Thread: 2 -3 Years Around North America

  1. #161
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska
    Back to Joshua Tree

    Attachment 427092
    Before heading out on this road trip we rented a house in Joshua Tree (JT) each December for five years. The last two at a house that bordered the park. This allowed us to slip into the wilderness avoiding a 10 mile hike from the park road. We were happy to return in October for a week of hiking and relaxing.
    Attachment 427093
    Coming into JT from the northeast put us at the 29 Palms Entrance. 29 Palms is a town attached to a Marine base. Four years ago there were two grocery stores there, upon our arrival there were none. The gas station/convenience store where we stopped had a huge beer selection and some tortilla chips, but no real food.

    We found a camp site at Jumbo Rocks and used that as a base for a couple of days. Our first walk was to Crown Prince Lookout, which is rumored to have been a WWII lookout station, I assume for Japanese fighters coming up from the Sea of Cortez. The view from the lookout is impressive and, as is the case in many parts of the park, makes you want to walk out into the desert to see what those cool rocks look like.
    I set a sun tarp in our site when we returned from the hike. The temperature was in the 80s and the sun was hot. Our 10x10 sil-tarp provided as good comfort from the sun as it has from the rain in Southeast Alaska.
    [IMG]Evening by Joseph, on Flickr[/IMG]

    The small town of Joshua Tree has changed little since our last visit. The Crossroads Cafe had the same eclectic patrons as in the past — climbers, locals, tourists and crazy desert people.

    We had breakfast there and then went to the JT Market which is a combination of Indian Restaurant, Pizza Parlor and convenience store. We were able to buy something useful for the first time in more than a week. There aren’t a lot of markets in Death Valley and the Mojave.
    Cottonwood Creek by Joseph, on Flickr
    The Cottonwood Campground is at the southern end of the park. It’s hotter there than at Jumbo Rocks. We did an evening walk to a small Palm Grove which had an extensive tank system for collecting water. There is no water. The next morning we thought we could beat the blistering heat of the late morning since we woke to a cloudy sky.

    Our hike to Mastodon Peak was pleasant, but the sky soon cleared and we returned in bright sunlight and high temperatures. The Cottonwood Palm grove is larger than the one up the wash. The eponymous cottonwoods are growing out of the tops of the Palms, giving a new standard for the term epiphytes.

    Fountain Hills
    P1230913 by Joseph, on Flickr

    Eve’s birthday was spent with one of her best friends and her husband. The two women have known each other since Eve was 10, and regularly meet up for visits. The couple had moved to Fountain Hills, north of Scottsdale, earlier this year, and we had met up at Lake Powell in March.
    IMG_4192 by Joseph, on Flickr
    There are a lot of places to hike around the area and we made the best use of our time on those washes and trails during the morning, lunches at fun restaurants and then dinner and a movie at their home.

    We also spent a day on Lake Robert where we hiked, picnicked and toured on a boat.
    IMG_6609 by Joseph, on Flickr
    Last edited by Umnak; 12-16-2017 at 06:01 PM. Reason: now able to upload

  2. #162
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska

    Default Let's see if this works now


    I didn’t think you could take a vacation from a road trip, but indeed we did. Our friend from Kalispell joined us in Tucson for a week’s travel around mostly eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
    [IMG]Arizona by Joseph, on Flickr[/IMG]

    We first visited Kartchner Caverns south of Benson AZ. This is the cave system first explored in the early 1970s. It’s considered one of the nicest “wet” caves in the world, and certainly the park intends to keep it that way with limited visitors, sealed entry ways and exhortations by the interpreters to not touch anything inside. The prohibition against photographs makes it a challenge to show here, but let’s just say it is pretty cool.

    We returned to the park on our way back to Tucson’s airport and were able to walk the Foothills Trailing the evening and backwards the next morning.
    Attachment 427094

    Out next stop continued the Hot Springs tour with a couple of nights at Faywood Hot springs, where we camped in the Clothing Optional side close to the soaking pools.
    A 2.1.jpg

    [IMG]Last morning soak at Faywood. by Joseph, on Flickr[/IMG]
    At Faywood one has access to 700 acres of private land and 1000s more on the adjacent State Park. We walked the fence lines and visited the Henge both for cell service — AT&T sucks in New Mexico — and the view. The Henge is a 1970s addition to the area built by hippies and somewhat off of true north. It is, however, just over a mile off from the Chaco Meridian, which gives it a very special place in our topographical — if not spiritual mind.

