Going Coastal

The past two months traveling in Arizona have been great. However, it’s time to move West to the mid coast of California. We mapped out a leisurely pace and planned on checking out some new places.

Our first stop was the Needles CA KOA on old Route 66. Not every stop is scenic. Remember, it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important.

After a night in Needles we moved on to Tehachapi CA and a small private RV Park next to the Mountain View Airport. The Skylark North glider school is located there and provided us with morning entertainment as we drank our coffee.

Tehachapi is a small mountain town without many attractions. After a bit of digging Pat found out about the Tehachapi Loop, one of the civil engineering wonders of the world. Completed in 1876, the Loop is a .73 mile spiral through the Tehachapi Pass. Any train of sufficient length will pass over the end of itself as it emerges from a tunnel 75 feet below the upper tracks of the Loop.

After a scenic drive through the San Joaquin Valley and over the mountains on CA 166 we arrived in Pismo Beach, a place we last visited in 1978.

We set up camp in Pismo Beach State Park. There are many Eucalyptus Trees in bloom throughout the campground providing a wonderful aroma as well as home to nesting Black-Crowned Night-Herons. A short walk over the dunes takes you to the Pacific Ocean.

The sand on the beach is firm enough for bike riding which we took advantage of.

Ice Plants

Pismo Beach Pier

A mornings haul of Sand Dollars

About 40 minutes up the coast from Pismo Beach is Montana de Oro State Park. This park features a dramatic bluff trail, tide pools and a Eucalyptus grove.

Tide Pools


We encountered a wide variety of wildlife.

Turkey Vulture

Western Alligator Lizard

Great Blue Heron


After four days on Pismo Beach it’s time to move a short distance north to San Luis Obispo to explore another section of California’s Central Coast.

Red Rock Fever-Weeks 2 & 3

Our time in Sedona hit a snag at the start of our second week. The weather turned cold and wet and we developed head colds. Nothing major but we stayed in and read a lot. When we started feeling better we decided to take it easy and confine our explorations to easy hikes and indoor attractions.

The Arizona Copper Art Museum in Clarkdale pays homage to the copper mining heritage of the area.

The museum is located in the town’s former High School. The building is crammed with all things copper.

These are artillery shell casings from the First World War that have been fashioned into vessels by soldiers. The shells are brass, an alloy composed of copper and zinc.

The town of Clarkdale was built in 1912 as a company smelter town for the workers at the nearby copper mine.

We took a few easy walks along Oak Creek.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is located southeast of Flagstaff. The last time we were in the area we missed checking out the 700 year old ruins of the Sinagua people, ancestors to the Hopi.

The canyon is loaded with ruins but the public has access to a only a small number of them.

By week three we had shaken our colds and were ready for the arrival of Pat’s brother and sister in-law.

This was the first time Mike and Donna had explored the area. Of course we had to take them on some of our favorite hikes.

Devil’s Bridge

Sedona is known for its extensive Jeep trails. Mike decided he needed a Jeep to explore them.

While out with the Jeep we stopped by the Honanki cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people.

We also explored the nearby town of Cottonwood.

We then continued our explorations of Sinagua ruins at Montezuma’s Well.

The water level in this sink hole has remained constant even during Arizona’s recent droughts.

Nineteenth century graffiti is in evidence at the Well.

We stopped by the nearby V Bar V ranch to checkout the impressive wall of petroglyphs located there. As an extra treat we saw our first Coatimundi. Sorry no photos.

This is only a small sampling of the petroglyphs.

All too soon Mike and Donna returned home and we got ready to fly to Chicago to meet our new grandson Max…

and play with his big sister Rebekah.

After a great week in Chicago we returned to Arizona to continue our journey.

Red Rock Fever- Week 1

We’ve moved north of Phoenix to the Sedona area. We set up camp in Lo Lo Mai Springs RV Park 10 miles south of town in Page Springs AZ. The RV park is a family run operation along Oak Creek and has a laid back country atmosphere.

Our neighbor

With all the snowmelt up north in Flagstaff the creek was raging.

We’ve visited the area a few times and are always drawn back for the vistas and numerous hiking opportunities. In an effort to explore more trails we booked three weeks in the area.

