Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Great Hike in Sabino Canyon with Family

Sparky's brother, Charlie, came for a quick visit this week, just before we were to leave for Texas. Charlie is a VERY fit guy, seven years younger than Sparky. He hikes, he bikes, he is training for the Ironman competition next year. He's handsome and very witty guy, too! Charlie doesn't do anything half a**, so he's a great challenge to keep up with, or at least push yourself to stay in sight of him if you are biking or hiking.

Sparky had to pick a GOOD hike, challenging enough for Charlie, but not too hard for Sparky, somewhere under 5 miles if possible. Sparky searched and searched and came up with Sabino Canyon Recreational Area near Tucson, not that far from the RV park. Sabino Canyon has an 8.00 entry fee, but free with a senior pass. There were several hikes in the canyon, and the #1 hike listed in All Trails, (a great hiking app) was Bear Canyon to Seven Falls, a distance of 8.3 miles and considered moderate. 

(There are continuation hikes from the end of the trail further into the Coronado Forest, but most people loop the trail to the falls and back). The trail gets 4.5 out of 5 stars and has waterfalls! Sounds great--BUT--Too many miles? Sparky wasn't sure until she saw that you can take a shuttle to the trailhead and shave off about 2.3 miles. The shuttle costs 6.00 a person and the number of people is limited, so you have to get there early in the morning to get a seat on the little open air bus/van to get an early start on the trail. Shuttles leave at 15 minutes after the hour, and return 25 min. after the hour to pick you back up. Sparky and Charlie got the last two seats for the 10:15 shuttle and off we went! We went on a Thursday morning and when we first started around 10:30, trail traffic was light.

The trail was FANTASTIC! Yes, the trail was heavily trafficked as the day went on, but the people were spread out. Sparky sort of liked the idea that the trail had traffic, if she were hiking by herself, it would be nice to know that people were around in case of difficulty. But, she had her super athletic brother with her this time.

The trail climbs gradually through saguaro cacti, cholla, prickly pear, and steep canyon walls and ends up at Seven Falls, which is about 200 feet in elevation. We were lucky it had rained quite a bit the day before, so there was a decent amount of water volume, which made for beautiful tiered falls and a couple of pools below. The falls have decent water flowing from October to May. We think they dry up in the summer.

The rocks around the pools were SUPER slippery! (Ask Charlie how Sparky knows that!) She was so busy watching her feet, she didn't see him fall on his butt! But he bounced right back up.

Charlie blends right into the landscape!

Charlie was really something.   Several times, Sparky saw him rock hopping on the rocky trail, with feet as sure as a mountain goat's. He was so sure footed! Sigh....To be that age again, have terrific balance  and be that fit! 

It felt really great to make it all the way to the falls. 

At the falls, the trail ends for most

It was challenging near the end of the trail. It got rockier, the trail got narrower, and there was some rock and boulder scrambling. That means no trail exists, you just figure out how you are going to get from point A to point B, where to place your feet, and not get them jammed in a rock crevice

We hiked to the falls and back, and got to where we thought the tram stop was. Except it wasn't the tram stop--it was a trailhead to an adjacent trail and there was no tram coming. We sat for 20 minutes past the pickup time, chatting with a group of women hiker buddies, and then we all realized that the group of us had all stopped off the trail at the wrong point. It would be another 45 minutes until another tram came. Charlie and Sparky decided to walk back to the visitor's center, an ADDITIONAL 2 miles. At this point, Sparky's feet were screaming--"HEY! These are the WRONG hiking shoes, Sparky!" But she hobbled alongside Charlie and we got back to the visitor's center before the tram did. A total of 6 miles plus, and Sparky's body definitely knew this was one of the longest hikes she had done in a very long time. Boy, when your feet hurt, the whole body hurts! Time for new and different hiking shoes! 

But we made it and it was wonderful to do it with a brother by your side. This is Sparky's favorite photo (below) from the whole hike, because she felt pure joy at being able to share it with her brother.

The next day, Sparky and Charlie went for a 16 mile ride on the Loop Trail to top off a wonderful family visit together. Oh, yeah. We also found a terrific Mexican restaurant in Tucson called Rancho Rustico for dinner, we highly recommend it! 