    From Faywood we drove to the Gila Cliff Dwelling in the national forest of the same name. The gain of 3000 feet to over 8,000’ was slow going in the Sprinter. And in tune with the ongoing cooling system issues I seemed to have not completely closed the radiator cap loosing almost a gallon of fluid when we stopped at the top of the pass.

    [IMG]Gila cliff dwelling by Joseph, on Flickr[/IMG]
    The Gila site is dramatic and offers a beautiful view of the canyon on which it sits. Fall colors added to the scene. Two knowledgeable volunteers shoed us around and pointed out some not so obvious sites.

    The Cabin in Gila by Joseph, on Flickr
    We had hoped to camp at the Gila Hot Springs but it was full, so we stayed two nights at the Upper Scorpion campground, which does not have a fee. It’s a nice place and, given that it is at the end of the road, has little traffic.

    We hiked part of the loop into Black Rock Canyon which is classic high desert with pinion, juniper and ponderosa pine scattered across meadows.

    Gila Wilderness by Joseph, on Flickr
    A shorter walk near the lower campground leads to another cave dwelling and some remarkable pictographs.

    From the Gila we drove south for a Saturday night in Silver City. Eve and I hope to spend December here and so the three of us cruised the coffee shops and art galleries to see what was going on in town. We stayed downtown at the Palace Hotel which has a portrait of a woman holding a pistol. The suite was funky and clean.
    Silver City, NM by Joseph, on Flickr

    We spent the evening at dinner and in the local brew house. Lots of energy there given it was the Saturday before Halloween.

    We spent most of our last day together in Tucson after the return trip to Kartchner Park.

    [IMG]Gila Cliff Dwellings by Joseph, on Flickr[/IMG]
    So, a vacation from a road trip and what is becoming a prolonged roaming around the southwest. We are now back at Faywood for November. It’s pretty easy living with campground fees that include the hot springs at $350 for a month. Lots of interesting people and remarkable weather.
    Last edited by Umnak; 12-12-2017 at 05:23 PM.

  3. #163
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska

    Default November at Faywood Hot Springs

    November at Faywood Hot Springs

    Cookes Peak.jpg
    Eve has agreed to not do locum work for at least a year — its taken a while for her to accept the fact that we don’t need the money, and hanging out together most of the day is better than not. So, after we dropped our friend off at the Tucson airport we headed back to Faywood Hot Springs for a month-long soak, er stay. Faywood is about 25 miles north of Deming and a little bit farther away from Silver City, NM. It abuts the City of Rocks State Park.

    Hot Pool.jpg
    There are two camping areas in the hot springs. The hook-up side has a lot of sites and is close to the “clubhouse” and one of the clothing optional set of pools called the Bath House. The “dry-camping” side has just over 10 sites and is within the enclosed clothing optional set of pools. Hook-up cost $450 a month and dry camping cost $350 a month. With 200 watts of solar and a diesel heater it seemed silly to spend the extra $100 on stuff we didn’t need, especially since the weather was balmy and dry. And we were able to get a great L shaped site with a lot of privacy and away from the path to the pools.

    metate stones.jpg
    Faywood has been used by people for a very long time. The metate stones for mesquite pods collected in the courtyard of the visitor center were gathered from around the dome, where there are still a few older depressions in the stone. The cooling tanks send non-scalding water to the various pools through PVC pipes.

    So, what does one do for a month-long sojourn at a hot springs?

    Hot Pool.jpg
    We started our day with a pre-breakfast soak, usually in the hotter pool. Following breakfast we would gear up for a 4-5 mile walk in the desert with a wonderful view of Cookes Peak to the east. We built a trail from the Faywood Henge along the fence to the state park fence line, then went under that to a 2 mile loop trail that passed close to a spring and copse. We ate lunch after the hike then went to the “Bath House” clothing optional pools for a rinse, soak and shower. Eve sometimes played her fiddle. A late afternoon snack led us into the evening followed by dinner outside with a fire. A final soak around 8 pm then to sleep at Barrago Midnight, which we used to laugh at as being 9pm, but came to believe sufficient a time for bed and a book.


