Fall in Colorado

Fall in Colorado
Fall in Colorado

Friday, October 31, 2014

Saguaro Nat'l Park hike and New Phone

Yesterday we finally got an earlier start to our day and drove to the visitor center at Saguaro East. It's the Red Hill center. We watched the movie of the Saguaro and the ancient people of the area and their respect for the desert and it's habitat. We then drove about 2 miles back down Kinney Rd across from the Desert Museum where the King Canyon Trailhead started. We had plans to climb to the top of Wasson Peak on Tucson Mountain but realized shortly after beginning that was not going to happen. Getting to Wasson Peak at 4200 ft. above sea level was about a 3.4 mile climb and would have probably been a 4-6 hour round trip. We had not done that much hiking up to this point and it was a very rocky climb. So we checked the map and decided to divert to the Sendero Esperanza Trail and then take the Gould Mine Trail back to the parking area. Temps were predicted to climb to over 90 degrees. We came prepared with water bottles, snacks and a couple of apples. The first part of the trail, as I said, was very rocky and hard to keep from turning an ankle.


Very nice views as we climbed
 
There were places where the trail did flatten out some and the rocks were smaller but we took our time and continued on the trail. After about 9/10 of a mile we came upon the Mam-a-gah Picnic area. So we crossed over the canyon and climbed up to the picnic area.
 

Unshaded picnic area

Shaded picnic area
 
 
After a snack on an apple and half an energy bar, we consulted our map and found the Sendero Esperandza Trail that intersected with the King Canyon Trail.
 
 
 
 
This trail took us around another ridge and toward the Gould Mine Trail. We had some climb as we crossed over to the other ridge but gradually as we walked the trail began to descend. This trail was about 4/10 of a mile. We found the Gould Mine trail and continued along a wash for about 1.1 miles.
 


 
 
We had a few more changes in elevation as we got closer to the parking area with changes in the rock color. We ended down in a wash area and crossed over and up a small hill to the parking lot and our truck.



All total we hiked 2.5 miles. The sun was really starting to wear us down and it was only about 11:30 or so. Two hours of climbing and hot sun drained us. We came back to the rig took a shower and rested for the afternoon. We eventually took a drive to a nearby Verizon Wireless store. Most full time RV'ers know that Millenicom - our internet provider had been bought out by Verizon so our no contract, 20 gig, flat fee internet service would now have to come from Verizon. Millenicom was no more. It just so happened that Verizon is having a promotion where you can get double the data when you sign up for internet service. Fortunately my Jetpack from Millenicom allowed me to stay with a no contract plan since I brought my own Jetpack and Glenda was eligible for an upgrade on her phone. But since I was switching to their internet service I could take Glenda's upgrade, get a new phone and a new plan with more data and a lower price that we were paying when we had phone and internet separately with the two companies. Glenda will get to use my upgrade after Nov. 25th. So I got a new Samsung Galaxy S4 and even got a $50 mail in rebate and $200 credit on the new phone for trading in my phone plus $70 in accessories for the new phone. It's going to take some time getting used to the new features but the look and feel is nice. It even has a 13 megapixel camera.
 
 
All in all it was a good day. We ended up eating at McD and I had my first McRib sandwich. It was ok. Not sure what people see in it though. It has good BBQ sauce but a little lacking on real flavor. Next time I'll stick to the fish sandwich or a wrap. Today we stayed home until around noon, ran some errands and had lunch at Olive Garden. Tomorrow is the move to Gold Canyon so it will be early to bed and early to rise. Must be at the RV service center by 9 am to get the tire worked on before we head out. Will let you know when we get to Canyon Vistas. 



 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sabino Canyon scenery and shuttle ride

Everyone we talked to here and online had said we needed to go see Sabino Canyon so yesterday was the day. Like the last few days we got a late start. We headed east through downtown to get to Sabino Canyon Rd however we took a wrong turn and started heading up Mt. Lemmon. Once we noticed our mistake we had to go about 3/4 of the way up to find a pull off. We stopped and took a couple pictures of the valley below and the mountain side before heading back down and in the right direction. .



