March 2019 – Our new little RZR adventure buggy has been giving us loads of fun in the Arizona desert, introducing us to lots of pretty places and even taking us there in the pre-dawn hours so we can catch the sunrise as it happens.
From lakes to streams to riverbeds and washes we’ve been seeing lots of new and beautiful places.
Ticket to great rides.
Desert meets water.
Where the Agua Fria River (“Cold Water River”) became a manmade lake.
The triple towing is working out well, and we’ll have an article on that soon as we gather more photos. It is quite a train!
It’s not fully hitched up in this pic, but this is The Train!
Arizona has seen some crazy weather this winter with a huge snowstorm blowing through last week. Before the snow arrived we caught a glimpse of the full moon balanced on a cactus.
A cactus catches the full moon as it sets.
But dark clouds and a rainbow in the distance signaled the storm that was to come. That evening’s sunset was out of this world!
Rainbow and storm clouds over Pleasant Harbor.
A wild sunset before the storm.
The next morning there was snow on the mountains. Kids in the Phoenix schools had enough snow to make snowballs, and the mountains looked a lot more like Montana than Arizona!
Is this the Arizona desert or somewhere far north?
Snow on the mountains behind Scorpion Bay Marina
Lots of rain and a little snowmelt up north made the water level in Lake Pleasant begin to rise. What a surprise it was when we headed down one road and found the tide coming in!
The lake got so full it began to cover the roads!
One sunny warm day we took the RZR down Castle Hot Springs Road. This is a dirt road that goes off into remote parts of the Sonoran Desert between northwestern Phoenix and Wickenburg.
A spur off of Castle Hot Springs Road
This road can be driven with a regular passenger car, but it was especially fun in the open air RZR. The road heads past some beautiful craggy mountainsides that are covered with saguaro cacti. Just magnificent!
Beautiful desert scenery
Wild burros live out this way, and we saw a small group watching us closely when we hiked into the brush a ways.
They wandered around but kept an eye on us as we approached them.
They weren’t sure what to make of Buddy, but when they’d decided he was close enough one gave chase and he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Buddy loves to be chased and he was grinning ear to ear.
15 years ago, before we started RVing full-time we drove this same road in a car and stopped at the boarded up Castle Hot Springs resort to look around.
Castle Hot Springs first opened in 1896 for city folk and out of state visitors who wanted a genuine taste of the Sonoran Desert in a very remote setting. It was a high end resort and the owners had planted rows of Mexican palm trees all around it.
Castle Hot Springs Road was under water in places, but it wasn’t too deep.
When we visited all those years ago the resort had been closed for quite some time. The palm trees were still tall and healthy and standing in rows, but the buildings were a little worse for wear. It seemed such a shame that a beautiful property like that would be left to disintegrate in the hot Arizona sun.
Well, much to our surprise, someone has bought it and is doing an unbelievable renovation. The whole thing is now enclosed behind a solid rock wall and an elegant front gate.
Castle Hot Springs has been purchased and is in the last stages of an enormous renovation.
Castle Hot Springs was first opened in 1896
There is a lush green lawn and we could see the main lodge in the distance. It was a little funny to be blocked from accessing the building, because we had wandered all over the property before and remembered that yellow building well.
Lush green lawns and elegant buildings.
The palm trees look fantastic and there is a sparkling swimming pool surrounded by lounge chairs and colorful umbrellas. Amazing!
The rows of palm trees were as beautiful as ever.
There’s a gorgeous pool back there.
A guard at the gate told us the property was purchased by the owner of Sun State Equipment, a construction equipment rental company. Just the right folks to buy a property that needed an overhaul!
And the price per night to stay here… Well… For the budget conscious there are rooms in the less fancy dwellings for $800 a night. If you aren’t so concerned about expenses, the upscale rooms go for $1,200 a night.
Rooms are $800 to $1,200 a night, meals, guided hikes and other activities included.
The old barn is being turned into a restaurant. Construction on that hasn’t really started, but when it opens it will be open to the public. So, if you have a RZR (yes!) or if you don’t mind a long bumpy ride on a dirt road, you’ll be able to get a taste of the good life in the restaurant!
Of course, some guests come in by helicopter.
We got so busy in our conversation with the guard that we didn’t notice Buddy had already found his own way in. He stood on the other side of the gate staring at us as if to say, “What are you waiting for? Come on in!”
