The Cacti are Blooming

May 19, 2021

Fans take up a lot of storage space, but well worth having when you have no air conditioning in May in the desert southwest.  AND, the cacti are blooming.  Challenging conditions beg for your presence, slowly losing linear time and being in the present moment. 

In our last post, we were on our way south leaving the Denver, Colorado area visiting friends.  We stopped at Garden of the Gods (Thank you Kim & Jeff) and we are grateful; it set the tone for our trek west and south for the next few weeks.  A spiritual gathering place for Native Americans, Garden of the Gods is altar-like as red-rock spires have been pushed up from the ground like sculptures, too large to be carved by a human.  We stay at one more state park in Colorado and do some hiking before heading back though New Mexico.  We are slowly acclimating to the altitude, not losing our breath and cooking takes twice as long.

As we trek back through New Mexico, heading west around the San Christo mountain range, we try and find hot springs, the first one we go to is closed due to covid, the second, is too far down a questionable road for our rig; alas, we continue on to Bluewater state park where we descend into a valley that has an even deeper canyon to explore and hike.  Needless to say we lose all cell connectivity. To do work, we take a motorcycle ride to the top of the canyon once or twice a day to complete correspondence.  Like most of our stops in New Mexico, they are in the middle of no where.  No worries, we always meet nice people.  One gal we meet is 77 years old, drives a 35’ rig, teaches business communications online and has been living this traveling lifestyle for 9 years.  She had LOTS of recommendations 😉.

As we leave New Mexico red rock mesa’s keep coming like waves that flatten out into plateaus.  We find ourselves in heat and high elevation at Homo Lovi State Park, Hopi Indian ruins; we hike the ruins in the heat and enjoy the cool evenings and the long glow of the sunset in this dry air.  For weeks I had been trying to find a campsite at a Grand Canyon campground without luck; but lucky for us there are thousands of acres of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land right outside the gates of the Grand Canyon for boondocking (dry camping).

We find a beautiful place to camp 3 miles outside of the Grand Canyon-South Rim entrance, Kaibab National Forest,  off of Forest Road 302.  We are at 7000 ft above sea level.  We are off-gred at the most beautiful campsite we’ve had thus far, confirmed by the grazing elk the first morning we wake there and having a blazing fire every night.  We travel into the Grand Canyon via motorcycle with grace and ease.  We get a great recommendation (Thank you MaryLou!) to experience the Grand Canyon via a more remote location that you must hike 1 mile up hill to the ledge of the Grand Canyon; we get there and no one else is there (at the moment).  We have our picnic and start exploring; we find some folks just hanging out on a ledge that juts out into the canyon; we don’t feel comfortable traversing.  Breath.  That canyon is straight down; no guard rails here. 

The sky is midnight blue-black, we see all the constellations (we know) and we see something VERY unusual, a SpaceX satellite, it is similar to a string of lights, rather uniformly spaced like stars chasing each other, till it disappears.  We think, what the?!?, then we google and find out they are satellites.  The second day we decide to hike into the Grand Canyon; 3 miles round trip and 49 stories later we feel that exhilarating kind of tired.  While we did get an earlier start, we are still hiking during the hotness of the day; always take A LOT of water; we trekked out (up those 49 stories) in about 45 minutes.  Our hiking has prepared us as we are able to catch our breath with more ease than ever before.  This visit cost us $0 to camp and enter the Grand Canyon, it’s a national park and we have the Senior Lifetime pass and we boondocked; visit to the Grand Canyon South Rim?  $0.00.

After such a beautiful experience, we head south to the Sedona area and take a recommended route through Oak Creek Canyon (Thank you Jim M!). WHOA, first up a bit more (as we are already at a high elevation) then down through the canyon; amazing and scary; sometimes I can’t look out my window (cause its straight down) only straight ahead.  We get to Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, AZ.  While the mountains made us think we were out of the desert because of the cooler temps, we actually never left.  This is confirmed by the tarantula that leisurely traverses our campsite at dusk.  Its so big, it doesn’t seem like an insect, but an animal, and I’m not afraid to take a close-up pic and video, surprising even myself.