Little Horse Trail to Chicken Point

We started our week of hiking with a relatively mellow walk in the popular Bell Rock hiking area. This trail is popular with both hikers and bikers.


Doe Mesa

Doe Mesa is a short steep climb to a remote Mesa with 360 degree views of the surrounding area. It shares a parking lot with the more popular and challenging trail to Bear Mountain. The parking lot fills early with people hiking the mountain but Doe Mesa is usually a quiet oasis.

Transept Trail

This trail has been officially recognized for only one year. Consequently it is not well known and is lightly traveled. It took two attempts to complete this hike. On the first go around-the thunder and lightning sent us scurrying back to the trail head before we reached the high point.

We came back a couple of days later to hike the complete trail. Only a few people shared the trail with us and the quiet was unique among the many trails in Sedona.

Jacob’s Ladder

Hedgehog Cactus

This trail is not just for hiking. For a few skilled riders it is a Double Diamond bike trail.

This trail is gnarly to the extreme. For us it’s not rideable but the hike was pure joy.

The trail ends at its intersection with the popular Hiline Trail with great views of Cathedral Rock.

Brins Mesa/Soldier Pass/Cibola Pass Loop

This was our longest hike. It took us five hours to walk the seven mile loop. This included a one mile detour to the high point of Brins Mesa. We got an early start and hiked alone for most of the morning.

The top of Brins Mesa

Can you spot Shelly on the mesa’s highpoint which offers terrific vistas.

Heading down through Soldier Pass

The massive sink hole that makes up Devil’s Kitchen at the intersection of Soldier Pass Trail and Cibola Pass Trail.

The “Sacred” Pools along Soldier Pass Trail

The hiking has been epic so far. We can’t wait to see what comes our way in the coming weeks.

Heading North in Arizona

When we booked four more days at Catalina State Park, we were closed out of the main camp grounds but found a home in overflow. This is really just a open parking lot with assigned spots along the perimeter.

We’re not sure why but the campers in overflow are a much more social group. We spent a pleasant four days here hiking, biking and meeting new people.

Since our stay in January the Catalina Mountains have received a bit of snow and it was melting during this stay.

What was usually a dry wash had become a broad expanse of flowing water.

Reaching the hiking trails required wading across. No problem.

Pat met up with some fellow bird nerds for some comradely bird watching. Pat’s favorite sighting that day was a Broad Billed Hummingbird.

After a lovely sunset we headed north to Lake Pleasant Regional Park on the northwest side of Phoenix.

Our new backyard view

Lake Pleasant is a large lake with 114 miles of shoreline. It was federally constructed as part of the Central Arizona Project. Most of the water comes from the Colorado River and supplies the needs of Phoenix and Tucson.

The park provides lots of opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking and biking.



Down On the Border

We moved the Tincan out of the Phoenix area and headed south to Patagonia Lake State Park. The Park is located 20 miles north of Nogales and is known for its excellent bird watching.

The Park is located a short distance from the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. The 2.75 mile Sonoita Creek-Blackhawk Trail Loop is a moderate hike that gives you a good overview of the topography of the area. The trail starts on a dry ridge and drops down to the riparian woods along Sonoita Creek.

The loop ends at the dam that created Patagonia Lake.

A short walk from our camp spot is the start of the Bird Watching Trail. The trail gives you many opportunities to watch a wide variety of birds.

The trail follows Sonoita Creek and traverses open pasture land. As a result you share the trail with these guys.

One day we ventured into Nogales to find a tortilla factory we liked from a previous visit. Sadly Linda’s Tortillas was no longer in business. Nogales is a historic town that was established in 1841 as a land grant when the area was still part of Mexico. It became part of the US in 1853. Today it is a major border crossing for fresh produce. We decided to stop and take a look at this section of our porous southern border.

Chilly wet weather has been dogging us for a while now. However, we were not expecting this.

In spite of the snow and overcast sky at the end of our stay here we did experience and abundance of sunshine. Hopefully that sunshine returns as we continue our travels.

We’re Back in Phoenix

We hooked up the Tincan and left Southern California for the foothills of Phoenix. We’re set up in one of our favorite parks just outside of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. McDowell Mountain Regional Park has miles of mountain biking and hiking trails that keep calling us back.

