Friday, 6 February 2015

Welcome to Mexico – Huh?!

On a warm, sunny day we set off to Patagonia to drive along Harshaw Road and through the beautiful San Raphael Valley.   I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but do not speed through Patagonia, you will be caught.   It is the only place we’ve ever seen huge semi-trucks slow down to the posted speed limit.
Needless to say our first stop was at the Gathering Grounds in Patagonia.   DB had coffee and the most enormous chocolate chip cookie, I had a chocolate, decaff mocha with a scrumptious warm cranberry and apple muffin.   Obviously it was all totally calorie and fat free!   We wish!
Absolutely stuffed to the gills, we hauled ourselves back into the truck and followed Harshaw Road into the mountains.   We found a lovely spot with a small stream running beside it.
At an elevation of 4,850ft, we stopped at Harshaw Townsite, as far as we could see this is the only building left, no idea what it was used for.

Across the road the cemetery is well looked after,

there are always flowers on the graves.
The dirt road continues high into the mountains, with smaller dirt roads branching off to old mining camps.    Resisting the temptation to explore, we followed the road into the San Raphael valley
and the tiny border town of Lochiel.

As you drive into town a huge stone cross on the roadside commemorates the arrival into what is now Arizona, on 12 April 1539 of Fray Marcos De Niza, Vice Commissary of the Franciscan Order and Delegate of the Viceroy in Mexico; he was the first European to travel west of the Rockies.  

Known as La Noria during the Spanish and Mexican eras, the tiny town was renamed Lochiel, by the Cameron Brothers who managed the San Raphael Cattle Company in the valley and were descendants of the Campbell clan of Lochiel in Scotland.  
As we stopped under this huge cottonwood tree, my ‘phone suddenly beeped   “Welcome to Mexico!”   We must’ve been so close to the border it was picking up Mexican cell towers.

The Little Red Adobe School House was built sometime before 1905.
Continuing along the dirt road we headed towards San Raphael State Park, which
as far as we know, has never actually been open to the public.   The ranch house was used in the film McLintock, John Wayne used to throw his hat on the weathervane each time he came home.
Oklahoma was also filmed in the valley, although DB was not all impressed when I sang to him, can’t imagine why?!
The monsoon rains were good this year, so there was quite a lot of water in the valley.

Another view of the valley, we had a great drive through the beautiful San Raphael Valley.
Have fun, we are!

Back in Tucson

Leaving Black Canyon City, we hit I17 and the nightmare traffic of Phoenix.  We thought it would be very busy, but for once, we must’ve timed it right, as we practically sailed through the city.   Loved it!   It just goes to show that you never can tell what time, is the best time to travel through Phoenix. 
Arriving back in Tucson we headed for an overnight stop at Lazy Days/KOA, as the next day we were booked in for Lazy Days to sort out our problem with the water heater.   As I said in an earlier post, Lazy Days soon identified the problem and installed the new switch.
Next, we needed to decide where we wanted to stay.   Cooler weather over the coming days made up our minds for us, we’d stay in Tucson.   After all the weather would be cold/freezing/raining/snowing/windy one or all of those things when we got home!
Have fun, we are!

Black Canyon City

Williams was getting chillier by day and night, so we decided it was time to move to somewhere warmer.
On our travels we’ve driven past the signs on I17 for Black Canyon City many times, but never stopped, this time we decided we would.   As we drove out of Williams, it was a beautiful sunny morning, but the temperature was only 47F, when we arrived at Black Canyon Ranch RV Resort a couple of hours later it was 83F.   So we went from heaters to air con in a couple of hours!
Our site at Black Canyon Ranch RV Resort, it would be a bit tight pulling in if the park was full.   Once we’d finished setting up I headed for the pool and hot tub, it was ages since we’d been anywhere I could swim so that was lovely. 

A little while later I took a walk around the park, it’s a nice place, very well maintained and everyone seemed very friendly. 

Driving under I17 we found The Squaw Peak Coffee Shop, where we stopped and enjoyed coffee with a brownie for DB and a warm croissant for me, delicious!

Afterwards we drove back through Black Canyon City and on into Rock Springs where we topped up the diesel.   As well as the gas station, there’s an art studio, a farmers market, and the Rock Springs Café.

There is even a ‘spoof’ Rock Springs cemetery, with some quirky ‘grave stones’.

I particularly liked this one about ‘Cowboy Joe’.

The Farmers market had some lovely salsas and preserves, not to mention garden fresh tomatoes, why do we always find these places near to the end of our trip?
It’s a nice area and there’re things we’d like to go back and see, so I think we’ll be back.
Have fun, we are!

The Grand Canyon – Along the West Rim

On our second trip to the Grand Canyon we decided to take the shuttle bus and hike part of the West Rim Drive.
After parking at the visitor centre, we took the blue shuttle to the transfer station and then the red shuttle took us out along Hermits Rest Road.  
At one time it was possible to drive along the West Rim to Hermits Rest.   I think it may still be possible, at least for a couple of months in the depths of winter, but, these days unless you’ve got a permit, everyone takes the shuttle or walks.   
Hermit Road was originally built for horses and buggies between 1911 and 1913 at a cost of $250,000.  