Thank you, Charlie, for driving all that way to come see us. Eldo, Sparky, and Charlie all had a wonderful time chatting and reminiscing about family, AND--hiking and biking just iced the cake. Love you, Charlie!

Friday, February 25, 2022

Terrific Tucson!

Daily temperatures for two weeks (February): Highs: 82, 76, 51, 60, 70, 76, 73, 66, 58, 53, 63, 71, 73, 74. They are all over the place!

Lows: 43, 35, 36, 41, 43, 45, 40, 32, 30, 35, 40, 44

Site: 3-150, pull through, Voyager RV and Golf Resort, Tucson, AZ, visit #2.

Good T-Mobile mifi, good AT &T hotspots on our iPhones

What a difference between southern Arizona (Yuma) and more north-(Tucson)! Yuma was actually very hot during the daytime the last couple of days we were there--high 80's. Sparky loves the cool nights, Eldo, not so much. As long as the day time temperatures don't get as cold as the nights, he can live with that.

We are glad to be back at the beautiful Voyager RV and Golf park in Tucson that has lots of amenities--beautiful lounging area outside, several pools, terrific workout room, many classes offered, many interest groups offered, crafting rooms and shops--Sparky would use some of them if we were staying a longer time, but we are only staying for two weeks. With our Thousand Trails membership, it's 20.00 a night. Can't beat that!

Tucson is a beautiful city with lots of culture, sculpture, art installations and great restaurants.

The Visitors Center is beautiful, too!

Visitors Center Complex downtown Tucson

There are murals around town....

It just seems like a vibrant city on first inspection. We can't wait to explore it more when we come back next year for a longer stay.
downtown near visitors center

Sparky is back on the Loop Trail...Explored some new sections with different artwork. Sparky went on a different side of town to pick up the Loop Trail and the trail went very close to the town center. More street crossings this time and a more urban feel to the trail.

Much of the art installations this time were centered in a children's park.
Beautiful purple prickly pear cactus along the way....
A glimpse of the beautiful concrete bridge work all over Tucson and nearby surrounding areas....But it's different designs everywhere, this is just one floral theme in a particular area.
Eighteen mile ride today...Saw a lot of wonderful art, got lots of fresh
air, great exercise and experienced cloudless skies. The Chuck Huckleberry Loop, (131 miles total) has a lot of different "looks" to it. There are very urban sections, country sections, remote sections, memory garden sections, 
(see previous blog post about the memory gardens in the Loop) wash sections, and it gives you a wonderful glimpse into the culture of Tucson. There are three different types of maps you can get about the bike trail, The Loop. They tell you all the details about where the art is, and the important park trailhead, connecting spurs and how to access different portions of the Loop Trail. This is one of the best bike trails Sparky has experienced. Here is a glimpse of one of the more remote sections of the trail, where you have desert on both sides of you, yet a roadway is not that far off to one side, in case you need assistance. The Loop is a two lane, paved, dedicated bike trail, no motorized vehicles allowed.

We drove to Mount Lemmon for a second time to see if there was snow. There was! But not as much as last visit. Mount Lemmon is about 9,000 feet in elevation at the very top, with a ski resort there, too. We love the Windy Point Vista pull out area. So fun to climb across LEVEL boulders and get wonderful views of the valley below. It looks scarier than it is, not scary at all.

We are to get a cold front and a half day of rain here in the valley, bet Mount Lemmon will get a BUNCH of snow!  Forecast for Mount Lemmon is 6-8 inches! (Note: After the cold front passed through and it rained here at the park, Mt. Lemmon was closed to all vehicles the next day except for all wheel drive  and four wheel drive vehicles.) Time for a drive up the mountain again! It's a 25 mile scenic drive and awesome!

And that is our second Tucson visit for now....Sparky's brother Charlie, is coming for a quick visit and we are going to do some awesome hiking and biking, all in a day and a half! And then we leave early this week, heading for Texas. Come back and see us for our last great trail hike in Tucson! Bye for now.......

Monday, February 14, 2022

More About Yuma

High: 86.  Low: 51.    Site: 113.  Foothill Village RV Park

Any time we are in an area, we try to learn more about it if we haven't been there before. Yuma has some interesting facts about it that perhaps you didn't know.

