El Valle de los Cirios


Just south of San Quintin is the town of El Rosario. This very small town is well-known to RVers because it has the last Pemex station before the central desert of Baja and the longest fuel “gap” on the peninsula. The next gas or diesel isn’t for 223 miles!  Shortly after you leave El Rosario the scenery changes and civilization is left behind. The central desert, or el desierto central, is where you enter the “true” Baja. And where soon you will enter El Valle de los Cirios.

The change is dramatic.  This area is a southern extension of the Sonoran Desert, similar to the beautiful desert around Tucson.

But with some interesting differences. Wild and beautiful and empty of people and development. The Parque Nacional del Desierto Central is the second largest natural protected area in Mexico.

As you near the remote outpost of Cataviña you start seeing what look very much like Saguaros but are not. These are the mighty Cardón cacti (pachycereus pringlei). Also known as elephant cactus. Sort of like Saguaro but even bigger! These monsters are the tallest cacti on earth. They average 30 feet tall but specimens are known to reach 60 feet. They have more arms in general than the Saguaro and the arms tend to branch out from lower on the main trunk.

Slow growers, many of these plants are hundreds of years old. They stretch as far as the eye can see for many miles.

And all around the Cardón are the Cirios, (aka Boojum trees / fouquieria columnaris) which are crazy looking things related to the ocotillo but looking as if it came from a Dr. Seuss book. Sort of like an upside down giant carrot with little green leaves and funny little flowers at the top.

They grow straight up as much as 60 feet tall!   There are a few Cardón and Cirios in mainland Mexico but they are mostly endemic to Baja near the 29th parallel.

This area is called El Valle de Los Cirios (Valley of the Cirios). This desert landscape goes on for many miles but the zone around Cataviña has them growing amidst thousands of giant granite boulders. It makes for an incredible scene.

Oh, and the road is absolutely terrifying!  Narrow, windy, sometimes potholed, and mostly with no shoulder and a little drop off. Combine that with 18 wheeler trucks that blast down the road and it makes for some white knuckle moments. Good reason to keep driving days short.

So we stopped in the little wide spot town of Cataviña at Rancho Santa Ynez, where RV camping is allowed in a large flat open space. There is a tiny restaurant that serves simple decent food attached to the ranch house and not much else. Check out our review of the campground here.

This area is VERY dry and the extent of the RV facilities is one little lonely water spigot by a palm tree with a sign that says “cuida el agua” (take care of the water).

Words to live by.

As we explored the tiny town we ran across a place selling coconuts.  The guy is a transplant from Colima on the mainland, a place with lots of coconuts. He imports them to sell here.  The place is decorated with all sorts of flotsam and junk, very entertaining.  Love to find these weird little spots!

We went for a sunset drive out among the Cataviña boulder field and spotted a little structure propped up against a giant boulder. So we hiked out to it and found this sweet little painting inside, it was a tiny chapel. Love the little angel with Mexican flag wings.

Sunset didn’t disappoint.  The beautiful desert scene made for great foreground.

This section of road also is also where you cross over from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez for the first time.  Our first stop on the Sea of Cortez is Bahia de Los Angeles. Stay tuned!

Hector and Brenda

Natural Bridges National Monument

As long as we were in this remote southeast corner of Utah we couldn’t resist a stop at another nearby National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument. This time we left Angel in Island Girl, knowing that they don’t allow pets on any of their trails.

Natural Bridges National Monument has three spectacular stone bridges that were sculpted by water, along with a very well-preserved ruin, Horse Collar Ruin.

The park has a loop road that goes by each of the Natural Bridges as well as Horse Collar Ruin, hiking trails to each of the Bridges and the ruins, as well as a full loop hiking trail (8.6mi) that goes to all of the Bridges. With Hector’s broken ankle, we planned to do very minimal hiking.

So we got started on the loop drive. The first stop on the drive is Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world (Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon Utah is the largest).