We are heading even more south for more hiking, deeper into the desert, not realizing the unrelenting heat we are about to encounter. But we have one more adventure before we turn south.  It is Mother’s Day so we decide to go out to brunch at a recommended restaurant, The Haunted Hamburger in Jerome, AZ.  We can see Jerome nestled into the mountain side from where we are camping; charming. The road to Jerome is pretty much straight up the mountain with a few switch backs and the temps are rising.  The RV doesn’t seem to like this quick ascent combined with high temps.  We just make it to Jerome, and the RV refuses to go forward and we are on a one-way in the middle of town, 100 yards from the peak.  The RV has overheated.  We are able to get her off the road and out of the way by going backwards.  After Sean discusses the situation with the cop (this has never happened before) he tells us to go have lunch and if it’s a problem later, we’ll deal with it.  We go to the Haunted Hamburger, get some great seats overlooking the mountain we have just climbed, have a wonderful meal, go back to the RV, start it up and we are on our way.  We realize we have a cooling problem in the RV. Crisis averted.

We drive through the desert to Lost Dutchman state park with the windows open, heater on and its 99 deg.  Grateful we have a fan despite the fact that it takes up a lot of space, because we are quite uncomfortable and so is the speedometer, its stuck on 65 mph.  We make it to our campsite. We find a mechanic that can take our rig the following day; without a “home” and 95+ deg days, we decide to hike a trail named Siphon Draw at Lost Dutchman; a 5-mile round trip and 56 stories, we feel great upon completing this 4-hr challenge.  Its 1 pm, guess we will go to the local town library to beat the heat.  Glad to go into the cool and read magazines and take pics of some new recipes.  We get the call at 4 pm that the RV is fixed, whew!  $400 later and a new fan clutch (cools the radiator), we now have air conditioning while driving, YAYAYAY!!!  The next day, we take a beautiful motorcycle ride to find another canyon lake oasis 14 miles away where we swim and cool off.  We are heading further south.

We figure a few more days in the desert will serve us well despite the heat and we move on to Picacho Peak where there are more trails to climb mountains.  It seems like half of Arizona’s population is mountains as everywhere we go, it’s a new mountain range and national forest.  The temps are forecast to be 99 – 100 deg. for our stay.  We ask the park ranger if we can have a site with a ramada (cover over picnic table) as we are having friends for dinner and she sets us up with a sweet site.  There is only one other RV at the campground so it’s easy to change sites.  While it is blazing hot, it is dry, a far more bearable heat then the humid heat from whence we came.  The shade and breeze provide amazing relief.  We work and read at the picnic table under the ramada augmented by a sunshade we have configured for maximum shade.  We have our dinner party and watch the long-lingering sunset we have come to enjoy as we wait for the night to cool our RV, our nightly ritual while camping in the desert.  Who knew May was the off-season because of the heat? We are heading west to California’s coast, we miss the ocean and beach.

The universe has heard our silent pleas for coolness as we endured the heat for our 10 days in the desert; we start our trek to California boondocking near Fortuna Foothills, AZ, an agricultural community in the desert.  It does seem ironic, but in the desert valleys they have created somewhat sustainable agriculture via irrigation.  The irrigation systems are well-organized channels that water the fields and their crops.  We take a walk to find that they have released water into a 15 ft wide levy; like a river with a dam, we put on our bathing suits to enjoy the calm side of the dam and cool off.  Thank you Universe!!!!

We are out of this desert and in San Diego, California.  We have taken a week off the road to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary and to visit friends and family in the area.  So far we have traveled 7,050 miles, had 2 oil changes and spend $600 on truck repairs.  All is well with us and we hope all is well with you all.  Enjoy the pics, especially the 3 video’s.

Our love to all,

Sean & Kelly