 
We got onto Sabino Canyon Rd and made it to the visitor center and the shuttle to take us up the canyon and back down. Sabino Canyon is a natural desert oasis that's located in Tucson’s Coronado National Forest and it's home to some great desert landscapes in the eastern foothills of the Santa Catalina mountain range. The history of Sabino Canyon started with the formation of the Santa Catalina Mountains over 12 million years ago. Around 5 million B.C., the mountains ceased formation around the Tucson valley. An earthquake centered in northern Mexico in 1887 dislodged massive boulders lining the canyon walls, which came to rest in the valley below. In 1905 the newly created U.S. Forest Service began administering Sabino Canyon. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Emergency Relief Administration (ERA) built Sabino Dam and nine bridges over Sabino Creek in an attempt to build a road to the top of Mount Lemmon. The road travels about 4.5 miles into the canyon, but was not completed due to the steep terrain at the end of the canyon. A little history of the canyon.
 
 
Because of the late start we decided we would just ride the shuttle up and back and not actually do any hiking of the canyon. It was getting hot and the sun was out in full force. While waiting for the shuttle to come to pick us up, we took a short walk through the Bajada Loop Nature Trail next to the visitor center.
Glenda posing in her new hiking hat



Interesting Saguaro connection
 



After about 45 minutes the shuttle came and everyone hopped onboard. There are 9 stops on the way up the canyon where anyone can get off and hike the canyon at their leisure. You can get off on the way up or on the way back down. This is the scenery of the canyon.







There is part of the Sabino Canyon Wash in the canyon and some folks were wading in the cool water. The mountains are incredible and you never get tired of looking at them. I wish we would have been better about getting on the go earlier but due to the heat and the time of day(after 12 noon) Glenda and I decided we would do our hiking in Saguaro Nat'l Park, which we did this morning(earlier). I will post pictures of our hike on the King Canyon Trail, Sendero Esperandza Trail and the Gould Mine Trail. We came back to the rig and had some lunch and relaxed until the sun started to go down and the breezes cooled thing off. We did take a short hike just before sunset on the trails behind our site and settled in for the night. So far the evenings have been cool and we only have to open the windows and use a small fan in the bedroom. It's been unseasonably warm in the Southwest the last few days with highs near 90 but by this weekend temps will be moderating. The low humidity really makes it more tolerable, at least for us, right now. Tomorrow night we get the rig ready to travel on Saturday. The final leg of our travels to Gold Canyon for the winter and new adventures.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Arizona - Sonoran Desert Museum

Yesterday we drove to Saguaro Nat'l Park to get our passes for hiking and checked out the visitor center. They have a nice gift shop and that's where I got my new hiking hat. It has ventilation and a nice wide brim to shade the face and ears. I wore it at the Desert Museum and to get the satellite dish finally working. We got a little late start going to the museum after spending time at the visitor center. We drove back down the road from Saguaro about 2-3 miles to the museum and paid our fee to enter. A little steep at $16.50 each however there is a lot to see and do there. We started in the reptile exhibit and saw numerous reptiles, snakes and amphibians of the desert. It was pretty dark in there so I didn't take any photos. We exited and walked through the exhibit of the caves of the desert.


 
It was interesting to see the history of how the desert was formed over millions and millions of years. We exited that exhibit and walked out to the veranda overlooking the desert trail below that you can tour as part of the museum education. We struck up a conversation with a volunteer, Nathaniel, who educated us on the Saguaro Cactus. The cactus only bloom in the first part of May each year where birds eat the seeds and then deposit there droppings usually near shaded areas where the seeds can get moisture and begin to grow. Only one in a million seeds that is deposited ever begin to grow into a cactus and only one in a billion seeds then grow into an adult Saguaro. So when you look out over the vast area that the saguaro cactus grow it is mind boggling to think that it took billions and billions and billions of seeds to grow these cactus.
 
