Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Casa Grande Ruins

While we stayed in Tucson, we meant to get out to Casa Grande Ruins.  Never happened.  The RV park managers here at Hickiwan Trails told us that getting to Casa Grande from here is only about an hour, and that's where they do their grocery shopping.  FYI, it's really 2 hours.  But we made the trek, because I had big shopping to do, and the local IGA was going to be super expensive and not have everything I wanted.  So as long as we were headed that way, I figured we could also hit the ruins.  So we went to a noon mass, and then lunch, and then the ruins.    

The ruins are neat to see, but there is not a huge site.  We spent a couple hours there exploring the ruins and reading the information in the visitor's center.  I felt that was a good visit.  By the time we left the visitor's center, it was late, so we ended up eating dinner in Casa Grande, too.  It was a nice, relaxed day.

Optical Illusions

Organ Pipe

Looking through my pictures the other day, I noticed that a few of my pictures trick the eye a wee bit. Take this organ pipe photo, for instance. With a quick glance, it looks as though K is holding a cactus arm. Sayeth what? But, nay, she is not. The shadow was a tricky little thing, though. When I was taking the picture, I had the kids move around so they weren't totally obscured by the shadow, but I missed the illusion until I was looking through them again.

Giant G

I love this picture of G. It's as if he's sitting on top of the world. Also an illusion missed as I was taking the picture. But I'm glad to have it!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Our second full day here we travelled out to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It's about 20 minutes from our campsite, a nice little drive. Our first visit out there, we did a short drive and the visitor's center. Bill and I became Desert Rangers (for not-so-Junior Rangers). We learned a lot doing that booklet!

Bill needed to get some work done, so the kids and I headed back to Organ Pipe to do a longer drive. We intended to hike, but the temperatures we cold, and it was WINDY. Fair weather hiker, that's me. But it makes for happier campers, at least in our family.

Ajo Mountains

Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21 mile loop that is just breathtaking. During our Desert Ranger paperwork, we read about christates, and the booklet had stops along the drive for us to check some out (along with some arches). The ranger booklet also mentioned the Ajo Mountain Drive Guide, so we stopped back at the visitor's center before heading out to get that booklet, which gave us a ton of information for all the numbered stops along the way. We didn't meet with anyone else at the stops, but plenty of people passed us. They missed out.


See this saguaro? It has a couple of christates at the top. It's a growth anomaly. Our book told us about this. So we stopped and checked it out. Man, it was windy.

Musical Organ Pipe

NS was cranky about the cold, whipping wind. But when we read that if you get close to this organ pipe when a breeze comes by, you can hear it play music, NS jumped forth and ran to that organ pipe. It was cool, totally worth the 120 foot hike!

Ocotillo Flower

Lovey me the green ocotillo. Especially with their flowers!!!!


We're staying in the little town of Why. I'm not sure if it's actually Why, we may be in Ajo technically, but we're just a stone's throw from the Why Not store in Why, Arizona. I love it. It's really very pretty here, we've been enjoying the scenery a lot.

Sunset from the Trailer

Last night I stepped out our trailer door and this is what I saw. Simply beautiful. It really is grand all the different things the good Lord has put on this earth.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Painted Rocks

Take nothing but memories...unless someone goes around leaving little painted rocks near Hickiwan Trails RV park, then you can take whatever painted rocks you find. We wanted a painted rock. We went hiking. More than once. Let me show you the desert:

Hiking Area

We hiked from the RVs out to the mountains. We looked. We found...animal poo. Lots of animal poo. Some litter, tons of cacti, some wicked raptors in the sky, and a lot of sunshine. But today, I made my goal. Hiding in a hidey-hole of a saguaro, there was a painted rock.

Painted Rock

Isn't it beautiful? What a great way to get people out and looking around the desert. I love the idea. Today I had somewhat despaired of ever finding one, because the desert is just so vast. And there are no tips for finding one, they're just left around the desert for visitors to find. But I love my little rock, and I want to find more.

Saguaro Friends

Along our journey through the desert, I noticed the saguaros and trees buddy up.

Leaning on Each Other

These guys are just a couple of the saguaro tree friendships we saw.

Bird Friend

We also saw a bunch of bird friends for the saguaro. NB had also spotted a coyote, but there's no photographic evidence of that spotting. Good times in the desert!

Hickiwan Trails

I've been wanting to visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for quite a while now, but it's remote. VERY remote. They have a campground inside the park, but there are no hookups. We're in the desert, we should have plenty of sunshine to collect with our solar, right? We've had a bunch of days of gloomy storm clouds and a bunch of rain. And everywhere we go, there are signs that warn about AZ flooding. Who knew? Makes sense when I think about it, because the ground really doesn't absorb the rain that well, but they do only get about 13 inches a year. At any rate, I got a tip for where to look for a campground, and we ended up at Hickiwan Trails. We're on reservation land, the Tohono O'Odham nation.

