through so we don't have to unhook.  Two clean, unisex shower/toilet combos.  No complaints with the accomodations for $29 a night.  Would be great if I could use the internet available!  Quiet evening in our cozy little house.  Cooling off.  I got out the heater and set it to low as it was forecast to hit the lower 30's.  

Alamo, NV to Jerome, ID (405 miles)
     Up early to the sound of a rooster crowing and the cattle mooing for their morning hay!  Ah, life in rural America!!  It is 43 degrees in the trailer - glad I put the heater out to take a little of the chill off. We eat and dress quickly and are on our way by 7:30a headed north.    Unfortunately, a NNW wind accompanies us much of the day, in varying strength.  But at one point, Rick was sure we were going to make it to Ely on our tank of gas!  And we only had 145 miles to go!!  Between the long uphill haul and the headwind, we probably didn't average more than 7-8 miles per gallon this morning!  
White River Narrows
     But the vistas were glorious!  The further we went north, the more snow we found on the top peaks of the Nevada mountains.  A few narrow canyons along the White River, broad lake bed barren at the moment, cattle grazing and antelope.  As we moved northward, the creosote and cactus grassland gave way to a rare cholla, and then sagebrush and rabbitbrush, junipers, and pinon pines. About midway up Hwy 318 there is a really nice rest area (not marked on any map).  After the junction with US 6, the route climbs once more to the top of a 7300' pass, passes the Ruth Copper Mine pit (one of the world's largest) and then DROPS down into Ely.  
Another Nevada mountain range south of Ely. 
    Gas in Ely as well as Subway sandwiches, and then I drive the 125 miles north to Wells.  We finish listening to the book on tape we started yesterday during this stretch.  (Rick picked up two books at the library before we left.  This one was one of the series which inspired the old TV show Spenser for Hire with Robert Ulrich.  It was great!)  I drove into a few rain squalls, but mostly clouds and few drops.  Lots of beautiful mountain ridges, however, and broad wide valleys.  Such isolated terrain.  This morning we traveled a stretch of 100 miles without 'services' and then another 100 this afternoon.  You HAVE to plan out your gas stops!  
"Ghost Mt." north of Wells -
really is China Mt. but it looked awesome in the clouds!
     A quick stop in Wells for gas and Rick takes over for the final push of the day.  Into Jackpot and over the border into Idaho!  Lot of snowy mountain peaks and ridges, clouds circling about.  Then flat agriculture between the border and Twin Falls.  Over the Perrinne Bridge at Twin Falls and the Snake River, gas at the Flying J,and by 4pm we are pulling in to the Jerome KOA.  The owner pulls up our file from the computer and we are quickly registered.  The wind is blowing at 25-30 mph straight from the west.  There is NO consideration of driving at all toward home at this point.  We were just glad that it changed to a westerly wind mid way through the day and wasn't a direct head wind ALL day!  
     I picked up a container of Chicken Pot Pie soup at the Flying J to augment our meager dinners - we are cleaning up the food in the trailer!  NOT MUCH LEFT!!  A Subway breakfast is looking good....either that or oatmeal!  
     About 5 hours into Baker City tomorrow!!!      
MONDAY, April 7 
Final Push into Baker City  (248 miles)

     Praise God!  The winds died down to a 'gentle' 5-8 mph around 10pm last night.  It is a beautiful BRISK morning (30's - Yes, I ran the heater last night!)  But the sun is shining on the trailer as we pack up, so the fabric isn't as stiff as it was yesterday to fold in.  Oh, we ate oatmeal for breakfast!  This is an economy run, especially since gas is going to run over budget!  (Thank you head winds!)
     We are on our way around 7:45, a little later due to the time we took to thorough clean the tub and bathroom and kitchen sink - those places where water going down a drain is very helpful!  We want to clean the rest of the trailer so it is ready for Montana when we get home.
Getting closer!
    This is my stretch of highway in Idaho, so I take the wheel first today.  A slight headwind but nothing like yesterday!  We wind our way towards Boise, the sun at our backs (thank you!), and snowy mountains of the Sawtooths peaking up from behind the front ridges all the way to our north.  At the rest area just east of Boise we stop for a bathroom break and to switch drivers.  
     Rick steers us through lots of construction traffic in Boise and a stop in Caldwell for gas.  Final Wal-Mart stop in Ontario (partially to stock up on trailer supplies needed for Montana) and a quick grab of lunch from the deli in the store.  I take my HOME picture of the Elkhorns as we crest the ridge at Pleasant Valley - the mountains are accommodating today and clear in the distance. 
Homecoming!  Our welcome!

     Home at 1:15pm.  Luke pulls up 5 minutes later and helps us unload!  What a guy!  
     This was definitely a work trip only.  A few weekend side-trips, and a one day delay coming home to visit Sedona.  Otherwise, as Rick said at one point, "I haven't worked this consistently since I retired!  I'm tired!"  We put in a total of nearly 300 volunteer hours in 5 weeks.  (OK, I realize that is only a 30 hour work week each, but hey, we ARE retired!)  

A few trip totals.....just for the record. :)
Total Miles:  3505
Total Trailer Miles: 2882
Highest Gas Price: $3.76, Lowest: $3.19
Total Cost: $2788
Daily Average: $65
Volunteer Hours: 295