“Never mind that guard. Let’s check out the resort!”
Unfortunately, without a room reservation we couldn’t get past the gate. So we jumped back in the RZR and continued on.
As we rode along we noticed a huge wash alongside the road. Curious, we just had to get out and explore. There was a trickle of water running in the middle of the wash and we saw some little footprints in the mud.
We traipsed down this wash for a while.
Footprints from something that is probably very cute!
We loved the patterns the mud made as it flowed over the pebbles. It looked a lot like chocolate covered nuts of some kind!
Mud…or chocolate covered nuts?
Back at Lake Pleasant we caught a few beautiful sunsets. The sky and water were filled with pastel shades.
We captured a few sunrises too, and they were worth getting out of bed and going hiking for!
Mark sets up a photo while Buddy looks back at me.
Definitely worth rising early and hiking in the dark!
Our campsite looks a bit different now with our new addition!
We had decided to triple tow the RZR on a small 5′ x 10′ utility trailer behind our fifth wheel trailer, and we were very uncertain how this arrangement would work out.
So, we were absolutely thrilled when we did our first 125 mile trip across the north edge of Phoenix, including a stop at an RV dump station in a fairly tight gas station, and found it went really smoothly!
The little RZR is our ticket to new thrills!
A new perspective.
Our biggest concern had been how this train of truck + 5th wheel trailer + utility trailer would handle in tight spaces. We do a lot more U-turns in our traveling lifestyle than we’d care to admit, and being able to reverse direction without becoming a bull in a china shop is important!
It turns out that because the utility trailer is really narrow — five feet wide as compared to the fifth wheel’s eight foot width — its wheels take a wider turning arc than those on the fifth wheel. What a surprise!
When we were maneuvering in the tight spaces of the gas station to get to the RV dump on the side, we inadvertently rolled the fifth wheel’s tires over a curb.
We expected to feel a second thump-bump of the utility trailer’s wheels going over the curb too, but when we watched the trailer behind us, it scooted smartly around the corner and stayed in the road the whole time with a few inches to spare.
Mark loves old windmills so we always stop to get pics of them!
Once we got our train detached and set up in a campsite, we started taking the RZR out on excursions. What a blast that little buggy is!
We have camped at Roosevelt Lake many times over the years, and have always wondered what lay in the distant mountains and valleys around the lake. Now we could get on the trails and find out.
Where the desert meets the water at Roosevelt Lake.
A ribbon of road…
There are quite a few dirt roads and 4×4 trails that head off into the hills, and we explored a lot of them.
Some we could have driven in the truck, and some we could have mountain biked, but most would have been impossible for either our truck or bikes.
Late afternoon glow on the saguaro cacti high above the lake.
After a little off-road riding it’s nice to stretch the ol’ legs on a hike!
Cactus and red rocks. What a combo!
It was satisfying to go down roads we couldn’t have accessed without the RZR. That is why we bought it, after all!
In a few places we came to trailheads. Some were sections of the cross-state Arizona Trail. It was neat to be able to hop out of the RZR and go do a couple miles of hiking without seeing a soul around.
Even though it was late January to early February, some of the higher elevation hillsides were covered with desert poppies. We also saw a few lupine blooming here and there! I don’t quite understand why the desert poppies would bloom at high elevations in January and at lower elevations in March, but Nature has its mysteries.
We were very surprised to find some higher elevation hillsides covered with desert poppies.
There were lupine too!
Some trails just petered out after a while, but one day we traveled deep into Tonto National Forest on a series of trails that seemed to go on forever. We passed a homestead and crossed quite a few cattle boundaries, opening cattle gates to let ourselves through and closing them behind us as instructed by signs on the gates.
In a few spots we saw cows and calves. We weren’t too excited about them, but Buddy perked right up and watched them closely.
At one point we looked up on a berm and there was a wild horse staring at us. Buddy dashed up the berm to touch noses with it and then he bolted back down again.
“Hey little fella, come back here!” Buddy ran back down the hill after saying hello to the wild horse.
They had the familiar fuzzy faces that the wild horses of this area have, and they had no shoes on their feet.
