From warmth to snow in Arizona

We were not sure what to expect arriving at the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. I’d read reviews and blogs, some good some not so good but we were looking for a one night stopover before we could arrive at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, and we were in Arizona finally! Diesel drops a dollar a gallon, yeah! We took the #111 North from the Salton Sea to the I 10 Eastbound, turned South at Blythe and followed State Road 78 South towards the refuge. #78 South bound turns into Neighbours Road on a bend. Oh dear, I keep saying the #78 or the I 10…very Californian of me;) Just watch SNL’s take on it;) hahahaha! Anyway, just before the Arizona border it gets a bit bumpy but once you cross the narrow bridge into Arizona it is fine. Passing huge cotton fields with bales lined up along the road gives you the confidence to cross the somewhat sketchy looking bridge. If fully loaded 18 wheelers can cross, so can we;)

Mike was looking at me skeptically as we crossed over a rickety cattle guard opposite the Wildlife Refuge Office and started to drive up a small hill. Several other RV’s were camped there. It was the “what are you getting me into look!” Ha! I’d read not to go beyond a small dip as you can get hung up so we backed into the last site on the left with a fire ring and set up. Quite the view, a stark dry desert view. It gave us an idea when we come back if it is somewhere we want to stay and explore, once it WARMS up!

Fog rolling in, Lake Pleasant Regional Park.

We left fairly early trying to beat the clouds and rain approaching from the West. Lake Pleasant Regional Park had been full except for two days so we took what we could get. It was a bit of a tight fit but we backed in and got the slides out in site 17 of the Roadrunner Campground. The way in was a bit convoluted and the directions at the front not the best but we found where we were going eventually! View was great over the lake. Sites 13. 15 and 16 are pull through and face the lake, they would be the ideal ones to have. We asked if they had any cancellations and no, it just seems all the regional and state parks are full, all the time in February and March. Plan ahead is all I can say! Cats loved walking down to lake on the paths.

The front arrived and it rained for most of the next day before clearing. We tried to find a spot at Catalina State Park but they were fully booked, until the ranger suggested we go to the overflow camping area, he said it was really nice, no services, so that is where we decided to head for Saturday morning, after a night in Phoenix for a laundry stop. Battling a bit of slow Phoenix traffic, a few good God billboards, those 1-855-for-truth guys are everywhere, and a billboard for a $1000 complete cremation service, now pray tell me what would be an incomplete cremation service, they just toast your feet and hands? Who thinks of these ideas? I loved the adult bookstore billboard between the God ones;) and I don’t know any Hispanics with “Republican” values..(which are what?…care for the unborn child but not after?)…at least not our friends in Mexico;) Interstates are so interesting…if just for the advertising;) We spent the night at a Phoenix RV Park-Fiesta Grande-a needed laundry stop. It was very odd. Everyone had name tags on and they were extremely friendly, and very very talkative, not good listeners;)…a huge band of permanents here for the entire winter. Lot’s of lonely people it felt like. No walking paths just lots of concrete and neighbours. I was happy to leave the next morning after a thorough cleaning fest of truck and trailer;)

Catalina State Park is a bit off the freeway after the 17 turns to the 10 North of Tucson, the road meanders through planned communities with bike paths, past a large shopping center you cross over to the park, a bit weird, it’s like, where the hell is the park? We approached the gate and the park ranger had his hand up…whoa there…the road in and out of the campground was flooded, five feet of water in the arroyo he said, no one is coming or going today…what to do, what to do….Got on the phone, Kartchner State Park said we could camp for a night in their parking lot, they were full, I dreaded the thought of another sardine RV Park so called Colossal Cave Mountain Park and he said they had first come first serve camping spots! Excellent. He gave me detailed instructions on how to get there, where to stop and park and off we went.

Driving into Colossal Cave State Park

I understood the explicit directions he gave when we got there. He said to park at the bottom of the hill and walk up to the office, which I did, we could have made it up, but not back down the narrow one way road with a sharp left turn on exit. It was a good huff and puff half mile climb up. Went into the Gift Store/Office and a young lady took my $7 a night then showed me where the campground was on the map. I did explain we were 37′ long and she said no problem…I did mention again the ranger said there was overflow camping, yup, there she said…oh dear…we got in, Mike was giving me another one of those WTF looks, with good reason, it was a narrow road through a very narrow gate. The Campgrounds, tucked in the mesquites in Posta Quemada canyon, were built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, way too small for today’s larger trailers and RV’s. The ranger appeared behind us and was very kind, “So sorry, this is not where you are supposed to be, I saw you out the work shop window and tried to catch you!”…follow me. Mike managed to get Myrtle around a very small turn about, with a few new scratches from the mesquite tree on the corner but we were soon on our way to the overflow parking lot…whew…

