Tucson, the Catalina SP Edition

site 15- B Loop

Catalina State Park is a popular park located in the Tucson suburb of Oro Valley. The park is surrounded by development but you wouldn’t know it from inside the park.

We enjoy the park’s many hiking and biking trails. It’s a theme that connects all the locations we gravitate towards.

Another plus for the park is its proximity to the Pima County Bike Loop. The “Loop” consists of 131 miles of paved trail that circles the city. From the entrance of the park you have easy access to the Oro Valley Feeder to the loop. Walkers, bikers, skaters are all welcome.

One of the pleasures of travel is getting to meet people. During our stay at Catalina SP we met two couples who are full time RVers. It’s always fun to hangout and talk with fellow travelers. We spent a morning biking a section of the loop referred to as the “art loop” which featured a number of art installations.

Pat, Mary Ann, Joe, Susanne, Paul
The Batty Bicyclist installation

The park hosts a lot of visitors and the trails can get busy. We’ve visited a number of times and have found some trails that are underutilized. One we often return to is The Montrose Pools Trail.

The pools had a bit of water in them

Oracle State Park is about thirty minutes north of Catalina. It is a 4,000 acre wildlife refuge with 15 miles of hiking trails. The park is at a higher elevation than Catalina SP with a beautiful oak woodland chaparral and weathered granite boulders.

The park’s campsites have been full during our entire stay. In fact, we had to book two different sites for our two week stay.

Site 16- B Loop

The Romero Ruins Trail is a short popular hike. A few years ago we discovered that if you follow an unmarked trail off the Ruins trail it takes you near the base of the Pusch Ridge in the Catalina Mountains.

The trail passes through an area stricken by fire

Saguaro National Park consists of two districts on opposite sides of Tucson, west and east. We’ve visited Saguaro West but hadn’t checked out Saguaro East-Rincon Mountain District. The park offers hiking and biking trails as well as an eight mile scenic drive through the saguaro forest.

Drivers share the scenic loop with bicyclists

Hiking in the desert in the heat of the day can be brutal and takes some planning, but on Sunday we woke up to an overcast day. We wanted to hike the Sutherland Trail to Cargodera Canyon and took the opportunity given us by lower temperatures and cloudy skies.

Sunsets in the desert are the best and we’ve seen our share of them since we landed in Arizona. We couldn’t pick just one !

Verde Valley Visit/ week two

An aerial view of the Tincan and the neighborhood

Our last week at Dead Horse Ranch State Park was a full one. We connected we some friends who live in the village of Oak Creek and are building a new house in Jerome. Andy and Lori invited us to watch the sun set from Yavapai Point before dinner. With cocktails in hand we made our way to our view point.

That’s Lori leading the way
Courthouse Rock and Bell Rock

Tuzigoot National Monument is visible from many of the hiking /biking trails in Dead Horse Ranch State Park. It is the remnant of a Sinagua village built between AD. 1000 and 1400. What you see now is a reconstruction of the walls using the original stones.

The Pueblo sits atop a long ridge 120 feet above the Verde Valley.

Tuzigoot had 87 ground-floor rooms

After visiting the Pueblo we walked along the Verde River.

As mentioned before, getting out for a hike in the Sedona area can be problematic if you don’t get a very early start. Even then you won’t be hiking alone. One of the hikes we enjoy is a little used trail out of the Village of Oak Creek, the Transept Trail. It’s a seven mile out and back ramble through Red Rock Country.

Where’s Pat?

The trail ends at the Hiline Trail and offers some great views of Cathedral Rock.

We did not encounter any other hikers until we had almost completed our hike. This does not happen too often when hiking in Sedona.

One of two FP7 locomotives used by the Verde Canyon Railroad

While relaxing in camp we remarked to our neighbors how we liked their teardrop camper. A teardrop was our introduction to RVing. During that conversation they told us about a sightseeing train ride they had taken out of Clarkdale. We investigated further and decided to give it a go.

Our car
We had access to an open car during the ride

The train travels along the Verde River and passes Sycamore Canyon. We had wanted to hike the canyon but the trail was closed due to fire and mudslides. The train allowed us to see a bit of the canyon.

The train travels over a trestle and through a tunnel with wonderful views of the landscape.

After traveling through this iconic landscape Pat was feeling that southwest vibe

We first visited the historic mining town of Jerome in 1979. Back then Jerome was called a ghost town with lots of abandoned and falling down buildings. What a difference a few decades make. Jerome is now a thriving tourist destination with bars, restaurants, galleries and artist studios.

A view of the Verde Valley from uptown Jerome
Embracing the past to build a future

It isn’t always go, go, go. We do enjoy hanging out in the park and exploring the miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.

A last visit to Sedona red rock country as the sun sets on our Verde Valley visit.