Their unusual calmness in our presence made us wonder if someone had been feeding them or working with them in some way. Their manes and tails weren’t covered with burrs the way many wild horses are, and they seemed to be well fed, no doubt due to the lush green grasses covering all the hillsides!
Classic — A wild horse standing between a saguaro cactus and an old cactus skeleton.
How cool to head into the National Forest and come across these special horses!
His friend struck a pose too…
We had a blast every time we went out for a ride. It seems that this RZR thing is going to be a lot of fun!
Room to roam.
What a view!
The funny thing, though, is that sometimes the most dramatic and beautiful things in life are those things that come to you on their own rather than you hunting them down in a RZR!
One day we went to the nearby town of Globe to do laundry and other errands. We decided not to pack our cameras because, well, what is there to take photos of on errand day at the laundromat? Besides, it was pouring pitchforks and we knew we were in for an all-day rain.
On our way back we noticed the sun peaking out of the clouds once in a while. Then suddenly we saw the most enormous rainbow crossing the entire hilly desert landscape alongside the truck.
OMG! Why didn’t we have our cameras?
It was a 30 mile drive to get back to the campground, and the rainbow followed us the entire way, its little pot of gold moving across the desert right below it just as fast as we were driving. At times there was a double rainbow!
We couldn’t believe we were seeing this stunning spectacle with no way to photograph it, but we resigned ourselves to just enjoying the rainbow out the window and imagining the photos we would have taken in this spot and in that spot.
The shock, though, was that the rainbow was visible and with us for the entire 30 mile drive until we pulled into the campground.
Unfortunately, by the time we got back to our campsite, the rainbow was gone. We began unloading the truck, excited but dejected that we had missed this incredible rainbow photo-op.
Suddenly, as we made yet another trip out to the truck to bring in more stuff, we looked up and saw the rainblow forming in the distance. We both dove for our cameras and began snapping like mad. The rainbow’s colors intensified until we were both exclaiming that we had never seen a rainbow so bright!
The colors were so vivid that they reflected across the water even though the surface of the lake was slightly ruffled by a soft breeze.
We ran along the shoreline trying to find the best vantage point, and the rainbow just kept on glowing. We were astonished and elated.
That night the rain came down in buckets on our trailer. We woke the next morning to black clouds and more rain. No problem. Mark baked banana bread and life was good and toasty warm.
Late that afternoon the skies cleared and the sun came out for a little while. And then we had a repeat of the day before as a rainbow formed in the distance.
A rainbow peeks out from beneath the storm clouds in the distance.
The sun played hide-and-seek with the clouds, and the land brightened and darkened as the clouds frothed overhead.
The sun lit the foreground for a moment.
A dark shadow formed in the sky but the rainbow was still visible underneath. How wonderful!
A distinct shadow appeared in the sky above the rainbow.
What a thrill this was, and what a great surprise.
The days of rain eventually stopped, and although that was the end of the rainbows, the churning skies gave us some fabulous clouds that produced brilliant sunsets over the next few days.
A glorious Arizona sunset.
Then one morning the sky was perfectly clear as the sun crested the horizon, and with that the celestial show was over for a while.
A new day begins.
We never know what to expect when we get up each day. Sometimes we go looking for adventure — and the RZR is proving to be a great way to get there — but sometimes the adventure finds us!
Just outside of Bryce Canyon is one of our favorite places, Red Canyon. We love the hiking trails there. What fun it was to see its two tunnels through the red rocks decorated in snow!
Red Canyon has two charming tunnels in the red rocks – and in winter they have snow!
The area around Bryce Canyon was beautiful in its winter finery, and we got a huge kick out of driving the scenic roads and seeing familiar red rock formations peeking out from beneath a layer of snow.
A glimpse of the edge of Red Canyon across a wintry landscape.
Bryce-like rock formations peered out from the mountains a few miles from the actual Canyon.
Red rock country makes for wonderful scenic drive in summer, but how beautiful to see it with snow!
The valleys near Bryce Canyon stood silent in their winter slumber save for a few homesteads here and there.
The quiet life.
As we descended out of the high 8,000′ plateau where Bryce Canyon is situated, we said goodbye to the snow one last time.
Buddy loved the snow, but it was time to leave it behind.
The wonderfully scenic US-89 passes through spectacular red rock landscapes as it approaches and then leaves Kanab, Utah, and we reminisced as we passed the turn-off for the incomparable Wire Pass Slot Canyon hike and the charming Toadstools Hike, both barely noted with small brown signs on the highway.