This park could use some work, just the roads made us feel like we were back in Baja, pothole dodging is a fine art here! We turned into a large lot and pulled alongside a small creek and let out a sigh of relief…there is a hose over there, well water, the ranger said:) Wonderful! Super nice guy:)

We wandered about a few trails. Up to some metates, grinding holes in the granite for the mesquite beans used by the Hohokam Native Americans to make flour.There was a dude ranch and some sleepy horses tied up waiting for riders. We met a few polite bike riders on the paths but other than that very quiet, one other camper and some tenters showed up for night or two. We never did make it up to the cave for a tour but it was lovely to leave the door open during the day. There were a few birds, but overall not much chatter from the tree tops.

A small creek ran between us and the dude ranch. It looked like it has seen better days, in fact the whole park has an old feel to it. The dude ranch looks tired, as do the surrounding gardens and museum which were all closed. It’s a if the cave has all the income. I expected to see more traffic over the Presidents Day long weekend for the horse rental but the cars that came and went were few. Too bad. I’d come back here to spend a few days by the cowboy statue:)

Mike had found a RV park, La Siesta Campground, near the Buenos Aires Wildlife refuge. We wanted to scout this area for possible boondocking. Another patch of bad weather, this time with snow forecast was headed our way so a bit of power would be nice for the electric heaters and Beezil’s heated throw:) Have to keep the old cat happy! So off we headed for Arivaca, Arizona.

The owner Steve was very kind. He called us on the way in to remind us not to follow Mesquite Road, basically a dirt track that some peoples GPS’s take them on. We heeded his advice and arrived at this lovely spot overlooking 9000′ Mount Wrightson to the East in a field of mesquite. Cat heaven…until…Jack the donkey appeared and was braying about as loudly as a donkey can when it’s lonely. The cat’s tails became enormous and they hot footed it back to the trailer dragging us behind them on their leashes. After in the trailer they were getting wide eyed every time they heard poor Jack braying by the fence.

What kind of alien creature was that?? hahahaha! Poor lonely Jack..all he wanted was some ear scratches and a bit of company. We were happy to plug in for a few days and do some exploring. To the West is the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge. We took an afternoon and scoped out boondocking sites. What a beautiful place! A herd of Coues deer crossed the road, we let them past quietly so they would not panic and run into the barbed wire fence.

Back at the campground I wandered about looking for birds. A lovely lady on the end of the sites had some feeders up and invited me to sit and watch the birds. The bare mesquite trees were alive with song, especially early in the morning. We had a dusting of snow the first morning, the temperatures dipped to -8°, 18 °Flintstone scale…that was chilly! Heaters ran for half the night!

After the quiet of Colossal Cave Mountain park this was a treat. Bird chatter everywhere. Perhaps it’s the elevation here, 3643′ or simply it’s geographic location and the Arivaca Creek, now dry, filled with huge old Sycamores. There is evidence of torrential flooding here in the washes. Downed trees and carved sides of the dry creeks bear witness to large volumes of water. Summer monsoons here bring flash flooding along the Arivaca Road in dozens of spots, the repaired road damage is evidence to the destruction water can do.

I’d kept checking the calendar of reservation spots for Patagonia Lake State Park, a renown birding destination. They were calling for significant snowfall for the weekend and cancellations kept popping up. I’d secured two days and finally 5 nights in a row in one spot! Wahoo! The park has 50 amp service which would allow us to run all the electric heaters. The power at La Fiesta was low amperage and we had it go out several times. With up to 7″ of snow coming we thought it might be best to have a reliable source of power to keep us warm!

I was looking forward to 5 nights in one spot, too much hopping for me the last few weeks but so hard this time of year to find space at the state or regional parks…damn snowbirds;) hahaha! After Arivaca Road you join up the Interstate 19 in Amado, home to the Cow Palace and the Longhorn Grill, wonderful American Kitsch. We headed South towards Nogales before turning East on State Road 82 to Lake Patagonia State Park. The surrounding Mountains were dusted with snow, it was a beautiful sight! We pulled into site 67, great cat climbing trees, always a plus and settled in.

The rain soon started and by the morning, well, it was a white wonderland.

and I’ll sign off for now, but stay tuned for the lovely birds and more snow covered hills of Patagonia Lake State Park! Saludos amigos! Stay warm!

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