Catalina and Picacho Peak S.P.s AZ

15-01-2019 01:01

Just when you think you’re going to get all caught up on your Internetting, you find out that the desert is not only full of real thorns, but virtual ones, as well.

The first thorn in my side was a notification from the site where I stored all my online photos informing me that it was reducing its storage capacity to a limited number of photos unless I upgraded to a paid account. My number, unfortunately, far exceeded theirs even though I had transferred a huge chunk of our photos to thumb drives before we ever hit the road. I cannot complain too much about their decision to limit free accounts (hello, it’s Free!) but there was also a deadline to save the photos from permanent deletion. To make matters worse, it was not possible for me to batch-copy them, which could have been done in one evening. Oh, no, I had to copy each one individually. That took several evenings of work, and I finished the last one the night before the morning of the deadline. Photos saved! Thorn extracted! Time to update my travel map! (you know it as the tab at the top titled “Plotting the Plodding.”)

Ow, ow, ow, what the hell is that?! Another thorn? Are you kidding me right now? My map was frozen because its host site was also converting to all-paid accounts. Okay, again, I can’t fault them for that, but my heart fell to my feet because my map had every hike, every RV trip, everything on it since ever, and I couldn’t even see it anymore. I scrambled around the Google-sphere and saw that some people had begged the map people to give them a break, and I figured it never hurt to ask for a copy so I could re-create it somehow elsewhere, and I sent an ingratiating email to them. I spent a miserable morning researching other map applications and surrendering to the fact that I was going to have to add another box to my growing list of Annoying Things I Don’t Want To Learn. Then, just as I was beginning this very post, a return email popped up saying that since I had used their site for so long and for only personal reasons, they were not only unfreezing it, but restoring my mapping capabilities! Oh, happy day! Oh grievous thorny injury healed!

I will not become complacent, though, and I know that all my photos, my map, and this very blog are always in danger of being dumped into the ether unless I pony up and buy some inter-space. I have a feeling that eventually I will have to do just that, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. In the meantime, I will keep the cargo in my virtual wagon tied securely so that I will lose nothing in that crossing.

Now we have to cross a bridge back into 2018. We’re going to be there for awhile so I can catch us up to 2019. Silence your ringers, and get comfy!

Catalina State Park

We have been wanting to find farm-fresh eggs on the road, but haven’t been able to make that happen yet. So imagine my delight when we stopped for propane on the way out of Safford, and TBG came out from paying with three 18-packs of them in his arms! The woman working at the office sold her chickens’ eggs on the side, and TBG bought all she had in stock. Such luck!

Our first day was full of errands, among them an oil change and new battery for Hond which included a ticket for a free car wash. It felt like a pure luxury, and that puppy was cleaner than it’s ever been. Another lucky occurrence was that, directly across from Catalina’s main entrance was the entrance to a large shopping complex, and within it was a Red Lobster, and within my wallet was a year-old gift card from my dad.

Thanks, Poppy!

We were able to squeeze in a short bike ride afterwards

but we didn’t get as far as we would’ve liked due to several sets of erosion stairs that were a bit too technical for me to ride. Who cared with scenery like that?

Major errands out of the way, we were free to chase some dirt sand.

Or grass along the verdant birding trail.

We must’ve been having too good a time enjoying the beautiful walk or I screwed up my photo transfer project because there is a dearth of pictures from this day.

The following day was the Winter Solstice, it was to be 75F, and we celebrated the warmest first day of winter either of us had ever experienced with a seven-mile jaunt on the 50-year Trail.

If you took note of our matching shirts, you wouldn’t be the only ones. We got several comments about that. When TBG noticed and said he was going to switch shirts before we left, I told him not to be ridiculous, and that no one would look twice. Whoopsie.

I tried to keep distance between us

but there were judging eyes everywhere.

We could have continued out the 50-Year Trail for 8.6 miles one-way, but that’s crazy-talk, and we made a loop of it with a trail link.


It brought us through a beautiful wash.

Where some trees weren’t giving up autumn to the Solstice without a fight.