And then we were suddenly immersed in the beauty of Glen Canyon. This exquisite canyon was carved by the relentless flow of the Colorado River which has sculpted the surrounding colorful sandstone into a myriad of shapes.
Late afternoon at Glen Canyon.
The Colorado River was dammed here to form Lake Powell, and the vivid blue of the lake set against the towering stone cliffs was jaw-dropping in the morning sun.
Lake Powell is the centerpiece of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
We drove down to the beach to get a little closer to the water.
The stone monoliths towered on the other side of the small cove. What an exotic landscape!
This is a fabulous spot for photography!
There is a marina, hotel and restaurant complex on the shore at Lake Powell, and we could see the marina docks in the distance. The air became a little hazy as the day wore on, but the deep crimson red rocks were just stunning!
The distant red rocks were a deep crimson!
A group of houseboats anchored in the bay looked very inviting. We told each other we’ll have to do an overnight in one someday. A concessionaire for the National Park Service rents them out!!
Houseboats anchored in the bay. What a fun excursion that would be!
This guy loved the beach!
The eye-popping Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a little bit south of Lake Powell, and although we’ve visited before (blog post here), we couldn’t drive through the area without stopping in to take another look.
We were shocked when we arrived to see that massive construction is underway in the parking lot and on the hill between the parking lot and the overlook to make it easier to support the enormous crowds of tourists that flock here every hour of every day.
What used to be a small parking lot will soon be at least four times bigger. A slew of vault toilets have been installed, and it looks like a road is going in to take tourists right to the rim.
Right now visitors still walk straight up over the berm on a dirt path to the overlook. The new road will go around the berm on the south side. It’s not clear whether walkers or motorized vehicles or both will use the road, perhaps only tour buses. We were also quite astonished to see a railing protecting part of the rim now as well. Now, anyone who is unnerved by standing on the edge of a several thousand foot drop can stand by the railing with confidence.
The rocks near the edge of the overlook have fantastic markings.
Most of the rim is still wide open and easily explored, however, and plenty of crazy people were doing their selfie stunts just inches from a lethal fall (a girl fell off and died over Christmas this year). But it was the beautiful lines and patterns in the rocks at our feet that really caught our attention.
This is a special little gem of a spot.
A fish-eye view catches the wake of a boat cruising by on the river below!
Whereas Horseshoe Bend is busy busy busy and a true jaw-dropper to boot, a nearby scenic overlook at Glen Canyon Dam is fully developed for people to explore but had no visitors but us when we stopped by one morning.
The Colorado River is visible four thousand feet below — just as it is at Horseshoe Bend a few miles away — and the rust colored canyon walls are incredibly sheer.
The Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook was beautiful and dramatic — and we were the only ones there!
We just loved the lines in the rocks and the infinite variety of patterns they create.
Such wonderful lines in the rocks!
It is a kid’s paradise for running around on the rocks.
These rocks are very cool to climb on.
Mark won a photo contest with this unique photo of a strong gust of wind blowing on Buddy!
Glen Canyon Dam is a short distance away tucked between massive cliffs!
To get a sense of scale, notice Mark in the upper right corner taking a photo of the dam!
Meanwhile, storms brewed above the mesas and mountains on the horizon.
Storm clouds gathered.
This whole part of Canyon Country between Bryce Canyon, Utah, and Page, Arizona, is exquisite, and is truly a delight for photography. We were up with the chickens one morning to see if we could capture something special down at Lake Powell. And sure enough, the sun gave us a show to remember!
When we first arrived at the shore at dawn, the sky and water took on shades of purple and magenta.
The sunrise was brilliant, but even as the sun made its appearance on one horizon, storm clouds were forming on the other. We loved the contrast of light and dark.
The day awakens.
As the sun cast its last glow across the land before giving in to the coming storm, it lit the horizon’s classic southwestern horizon of mesas and rock pinnacles.
While the sun rose on one side the storm clouds grew darker on the other.
What a beautiful way to end our quick trip through Canyon Country to see the Best of the West under snow!
Before long we were back in our trailer in Phoenix getting ready to head out with our new RZR and try our new triple-towing adventures. But this week-long interlude at some of America’s most beautiful places in mid-winter is a trip we will remember forever.