Our Site

It was raining when we arrived, so all that ground surrounding our trailer was mud. This is the first time since we've had our trailer that we've had to deal with mud. Don't bring those muddy shoes inside!!!! Like I said, though, we've had many days recently where it's been rainy and cold, so we're a bit stir crazy.

The Mountain

This became our goal. Climb the mountain. Ok, it was only three of us, and it was a spur of the moment goal. But the manager of the campground said we could feel free to walk off trail, so we did. G, NB, and I set off on our hike, and NB decided he wanted to climb a mountain.

Green Ocotillo

I took plenty of pictures along the way. G's in front of an ocotillo plant. All the ones we've seen from Big Bend on have been dead looking sticks. After much rain, we've got some green ones around!!! It really does change their looks quite a bit.

The Climb

The climb was steep, with a lot of loose rocks. Many a time we slipped while going up (and again going down!), but we kept going. So close to the top, we were a bit thwarted. It seemed as if there was no way to get to the top. I got involved. No way were we not getting to the top, we were only a few feet (straight up) from it. Hmm.... I fell. HARD. Both my hands and my left side from my hip to my knee got banged up. And since I fell and bounced and slid about five feet, I freaked out G, who thought I might fall all the way back down. We agreed to end our hike, though we're going to come back at a later time and find a way to the top.

Mountain Climb Part 2

K also wanted to go on a hike. We were told that there is a woman who paints rocks and leaves them around the desert for visitors to find and take home. We wanted to find some of those rocks. Not so easy. Along the way, I decided to try and conquer another mountain. These, by the way, are baby mountains, but they are quite a good climb.

The Top

We made it to the top! It was just an outcrop on the mountain, so we didn't make it to the top of the mountain, but we climbed the part we set out to climb. And I didn't fall! The kids do send a bunch of loose rocks flying towards me, though.

Organ Pipe

And we saw some organ pipe cacti along our path. Just at this mountain, though. I wonder why they're nowhere else?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sunrise, Sunset

Saguaro at Sunset

After a day of camp chores, busting my butt cooking and cleaning, K and Bill came into the trailer to announce a beautiful sunset. After much effort, I hauled myself outside, and it really was worth the effort. What a beautiful sight!

K and I had also been walking around the campsite while dumping filthy water from cleaning the van, and noticed just an absolute ton of birds. Most of the ones we saw were in my bird ID book (it's for birds in the Rockies), yeah! I got to see a broad tailed hummingbird up by the dumpsters, we saw mountain chickadees in the bushes along with some white-crowned sparrows and chipping sparrows.

Saguaro Bird in Flight
Birds on the Saguaros

I did get a picture (or 10) of these guys, but I don't know what they are. Oh, and I got a picture of a dead saguaro that looks like a bird taking flight.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Energy conservation is the name of the game. We play a lot of games on how to best use our resources. Before we left CO last summer, I bought a Wonderbag. It's an insulated bag that continues to cook my food by maintaining the temperature. So anything that needs to simmer for a long time, or can just coast at a low cooking temp is ideal. We finished up making beef stroganoff this afternoon, and we'll have that for dinner tonight. We made gumbo in it for Christmas Eve dinner, so we already know it works for stew like dinners. I want to try it out for pulled pork. We'll pick up the pork Sunday after church at Costco in Tucson and give it a go overnight, I think. Fingers crossed!

Going In

Sitting Around Doing Its Thing


We're situated about an hour and a half away from Phoenix. It had never been in our plan to go there, but need arose. After a couple months of no paycheck coming in, our cash ran out. What do laundry machines typically run on? Cash...in the form of quarters. Periodically, though, you can find a place that takes credit cards, and Phoenix has just that place. We packed all the laundry up (man, do seven people make a TON of laundry!), and headed out.

On our way, we spotted an Ikea. Next outing after laundry. Well, after lunch at Smashburger. But after Smashburger, we spotted a Container Store. I had bought a lot of trailer organization that didn't work out, so we got to return it. Yeah! And Ikea was located conveniently near a Costco and a Wal Mart, so we got all our errands run while in Phoenix, plus some. Yeah!!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tortilla Time

NS is a BIG fan of Mexican food. BIG. While we were in Big Bend, I picked up a book called Taco Table. In there is a recipe (or three) for homemade tortillas. The one I was most intrigued by was the recipe that involved mesquite flour. But I couldn't find any in the grocery stores I shopped. Saguaro National Park's bookshop had some, so now it was time to give it a whirl.

Our trailer kitchen is fairly tiny. We have two drawers for cooking and eating utensils, along with any hot pads and trivets we may want. Not a lot of space, which means not a lot of stuff. The recipe is straightforward, but it does require rolling out the tortillas. I don't have a rolling pin. But I do have a bottle of vinegar.