    Along with those soaks were some great conversations with people sitting naked across from us in the pools. The variety of people was most impressive. Apache Mike had some great local stories. Doug spends three seasons of the year walking the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail or the Appalachian Trail, when he isn’t riding to and from those places on his bicycle. Raven has been roaming around the southwest trails for a few years. The Astro-Physicist rambled a bit, but eventually got around to explaining how he’s looking for black holes. A surprising number of Alaskans including two, at different times, from the small community of Esther just outside of Fairbanks.

    Raab Park.jpg
    Once a week we went to the market in Silver City and usually paired that with a hike in the Gila Forest. One of those hikes was to Raab Park, which is a four mile walk from the winding road passing through the National Forest. It took us two attempts to find the correct trail, and we were pleased with what we found. Running water is always of interest in this part of the world and there were two streams flowing through the grass and piñon covered hills.

    I made a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey breast, cranberry sauce and stuffing, which we enjoyed outside between soaks. I can think of few other holidays better spent than sitting in the late afternoon sun listening to the birds and watching the sun edge toward the horizon.


    We could have spent another few weeks camped there, but decided to move on to Silver City to get to know that town better. And remarkably, we found a wonderful suite of rooms in a friendly B&B which we have rented for the month of December.

  4. #164
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Gold Country California
    Just came home from a visit to my mum's out in Gila. Glad you guys are enoying that small piece of paradise. The University has some good museums and displays, but may be closed for the holiday.

    Oh, the little coffee shop on the corner of Yankee and Texas St's downtown called Tranquil Buzz (Used to be AIR espresso...) has a bridge group that meets there... Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons. My mum is a part of that. They also serve a great dirty chai latte.. in a raspberry flavor I haven't found elsewhere and surprising pleasant.
    ՈOV Serenity - 2nd gen Dodge 2500 SLT LD, 5.2l gasser, stock with Wildcat AT2 245/75/16. - **SELLING SOON**

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  5. #165
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska
    Quote Originally Posted by Ashton View Post
    Just came home from a visit to my mum's out in Gila. Glad you guys are enoying that small piece of paradise. The University has some good museums and displays, but may be closed for the holiday.

    Oh, the little coffee shop on the corner of Yankee and Texas St's downtown called Tranquil Buzz (Used to be AIR espresso...) has a bridge group that meets there... Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons. My mum is a part of that. They also serve a great dirty chai latte.. in a raspberry flavor I haven't found elsewhere and surprising pleasant.
    We go to Tranquil Buzz just about every day!

  6. #166
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Carmel, Indiana
    What an amazing journey. Look forward to more posts. Happ Holidays. jd

  7. #167
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska

    Default New Shoes and Glass

    New Shoes and Glass

    It was time to get some new shoes for the Sprinter, and replace its spider-web damaged windscreen during our month long stay in Silver City — post to come soon about this interesting town.

    The windscreen had been hit by a Yukon mosquito (stone from a passing semi) somewhere outside of Watson Lake last summer. I’m sorry that I don’t have a photograph that does the damage justice. It became a spiral about a hands width across, and while it didn’t enlarge after the initial hit, it was deemed un-repairable by two glass shops.

    I waited until now to replace it, as most of our funky road driving is behind us at this point. It took the local auto glass place two attempts to install the windscreen. The first attempt left me worrying about the ability of the installer, as the glass seemed to be misaligned slightly and the adhesive was oozing from the sides. I gave it a couple of days then spoke with the owner about having the glass and the hood cleaned up -- they had left adhesive globs. Fortunately, it rained and snowed during the weekend and we were camping in the van.

    I was stunned to see a steady drip of water flowing out from the top of the windscreen as we ate breakfast. Needless to say, I was pissed. My next conversation with the owner was a bit more abrupt. They reset the windscreen the next day and I have no doubts about who was involved in that operation. The owner of the shop asked to keep the van overnight for it to set then showered the windscreen with water when I came to pick it up. Second time must be the charm.