Frost damage to the Saguaro

Severe frost damage to a Saguaro
 
Nathaniel explained that when you see a narrow band around the trunk or down turned arms of a older Saguaro it was caused by frost or freezing that didn't kill it. He also explained that adult Saguaros don't grow arms until they are over 100 years old. The number of arms is individual to each Saguaro. The Saguaro also has a very extensive root system. The roots only grow down about 18 - 20 inches however they grow out away from the base the same distance as the height of the Saguaro. So if the cactus is 20 feet tall then the roots will extend out 20 feet from the base. This make for a very strong root system to support the weight of the massive trunk. Some of the Saguaros have holes in their trunks made by the Helio Woodpecker. The woodpecker uses their strong beak to break through the cactus surface and hollow out an area to lay eggs and raise their young. They only use this opening once however it is used by other birds like owls. As we walked along the trail through the outdoor museum I happened to see a Helio Woodpecker hollowing out a hole for a nest.
 
Just happened to get him with his head looking out.
 
We also saw a prairie dog exhibit. The prairie dogs are very curious and posed for pictures.
 


By that time it was getting pretty hot out and it was after noon so we headed back to the rig to get out of the heat and rest up for an evening stroll in the desert. We also made plans for our activity today. Visiting Sabino Canyon and riding the tram. More in the next post after I get the photos downloaded. I also have been nursing a slow leak in my right rear 5th wheel tire so I got a call into the extended warranty company with my tire and wheel protection and I contacted a local RV repair service. I have an appointment on Saturday when we leave for our trip to Gold Canyon and our winter destination. I can't see where the problem is but it's getting checked out and fixed. Repair or replacement. Tomorrow we get some really hiking done at Saguaro Nat'l Park. We need the exercise. :-)


 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Slowing down in Tucson, hike and satellite frustration but learning

We left Elephant Butte Lake RV Resort on Sunday morning and did a looong pull of 317 miles to Justin's Diamond J RV Park on the west edge of Tucson near Saguaro Nat'l Park West. Fortunately we got an early start and we gained an hour moving from Mountain Time to Pacific Time. Before I forget I did get to play golf on Saturday morning with the guys from the Heartland Owners Club get together. I've always wanted to play a desert course so I took the opportunity. It's a lot harder that it looks on TV with the pros. It's a beautiful course and I all I will say is my score reflected only playing 1 - 2 times per year and the difficulty if you're not in the fairway. I'll post some pictures in another post. Glenda and I also rode our bikes around the roads and down to the beach area at Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Definitely a place to stay at if we get back to that area in the future. Much more our style of "camping". Pictures to come later.

Once we got to the RV park in Tucson we checking in and were able to use our Passport America membership for the 6 days we are in Tucson....$21.00/night which is 50% off the regular campground fee for our site(premium site) and our size rig(over 32 feet), that's $126.00. We were going to take a pull through site but we talked to Christine, the owners wife, and she told us about the back in sites on the back row of the park that had great views of Tucson Mountain Park plus the pull through sites were in the front part of the park near the road we came in on. We had enough listening to traffic noise the last few places we've been.  Well Christine was right and I needed practice at backing onto sites. Glenda and I were NOT on the same page, at first, as to where the rig was to be in the site. The sites are divided into larger gravel to park the rig on and small gravel to use as the patio area. Glenda thought the rock would damage to the tires but everyone else was parked that way so once we came together on the parking it went a lot smoother. At first I thought I would never get that rig turned and parked but we got it done. (photos to follow of the site in the next post) Anyway, once we got set up we sat out under the awning for a while and then went to an early dinner at McD. We came back to the rig and tried to relax for the night but instead I tried to set up the satellite dish and after an hour and getting too dark to see.....I gave up for the night and just raised the antenna and we got ONE, yes ONE clear channel. Fortunately it was a CBS channel and we could watch a couple of shows and the news.

Very frustrating since I had been successful up to this point in tuning in the satellite. Seems I had just been lucky in my prior attempts at the other parks. So I got on the internet last night and did some research on elevation and azimuth. The website I researched explained that the elevation is the angle from the horizon upward in degrees that the dish should be set at. You should then set the correct elevation first and then move the dish side to side to attain the correct azimuth. North is zero degrees and south is 180 degrees. I went to the Direct TV menu and there was a Dish Pointer tool. I put in the zip code where were are staying and wrote down both the numbers(elevation 51.1 and azimuth 148.8). I then created an inclinometer to help measure the angle of elevation of the dish. I would try again after getting groceries and some fuel for the truck. More on that shortly. We decided before going on our errands we would explore the hiking trails behind the RV park. So that's what we did. The landscape is beautiful . Click on the photos to enlarge.