January 2019 – Even though we have a new Polaris RZR waiting to take us on lots of exciting back road adventures, we’ve had a hankering to do a National ParksSnowstorm Tour for several years now. Our snowy day trip to Jerome a few weeks ago further whetted our appetites, so this week when a blizzard was predicted for the Grand Canyon, we hit the road!
Grand Canyon National Park is a Winter Wonderland when it snows!
We drove up from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona, and when we got there we had to laugh at all the signs by the road advertising hats and gloves. Desert dwellers love to go to Flagstaff to see snow in the wintertime, and sometimes they forget their winter duds (or don’t even own any!).
Snow had been in the forecast for Grand Canyon, but we saw only dustings and flurries until we climbed the last few miles to Grand Canyon’s South Rim about 75 miles north of Flagstaff. Then it began to snow hard, as it had been doing there for the last 24 hours.
It was a little difficult to tell what was where under all the snow!
Things looked a little different at the Grand Canyon than we’re used to seeing !
But much to our surprise, despite the snow, Grand Canyon National Park was hopping. Cars zipped here and there, the shuttle buses from the hotels to the rim were packed, and as usual, the languages we heard around us were from all over the world.
Exhilarated, we bundled up and hustled out to the closest overlook we could find on the Rim Trail.
There was a lot of snow, but we were ready for it!
What a shock it was to find that fog filled the entire Grand Canyon! We could barely see from one overlook to the next, never mind across the whole Grand Canyon to the other side 10 miles away.
Fog filled the Canyon and even obscured one viewpoint from the next!
Nevertheless, tourists slipped and slid down the icy trails and out onto the overlooks to see what they could see — which was nothing!
Tourists filled the overlooks even though there was nothing to see!
Despite the lack of a real Grand Canyon view, the fresh snow was beautiful and gave the Canyon a mystique we don’t often see.
Fresh snow, fog and mist gave the Grand Canyon a special beauty.
The fog blew in and out and the snow began to fall harder and harder. A woman standing next to me wondered why I was hanging over the edge taking photos.
A photographer takes photos of…fog?
This was her first trip to the Grand Canyon, and although the snow and mist was lovely, she was really disappointed not to see the real view. “What does it usually look like?” She asked forlornly.
When you’ve come all the way to the Grand Canyon, you’ve gotta get out on an overlook, even if there’s nothing to see!
Usually this tree has a great view!
If only she’d been able to stay another day. When we got to the rim the next day, the snow had stopped falling and sunlight had begun to shine through.
The sun came out and cast shadows across the Rim Trail.
And what an appearance it made. The light show across the canyon was spectacular!
The sun and clouds chased each other across the Grand Canyon.
What a glorious light show!
We were blown away, and so was everyone else. A crowd began to form, and the usual dance of tourist antics and selfies began.
Word got out that the Canyon was on display again, and the tourists lined up!
Embracing the view.
This Aussie/American couple was narrating a video about visiting the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm.
We were mesmerized watching the light and shadows chasing each other through the billowing curtains of mist and fog.
Meanwhile the light show went on.
Puffs of misty clouds swept by.
The Grand Canyon is magical at any time of year, but this was a special moment.
Everyone was taking selfies and handing their cameras around, so we joined right in and did the same.
We joined the selfie mania. Why not?!
Buddy loved the view and being part of the view too! Fortunately for him, leashed pets are allowed on the trails above the rim.
Most of the Grand Canyon overlooks were closed because the road to them hadn’t been plowed. The whole drive to Hermit’s Rest on the west side of the South Rim was closed and the road to Desert View on the east side was closed as well.
The canyon walls in that crack are thousands of feet high!
So, everyone stayed on the Rim Trail and visited just one or two viewpoints. The funny thing is that even though the total number of tourists at the Grand Canyon was a tiny fraction of what you’d see midsummer, because we were all concentrated in one small area it was still packed!
But it didn’t matter and the makeshift nature of things kind of added to the fun. This was a very special moment to be in this place, and everyone was thrilled to be here.
We all knew the sun would last for only a short while this afternoon because more snow was on its way. So the mood was almost giddy.
What a view!
