Monthly Archives: February 2014

Painted Canyon, Meca and Indio

I read about a boondocking spot called Painted Canyon, about twenty miles from where we were camped at Joshua Tree Park and so we decided to take the car and go check it out and then make the pilgrimage to Mecca, the small town just past the Painted Canyon.  The drive was mostly through rocky canyons on paved road.  However, when we reach Painted Canyon it was dirt for four miles and washboard a lot of the time.  Already we are thinking, “This won’t be good for the rig”.  We really didn’t see any sites appropriate for us, so we continued to the end of the road to hike the Painted Canyon.

The first part of the hike (about ¼ mile) was down a gravel, sandy wash and then a giant, rock arrow pointed the way to a path (and I use that term loosely) straight up the rocks!  Ralph went further than I.  There were several ladders to climb up the sides of the rocks and it was a four hour loop.  So we did not tackle it.

IMG_0867IMG_0872IMG_0879Back to the car and off in search of Mecca.  We did find it: a very small town with about three restaurants (none where we would want to eat), a gas station and a second hand store with a few other buildings.  We decided to move on to the next town of Indio.  I looked on Yelp to find somewhere to eat and the highest rated place in town was a deli.  We searched it out and found the parking lot empty so we parked right up front.  Lucky…we thought.  The sign on the door said open 9am to 10 pm, Mon-Fri.  We looked at each other and asked, “What day is it”?? We both guessed, but had to consult our cell phones to be sure.  Dang!  It was Sunday.  Not knowing the day of the week is just another hardship we face as we travel!  So it was off to an Italian restaurant to pizza.

IMG_0881Tomorrow we head over to Borrego Springs, CA to another boondocking spot recommended by a blog I follow.

Until next time…

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Roughing It Smoothly in Joshua Tree National Park

At this point in our trip we are driving separately; Ralph in the RV and me in my Mini.  We left the campsite in Quartzsite at the same time, but headed in opposite directions.  Ralph headed into Quartzsite to the RV Pit Stop to take care of business (dump the grey and black water tanks and fill the fresh water tank) and I headed to Blythe to  get groceries, stop at Micky D’s for their free wifi to upload the last blog posting and then on to the vet to get some meds for Simon.  We agreed to meet at the George Patton Museum one exit before the Joshua Tree National Park.  As I was leaving the vet I received a call from Ralph saying he was already at the Museum!  Took me about 45 minutes to make the 60 mile trip to meet him.  We heard there was free boondocking behind the museum, so we checked it out.  Good enough to spend the night but we didn’t want to camp there so we moved on to our planned destination just outside the south entrance of the park.  It was very much like the spot we had just left in Quartzsite.

WW II shell cases made into art.  They needed something to pass the time in those foxholes! Beautiful!

WW II shell cases made into art. They needed something to pass the time in those foxholes!
Beautiful!

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The next day we headed into the park.  Since Ralph had a National Senior Pass we got in free.  I purchased my pass at the visitor center.  One of the few perks of turning 62 is you get a lifetime pass to all National Parks and Monuments for $10  and half price on National Park campgrounds.  Now that’s a good deal!  We picked up a park map and headed north.  It’s about 35 miles from the south to the north entrances and the park includes parts of both the Colorado Desert (part of the much larger Sonoran Desert and the Mojave Desert.IMG_3391

The Colorado Desert (eastern part of the park and below 3000 feet is home to many plants and animals.

It is famous for the cholla (choy-ya) cactus also called the teddy bear cactus; but not a teddy bear you want to hug! Some of the cholla were even blooming.

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The western side of the park and above 3000 feet takes in part of the Mojave desert with the boulder stacks, pinyon pines, junipers, scrub oaks, Mojave yuccas, prickly pear cacti and of course, the wild armed Joshua Trees.  It is said that the migrating Morons named the tree after Joshua in the Bible.  The Joshua trees can grow over 40 feet high.

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We hiked up (I should say crawled up!) some of the huge boulders to an arch and a photo opportunity.

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We packed a picnic lunch and stopped among the HUGH boulders to eat.  It was an absolutely perfect day:  not too hot, not too cold.

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We headed back the 35 miles to camp. As we left in the morning our “neighbor” was working on his right-front wheel and when we returned we stopped to find out if he needed any help and he was just finishing.  Turned out they had just been in Quartzsite for two weeks.  They are from Salem, Oregon so Ralph asked about great boondocking spots near Salem.  We are planning an Oregon trip late this summer.  He gave us some recommendations that we otherwise would never have known about.

Then we just waited for cocktail hour and the sunset.

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Roughing it Smoothly in Quartzsite, Arizona

After the holidays, I had a strong desire to get on the road again. In the RV blogs I read about many snowbirds, (or us rainbirds minus the rain) heading to the California and Arizona deserts in search of dry, warm weather. Ralph was game, so after preparing for two days, we hit Interstate 5 south towards the desert. We decided to bring my Mini Cooper instead of the motorcycle and rented a tow dolly so we could tow the car behind us. For $220 we could see if we prefer having a car with us or a motorcycle for getting around the areas where we are camped. To tow the car on a regular basis will take a $2000 investment for the tow bar, tow bar receiver and auxiliary braking system for the car (so it brakes when the motorhome brakes) and a shield to protect my little baby from road debris kicked up from the motorhome. That’s an investment we were not prepared to make just yet. It’s definitely a must for the full-time RVer’s. That’s not us…yet. Don’t know if it will ever be.