The fountain in Fountain Hills

This is the view from our door- and this part of the desert smells great. Actually it’s technically not a desert- more chaparral- and this winter it is getting plenty of rain.

We’re always on the lookout for birds.

Cactus Wren

Camping at McDowell Mountain Regional Park allows us to be in easy striking distance to all the amenities of city life. One of our favorite places to visit is the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM).

Besides having examples of the music and instruments from just about every country in world, it also has a changeable roster of special exhibits. The current exhibit is about the development of the electric guitar.

The exhibit consists of historically important instruments from the collection of Lynn Wheelwright.

Charlie Christian’s guitar

For those who don’t know, Charlie was the first significant electric jazz guitarist. He became famous playing with Benny Goodman.

Tommy Tedesco’s Telecaster

Tommy was born in Niagara Falls and made his name as a LA studio musician. You may not know the name but you’ve heard him play. Those guitar riffs from the themes of The Twilight Zone, Bonanza and Green Acres were Tommy’s. If you ever listened to Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys you listened to him play this guitar.

The museum also has a wonderful 300 seat auditorium. We went to see an electric guitar driven jazz quartet- The Nils Cline 4.

Tom Rainey, Chris Lightcap, Julian Lage and Nils Cline

Meanwhile back at camp.

The wet weather has moved on and has left an explosion of flowers and happy cacti.

We made our way back to the Heard Museum after finding out that the Hoop Dancing World Championship was taking place. Public performances of modern hoop dancing began in 1930’s with Tony White Cloud of the Jemez Pueblo. He created a performance program for the tourism industry using willow hoops while dancing to intertribal music. The first World Championship was held in 1991. This is a wonderful event and we highly recommend attending it if you’re in the area. It’s not just the amazing dancers but also the drumming and singing that accompanies the dancers. Put it on your to do list.

The Scenic Trail is a tough trail to bike but a nice 3.8 mile hike. We do this hike whenever we visit.

This is a Crested Saguaro and you don’t get to see many of them. There is no agreement about what causes these rare crested formations.

We lucked out and there were two performances we wanted to see while we were in the area. So… we traveled back to the Musical Instrument Museum for a performance by The Bad Plus. It was terrific.

Orrin Evans, Reid Anderson and Dave King

The bike trails in the park cater to all skill levels and attract a wide variety of riders. It’s a big reason for our returning whenever we’re in Arizona.

The setting sun, always anticipated.

Agua Caliente Springs

We moved from the State Park in Borrego Springs to a San Diego County Park to the south. Agua Caliente is very isolated with no cell service, restaurants or grocery stores near by. So why come? The quiet and the hot springs.

The cool pool- 85 degrees

The medium pool- 92 degrees

The hot pool- 102 degrees

Sitting in hot water will only get you so far in a day. There is also plenty of hiking in the park or a short drive from the campground.

The Desert Overlook Trail

The Marsh Trail

The trail ends in a small group of Fan Palms

Moonlight Canyon Trail

We liked this one so much we did it twice.

Julian CA

About 42 miles from camp is the small mountain town of Julian. The town got its start during the California gold rush. It turned out that there wasn’t much gold in the area so they reinvented themselves as an apple growing community. Today it is a popular day trip destination from San Diego and the desert towns east of the mountain.

All that remains from those early days as an apple producing locale are numerous pie restaurants and (hard)cideries.

And then there’s beer.

Blair Valley and Little Blair Valley

Anza-Borrego Desert Park is so large and that you couldn’t see it all in a week. At the south end near Agua Caliente there are several remote valleys to explore. We spent a pleasant day hiking the trails in one of them. Blair Valley shows signs of habitation from 1000 years ago. The Kumeyaay people were hunter gatherers who called this place home. They left evidence of agave roasting pits, moteros and pictographs.

Blair Valley features miles of dirt roads.

Blair Valley Dry Lake

Pictograph Trail

Moteros Trail

During our numerous desert visits we have not experienced much in the way of percipitation. That has not been the case this trip. The Southwest can certainly use some rain and camping in it is not always a bad thing. Think flowers and rainbows.

We are moving on to Arizona but have enjoyed our Southern California sojourn.