A Walk Around the Ponds in the Shade

Sunday May 31st 2020

The campground was full this weekend, but by mid morning it looked very empty. I woke up around six thirty when the first RV departed. That’s one of the disadvantages of having the site across from the exit and dumpster. A steady pace of departing RVs followed. Checkout time is noon, so they don’t have to get early starts. I suspect traffic and temperature concerns cause people to leave early. The two lane southbound highway to the Phoenix area winds up and down over some serious elevation. A little slow down or an accident on that stretch or road causes long delays.

Getting home before the temperature reaches triple digits could also be a motive for leaving early. The Phoenix high temperature made it to triple digits by early afternoon. In this area with a strong wind the temperature only got to the mid nineties. Out of the direct sunshine it was a very comfortable day.

For today’s exercise I drove down to the ponds in the day use section of the park. I would walk, but the trails to that area are open to the beating sun. There were a few families enjoying picnics in the park along with a little fishing in the ponds. The three ponds are surrounded by nice green shade trees. It’s possible to walk around in relative solitude out of the direct rays of the sun. Even the ducks were taking advantage of the shade at the waters edge. This area along the Verde River is so different from the desert area on the surrounding hills where my campsite is located.

On my evening walk around the campground it was interesting to see the campground more than half full after this morning’s mass departure. A group of RVs with ATVs occupy the sites below me. I hope they don’t all decide to power up their ATVs early in the morning.

Launch Watching

Saturday May 30th 2020

A strong breeze during the second half of the day kept the near one hundred degree temperature from feeling oppressive. Still, there were very few clouds in the sky. Outside activity in the bright sun has to happen in small doses.

Between the two months of “stay at home” because of the virus and the long periods of hot temperatures, it doesn’t seem like the end of May. In my mind it is either the start of the travel season at the end of March or the end of of summer in late August. It is very confusing as I try to develop a new plan going forward.

The Grand Canyon National Park announced its full reopening plan late Thursday. The whole south rim area including the campgrounds will open on June 5th. On Friday morning I tried to score a reservation at the Trailer Village for June 8th when I leave. All of the sites big enough for my RV were already booked. I knew it was a long shot, but that is one of the reasons I held off making reservations after this stop. Friday afternoon I booked the three weeks following the eighth. One week is in a commercial park with full hookups followed by two more weeks at another Arizona State Park along Interstate 40. Next week I should be able to book into July. I’m waiting for New Mexico to relax some of its restrictions.

My big activity of the day was watching the Dragon Demo 2 launch from Cape Canaveral on TV. I didn’t hold much hope that the weather would cooperate, but they found an acceptable weather window. The USA is no longer dependent on other nations to get astronauts into space. I’m also curious what kinds of technology and industry will take advantage of the commercial crew launch capability of Space X.

Today’s only walk was late in the day. In addition to walking around the campground I took one of the trails to the top of the hill overlooking the campground. I got a good view of the tops of many RVs including my RV home. The sunset was not very photogenic.

Weekend Campers are Arriving

Friday May 29th 2020

The temperature made it into the triple digits today, but it was still ten degrees cooler than the Phoenix metro area. On a positive note the wind was a little stronger and more constant than yesterday, so it was a little more comfortable.

Today was the day that my twice delayed grocery run got accomplished. There were fewer people wearing masks and the shelves were much better stocked than on previous grocery runs. Although this is a different store than my last few grocery runs, I think the time of large scale shortages is gone for a while. I couldn’t find everything I wanted, but that isn’t unusual. I may stop in again next week.

When I got back to the campground it was filling up for the weekend. Since Wednesday the park hasn’t been full every night. For the weekend that will change. This park seems to be a getaway location for the Phoenix metro area. The one hundred miles north and fifteen hundred to two thousand feet in elevation cools things down about ten degrees. There are also places in the area that allow tubing in the Verde River. I don’t think there is any place in the state park for water activities.