Verde Valley Visit / week one

We’ve been in this part of Arizona a few times but this is the first time we’ve stayed at Dead Horse Ranch Sate Park.

Site 57, our home for the next two weeks

The park is situated between the Verde River and the Coconino National Forest. There are miles of hiking and mountain biking trails to be explored.

In the 1940’s a family from Minnesota came to the area to purchase a ranch. At one ranch they discovered a dead horse in the road. When it came time to pick a property the family chose the one with the dead horse. They bought the ranch and named it Dead Horse Ranch. Arizona State Parks acquired the property in 1973 with the condition that the state retain the name “Dead Horse Ranch “.

The Middle Lagoon near the Verde River
The Pueblo ruins at Tuzigoot as seen from the Tavasci March Trail

Dead Horse Ranch’s location makes it a perfect spot for exploring this part of Arizona. To the north is the spectacular “red rock country” of Sedona and Oak Creek. To the west are the historical mining towns of Clarkdale and Jerome. The village of Cottonwood lies just outside the park’s boundaries. In other words, lots to explore.

The town of Jerome as seen from the park

The mountain biking trails in this part of Arizona can be very challenging. We look for trails that are not overly technical and the Tavasci Marsh Trail fit the bill.

Enjoying the Marsh

Montezuma Castle National Monument is a short drive from the park. The 20 room dwelling was built between AD. 1100 and 1300 in a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley floor.

The people who built this structure were farmers we now call Sinagua~ancient relatives of the Hopi. They inhabited the area in the 1300s and grew corn, squash, beans and cotton. The darker brown Masonary in this photo was reconstructed in recent years but the lighter yellow masonry is original dating back 700 years.

The trail to Woods Canyon

Driving toward Sedona takes you into red rock country. We first visited this area in the late 1970’s. We came through on our first trip to the Grand Canyon. Over the years the number of visitors has exploded. If you want to hike the more popular trails you have to get moving early or you won’t find a place to park. We now search out the less traveled trails and avoid the crowds.

As dry as it is you can still see flowers

Staying put for two weeks allows you to relax and enjoy what is close at hand.

Our backyard
The small hill behind our trailer is an easy walk for sunrise or sunset viewing.

Short Stop Off the Mother Road

This was another stop we had planned pre-pandemic. We booked three nights at Homolovi State Park about two miles outside Winslow, Arizona.

The first night’s sunset was spectacular

The park was home to at least eight ancient Hopi communities who occupied the area from AD. 1250-1400 along the Little Colorado River. At their peak the area supported up to 2500 people. The area is part of the Sonoran Desert grassland. The people made their living through agriculture with cotton being an important crop.

It’s hard to imagine farming in this landscape

The park has the ruins of two Pueblos that visitors can explore.

The park is located on Hopi land and was established in 1986 in a effort to stop the vandalism that was destroying the ruins. Amateur and professional pot hunters seriously comprised these sites.

Thousands of potsherds litter the ground

In addition to exploring the ruins the park has trails that allow you to wander the desert.

The temperatures where mild and not an issue while hiking. However, the Ranger advised us to stay alert as rattlesnakes were on the move.

Snakes weren’t the only thing we had to watch out for

Twelve miles north of Homolovi is the Little Painted Desert county park.

Winslow is a short drive from the park. On our last day we drove in to see what it had to offer.

This town works the Route 66 connection
Yes we did!

We’ll be moving around Arizona for the remainder of the year. In the morning we’re off to explore Cottonwood, Jerome and Sedona.

Seven Days in Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of our favorite places to visit in the Southwest. We stay in a private RV park south of the city. (Santa Fe Skies RV Park )It takes only 15 minutes to get to the plaza.

We got to stay in one one of our favorite sites
Our view

Santa Fe was established as a Spanish colony in 1610 and is the oldest state capital in USA. We keep coming back for the walk ability of the central plaza with its restaurants and art galleries. We’re also big fans of the Pueblo inspired architecture .

There is lots of outdoor art to enjoy as you wander the city

Santa Fe is a great restaurant town. With an indoor mask mandate in affect we visited two of our favorites.

Cafe Pasqual’s has great New Mexican cuisine
On the patio of Paper Dosa

Pat’s sister Carolyn and her husband Ed were visiting friends in Albuquerque. We drove down to meet them to tour the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens.

Carolyn and Pat
In the butterfly enclosure

Part of the appeal of staying at Santa Fe Skies is its proximity to routes that get you north or south of the city with ease. NM 14, known as the Turquoise Trail, takes you south to Cerrillos Hills State Park and Madrid. Interstate 25 takes you to Tent Rocks National Monument and Albuquerque. Route 599 bypasses the city to take you north to Los Alamos, Nambe Falls and Taos.

Cerrillos Hills State Park

We drove north of the city along the Rio Grande River to Taos. The County Line River Access gets you on the river. There are picnic tables, toilet facilities and a boat launch.