Rolling out Tortillas

The bottle is not really a cylinder, though. It's a bit decorative, so it is just slightly larger at the top, narrower at the bottom. It worked well enough. The recipe got eaten all up (pretty much), with people coming back for thirds, so it was a success, but most people agreed that they were different, and much better with food than on their own.


We brought in the dutch oven and cooked stovetop with the dutch oven lid. It worked well. Now, I ended up with breathing problems something fierce. Spent a lot of time coughing, and hours upon hours of wheezing. Am I allergic to mesquite, or was it just a particularly bad night in the desert? I'm not sure, but I did double dose my meds again. I'm sure that's just fine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Picacho Peak

We've been staying at Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona, less than an hour away from Tucson. We've really been enjoying out campsite. It's nice to be in one space for a long time, you can get some of your chores done, hang out and do nothing. All this hanging out in the trailer can lead to a bit of, "you're in my space"-ness. So Kayleigh and left the boys at the trailer and did a hike in the park.

Calloway Trail

See that? That's the smile of a person who's left their siblings behind. Ah, the wide open space, the smell of cacti, the distinct lack of boys... It's the perfect getaway from a couple of gals who live in 150 sq ft with five guys. And not, Five Guys, but five unruly gentle(?)men.


K with the dead saguaro. It was fascinating to see the inside of the cacti. There were many alongside the trail, so we saw varying states of decay. Pretty cool.

Hugging Cacti

How close can you get to a cacti without getting injured? Pretty close, if you're pretty careful! K thought it was a good idea to test our steadiness by getting as close to the cactus as possible, without swaying or slipping. Me oh my. But I did it!!! No injuries here, I'm happy to announce.

Strawberry Hedgehog

I think this may be my favorite cacti. After our hike, we went back to the ranger station and asked what this crazy critter is. Strawberry Hedgehog. Duh. As if it'd be named anything else. She did say that in March/April, this sucker shows magenta red blooms. I want one.

Barrel Cactus

K and I also want Barrel Cacti. I think NB might have also expressed an interest. We asked, and they do indeed sell them in nurseries/home improvement stores. So we'll be shopping that one around this week. Yeah!

Saturday, January 14, 2017


We're camping right now at Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona. It's a very nice park, even if it's not really my style. I love camping with atmosphere. This is more like a parking lot, though not in the same way as Guadalupe Mountains, which really was a parking lot. But we've got electricity, a dump station and water nearby, a bathhouse with showers, so life is good. Oh, and Bill's cell service is the best we've had in a long time. AND, the contract he works on was finally turned back on, so he's working again for the first time since Thanksgiving. Truly something to be thankful for in this journey!


I've really been suffering something so very fierce with my allergies in the southwest. We left Pancho Villa State Park quickly because of my difficulties breathing. So when we arrived at Picacho Peak, I sent everyone outside and I cleaned the trailer back to front. I could just smell the dust from NM. That and a double dose of Zyrtec and my Flonase, and I think I'm manageable at this point. In the middle of my self treatment, Bill and K came running into the trailer for my camera, proclaiming the moonrise to be spectacular. So of course I went out to check it out. Absolutely gorgeous, this picture does it no justice!

Campground Saguaros

This was our view the first morning. Saguaros are cool to see, and about a dime a dozen here. We imagined that you'd only spot maybe one lone one at a time, somewhere off in the distance. Imagine your field of basic dandelions, and that's the field of saguaros on the west side of Saguaro National Park. Absolutely amazing!

Barrel Cactus

The ranger at the visitor's center told us that we could pick and eat the fruit, at least inside the park. Removing the fruit from the park is illegal, but she assured us that we could try it inside the park. So we did. It's an interesting flavor. Acidic, bright....citrus-y and mild. Very fibrous.

NB with the Saguaros

Bill's feet are in bad shape at this point, so hiking is out, at least for him, for the moment. NB and I went just a little ways on a trail just to see the sights. So, so, so many saguaros! We only spent a few hours at the park, but I'm good. We've left some parks feeling like we rushed it, but I think we got the feel for this park just fine. I'm looking forward to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, next on our list!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Mexico

When we left Guadalupe Mountains, we knew we needed a campground somewhere in western New Mexico. But we essentially pulled up stakes at Guadalupe without having a site to go to in New Mexico. Now, our fellow Taylor Coach people had written us a note suggesting we hit the Pancho Villa State Park. We are so glad we did. They are inexpensive sites, electric and water, there are hot showers in the bathrooms...it's great. Plus, the history of the park is interesting and we got in to the museum as a perk of our campground stay!