One of our biggest resources in learning and navigating this lifestyle has been other full-time RVers who blog and generously share invaluable information, not to mention breath-taking pictures and witty commentary. There are several I have followed online long before we joined their ranks, and a couple I have gotten to “know” via blog comments and messaging for info and advice. In an unplanned, but not really surprising confluence of routes, several of us ended up in the same place at the same time. I was deliriously excited about meeting them in what felt like a rite of passage in the full-time RV world. I felt a little star-struck, to be embarrassingly honest. There, I said it, so sue me.

From top left counter-clockwise: Kathie and Mike of Life Rebooted, TBG of here, Shawn and Andrea of 40 Foot House, me of here, and Laura and Kevin of Chapter 3 Travels. (after reading this post, scroll back up here and click their links to find out why I think they’re all super-cool!)

The next day, some of us staying at Catalina met up for a 6-mile hike within the park.

TBG captures me, Kathie, and Laura in perfect hiking formation.

Kathie assists TBG at the trail sign for Romero Pools.

That’s Laura’s shadow to the right, where she was receiving the news that her pup was under the weather, and she needed to return to camp to tend to him. She encouraged us to hike on and that we’d all meet up later. She probably wouldn’t have gotten a word in edgewise anyhow.

Because hahahahahahaha!


What we were probably talking about was how we were going to tell Laura that the hike was terrible and full of spiders so that she wouldn’t feel bad for having missed it.

Nope, nothing to see here!

Kat and TBG explore the (spider-infested) rocks above the pools.

Just awful! Spitooey!

On the way back through the campground, we parted ways (temporarily) and TBG and I stopped off to check out a reptile exhibit the park was hosting. We were especially interested in seeing the rattlesnakes so that we’d have a better idea of what to be on the lookout for in the wild. As I was peering into the tank of Diamondbacks, and they were stretching themselves toward the screened lid, I realized that one of their bitey faces was mere inches from my eye. From my eye! That was freaky.

Also freaky was when one of the snake dudes asked if I wanted to hold the gopher snake, and I said, “Sure!”

and a soft, warm coil of snake was placed in my hands.

Later that evening, everyone but Kevin, who needed to stay with the recuperating doggy, joined us at our place for RV Happy Hour. It was only the beginning, as the next night, everyone was able to attend Happy Hour at Mike and Kathie’s, and yet another of my full-time RVer blog-crushes joined us, Raven & Chickadee! (much more about them in just a moment)

It was a great time laughing and exchanging RV stories as only full-timers can. They were all stunned that we’d made our Catalina reservations just a few weeks prior to our stay. That was apparently Dumb Newbie Luck because Catalina books solid almost a year in advance. They were also stunned when, much to my chagrin, I somehow suggested that tick-checks were best done with flashlights and as a group activity. I’ll cop to the flashlight part only.

What’s this about ticks?

We only had another day and a half at this park, and we didn’t get to see everyone again before we left, but fret not, we weren’t going far.

Picacho Peak State Park

Because we were only moving an hour’s drive to the Northwest, it was my turn to do it all — prepare the RV for moving inside and out, get Hond attached, and do the actual moving. When I pulled up to the park gate, which was a reeeaaally tight space, the gatekeeper said, “Oh, you’re a braver woman than I!” TBG did get out to guide me the rest of the way through because driving a big rig in tight quarters creates such an optical illusion that you’re far closer to things than you are. It’s going to still be awhile before I am used to it looking like I’m driving straight into a wall. I also motored this coach through the small campground and backed her into our spot with a minimum of verbal prompts from TBG. Not to toot my own horn, but HONK! HONK!

This park doesn’t get the push that Catalina does this time of year, but it also only offers electric hookups, the highway is visible far below the campground (although not really audible), it is not as close to shopping, and though it has good trails, they are more difficult. The campground water was also experiencing a heightened level of nitrates (thanks, Mike, for the heads-up on that!) so we were sure to come with our tanks loaded. All that said, we loved it.

Christmas Eve lights.