If you like salads, chances are that the lettuce/greens in it were grown in Yuma. More than 91% of North America's leafy greens are grown on Yuma farms. Agriculture is a 4 BILLION  dollar industry here.

There are two military installations here, the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds. Can't beat the superb flying weather! The Yuma air show is every March, and is one of the area's most popular. Yuma is the "sunniest place on earth", according to the Guiness Book of World Records. The sun shines 339 days a year! Year long average high is 88. 

Sparky is going to try to check out a biking trail/path or two with the few remaining days left. There is a LOT of hiking in the area. Many trails require "high clearance" vehicles to get to the trailhead so that means very rocky, rough backroads to get there. We don't like to take our truck on those roads, even if we could. Just too rough.

If you get the local magazines from the Visitor's Center, or consult the All Trails app, you will find them.

The other beautiful guide with SO much useful information, is the Arizona "Yuma" Magazine.

There are three national wildlife refuges in the area: Kofa, Imperial, and Cibola. If you visit these areas, you MIGHT see bighorn sheep, wild burros, desert tortoises, bobcats, and many different bird species. We went to the Kofa Refuge and it was all desert and really rough driving roads as far as we could see. There's Mittry Lake Wildlife Area with three scenic mountain range backdrops. There are three casinos in the area if you are feeling lucky. The Center of the World is here in Felicity, CA, just a few miles away--one of those kitschy road side attractions you won't want to miss. The eccentric owner has built granite slabs etched with the entire history of the planet with unique formations of the stone. There's Martha's Date Farm, where you can get a delicious date shake and a tour. Check out the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. It's on the Bravo TV list of "22 Essential Places to Take a Selfie Before You Die". This is one of the most popular off road riding areas in the country and the terrain used in a couple of the Star Wars movies. And of course, the Colorado River is here for boating and fishing activities. Then there's the gustatory scene--many great Mexican restaurants and other delicious offerings! So many things to see and do, and not enough time to do them. 
Hiking to Telegraph Pass

One awesome challenging hike is just a couple of miles down the road from the Foothill Village RV Park where we were staying. About three miles from the park, on North Frontage Road, is Telegraph Pass. It's about a 5.3 mile hike total up to Telegraph Pass and back down. The trails aren't marked at all, but most lead one way or another to get you to the base kiosk where the trail REALLY gets serious. It doesn't look too bad here at the left, you are heading for the towers at the top of the mountain. And the serious climb begins....
Once you get to the base of the mountain where the kiosk and fencing are, which has some elevation from the parking lot, but not bad, you then take an old paved gravel/cement road which travels almost vertically to the top where the electrical towers are. It is a GRUELING  climb and Sparky's heart rate got up to over 152 bpm just with every few feet of elevation change. Lots of very sharp switchbacks.
But she wanted to complete the hike to the top, a total of over 1220 feet in elevation. Getting closer to the top!
The one thing that spurred her on, was a young woman with a BABY in a loose slung baby carrier across her front. There were also two guys who JOGGED to the top and back down TWICE while Sparky was navigating her way to the top. GEESH! And--Eldo was sending Sparky encouraging words, "YOU CAN DO IT!" which really helped while she was huffing and puffing. Believe it or not, there was a cellphone signal just about all the way. That was a good thing, in case Sparky should fall off the mountain, but seriously, the trail was fairly wide, no worries there. (WHEW! says Eldo. I always worry about her.) was the payoff at the top....
Sparky made it!
It took her almost 5 hours to climb to the very top and back down, but it was worth it! The next day, time for a bike ride....Sparky has no idea who Yuma "Charles" is, but because she has a brother, Charlie, she liked this bike and so took this photo. Her Charlie is a BIG bike rider! He just competed in a 100 mile bike ride in the California desert last week!