First Air Station

The raid on Columbus, NM, was the last foreign raid on US soil in the continental US, I believe. March 9, 1916, soldiers from Mexico crossed the border and walked the three miles to Columbus. Eight soldiers, 10 civilians, and approximately 90 Mexicans lost their lives during the raid. We watched a 20 minute video in the museum, read a bunch of stuff, and walked around the compound (aka, the campground). There's also a trail up to Coote's Hill, sometimes called Villa hill.

Desert Camping

Our campsite is right there among the cacti. The swirling dust aggravated my asthma, so I stayed indoors most of the day. Bill took three of the kids and crossed the border into Mexico during the afternoon. They had such a great time, they came back and talked the rest of us into going back for dinner, along with our Taylor Coach buddies. Good times!


The kids really enjoyed the Pink Store over in Palomas, Mexico. They came back with little gifts for those of us who hadn't gone over. Such sweet family I've got!

Carlsbad Caverns

Guadalupe Mountains is less than an hour away from Carlsbad Caverns National Park, so we took the opportunity to hike on over there. The family we met the day before at Guadalupe also went that day, and we ended up seeing them again at the restaurant at the Visitor's Center.

Bill's feet have been acting up, swelling up and causing him much pain, so he was hesitating about taking the natural entrance hike. It's a mile and a half(ish), and descends 750 feet, which really gave him pause. He thought that perhaps we could take the elevator down and then hike up, but I was totally against the 20% grade going UP. In the end, we did make the hike down, and we were really happy we did. Tired and in a bit of pain, but happy. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Just Inside
Natural Entrance

The beginning of the entrance is just a back and forth switchback, tight curves, steep descent. They ask that everyone use their soft voices, as even your normal voice carries for a quarter mile in there. We did indeed notice that. Not from our own kids, but from the adults who were well behind us. Grrr.... But once we got in and away from most others, it was a very peaceful and beautiful experience. It took us about three hours underground, and we felt like we were booking.


We've gone in several caves this year, this is the first time I've heard the term, "speleothem." It's the generic term for all the geological features: stalactites, stalagmites, drapery, soda straws, columns, pearls, etc... Carlsbad's got 'em. We weren't there for the bats, which was a shame, but the caverns were marvelous on their own.

Carlsbad Wildlife

We did get to see some wildlife at Carlsbad, though. On our way in, we spied five barbary goats. Very impressive.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

We camped right in the mountains, in the parking lot over from the visitor's center.  It was kind of like camping in a Wal Mart parking lot, but with much better scenery and no convenient groceries!  It was a cheap ($8) site, though, and we were able to keep the trailer there while we went off and did other things, so it was worth it to us.  We did think we had access to a water fill station on the way in, though, and we did not.  But a little work on our part, lugging water in our three gallon jug, and working hard to conserve water, and we made it work.  We pulled in after the visitor's center closed, so we had a quiet evening before exploring the park the next day.    
The sunrises were gorgeous.  The first morning I was out there just soaking it in and taking gazillions of pictures.  The others stayed inside the trailer and admired the colors from their windows.  The second morning I was a bit more chill about the whole thing.  But, man, it was a gorgeous sight.  Our third and final morning, I saw the sunrise way earlier than this, when there were just colors on the horizon over the city down the mountain.  I did not have my camera then, but, whew, it was awesome.          
Hiking is the reason people come to Guadalupe Mountains.  There are a bunch of hikes, getting to the peak is the goal to achieve.  We went to Frijoles Ranch and checked out the history.  We also hiked, a nice little 2.3 mile loop.  Lots of rocks on the hikes, some real ankle busters.  But the hike we took had us going to a couple of springs, which were incredible to check out.  The Frijoles Ranch didn't last a very long time, and was mainly produce, though they did have some animals.  They made incredible use of the springs, channeling the waters to their trees and such.    
This was the first spring we arrived upon, which is everyone else's second.  I don't know how we got turned around and did the hike backwards from everyone else, but we did.  Which meant we did the strenuous part of the hike first.  Which sounds like the right way to do it, if you ask me.  The vegetation around the springs changes remarkably, with so much green and growing things.  Quite lovely.  It was quite a hike, though the kids kept assuring me it's just because I'm old that I think that.      
We are by no means quiet hikers.  It took several "hush!"es before the kids quieted down enough.  We had heard the deer, some rocks slid as they were walking, but it took a while of being still and quiet before the deer came out of the trees and we could see them.           We finally met another family doing the full time RV thing for a year with their kiddos.  Their kids are similar in age to ours, though they only have three.  They started in September from Florida and were headed west through some places we've already been, so we shared some of our faves with them.  
We also saw, for the first time, another Taylor Coach!  We exchanged tours of our coaches, and it was fun for all.  Very exciting to see another one.  There are just two of them in the other coach, and so they have a smaller one.  It was neat to see the differences, and I have to say that I like ours better, which is good since that's the one we have.