It was quiet, we had — for the first time at any park — 5 solid bars of 4GLTE, and when the weather took a frigid turn a few days later, dumping some snow on our friends to the south of us a couple times, it remained clear and sunny every day but one.

On Christmas Day, we started off with a 4-mile trek.

Shorts on Christmas!

The Living Desert

That evening, we were invited back to Catalina for a holiday gathering at Life Rebooted’s place with the whole gang.

And what a place palace it is! From L-R: TBG, me, Laurel, Eric, Opie, Shawn, Mike, Kathie, Kevin, Laura, Andrea, and Elvis.

Laurel and Eric brought tamales for everyone (a traditional southwest Christmas food), and the rest of us brought other tasty treats, making for a delectable feast. We had such a good time getting to know everyone better and feeling like we were all old friends already. We laughed over full-time RVing peculiarities, such as constantly being behind on blogging and trying to write about something that happened two months ago that already feels like two years ago, and how you imagine aspects of full-timing will be before reality sets in “We’ll sit outside to do stuff all. the. time!”  and finding random loose screws rolling around the RV floor more often than you’d care to.

TBG getting his puppy fix with Elvis.

We met up with Laurel and Eric the next day for an après-Christmas hike at a place of Laurel’s choosing in Sabino Canyon. Not only was the hike spectacular, but in these people we found traveling soul mates. Different enough to be fascinating, but similar enough to feel like we’d rediscovered long-lost childhood friends.

Eric and TBG confirm Laurel’s choice.

The weather was already beginning the nose-dive it would complete later, but we weren’t going to let that get in our way. It is going to be hard to limit the number of photos I show you, not only because the scenery was so marvelous, but because all four of us were armed with cameras and the sheer volume of pictures we took was staggering. This is how we get behind on blogging!

There were many stream crossings.

and some upsie-downsies

We got sprinkled on a bit and heard thunder at one point. The threat of thunder and rain when you’re in a canyon is, to put it mildly, less than ideal. We were so far in by that point, however, that we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and continued on. I’m tellin’ you, Soul Mates.

Eric tried to keep count of all the falls along the way up to determine if there were really seven of them.

This was number 11 or so.

The real Seven Falls.

It’s hard to see in this pic, but there really were seven cascades at the terminus of the trail. The four of us were hardly alone, and getting pictures without others in them was a challenge. The rocks at the bottom of the falls were incredibly slippery, and we did see one fellow do a hard belly-flop. I couldn’t watch as TBG stepped out onto them to take pictures. I decided that “seven falls” was not in reference to the waterfalls, but rather the number of times you were likely to fall down on this hike.

We had our snacks while we enjoyed the view. Just when I thought I couldn’t love our new friends any more, I watched while they sat on the rocks, extracted the cutest little metal tins from their packs, he gallantly handed her a real fork, and they proceeded to dine on the most delicious-looking fresh green salads. Real forks and salads on a hike! Swoon!

Gorgeous! And the view ain’t bad, either!

It is, unfortunately, going to be a long time before we will see our new friends again. Thank goodness for modern technology that not only brought us together in the first place, but will keep us connected until we meet once more.

On our drive home, we stopped off at Costco because we could. I found something I’d been wanting for awhile now.

A lap desk! Merry Christmas to me!

I cannot express how ridiculously much I love this thing.

For the rest of our time at Picacho, we were on our own, which felt a little lonely at first after such a whirlwind of visiting. We needed to get some routine stuff caught up, though, namely some laundry. That led to one of the worst days of our full-timing life so far. We motored up to Eloy, where I’d located a laundromat online. There were plenty of machines open, although they were really expensive and only took quarters. I had enough coins, but had been hoping for more modern appliances with a credit card option. After dumping nearly half of my quarter supply into the washers, and one into the lock on the bathroom door (!), it was time to dry. The dryers were absolute crap, and after blowing more quarters for nothing to be the slightest bit dry, and “yelling” at a lady who was trying to help but pushed the (wrong!) buttons on MY dryer, and having a huge fight with TBG who couldn’t understand why that irked me so much, I furiously shoved all the wet laundry back into my bags, and we drove it home to dry in the rig. Which took until 11:30 that night. Or at least, that’s when I quit and hung up whatever wasn’t finished. I’m mad all over again just thinking about it.