Bike trail past Yuma Prison State Park
Sparky checked out recreational bike riding in Yuma, and it's kind of chopped up as far as how you can ride for any distance, but you can get a lot of miles in by mixing up the trails and spurs.  Ride a little ways on one paved trail, pick up another spur, ride along the canals or levees for awhile, ride through the city parks closely connected to each other,  pick up another spur, etc. You also can ride very quickly (less than 6 miles?) between a set of city parks. One of the nicer riding areas is in the West Wetlands Park. 
West Wetlands Park

Some of the park is under construction, but a lot of it is completed. Beautiful duck pond, an awesome children's castle playground and plenty of space to ride around to check out some things at the park, like the Solar Garden--simply an array of solar panels fenced in with metal plates posted on the fencing with awesome Native American signs/designs/motifs all the way around it.
Solar Garden

a Yuma bike trail

We will say that our current park location, which is east outside of Yuma, in the unincorporated Foothill Village area, is a bit of a drive to do so many of these things. You have to hop on I-8 and drive 15-25 miles or more to get to trails and it's about 14 miles to downtown Yuma and the California border, so just keep that in mind. Be sure to check out Slab City, or "The Slabs" near Niland, CA, 1.5 hour drive from Yuma, a VERY kitschy famous American road side attraction. 

It's an off-the-grid alternative bohemian lifestyle community consisting of mostly snowbirds in the Salton Trough area of the Sonoran Desert. Supposedly 3500 people winter in "The Slabs".   During the rest of the year, about 50-100 people live there year round. The entry section looked like people REALLY down on their luck to us. Dusty full junk yards, a real mishmash of stuff. Maybe a couple of eccentric snowbirds in the bunch, but the living conditions seemed pretty destitute with the RV's we saw. But, for the residents, they are absolutely fine with their lifestyle. No judging meant here, to each his own, whatever you are comfortable with! There were all kinds of yard art laying around, heavily painted and decorated with biblical sayings and thoughts. 

There were more RVs appearing to be clustered farther away. There are actually 3 parts to the Slabs--a religious art installation, the East Jesus Sculpture Garden, and the "city" itself. The community started in 1942. If you look deeper, you would find artists, homesteaders, and retirees living off the grid. More power to them, to be able to do that in the desert! There are NO city services, no water, no electricity, no garbage. You live there, you pack it in, you pack it out, or make it on site. Sparky loved all the paint cans left that were used. They were very much apart of the art.

The Salvation Mountain religious art installation was very interesting.

Leonard Knight, the "founder" of the community, loved Jesus and believed in asking for forgiveness. He felt compelled to build a monument out of sand and adobe attesting to his beliefs, hence the Mountain. It is crumbling and decaying a bit and was damaged recently by a storm, (they have storms in sunny, sunny Yuma????) we are not sure if they are trying to maintain that part of the area or not. Leonard died in 2014, but seven volunteers keep the site going. There is a library, too, that takes book donations and has a list of desired items on an Amazon list! What a place! This guy seems to be connected to the world in his own way....

And with that, we head back to Tucson, AZ for another couple of weeks where Sparky will revisit the Loop biking trails and we will enjoy a little bit cooler weather now that we are away from the Mexican border. See you later!

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Eldy Goes to Prison

 Yuma, AZ.  High: 76. Low: 45.  Foothills Village RV Park.  Site: 113

We drove just a little under four hours today to go from Mesa to Yuma, AZ. Eldy did not follow the exact route the Garmin RV GPS suggested, but rather, we took the 202 loop out of Mesa to I-10, then to I-8 all the way to Yuma. Sometimes the GPS wants to shave off some time for you and have you do the "state road shuffle", Sparky calls it. But sometimes we prefer to take a route which seems the easiest to us, even if it adds a little time.  And, the roads were in very good condition so it was a decent drive. So here we are in Yuma, ready to see what there is around us. We came to be closer to Sparky's brother, Charlie, for a possible visit, but since Sparky had been suffering from a stomach bug, and Charlie was participating in a 100 mile awesome bike race in a few days, we had to postpone a get-together so Charlie wouldn't get sick. We will try and hook up later.

We are in a Thousand Trails/Encore membership park for the week. It's a smaller one, but very friendly. It's called Foothill Village RV Park right off of I-8 outside of Yuma. There are so many HUGE RV/geared to retirement people parks here in Yuma, it's mind boggling. We kind of like being in a smaller park for a change. Many, many of the parks in the southwest, Arizona and Texas, are basically gravel parking lots with a few palm trees thrown in and are situated very near main highways. Foothill Village RV Park is right next to Interstate 8 and there is a LOT of road noise. But as far as we can tell, lots of the RV parks here are near the interstate so you are going to be dealing with road noise in many RV parks in this area. And if not highway noise, train noise, or air force base noise based on some of the other reports we've heard about nearby parks.