I only got one walk in today. Late in the afternoon toward evening I walked around three of the camping loops checking out the filling campsites. Most were full and the few that weren’t had reserved signs waiting for the new occupants. There are a lot of families and tent campers. It is kind of strange to see a little compact car in a big RV site with a tiny tent setup back in the brush. The daytime high temperatures this weekend are forecast to be just over 100 degrees. The nighttime lows are forecast to be in the high seventies. The campers without AC to retreat into will really be feeling the heat.

A Three Walk Day

Thursday May 28th 2020

I got up early this morning to take a hike before the temperature started to climb. After a quick breakfast I set out to explore some of the trails toward the river. The sun was shining bright somewhat countering the lower temperature. Later in the day there was a lot of cloud cover that made it feel more comfortable.

I didn’t stay out as long on my morning hike as I’d planned, because of the combination of the sun and the perhaps getting up too early. Shortly after I was back at my RV home I fell asleep on the couch. My plan to get to the grocery store in the morning went away with the unplanned nap. I’ll try again tomorrow morning.

During the afternoon I drove to the small fishing ponds in the day use area of the park. The area has nice tree cover and doesn’t look like a desert. It was nice to get back to a wetland area after three months of desert. As I walked around the ponds I say a couple of people fishing and a lone kayak paddler. One set of ducks were getting in some sleep time under the trees on the side of the pond. Elsewhere in the pond area I heard many other birds and possibly other creatures, but I didn’t see many.

My third walk of the day was at sunset. Overall I got as much exercise in three walks as I would have liked to get in my morning hike. The next few days are forecast to be even warmer than today, so I probably won’t try a big hike again until the temperature starts to cool off near the middle of next week.

Getting Hot Again

Wednesday May 27th 2020

The temperature reached the upper nineties today, but it could be worse. Phoenix and the area to the south where I was last week are ten or more degrees warmer. The phrase “It’s a dry heat.” also applies. Sweat evaporates quickly and you can be somewhat comfortable out of the sun if there is any breeze.

The planned launch of astronauts from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida cut into my daily plans. Around ten this morning I started to watch the coverage on the Discovery Channel. I quickly got caught up in the event even if the program was pretty much a commercial for Space X. When it became clear that the weather was going to be an issue that the coverage wasn’t going to address, I switched to the weather channel. They had a much more realistic prediction on the chances of the weather permitting a launch today. I stuck it out until the launch was called for weather with sixteen minutes to go on the count down. I’ll be back in front of my TV on Saturday for the second try.

It was the start of the hottest part of the day when I allowed my attention to wander from the TV screen. I took a brief walk around the campground before retreating to the shade and inside for most of the afternoon. As sunset approached and the breeze picked up I ventured out for another walk. I’ll need to get up early to beat the heat for any hiking over the next few days.

Settling in at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Tuesday May 26th 2020

The temperature was in the mid nineties today, but it was still five degrees or more less than the temperature in the Phoenix area. The temperature trend is climbing. Tomorrow will be in the triple digits in Phoenix, but should still be in the nineties here.

Today’s focus was on getting settled into life at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. It started with finishing the setup tasks for a two week stay and continued with a short hike to refresh my knowledge on the parks layout. First up, I got the bicycle unloaded from the car and the rack stowed under my RV home until I need it again. The rack doesn’t allow easy access to the back hatch on the CR-V. The second significant setup task was putting the foil reflector into the front window of the motorhome. It does a good job keeping the solar gain down in the front of the RV. Last up was setting up the gas grill for cooking. The last two months, I’ve been using the electric grill inside. There wasn’t a place protected from the wind to use the gas grill during my two month travel pause. It’s nice to be able to cook outside again.

I didn’t venture far on my short hike. Most of it was in the three campground loops in this area of the park. I hiked out of the campground on a couple of trails into the desert, but in both cases turned around after a few hundred yards. In the current weather I need lots of water, sun screen and a few other precautions before I take a longer hike. There are a lot of different colorful wildflowers in bloom. It was nice to see some color on the ground. I took several pictures of the blossoms and I’m sharing a few in this blog entry.

Travel North to Cottonwood Arizona

Monday May 25th 2020

Today was a travel day north to Cottonwood AZ. The one hundred and seventy miles and two thousand feet of elevation dropped the day’s high temperature close to ten degrees. That difference is going to come in handy this week. The Phoenix area is forecast to have highs over 110 degrees later in the week.