Took us two days to get to Quartzsite, just 20 miles east of Blythe, CA about 700 mile total. The Colorado River is the boundary between California and Arizona. The first thing we noticed is the .50 cent a gallon difference in the price of gas. That is .50 cents a gallon lower in Arizona. Apparently that’s the additional gas tax we pay in California.

Simon is finally getting accustomed to riding in the RV. I was shocked when he came out of his usually hiding space in the bedroom and jumped up on the sofa to enjoy the ride. Part of the time he even rode in my lap in the front seat. He’s come a long way, baby!

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Why Quartzsite you may ask? In the Winter, Quartzsite, let’s call it Q, a small desert town turns into the biggest gathering of people in the country. Over one million visitors gather here in their RVs. There is an RV show at the end of January that lasts 10 days. We missed this madness by a couple of days. Besides the mild weather (average 70 degrees) and the big RV show, the draw for many snow/rain birds is the 11,000 acres of BLM (US Bureau of Land Management) land surrounding the town where you can dry camp for free or next to nothing.

Dry camping (AKA boondocking) means no hook ups for electricity, water and sewer. The RVs are designed to be self-contained…that’s why they have generators, fresh water, grey water (for sinks and shower), and black water (for toilet) holding tanks. Also there is propane for heat, stove/oven, and refrigerator. Ralph installed a solar panel on the roof that helps keep the batteries charged…that is when there is sun. We’ve had several days of overcast weather and a little cool (in the 60s). It is supposed to warm into the high 70s this weekend. We were anxious to boondock and see how long we could camp off the grid. We are now on our 8th day and the water is running low. We’ve been conservative for sure, but not really inconvenienced very much, if at all.

We are camped seven miles west of Q on BLM land that allows 14 days of free camping. The Dome Rock area is not nearly as crowded as the areas closer to Q. It’s also a little hilly. We can see the sun rise in the east and set in the west and are surrounded by mountains in all directions. This is where we’ve called home for the last nine days.

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Done Rock Mountains

Done Rock Mountains

Our closest neighbor

Our closest neighbor

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The sunrises and sunsets have been awesome at times.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunset

Sunset

And how about the size of this cactus!

Speaks for itself!

Speaks for itself!

There was even a boat parked here in the desert. Took a wrong turn??

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Ralph built a stone fire pit from the many rocks here. We’ve had some wonderful nights next to the fire, under the stars and talking, talking, talking. And he designed a special cup holder. How’s that for Michigan ingenuity?

Firepit

Firepit

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This trip is completely different than the last trip to the Southwestern US. We are not moving from place to place, staying in campgrounds with full hookups. It’s kind of nice to stay in one place. And it is amazing to me how fast a day can pass doing pretty much nothing other than going to the store or taking a long hike in the hills of the Dome Rock Mountains. This is also ATV country, so there are lots of dirt roads to hike. Other than going into Q to the store, our big outings have been to the vet twice and to the Kofa National Wildlife Refuse and hiking up to Palm Canyon.

Our cat Simon has a problem pooping on the road. He hadn’t gone since we left home…and that’s not good. So into the vet for a little rotor-routering. Seems the colon on old cats stop working properly. And I learned something I want to pass on to other cat owners. This clumping cat litter that we all buy for our convenience is not good for our cats…especially older cats. That stuff gets on their paws, they lick their paws and the stuff gets into their system and turns to cement while sucking all the moisture out of their digestive track. It’s the clay in the clumping litter that’s the problem. So…it’s only Yesterday’s News for my boy from here on out. It’s recycled newspaper. Simon is still adjusting to the new litter so we’ll see what happens.

The 23 mile drive south on Hwy 95 down to Kofa didn’t take long, however the seven mile drive down the dirt road to get to the trailhead for Palm Canyon was a long, bumpy ride. There are a lot of dry camping sites and it is very private and beautiful. This isn’t the desert of the Death Valley style…long flat expanses of sand. This is mountain desert with a lot of green, rocks, cacti and mountains. We wanted to visit Palm Canyon as it is the only place in Arizona with native palm trees. They are clustered in a narrow canyon in the Kofa Mountains. They are California Fan Palms and are suspected to be descendants of palms growing in the region during the last North American glaciation. The palms are able to survive in the narrow side canyons where direct sunlight is limited to about two hours and day and some moisture is available. We were able to photograph them in partial sun. Met a few people on the trail and stopped to chat for a few minutes. I must say, traveling people are very friendly and HAPPY! I do understand why.

Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon

Kofa Mountains

Kofa Mountains

We’ve decided to head back into California tomorrow morning after a stop at the RV Pit Stop to empty the grey and black water tanks and fill up the fresh water tank. We are headed to the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park for our next bookdocking camping site. We will take the car and tour the park for a couple of days. It’s only 90 miles west of here on Hwy 10. It will be an easy day.

I’m glad we came here to check it out. We both liked being here and are ready to move on down the road. The desert has a beauty all unto itself.  We will cross Quartzsite off the bucket list for now.

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To quote Ralph, “There’s some beautiful-ass shit around here”. I totally agree! 

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