Off we go

Blooming Cactus

Glenda hugging a cactus....ouch

These look fuzzy but look out

Prickly Pear Cactus

The majestic Saguaro

View back at our rig - zoom lens
 
We walked out on the trails for about 30 - 40 minutes. It was only about 9:30 - 10:00 but it was already getting hot. Funny thing is I didn't sweat as much as I would have in Illinois and the typical humidity there. Make sure when hiking in the desert, you take plenty of water. It was a great introduction to desert hiking. We headed out to do errands. First we stopped at the Tucson Camping World and picked up a few items we just couldn't live without. :-) Then we fueled up the truck and went to get some lunch. We ended up at a Del Taco, a new Mexican fast food place for us. The food was good and kept us from over doing it at the grocery store. We found a Wal Mart and enjoyed watching Wal Martians as we shopped. After errands we got back to the rig and I attempted to get the satellite dish pointed in the right elevation and azimuth. It took another 20 - 30 minutes but my research paid off and we finally got locked on and enjoying our satellite TV tonight. Glenda couldn't miss DWTS(Dancing with the Stars).
 
 
Glenda thought it would be fun to get my picture working on the satellite with my new hiking hat on. I know, how cool is that. :-)  We grilled out some turkey burgers, chips and veggies. While I was grilling I happened to hear something near our site. I quickly got my camera and was able to get a shot of a Gambel's Quail.
 
 
Tomorrow we plan to go to Saguaro Nat'l Park West and the Arizona - Sonoran Desert Museum. Should be interesting and fun. Stay tuned. 


Friday, October 24, 2014

New State...Tucumcari, NM and Dinosaurs

Yesterday morning we left the Elk City/Clinton KOA in a fog. I mean literally in a fog.

 
 
It had rained the night before and we woke up to a foggy morning drive. We had about 265 miles to cover to get to our next campground in New Mexico. A new state for us. The fog lifted and we had a nice drive out of Oklahoma into New Mexico.
 

The landscape began to change with more rolling hills that changed to more elevation as we got closer to Tucumcari, NM....our destination. We got an early start and with a change from Central to Mountain time we were able to get to the Tucumcari KOA around 1 pm.



We got set up on our site and headed into town to check out the Mesaland Dinosaur Museum in downtown Tucumcari. We had seen many signs for this museum and decided we would take a look.


Entrance
 
T Rex

Raptors are actually smaller than portrayed in the movie
Jurassic Park


 
We spent about an hour in the museum and then headed to a gas station for Diesel in preparation for our travel today to Elephant Butte RV Resort. (More on that in the next day or so)
 
The terrain has really changed a lot and we really put the truck to work with the steep grades. Some of which were 4-5% grades. Again the exhaust brake did it's job. I kept a close eye on the radiatior and transmission temps and all stayed good. It was a long trip today of about 300 miles.  Just after getting off the Interstate I found a gas station that had separate Diesel pumps with easy in and out for a 39 foot RV and truck. This is where we really worked the truck on the secondary roads. It was nice to see more scenery and less traveled roads however the grades were a little more steep and curvy. We did get into some road construction which extended our travel time but the landscape views were worth it.
 
Lava flow remnants at Valley of Fire

Elephant Butte Lake


We finally made it to the RV park and got set up. I wish we would have known more about the park since we were given a pull through site in the middle of a row of 5th wheels and motorhomes that are sandwiched in like sardines. The lower level we found out later is more open. Fortunately we'll only be here a couple of days. Photos will be forth coming in the next post. We also met a couple riding their bikes around the park that are Heartland owners and noticed my Heartland Owners Club plaque on the back of the rig. They told us a few other members just happened to be meeting there and invited us over this evening for a get together. There are 3 other couples and one of them is just starting full timing like us. We had a good time swapping stories.

The guys are playing golf in the morning and invited me to join. Golf in the morning and some bike riding with Glenda in the afternoon. Sounds like retirement. I like it. Sunday we leave for Tucson and Justin's Diamond J RV Park for a week until our reservation at Canyon Vistas in Gold Canyon, AZ. Another long pull of about 315 miles. I don't plan on doing these on a regular basis in the future.