I was packed and ready to start my travels shortly after ten, but the line up for the dump station put a serious delay in my departure. This holiday weekend seemed to bring amateur hour too the dump station. The guy with a trailer at the dump station when I arrived was incredibly slow and deliberate. For some reason he got out his own garden hose out to wash things down rather than using the provided hoses. Then he spent some long minutes carefully coiling the hose for storage. Overall he was probably there for forty five minutes. I was only behind him waiting for about thirty minutes.

While I was dumping the next amateur arrived at the other side of the dump island. He stopped well away from the appropriate hole in the ground, but still close enough that a stretched out hose would reach. He didn’t stretch the hose out choosing instead to point the hose in the right direction and open the valve. Sewage went everywhere including onto my side of the island. I jumped out of the way and grabbed a water hose. Thankfully, the slope of the cement pad allowed it all to find the drain with lots of help from a good hosing down by both of us with water from the flushing hoses. The amateur (read idiot) really believed that was how you were supposed to dump your tanks.

I was on the interstate shortly after eleven. The drive north went right through the center of Phoenix. The alternative loop 101 around the city to the east had an area closed because of a fatal accident during the night. As soon as you leave the traffic and congestion of the Phoenix metro area, Interstate 17 starts to climb. There are many long climbs with a few five percent down grades. The last downgrade into the Verde River valley is a seven mile six percent down grade. Cruise control isn’t an option along the mountainous route. It took a lot of very active driving.

Site 105 at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood AZ.

I arrived at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood AZ shortly after 2PM. This state park is busy. It is probably considered full even though there are empty sites marked reserved. I’ll be here for the next two weeks.

More Saguaro Blossoms

Sunday May 24th 2020

It was another nice day in the desert. Today’s weather was a repeat of Saturdays. There were a few clouds, some wind and a high temperature in the mid nineties.

I got out in the midday sun to look at a few more saguaro cactus blossoms. To maximize the viewing opportunity you need to be out in the desert when the sun is high in the sky. Early in the morning there are only a few blossoms open. Later in the day all of the blossoms have closed up for the night. Even with sunscreen on, I don’t want to be in the midday sun that long.

I took a lot more pictures today, but skipped the sunset. A couple of yesterday’s were so nice I didn’t want to take second place shots. Instead I took a few pictures with the setting sun at my back. The so called “golden hour” light makes some interesting pictures.

Exploring Picacho Peak State Park

Saturday May 23rd 2020

Today’s weather was a lot like Friday. The temperature was in about normal for the season in the mid nineties with quite a bit of wind. The only difference was a few clouds in the sky perhaps indicating a little more humidity.

I did a little more exploring in the Picacho Peak State Park today. I survived yesterday’s test hikes without any significant aches and pains so I extended the extent of my explorations today. I found many more saguaro cactus in bloom along with a few more critters. Here are some of the pictures.

Saguaro Blossoms

Friday May 22nd 2020

It was a very seasonal day. The temperature peak at the average temperature for the day in the mid nineties. The sky was clear and the wind was blowing steadily. Overall it wasn’t a bad day.

My RV Home tucked in between the saguaro cactus.

My exercise today was along the roads in the campground checking out all of the saguaro cactus blossoms. I took three walks around the various camp site loops. Besides looking at all the tall cactus, I wanted to check my preparedness before venturing out on the park trails. I’ve spent the last two months on relatively short walks on very flat ground. I really felt my first few hikes in late February after a similar level of exercise over the four long winter months. I’ll know in the morning by how stiff my leg muscles get.

The saguaro cactus seem to be the only type of cactus still in bloom. All of the blossoms on the other types of cacti are dried up and falling off. Most of the big saguaro have blossoms in various stages. Some have yet to open, some are open and others are starting to dry up. When they are open they are very pretty and very popular. The bees seem to really enjoy their visits.

On my third walk of the day at sunset the park was starting to fill up a bit for the weekend. Last night there were only a handful of sites occupied. Tonight there are a couple of handfuls of occupied sites. This just isn’t a popular time of year to be in this section of the desert.