There are about 131 sites here at this park as compared to 331 at the last park (Viewpoint Golf and RV resort in Mesa). There is a nice BIG modern laundry room, a very small pool, shade gazebos with couches at the ends of the site rows for anyone to sit and enjoy the daily breezes, a small activity center and a little restaurant you can walk to, which has tasty food. We are very happy with our stay, despite the highway noise. On to seeing what's in Yuma.

Yuma Territorial Prison State Park Open 9-5, seniors 6.00 entry fee. You read that right. It's a former prison that sits on a bluff beside the Colorado River. It was built in 1876. The prison operated for 33 years. You can walk thru an original cell, see the history of the inmates, and take a mug shot of yourself (you used to be able to don a prison uniform to do that, but no longer). 
It was VERY interesting to see and read about the inmates, like the "Shotgun Sister"--Maria Moreno, 16 years old, whose brother didn't like the way she was dancing and told her to stop. She threatened to kill him, and he said, "So kill me then." She shot him in the face, killing him instantly. Or Elena Estrada who stabbed her unfaithful lover, cut open his chest, pulled out his heart and threw the bloody mass into his face. Sentenced to 7 years for manslaughter. Wonder if she really did that? Or was it just sensationalized news of the day? How about  Pearl Hart, the most famous female bank robber? Or this guy....C. E. Hobart, a lifer...murdered a man, spent most of his days making adobe and quarrying rock. Tried to escape twice. But in his "spare time"? He knitted lace!!!! Beautiful lace.....Kinda creepy, the way Sparky's reflection is right behind him....

Yuma Prison was one of the top and most up-to-date prisons in its time, despite it being known as a "hell-hole", more for the weather, snakes and desert and impossibility of escaping, than for actual living conditions. It was considered the "Country Club on the Colorado." It had electricity, forced ventilation, sanitation including two bathtubs and three showers. It had a library of 2,000 books, the most in the territory at the time, a progressive administration, and even a prison band! But the terrible heat made the place an inferno and tuberculosis was the #1 killer. They had 6 guys in one cell block!
OK, one more thing, want to know the science behind a hanging? No? Well, gonna tell you anyway just in case. For Jeopardy or something. The day before they hung a man, they would weigh him. Then they would get a sandbag that weighed the same and test it out to determine the length of the "drop". If the rope was too long, the inmate could be decapitated. If it was too short, the strangulation would take as long as 45 minutes. The rope was boiled and stretched to eliminate spring or coiling. If they planned it right, the prisoner's weight would cause a rapid fracture and dislocation of the neck. BOOM! And he or she was a goner. (Sorry about that, Sparky thought that was interesting.)

Eldo wasn't too happy about taking the tour today.....But he made the best of it. Actually, he did enjoy the tour, we both did! 

After the tour, we were hungry. Eldo decided to buy some jelly beans at the shop. He said, here, have some! They might be a LITTLE hot. he says. HOLY MOLEY! They were on fire! He laughed and laughed at Sparky gasping for air.....NOTE: a few snacks available in the gift shop but they are ALL hot and spicy snacks, REALLY hot. Then he shows me the jar....Funny man, that Eldy.

A couple more stops to see art installations around town before heading back to the rig....Yuma has beautiful murals all over town. Stop at the Visitor's Center on Main Street for a map. Here is Sparky's favorite....You can't see all of her, but she's a mermaid. 

Some more art work outside of the Visitor's Center....In the back of the center nearby.
And a cool building facade...A cool shot would be to capture someone walking past it, but nobody came by.

While you are at it, stop by Lutes Casino. It's not a casino, but has the most eclectic assortment of art, posters, mechanical sculptures, weird characters hanging from the ceiling, movie star memorabilia and neon plastered all over the place. Very good tri tip steak sandwich. That's right nearby on Main Street after the prison tour.

Sparky was thrilled to be at Lutes as she didn't have to cook, but disappointed she missed the ice cream which Eldo participated in while she went to get some photos. (just kidding....) Here is the inside of Lutes from one angle...Sensory overload, for sure!

Aren't the bike racks outside all over town, pretty cool, too?

Lots to see here in Yuma...we have a few more days, need to see what a couple of hikes and biking trails look like. Sparky is finally feeling better and might be able to handle a little bit of that...See you later!