Zion National Park protects 229 square miles and is known for its steep Navajo Sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons. It is hard to believe that 250 million years ago those same cliffs were sand dunes in a vast desert.
In 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.
Tucson 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.
Our 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.
We arrived in Tucson to spend the month of March, our third visit in three winters. Shortly after our arrival, we heard that the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s demonstration squadron, were performing at an Air Show at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. So we went to see the Thunderbirds in Tucson.
We have seen the Blue Angels (the Navy’s demonstration squadron) perform twice, including one time in Key West in the early part of our walkabout, but we had never seen the Thunderbirds.
There were two air shows on the weekend and both days featured plenty of activities at the base with many military aircraft on static display, including some that were open for inside viewing.
Not only were there military planes, but other government vehicles were on display, including police and border patrol vehicles, a bomb squad truck, and a mobile SWAT team command center.
The show seemed particularly focused on kids, with fun activities and Air Force personnel spending quality time with them.
And, of course, there were lots of food booths. The base is massive so it took hours to see everything there was to see aside from the air show. It was quite an event.
After leaving San Diego, we headed to the Arizona desert where we planned to make several stops before landing in Tucson in March. For the next month or so, we moved to six different locations, met friends, had a medical scare (everything turned out ok), had maintenance issues, met more friends and enjoyed the desert. At times we felt like desert tumbleweeds. Oh, and I flew to Puerto Rico for ten days during that time – more on that in a later post.
Our first stop was Quartzsite, our third visit in three years during their annual RV show. This year we arrived only a few days before the end of the show, since our main purpose in going was to meet friends.
During our drive to Quartzsite I received a call regarding mammogram results from my medical exam in San Diego. Something showed up in the first mammogram, and the doctor wanted me to have a second one and maybe an ultrasound. Medical issues while RVing are always a challenge, but we continued on while we thought about next steps.
We boondocked in the Dome Rock area of Quartzsite, the area where we stay every year. During a quick walk through the show we met our friends Jack and Karen and made plans to meet a few days later.
Meanwhile, we had to figure out a way for me to get a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound. And, for various mostly insurance related reasons, we decided that it would be best to return to San Diego for the additional tests. Hector had the idea to double back to Anza Borrego State Park, not too far from Quartzite. This would put us day trip distance from San Diego, so we could drive our car to my appointment, thus avoiding crossing the mountains again in Island Girl.
We had a couple of days to socialize so we spent part of our time hanging out with our friend Vince who was staying at “our” regular campsite nearby. And we watched some beautiful sunsets. Continue reading
What a year! We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.
Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.
We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).
Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.
Last year we paid a brief visit to Astoria, a funky town at the mouth of the Columbia River, and really liked it so we were determined to spend a little time there this year. As Thanksgiving approached, we knew it was time to get to the coast and begin our (slow) drive south, but instead we made a slight detour north to Astoria.
We stayed at Fort Stevens State Park, a beautiful park just outside the town. The campground was pretty empty, so we found a cozy, private spot. Check out my review of the campground here.
Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor who founded Fort Astoria as a fur-trading port for his American Fur Company in 1811. During its early history, Astoria’s primary industries were fishing, fish processing and lumber.
Astoria’s deepwater port still serves as port of entry and trading center for the Columbia basin. But both the fishery and timber industries declined, forcing the town to reinvent itself. And it did so by supporting a burgeoning art scene and bringing light manufacturing into its fold.
It also succeeded in growing a tourism industry. With its location on the Columbia River, Victorian architecture poised amongst hills, proximity to the Pacific, surrounding lush forest and fascinating maritime history, it gained the nickname of “little San Francisco”. Astoria’s deepwater port now welcomes several major cruise lines.
Yes, we are back! Back in the lower 48 and back to blogging. I must admit that we needed a break after our Alaskan adventure. Time to rest, a break from driving and visiting places, and a break from blogging. In fact, this is the longest gap we have had from blogging since we began doing it three years ago.
We also needed some time to reflect. In September we marked our three-year anniversary of being “on walkabout”. What an amazing adventure we are having. This was to be the end of the journey as we had planned it but we are extending for a year. So this will be a transition year as we decide on the place to begin our next chapter, and yes, there is another sticks and bricks home in our future. And there will be more adventures as well.
Upon reaching the lower 48 there was lots to do. Every inch of Island Girl was dirty inside and out, and she had a couple of service issues. The Coquí was also filthy, as were our bikes and kayaks and there was the matter of our broken windshield and sunroof.
We have now made it to Portland and taken care of most of Island Girl and the Coqui’s issues, rested, and (loosely) planned our drive south for the winter. We also flew across the country to visit family and friends in Miami, while Island Girl and Angel remained with friends in Portland. Not exactly restful but it was wonderful. But more on all that later.
So where have we been since leaving Canada? We crossed the border from Osoyoos, British Columbia, to Oroville, Washington. Our plan was to drive the Cascades Loop and visit the North Cascades National Park on route to Seattle.
We scouted several National Forest sites searching for a campsite. And saw firsthand the after effect of the Okanogan fire, the largest in Washington state’s history. One campground had lots of trees down, some on the campsites. At times we could still smell the fire in the air. But now that and the other wildfires have been eradicated, thanks to those who risked their lives (and some who lost their lives) to contain the wildfires.
Eight years ago, when we made an all too brief stop at Denali National Park and Preserve, Denali, the mountain never revealed herself to us. That was a sign that we would have to return someday. Returning to Denali was one of the first things we planned for our trip to Alaska this summer. And our experience in the park has been much richer than we ever imagined possible.
To preserve the wilderness in 1972, the 92 mile park road was closed to automobile traffic at mile 15 and a bus shuttle system was instituted. There was much controversy around this but the restriction has remained with some very limited exceptions.
Earlier this year when we planned our stay in Denali, I discovered that professional photographers have an opportunity to enter a lottery for a one-week permit to drive into the restricted area of the park.
Hector entered the photographers’ lottery, and about a month later found out that he won one of the permits. This type of access to the park is extremely rare, and we were flabbergasted and ecstatic.
Denali and the surrounding area were inhabited by Athabascans more than 11,000 years ago. Because of its remoteness, only a few Europeans came to the area; a few prospectors around 1898, climbers who began attempts to climb the mountain in 1903, then game hunters.
As we said so long San Diego and reflected on our time there, we felt much gratitude for the great friends that surrounded us, for having Angel back home with us and seeing joy in her eyes once again.
We reconnected with a surprising amount of friends and had many wonderful times. But for two very long weeks, we went through a roller coaster of emotions while Angel had surgery and a tough recovery. After nine days of ups and downs in the hospital, she was well enough to come home. Many caring gestures from friends and others helped us tremendously.
It was such joy to finally bring her home, although it took a little more time for her to get her energy back. After many weeks of tweaking, she is on a supplement regimen that is maintaining her blood calcium level in the normal range. Continue reading
Many people know by now that we love the full moon and devote some time to watching and photographing it. So last month, we watched the full moon rise over San Diego, but it was a really hazy day and not so good for photography (although still a nice moon rise).
Since then we’ve enjoyed a full month’s worth of beautiful sunsets. The beaches empty (except during Spring break) and become beautiful and dog friendly after 4pm. So we’ve had our share of sunset walks.