Also north of Santa Fe is Nambe Falls and Reservoir. We hiked the Falls Overlook Trail and then walked the creek to the bottom of the falls.

Nambe Falls
A walk in the woods leads you to the creek
Encountering water in the desert is a magical experience

Santa Fe Skies RV has a .75 mile path around the park. The owner collects vintage construction equipment which he displays along one section. He also creates metal sculptures which are installed along the way.

The path is a great place to watch the sun set.

Our week in Santa Fe ended far to quickly, I guess we’ll have to come back. While we’re sad to leave we’re looking forward to see what Arizona has in store for us.

We Made It

We’ve had to cancel two previous trips to Hot Springs Arkansas. This was the year to make it happen.

Hot Springs KOA

The healing waters of Hot Springs Arkansas have been drawing people to the area for centuries. The US Congress in 1832 created a 4 mile square reservation to protect the springs for public use. We arrived during Indigenous Day Weekend and the public was out in force.

The Quapaw built in 1922
Some of the amazing tile work found in the bath houses

Bath house row is located along Central Avenue and it was an unmasked mob scene when we arrived. We took refuge behind the bath houses along the Grand Promenade.

Soaking in the baths was not the only reason people came here. The extensive system of hiking trails was seen as a healthful addition to soaking in the hot spring water. Many of the trails are accessible from the Promenade.

One of the trails that lead to Summit Tower

After a hot and sweaty hike we made it to the top.

The observation deck offers 360 degree views of the Hot Springs Reserve.

Central Avenue

The hot springs here have no volcanic component to them. So how do they attain their average temperature of 143 degrees? The spring water begins as snow or rain that trickles into cracks in the brittle mountain rocks (novaculite and chert). As it travels through the earth’s crust it heats up through conduction. The trip takes about 4000 years. That’s not a typo.

Novaculite which was used for centuries by the indigenous residents to create arrowheads

The Park Service provides spigots in several locations around town for filling containers with spring water.

Our friends Tom and Margret told us about a Hot Springs barbecue institution, McClard’s.

We enjoyed a late lunch in the embrace of southern hospitality. A lovely experience. Thanks for suggesting we go there Tom and Margaret!!

We spent most of our time in the area exploring the hiking trails. Our hike to Goat Rock offered a nice view of the mountains around Hot Springs.

An old goat at Goat Rock
The view from Goat Rock (No Fall colors yet)

Our last hike in the area was to Balanced Rock, a short steep 2 mile hike.

Balanced Rock

We left Hot Springs and continued our journey West into Oklahoma. We spent two nights at Lake Eufaula State Park. The lake is the largest within the borders of the state.

The Tincan made a friend at Lake Eufaula

The park has over 15 miles of mountain bike trails but the rain kept the bikes in the truck.

The rain got us into the truck to do a bit of sightseeing. We found ourselves in Honey Springs and the childhood home of Oklahoma blues legend DC Minner.

No one was around but we enjoyed peeking in windows and reading the signage.

Finally we packed up the trailer and headed to Oklahoma City. We’ve driven through twice but had never stopped.

Our campsite came with a storm cellar

We came to see the memorial for the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building which was bombed April 19,1995.

One of the remaining walls
The Reflecting Pool
Field of Empty Chairs, one for every victim

This was a somber end to our Oklahoma visit. It was an affecting memorial that had us thinking about the lives lost, particularly the children.

Emerging From Limbo

We returned to Buffalo in April of 2020 to take stock of the pandemic and consider our travel options. Vaccines and cautious planning convinced us that our life on the road might be possible again.

The Tincan in storage

In May of 2021 we ventured to Portland OR for a long planned remodel of the kitchen area of the trailer. The idea was to get more storage and living space. We added a storable table, new counters and sinks, upgraded stove, cell booster and stereo. We love our upgrades, particularly the stowaway table.

Our friend Richard fabricated the wood tabletop.

The Southwest has always had a special appeal for us. On October 1st we left Buffalo to make our way south and west. After a weekend visit with our son’s family we headed down the Mississippi River to Hannibal, MO; Mark Twain’s childhood home.

The Mississippi River as seen from Lover’s Leap in Hannibal
Hannibal is all about Mark Twain
The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. Just 244 steps and you’re there.

We camped at a private RV park that was home to the cave made famous in Tom Sawyer.

From Hannibal we traveled south and west to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.

The interior was even grander.

Our visit was prompted by a desire to ride a section of the Katy Trail. This trail is one of the longest rails to trails in the country.

We started in Portland and rode to Rhineland
This section follows the Missouri River

We stayed in Binder City Park just west of Jefferson City. It’s a small campground near Binder Lake. There are 16 sites and is very quiet. There are several mountain bike trails in the park but we didn’t have time to try them.