We got off the bus at Monument Creek Vista and hiked the rest of the way, it’s not far.   The trail is part of a Greenway trail, so apart from a couple of sections it’s a paved, hiking/biking trail.   As we walked along the trail, we came across a couple of elk enjoying a gentle snooze under a shady tree.   They seemed to be quite happy, sleepily watching as the tourists oohed and ahhed as we took their photograph.   We weren’t quite sure who was watching who.

It goes without saying that the views were fabulous, in places the old trail is still clearly marked, although it’s much closer to the edge so it’s not somewhere you’d take kids or ride a bike.

Looking towards the Colorado River 

The Colorado River

Looking across to the North Rim.
Hermits Rest was designed and built by Mary Coulter, according to legend it referred to prospector Louis Boucher, but he was a popular canyon guide who operated his own tourist cabins, so who knows.

People used to feed the animals at Hermits Rest, this time no-one did.   Mind you, the huge signs warning of the possibility of catching bubonic plague in practically every language under the sun probably helped!

The huge well used, fireplace inside Hermits Rest.

As we walked along we could see smoke rising from the North Rim.   The smoke started out white,
and then turned black.   We were once told that if the smoke was white, the fire was under control, if it was black it wasn’t.   We never did find out what was happening.
We had yet another fabulous day at the Grand Canyon.
Have fun, we are!

The Grand Canyon – Along the East Rim

Needless to say our first hike at the Grand Canyon was out to our favourite viewpoint, as we walked we met a couple returning who told us we’d have it to ourselves, bliss, absolute bliss!
Even though we’ve visited the area lots of times, that first view of the canyon is still breathtaking, it’s so spectacular you feel it just can’t possibly be real, but it is!
Sitting close, but not quite (we’re not that brave, or stupid depending on your point of view) on the edge, enjoying unobstructed views across to the North Rim in total silence, simply takes your breath away.

It’s so still that all you can hear is the breeze, and as ravens fly by, the beat of their wings.  
As we watched, a mule train slowly made its way around O’Neill Butte on its way back from Phantom Ranch, that’s a trip on our ‘to do’ list, but I think I’d rather hike, I’m not sure I’d feel safe on a mule.

Looking towards O’Neill Butte

Mule train
After about an hour we hiked back to the truck, and then drove along the East Rim Drive to Desert View.
It was very busy and after the almost total silence we’d just enjoyed, was a bit of a shock to the system, but I have to say the coffee was very welcome! Eventually, we worked our way back along the East Rim driving, stopping at viewpoints and taking photographs along the way.

Over the years we’ve seen some beautiful sights at the Grand Canyon, we’ve watched thunderstorms as they rolled around the canyon; rain showers as they danced from rim to rim, creating beautiful rainbows in their wake; sunshine as it suddenly blazes through a gap in the clouds; misty purple afternoons, clear blue skies, golden sunrises and crimson sunsets; and on what started out as a warm, sunny, spring morning, a snowstorm that created a winter wonderland.
So, needless to say, we have hundreds of photographs of the Grand Canyon, but somehow, there’s always room for just a one more.

Have fun, we are!

Moochin’ around Williams

We followed Highway 73 and took the dirt road to Dog Town Lake.   As by now it was the end of October, we knew the campground would be closed, but hoped the day use area would still be open.   Yaay, it was!
When we arrived in Williams, there was a lot of smoke drifting across the town, and as we checked in we were told there were some controlled burns taking place around the area.   On the way to the lake we drove through remnants of the burns, a couple of small sections were still smouldering.
Further along in the forest there were quite a few campers, I’m not sure I’d’ve wanted to be quite that close to the burn area. 

At the lake, there were a few fishermen

but we’ve never seen the water so low.

Dog Town Creek was totally dry, usually there’s some water here.   After a walk around the lake we rejoined highway 73 and then took FR108 the Bill Williams Loop Drive.
It’s a lovely drive on an improved red dirt road, through ponderosa pines and golden leaved oak trees and on a gorgeous autumn day it’s very picturesque.

At dry Coleman Lake there are signs warning about deep pools of water, in fact I seem to remember that last time we came this way there was a boat on one of the pools.  

This time round we couldn’t see any water and definitely no boat.

Bill Williams Mountain from the road, we had yet another great day around Williams.
Have fun, we are!

Williams, Arizona

After we’d settled into our spot in Williams, my first job was laundry, with perfect timing I had the laundry room to myself, how good is that?!   We forgot about the time change between New Mexico and Arizona, so the next thing we knew it was time for dinner.
One of our favourite drives is along Old Route 66 to Belmont, with, needless to say, a coffee stop at the old deli at Parks in the Pines.   A trip to Camping World netted us a heated water hose, so no more having to run out and disconnect the water hose if and when we’re in places that dip below freezing at night.   After that, we topped up on diesel at the truck stop in Belmont, I’ve no idea why, but it’s always so much cheaper than in Williams.
The next day, we treated ourselves to a scrumptious breakfast at the Grand Canyon Café, after which we decided we’d revisit Bearizona.
Although we’ve visited at least twice before, there’s always something new to see, here are just a few of the animals we saw.

White bison 

Porcupine, I don’t think they moved the whole time we were there.

Big horned sheep 

Snoozing bear

Baby bears

American badger, after seeing the badger, I’m almost certain that’s what ran across the road in front of us on one of our drives to Westcliffe, Colorado.   We had a great day.
Have fun, we are!