    The Michelin AT2 tires had about 55,000 miles on them and, while they were still showing a reasonable amount of tread, I wanted to put new ones on for the remaining few months of our road trip. We will be selling the van in March and by then the tires would be too worn for me to feel comfortable selling as is.

    I wanted tires with a bit more capability for forest service and gravel roads. We have taken the van places that we probably shouldn’t, and I don’t see that changing in the next few months.

    The Michelin’s were good, but often clogged up on wet dirt and were awful on mud. Recent reviews of the next generation of the LTX AT2 were not as promising as the original tire, so it was time to look around. After much reading, and a few conversations with other Sprinter owners, I narrowed the search to BF Goodrich’s AT K/O and Goodyear’s Wrangler AT Adventure. I went with the latter after running into a guy who works at the local tire dealer in Silver City. He has spoken with a lot of truck owners with both tires and said that the people with the Wranglers seem to buy them again and tell him they are quiet on the highway. Both tires are expensive and capable, and I look forward to seeing how they perform as we head back out next week.


  8. #168
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska

    Default A Month in Silver City, NM

    A Month in Silver City
    We like southwest New Mexico and decided to stick around for the rest of 2017 after leaving the hot springs. Silver City has about 10,000 people living in the foothills of the Gila Mountains. We visited the downtown area a few times over the past year, and felt the combination of art galleries, restaurants and shops would make for an interesting December.


    When we stopped in Shelby, North Carolina two years ago I decided that a small town needs a few things to make it worth the stay. Those include a decent local coffee shop, a yoga studio and a brew-pub. Downtown Silver City has all three and more.

    Serenity House.jpg
    We found a suite of rooms in a downtown B&B called Serenity House. The house was built in the late 19th century as competition for the town’s major brothel, which was across the creek separating the main business areas. The story we’ve been told is that the Madame of the other brothel had the mayor and city council as clients and, so, after a few months, this became a more respectable, though less entertaining rooming house.

    View from B&B.jpg
    It has been a remarkable place to stay. The rooms are nice, the people who live here welcoming, and the use of the kitchen a welcome change from using the Snow Peak Baja Burner. As an added benefit, it is close to everything we wanted to do and see here.

    Tranquil Buzz.jpg
    Tranquil Buzz Coffee is just a couple of blocks away. Indeed, it was the coffee shop owner who told us about the B&B in November when we stopped and asked about places to rent in the area. We stop in every other day for an Americano and to visit with the regulars, who have been welcoming and informative. There have been music events every Sunday afternoon, culminating in a Christmas Eve Jam Session followed by a potluck, which we were invited to attend.
    Tranquil Buzz 2.jpg

    Additional music is offered at the local Little Toad Creek Brewery, also just a few blocks from our house. The beer is good and the food is exceptional. The music has been a bit of a disappointment. Twice bands canceled their gigs on Friday nights, the local talent here is less than those who play at the coffee shop.

    The Lotus Center yoga studio is even closer to our place than the coffee shop. It’s been good to get back to a regular schedule after a few months on the road. Eve practices her fiddle while I’m there.

    View From Boston Hill.jpg
    Boston Hill is a city open space that was heavily mined in the late 19th and early 20th c. The Spring Street Trail Head is less than two blocks from the B&B. We carved out a 4 mile hike including a stop atop the eponymous hill which provides a nice view of the mountains south of here in Mexico. It has been a real treat to not have to drive anywhere for a hike.

    More hiking is available within a few miles of town in the Gila National Forest. Two areas that we’ve explored most often are the Dragon Fly Trail, with petroglyphs along a wash that seems to flow all year long, and the extensive options at Gomez Peak including one that connects with the Continental Divide Trail.
    Dragon FLy.jpg

    Eve joined a Friday morning coffee group at Javalina Coffee at the invitation of a woman who has become a good friend. This has helped her understand the benefits of not working, which I’m really happy about.
    Gomez Peak.jpg
    We head out early January and will be in Joshua Tree mid month. We’ve rented the Think Tank again for the remainder of January and look forward to spending time in the park and in another very unique and welcoming community.