After we leave Missouri we’ll be traveling to Arkansas for visit to Hot Springs. We’ve been trying to get there for the last two years. Stay tuned to see if we make it this time!

Stuck Here In Limbo

After pulling the plug on our trip we needed to decide what to do next. Should we head back to Buffalo or postpone our return till the worst of the virus outbreak has moved on. the Tincan is a self contained living space which allows for easy self isolation. We decided to stay on the road for a bit longer and asses our options.

We moved up the Mississippi River to Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas.

Site 19

We booked two nights at this popular fishing lake. The Tincan sat up on a bluff overlooking the largest oxbow lake in America and the largest natural lake in Arkansas.

Other than fishing and boating there wasn’t a lot to do. The hiking and biking trails were muddy from recent flooding.

After two days we decided to move north and west to Tupelo, Mississippi. We were able secure 18 days of camping with a full hookup at Tombigbee State Park.

Site 6

Just sitting around camp is getting old. We shouldn’t complain with beautiful weather and the ability to stretch our legs hiking or biking in a beautiful woods in spring.

Did we mention that it’s springtime in Mississippi.

Dogwood
May Apple
Christmas Berries

As beautiful as the woods in the area are will still wanted to venture into town to see if this one attraction could be safely visited.

The King’s childhood home

While Tombigbee State Park has been a safe (full hookup) place to land, it has limited cell service and as of today is technically closing down. With conditions on the ground changing so quickly we have decided to pull up stakes and head back home. Since the blog documents our travels which have stopped, this will be the last post for this trip. Rest assured that once we hit the road again the blog will reappear. Thanks for following along and we’ll see you on the other side.

Sunset on Lake Chicot, Arkansas

The Best Laid Plans

The plan was to head to Louisiana after our stay on the panhandle of Florida for a two week stay in Bayou Segnette State Park. The park is located just south of New Orleans and is an excellent base for exploring the wonders of the city.

Site C 1099

We met up with our friend Kim, a fellow traveler who we met in Texas four years ago.

We had planned to attend a number of events- the St. Patrick’s Day parades, Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday Parades and Second Line Parade as well as the Wednesday in the Square concerts. All of these events were canceled due to the Covid19 outbreak. On top of this we had to vacate the park after one night. The State authorities took over the park for a staging area for first responders who will have to deal with the coming pandemic. Fortunately, we secured a spot northwest of NOLA along the Mississippi River in Vidalia, LA across the River from Natchez, MS.

Site 24 at Riverside RV Park
The View

The park offers a paved walking/bike path along the River and is a great place to watch the barge traffic.

The bridge to Nachez
Social distancing along the Mississippi River

We booked ten days at this park while we tried to figure out what to do, continue on or return back to Buffalo. After going back and forth and agonizing over our decision we decided to pull the plug on the rest of the trip and slowly work our way north.

The weather was accommodating which allowed us to take in some sights while keeping our distance from potential infection. 

We took a drive on a short section of the Natchez Trace.

The southern terminus of the Trace

One stop on the Trace is the second largest Mississippian mound north of Mexico. Construction of the mound began in 1350 AD. It covers about 8 acres.

The Emerald Mound

We also took to the woods to explore the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge. We saw no one.

It’s spring in Mississippi

On the way back to camp we passed Mammy’s Cupboard. Not really sure what to say about this.

In antebellum Mississippi, Natchez was home to one of the largest slave markets in the United States. The spot is marked by a slab of concrete with slave shackles embedded.

The Tincan doing some social distancing

Other than these short forays away from camp, we spent most of the week like everyone else: reading, binge watching streaming services and walking or biking the River pathway.

Gulf Coast…Goodbye Florida

We left the Atlantic Coast and drove to the Florida Panhandle. As we headed west the temperature dropped and the clouds moved in with intermittent rain. Our destination was Henderson Beach State Park . The park has a smallish campground and on previous attempts we failed to secure a site. The park is situated along the “Emerald Coast “ of the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Destin. We were happy to finally have the opportunity to check it out.

Site 41

The draw here is about 2 miles of unspoiled white sand beaches. The weather was iffy but we were ready to check out those crystal sands.

A boardwalk leads you over the sand dunes to the water.

Windy and cloudy skies made for some dramatic gulf views.

????

Fortunately the weather broke and the sun returned.

This is not a remote beach. On either side of the State beach are high rise resorts.

However, this didn’t prevent us from enjoying the beach and having some quiet moments.

This beach has very few shells but the rough seas did serve up some interesting sea life.

Sea Cucumbers
Damaged Starfish
And clear emerald water
The dune boardwalk as sunset approaches

All too soon we were packing up and getting ready to move to Biloxi for a quick visit with our Mississippi relatives. (Sorry -we had so much fun we forgot to take pictures.)