|Superstition Mountains as seen from Lost Dutchman State Park|
The colors change daily and are especially dramatic at sunset
None of the sites in the overflow section have electricity or water, but we were prepared to dry camp. Except for the microwave/convection oven, we could operate all systems on internal power and storage tanks. With bright sunshine everyday, our two solar panels had no problem keeping the batteries charged. At one time I saw 150 watts flowing into the batteries.
|We had one rainy day, the Superstitions looked all that more mysterious|
When Mike learned we were using coolers and bags of ice to keep our food, he suggested using dry ice instead. Having never used dry ice or seen it for sale in stores I was surprised when he told me that Fry's, a local grocery chain, sold dry ice. We immediately went to Fry's, bought fifteen pounds of dry ice, put it on the top shelf of the refrigerator and placed the food on the lower shelves. The next morning we discovered frozen vegetables and ice crystals in the orange juice. We then wrapped the dry ice in a towel and when we needed to replace it, we used only one five pound block at a time. The dry ice was so much easier to use than regular ice because we didn't get food soaking wet as the ice melted and didn't have to deal with digging through the cooler to find what we needed or having emptying the melt water.
Another trailer chore was to visit an Airstream dealer, Desert Autoplex (http://www.desertautoplex.com/), that would inspect our trailer in order to transfer the remaining warranty to us. After filling out the paperwork and submitting the VIN number, the service agent returned to tell us that Airstream had already completed the transfer when we were at the factory for repairs the previous fall. As we were turning around to leave, he told us that our trailer brake and turn signals weren't working. He checked the electrical jack on the hitch and determined there was no power there. We then found that the fuse was blown. He went into the shop but returned saying he didn't have that fuse, but he would run down the street and get one. I objected, saying I could do that. He insisted though, saying it would only take a few minutes. As he promised, he returned promptly, replaced the bad fuse and all was well. I went into the office to find out what I owed, he said not to worry, there was no charge.
As usual we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Lost Dutchman State Park. This park, just a short ride east of Phoenix is very popular with campers, hikers and horseback riders alike. At the foot of the Superstition Mountains and the southwestern entrance to the Tonto National Forest there are many hiking trails available, from the very easy to the extremely strenuous. The rangers and employees that tend to the park are very friendly and accommodating.
One evening we were treated to a special and beautiful scene in the western sky. The clouds formed a series of regularly repeating wave shaped forms on their eastern edge. This rare cloud pattern is known as the Kelvin Helmholtz waves. What we are seeing is stable moist air being lifted, condensed then sheared off as it rises into the less stable portion of the atmosphere.
Several evenings were spent listening and dancing to live music at either Filley's Road House or The Hitching Post saloons that were only a short drive from the park. Sarah and I both enjoyed the pizza at the Hitching Post. We understand why we saw so many people ordering it.
Two must do activities in Phoenix are to visit the Art Museum and the Desert Botanical Gardens. Of the several special exhibits at the art museum was a display of pins that former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, wore while she was our Secretary of State (http://www.phxart.org/exhibition/readmypins). This large and varied collection would be interesting even without the connection to Secretary Albright. But, the show underscores how even the most seemingly unimportant details can have dramatic importance in the sphere of international diplomacy. I have always admired her intelligence and dedication to her country. This exhibit cemented that admiration.
|Her choice of pin always had an underlying meaning. Can you guess what attitude was represented by the wasp?|
Having received nearly two inches of rain the week before our visit, the Desert Botanical Garden was a vastly different place than it was last year. Cacti and spring flowers were in abundance. Additionally, the Garden was hosting an installation of a number of large blown glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly (http://www.dbg.org/events-exhibitions/chihuly).
|I'm sure this hummingbird enjoyed the spring flowers as much as I did.|
|Flowering Palo Verde tree|
Chihuly's glass installations seemed so appropriate in the Garden
After two weeks at Lost Dutchman we had reached the limit for one stay so we retraced our steps to Safford and the Bureau of Land Management rockhound site in the Black Hills northwest of the town. On SR 191 at mile marker 141.5 is a gravel road that leads west for a mile and half to a small camping area. The sign at the cattle guard by the main road warns that the road is only occasionally maintained and could be rough. We found it to be in excellent condition. While it is narrow, we decided that if the road became too rough for the Mary Joan we could back up to a turn around spot. We turned into the camping area and found it could easily accommodate our 31' length.
|View of the Black Hills and the White Mountains beyond from Safford, AZ|
Once we had leveled the trailer, and set up camp, we drove another quarter of a mile further on the road we had come in on where we found a sign announcing that this was the center of the area where fire agate could be found. While there were small pieces littering the ground everywhere, we were unable to find any of any significant size. It was clear that the area had been mined with a mechanical sluice. Nevertheless, we did find a few pieces Sarah thought were worth keeping.
While we didn't strike it rich in our search for fire agate, we were rewarded with a wonderful campsite with the bonus of a fabulous sunset. Earlier in the day there had been low clouds and light showers. Just before sunset the front passed, the wind picked up and the sky cleared. We prepared our dinner after the sun set and by the time we finished eating the wind had dropped and we set up our telescope to view the stars as well as Jupiter and Mars.
|Boondocking on BLM land in the Black Hills north of Safford, Arizona|
The next morning we returned to SR191. In our atlas it is marked as a scenic state road. The road is designated as a state road, the type on which we have towed the Mary Joan many thousands of miles. On Google Maps it appears to be a main highway. But, just a few miles from Clifford we saw a sign prohibiting trucks over forty feet in length. I couldn't believe that this road could be any more difficult than what we experienced on SR15 between Mesa Camp in Gila National Forest and Silver City. I decided to ignore the signs and proceed, hoping I would not have to explain why I ignored the warning.
|Copper and Gold Mine. Not a rare sight in Arizona|
The road was indeed very steep and the hairpin turns required strict diligence. Only on a few turns was I forced to cross the center line in order to keep the trailer on the road. Admittedly, a couple were on turns where I was blinded from oncoming traffic by the rock ledge on the inside turns. Fortunately, we met only two cars traveling in the opposite direction on the most challenging sections. We averaged only about 25 miles per hour for about forty five miles of this road. We were not in any hurry and we were enthralled with the views from this road.
|High Mountain Range Land, White Mountains, Arizona off SR191|
|Hidden away in Show Low|
Next stop, Sedona, Arizona. Sarah and I are both excited. Stay tuned.