The bridge is named after a gateway through which souls may pass to the spirit world in Hopi mythology.

Although the trail down to the bottom is fairly short it is the steepest one in the park, so we were happy that there was a pretty decent view from the side of the road.

The next stop on the loop drive is an easy trail (.6 mi) to the edge of White Canyon, where there is a view of Horse Collar Ruins in an alcove below.

Ancestral Puebloans moved here around A.D. 700 and left around the 1300s but rock art and stone tools in this area can be traced to people who came here as early as 7,000 B.C. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area after the Ancestral Puebloans and some may have lived here alongside the Puebloans.

Even though these ruins were abandoned 700 years ago, they are very well-preserved. The most interesting is an undisturbed kiva that still has its original roof and interior, but there are also walls of two other structures, another barrel shaped structure and six or so rooms on the ledge. Although originally discovered in 1907, they seem to have been forgotten after President Theodore Roosevelt established the area as a National Monument (Utah’s first National Park service area) in 1908.

They sat undisturbed until 1936 when they were rediscovered, but this inaccessibility is thought to be one of the reasons that they are so well preserved. And as always, there are several mysteries about these ruins and their inhabitants, the most obvious one is why the structures were not built with their backs against the wall of the alcove.

After spending some time looking at and photographing the ruins we continued on the loop drive to the next Natural Bridge, Kachina Bridge, named after the Kachina dancers in the Hopi religion. This is considered the “youngest” of the three bridges because of the thickness of its span. Although there is not a great view from the overlook, the trail down is another steep one so we skipped it.

Our last stop was at Owachomo Bridge. Owachomo means “rock mound” in Hopi, named for a rock formation on one end of the bridge. This trail is the easiest of all, and .4 miles total, so it was the perfect one for nursing the broken ankle. It was really cool to stand under the bridge and wander around the slick rock that was all around.

The drive and two short hikes allowed us to get back to our RV without leaving Angel for too long.

We highly recommend this National Monument, check out details of the park, the loop drive and the trails here.

~ Brenda

 

Fun with Friends in Moab, Utah

We made a few more stops after Bryce Canyon and before the end of our walkabout…After leaving the beautiful canyon, we headed east across the dramatic Utah landscape where we planned a brief stop for some fun with friends in Moab, Utah.

As was the case in many of our later travels, our route to Albuquerque from Tucson was turning out to be quite loopy. But since these were the last weeks of our walkabout, we could not pass up the opportunity to see some of our RVer friends once again.

We wanted to boondock in Moab, but weren’t sure about our options, so we reached out to our friend Amanda (WatsonsWander). She told us that several of the better known boondocking areas were pretty full, but suggested Klondike Bluff Road just up a couple of roads from where they were boondocking.

We found a great spot, with 360 degree views and 4 bars LTE signal no less. Check out my review of Klondike Bluff Road here.

Having contacts sure helps when looking for these special out of the way places.

We’ve been turned onto more than one killer (and FREE) campsite through the kindness of fellow RVers.

Thanks Amanda!

Our friend Mona Liza (The Lowe’s RV Adventures) had planned a get together with several folks that were staying in the area on the day after we were due to arrive, and since she knew we were on our way, invited us as well. So that evening we met up with friends for dinner at a restaurant in town.

Amanda and Tim were there with their parents, along with our friends Pam and John (Oh, the Places They Go!). And we met Susan and David (Beluga’s excellent adventure), whom we had heard about from several other RVer friends.  It was a fun time, as it always is with our RVer buddies.

The next day Hector and I took one of our sunrise drives over to Arches National Park. We visited this beautiful park a number of times when we lived in Colorado, but it is another of those places that you never get tired of.

Hector’s ankle was still not doing so well, so we just drove on the park road and stopped for short walks along the way.