    More pictures at

    Happy New Year!
    Last edited by Umnak; 01-02-2018 at 03:39 AM.

  9. #169
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska

    Default Sunny Flats, Cave Creek Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains

    Sunny Flats, Cave Creek Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains

    We spent two nights at Faywood Hot Springs after leaving Silver City on January 2. There is no doubt we will return, though it probably wont’ be until 2019.

    Borerland Cafe.jpg
    From Faywood we drove to Columbus, NM and the Pancho Villa State Park. Villa’s troops, though not necessarily Villa, attached this town in 1916 after negotiations with the US broke down and he was not the governments chosen Mexican revolutionary. One night at the border town was more than enough. The park is flat and within sight of the border. The glaring lights paired with empty buildings along Main Street offer little hope to those who would like to join us here. — I saw no wall!

    An early Overland Vehicle sits out in front of the Pancho Villa Museum.

    The best part of the stay was our breakfast at the Borderland Cafe, where we were served by a young Mennonite woman who had moved to the area from Hagerstown Maryland. The owners, a young Hispanic couple, said they returned here after 10 years in Austin, looking for a simpler and quieter pace. The food was very good.

    On the road.jpg
    The few cars we saw on our way west were Border Patrol. The drivers looking bored with the empty roads.

    We stopped at the Chiricahua Desert Museum on our way west to Portal, AZ. Anywhere else in North American this would be a tourist trap, yet here it seems normal and one is not too upset about having paid the entrance fee to see stuffed snakes and beer bottles with some relation to reptiles. We left quickly.

    Portal PO.jpg
    The Portal Store and Cafe is as varied in practice as the mountains surrounding it is varied in colors. The price of two americanos ranged more than $5 over the course of three visits and four days. Still, there was wifi and since AT&T has ****ty presence in the southwest, worth the uncertainty.
    Portal Store.jpg

    The Sunny Flats campground and surrounding Cave Creek Canyon is one of the most scenic places we visit over the past three years. The columns and domes change color with the arc of the sun. The formations are awesome — and that is a work I seldom use.

    Sunny Flat.jpg
    The area is known for its birding, and there were a number of people stumbling along the trails with binoculars. I couldn’t resist teasing one couple about a parrot-like bird I had seen just up ahead.

    Cave Creek 1.jpg
    There are animals that have only been seen in books. We were fortunate in seeing a group of Coatimundi cross our path early in the walk up the South Fork of Cave Creek. They stopped to size us up, then split in two groups and fled the trail.

    Cave Creek 2.jpg
    Another long hike surprised us with a compound that is owned by the American Museum of Natural History. We had missed the trail head we had hoped to walk as a result of staring at an old barn.


    We left after three nights and headed to Douglas, then Bisbee AZ.
    American Museum.jpg

  10. #170
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Juneau, Alaska

    Default Bisbee, AZ

    Bisbee AZ
    The Jonquil Motel sits along Tombstone Canyon which is also Bisbee’s Main Street, though the 1930s buildings are removed from the galleries and antique shops closer to the town’s center. JonQuil2.jpg

    We had been told Bisbee is a Silver City on steroids. Our first impression — we were there for three days — wasn’t positive. I do not like places where graffiti is allowed to remain on buildings, and streets are littered with empty cans. Combined with the general shabby condition of the buildings, one is left with a sense of a place in decline.
    We did find a few places open on our second day in town, and enjoyed the only open gallery we found during our stay.

    The Quarry Bar looks like a dive managed by Punk Rockers. We walked in to head banging music and sat at the bar. The three tables at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street were filled and I had read that the food here was good. The bartender and server seemed dubious as to whether or not we would stay, but gave us menus and a verbal list of what was left. The last of the meatloaf had been ordered by the couple from the UK who were sitting at the bar. We went with cheeseburgers and fries, and were very impressed with our decision. The meat was very good and the homemade buns even better.

    The Grand Salon had live local music, which was good, and we stopped for a local stout on our way back to the motel.

    We saw this wonderful vehicle on our way out of town.

    My take-away is that Bisbee is a funky little town not sure of its place in the world.

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