Some shut-eye for both of us and the rest of TBG’s mutti’s homemade Christmas stollen (for him) had us feeling better in the morning.

Sunset Vista Trail

Some sunshine and a good hike helped alleviate the moodiness as well, but it’s a good thing we didn’t plan to vista the sunset from the trail since it closes at sunset.

This trail accesses the back side of Picacho Peak, and most of it is a pleasant hike through the desert on the sunny side of the summit.

The last mile or so, however, climbs up this face, and there are cables to assist hikers along the way. This is a very zoomed-in, thus blurry, photo of the trail, and if you look closely, you can see some hikers in the middle of the picture. We climbed up a section of this, but stopped before we got to the cables portion.

Some ladies who were with the hikers in the last photo but had opted out of the final climb as well were nice enough to take our picture for us when we passed by them on our way down. We felt a little wimpy and old for not completing the trail, but with the distance from our site added in, it was a 7-mile hike, and I don’t know when I started allowing myself to feel wimpy about distances like that.

Halfway through our stay, I finally put out my hummingbird feeder, and promptly wanted to kick my own ass for not putting it out sooner because look!

Anna’s Hummingbird (that’s their type, not their owner)

This little guy promptly set up residence in the creosote bush at the side of our RV and kept any other hummies at bay. I had to bring the feeder in each night to keep it from freezing, and as soon as I heard my little friend chit-chit-chitting away in the morning, I would put the feeder back out. Many hours were spent just watching him and a female that he occasionally tolerated at “his” feeder.

On New Year’s Eve Eve, we drove up to Mesa to visit with a former coworker of TBG’s, Jerry G., who smoked us a delicious chicken for dinner, and the guys had a good time catching up. We totally blew it by not taking a picture, but thanks so much, Jerry, for the warm hospitality and the homemade caramels!

On New Year’s Eve proper, windy rain moved in. We got in a short 2-mile walk around the park before it hit, then enjoyed a quiet evening in — our favorite way to spend NYE.

It was the last night to enjoy my Christmas light display 🙂

And now we have arrived back in 2019!

We saved Picacho Peak for our First-Day Hike, which dawned cold but clear.

We knew it would be steep, and we knew there were definitely cable sections on this trail, so we were prepared with gloves in our packs. We planned to at least go to the saddle, and decide from there if we wanted to continue to the summit.

I cannot say this was fun. At all.

I thought this arrow was unnecessarily funny.

At the saddle 2,960′

We opted not to continue after the saddle for a couple of reasons. One, the trail from there went down very steeply, and while it had cables, those cables were completely necessary for the descent at that point. In other words, if you didn’t hang on, you were going over. And, two, there were a lot of people on this trail, one family in particular that included a pre-teen in only a t-shirt, shorty-shorts, and tennies holding a toddler’s (a toddler!!!!!) hand and a mom with a newborn (a newborn!!!!!) strapped to her chest under her sweater. We were at the saddle long enough to see them start their descent, and the fearful glance the pre-teen gave over her shoulder when she realized she would be the only thing keeping her sister (a toddler!!!!!) from free-falling over the cliff. But, hey, I’m not a parent, so who am I to judge? I’m the hiker who took her pants off at the side of the trail when she got too hot so she could remove her long johns. Judge that.

It was not as scary on the way down as it seemed like it would be on the way up, which was a great relief. I was just happy to be done with it and get back to the warm rig to watch “my” hummingbird and eat the last of the pumpkin cheesecake.

On the morning we left, I was heartsick at having to take the feeder away from my tiny friend. He was sitting on his branch, keeping watch over it when I pulled it in. Immediately, he flew to the window, dashing back and forth looking for it. I slid the window aside, and held the feeder out in my hand. He sat on its edge, not fearful of me in the slightest. I held the feeder through the open window while he drank his fill, mere inches from my face. It was a bittersweet way to end our stay at Picacho, but it’s also an allegory for this transient life of hellos and goodbyes.