Later that afternoon we returned to the park with Angel for a slightly longer drive. This time we drove over to Salt Valley Road which goes to a more remote area of the park. It’s a dirt road with very little traffic, so we had the place virtually to ourselves.

After we had driven for quite awhile, Hector spotted some burrowing owls. Shortly after we realized that this area was also a prairie dog colony. Burrowing owls frequently live amongst prairie dog colonies due to the abundance of insects, one of their preferred foods. They also modify unoccupied prairie dog burrows to lay their eggs.


The burrowing owl are sometimes alerted to predators by the prairie dogs alarm calls. Another one of those very interesting symbiotic relationships in nature. These owls are declining in some areas partially due to prairie dog control factors, as well as habitat loss and car accidents. They are considered endangered in Canada.

We spent a lot of time watching the owls, they are so incredibly cute as they peek out of their burrows! These little guys provided our entertainment for the afternoon. 

Angel got a few walks alongside the road, since there was no traffic.  It was a fun afternoon for all of us, especially the photographer.

The following day Mona Liza and Steve had a little dinner party at their campsite. She made her literally world-famous lumpia (Philippine eggrolls) as well as some pancet, a noodle dish. We had never tried either of these before. Delish!

Pam and John and Susan and Dave were there, and we met two more RVers, Joe and Gay (good-times-rollin) All wonderful people and we truly enjoyed spending time with all of them.  These impromptu gatherings were one of the very best parts of the RV life.

We entered the park one last time for a sunset drive. So beautiful.

The weather had been touch and go and it rained all night the night before we left. This made for quite an exciting exit from our perfect boondocking spot. One of the scariest drives from our entire walkabout. VERY wet and muddy as in – whatever you do, don’t stop! But we made it.

Stay tuned for a few more posts, as we explored a couple of new places on our wandering route before our landing in Albuquerque.

~ Brenda

 

 

Antelope Canyon

AntelopeCanyon-42Upper Antelope Canyon in Utah has been on Hector’s “photographer’s bucket list” for a while. This slot canyon is in the Antelope washbasin within the Navajo Nation. We have seen many iconic photographs of the dreamy red curved rock and moody shafts of light and we wanted to see it for ourselves.AntelopeCanyon-48

But this place takes some effort to get to. Access to the canyon is via guided tours only, and there are three Navajo owned operators that run the tours.AntelopeCanyon-49

There are two kinds of tours. The regular guided photo tour where tripods and monopods are prohibited. And each company runs one photographers’ tour each day which gives more access and time in the canyon.AntelopeCanyon-37 Continue reading

Lake Powell

Lake Powell-19Lake Powell-1Many years ago, we spent several nights in a houseboat in Lake Powell and fell in love with its multi-colored rock formations and the beautiful light reflecting from the sun into the canyon. So on this visit we were hoping to spend some time on the water once again, kayaking or renting a boat, or hopefully both.

Lake Powell-4Lake Powell-9We read about a beach that allowed camping right by the water, Lone Rock Beach. We also read that it had several areas with soft sand so we carefully scouted the beach in our car. And we found a lovely site on hard packed sand and gravel. Check out my review of the campground here.

Lake Powell-7

Continue reading

Monument Valley and the Milky Way

MonumentValley-11MonumentValley-65MonumentValley-32Hector has been interested in photographing the Milky Way for a long time. But we haven’t really been in the right place at the right moment: a place with limited light pollution with a view in the correct direction, on a clear, dark night, at the right time of year – spring or summer. Not easy. Now that spring is here, the galactic center of the Milky Way begins to make its appearance in the sky. So we made a specific plan to go photograph Monument Valley and the Milky Way.
MonumentValley-39

This is our third time visiting Monument Valley. The first was a brief drive through the area. On the second visit, we drove from Denver in our Airstream, Luna, and camped in the area. Unfortunately, there was a huge sandstorm for several days during our visit, but we finally had a chance to take a guided tour after the storm subsided.

MonumentValley-1MonumentValley-31MonumentValley-40We were hoping to skip the sandstorm this time and happily the forecast was for good weather, either clear or partly cloudy. There were two nights left before the new moon, so we had a good chance for a clear night on at least one of those.
Continue reading

The Grand Canyon in One Day

GC Conspiracy-64

In the early part of the year, we realized that our planned four day visit to the Grand Canyon was going to coincide with our friends Katherine’s and Erik’s arrival in the canyon. They live in Atlanta, and every year they travel to the Grand Canyon to join a group of their friends and backpack into the canyon for a week.

GC Conspiracy-1

Williams is home to the Grand Canyon railway

GC Conspiracy-3Our plan was to drive to the Grand Canyon immediately after we left Tucson and meet them the night before they began their hike into the canyon. Hector was especially eager to see them, as he was not able to make their daughter’s wedding in Puerto Rico, which I attended.

As time went by our schedules shifted a bit, but it still looked as though we would have a chance to meet. Then we realized that we needed to make a slight detour after Tucson.GC Conspiracy-7

Our detour was to Congress, Arizona, where Vern, of Penner’s Mobile RV Repair resides in the winter. We needed to replace an intake valve on Island Girl. Vern worked on Island Girl in February and we were happy with his work so we decided to have him handle the install.

GC Conspiracy-2 Continue reading

The Sonoran Desert Garden

sonoran desert-114sonoran desert-25In addition to checking out the city of Tucson, we made sure to get out into the Sonoran desert garden. Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by mighty saguaros and many other fabulous desert plants. During this visit,we were super excited that we were going to be in the desert during the springtime bloom for the first time ever.sonoran desert-100

sonoran desert-18sonoran desert-19Tucson Mountain Park is a 20,000-acre county park that is adjacent to Saguaro National Park West (there is a Saguaro National Park East on the other side of town). Offering many outdoor opportunities on the West side of town. Hiking and biking are popular.sonoran desert-20
sonoran desert-46sonoran desert-39

sonoran desert-40Our friend Jean knows a TON about the native plants and we always learn new things from her about the diverse vegetation that is everywhere.  Our problem is we can’t remember it all!  But we are getting better at it. sonoran desert-38sonoran desert-51
Continue reading

Touring Tucson

Tucson-90sonoran desert-29Tucson, Arizona marks the beginning of a transition for us, this is one of the towns that we are considering as our next home. Many people know that we planned our walkabout for three years and that last year we extended it for one more year. Well we are now well into that fourth year. So in the month of March, we will be touring Tucson.

We fell in love with Tucson and the Sonoran Desert three years ago when we approached the city from the West and were greeted by so many beautiful Saguaros. I wrote about them in my post Tucson and the Sentinels of the Desert.

Tucson-66Tucson-1So we are here to check out the town once again and compare it to our other final choice. I will write more about how we came up with our “finalists” in later posts.

But back to Tucson – we stayed in the center of town at Sentinel Peak RV Park, so that we could have easy access to the city. Check out my review of the park here.

Our plan was to enjoy some of what the city has to offer, select a realtor, look at some houses, and best of all visit friends.Tucson-6

We began by finding out about the local happenings, and the biggest one was the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona. In its eighth year, the festival attracts over 100,000 people. Continue reading

Benson, Birds, Bisbee and Buddies

BensonWhitewater-15BensonWhitewater-80Our next stop was Benson, in the Southern Arizona desert, not too far from Tucson and also near lots of great places to explore. We stayed in the Saguaro SKP park, an Escapee Co-op, where we stayed a couple of years ago. It’s a very nice park, and as a bonus our friends Paul and Nina were staying there as well.

The park has a first-come first-served policy, but it has an overflow area where RVers can stay while they wait for a full hookup site. We lucked out and got the one spot in the overflow area that had full hookup. Which was great since it was starting to get hot and we needed to run the A/C.BensonWhitewater-79 Continue reading