We had buzzed up from Phoenix in our truck and left our fifth wheel trailer behind. Even though the trailer camground was open at Grand Canyon and we saw some rigs with snow on their roofs, we’d decided to take a vacation from our vacation and stay in a hotel.
The fantastic thing about the Grand Canyon in the wintertime is that a lot of folks cancel at the last minute when they see snow in the forecast. So rooms were available for 50 cents on the dollar.
If you’re in Arizona for the winter and you want to see something very special, watch the weather forecast at the Grand Canyon and head there when the snow falls!
Next time you see snow in the forecast for the Grand Canyon, go for it!
January 2019 – Most people come to the Arizona desert in January to get out of the snow and ice and enjoy some balmy weather. But when snow and ice blew into central Arizona on New Year’s Eve this week, we jumped at the chance to get out on New Year’s Day to enjoy the fluffy white stuff while it lasted.
We drove north on I-17 to see the snow!
We headed north on I-17 which takes travelers from the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix at about 1,200′ elevation to the ponderosa pine forests of Flagstaff at about 7,500′ elevation in just two hours of highway driving. Not far from the northern boundaries of Phoenix we began seeing patches of snow along the highway.
The rocks on the side of the highway were all capped in snow.
Snow had collected on the rock formations and in the forests by the side of the highway as we climbed higher and higher in elevation.
Soon we saw woods filled with snow-covered trees.
Our goal had just been to go see some snow, but we soon realized our afternoon New Year’s snow drive needed a destination.
We wanted to see a quaint town full of holiday cheer along with ice and snow, so we cut off from I-70 onto Route 260 and 89A to go to the historic copper mining town of Jerome.
Rounding the first switchback on our way up Mingus Mountain to Jerome.
Jerome is perched halfway up towering Mingus Mountain, and it clings to the hillside with tenacity as it looks out over the valley below. The views are vast, and when we arrived storm clouds and golden sunlight were taking turns shading and lighting the valley.
Light and shadow played hide and seek across the valley.
The town was built along several steep switchbacks in the road that crosses Mingus Mountain, and houses and shops stand at several different levels on the mountain road. A few staircases take shortcuts between each level, leading from one road up to the next.
The town of Jerome is multi-leveled and has lots of stairways.
Jerome is something of a rediscovered ghost town, and there are ghostly themes all over the place. We noticed a skeleton was about to join a family eating outside on a restaurant deck.
Dinner with a view — and a surprise guest!
Another skeleton was climbing the sign at the Haunted Hamburger.
Jerome is a really popular destination in the summertime because it is an easy drive from baking hot Phoenix, and the temps are cool and refreshing because it lies halfway up a tall mountain. But it makes a delightful wintertime destination too, especially around the holidays. Christmas decorations were everywhere.
If you don’t feel the Christmas spirit in the warm desert, come to Jerome for real icicles and ornaments.
What could be better than this after a cold walk in Jerome on a wintry day?
Walking the streets of Jerome, we saw beautiful views across the valley. The red rocks of Sedona were nearby, and they lit up in the distance as the sun began to sink lower in the sky.
The red rocks of Sedona glowed in the distance.
All the buildings were covered with a layer of snow, which made for a fun change of scenery after weeks in the dusty dry deserts of New Mexico and Arizona.
The views went on forever and were especially lovely as the sun went down.
We followed the switchbacks to the top of town.
The streets were quiet, and the town was as quaint as can be!
The Jerome Grand Hotel stood proudly overlooking the valley.
The Jerome Grand Hotel is haunted.
Inside the lobby of the Jerome Grand Hotel we read some of the guests’ hand written ghost stories that have been collected in a notebook. All kinds of things go bump in the night at this hotel, and visitors have some hair raising tales to tell. Just ask the person at the front desk if you can see the guestbook of stories about this haunted hotel!
We read a few of the guests’ ghost stories…sleep with one eye open if you stay here!
The sun set in pastel shades of peach and pink and blue as we walked back down into town.
We’ve loved Jerome at warmer times of year, but the snow and cold gave it a special kind of intimacy.
Pink and blue sunset.
As we made our way back to the parking area at the bottom of town we saw lots of Christmas lights on the houses.
Christmas lights came on all over town — very pretty!
All the trees in the small town park were decorated with lights, but it was the lights on the ground blinking under the snow that caught our attention.
In the town park Christmas lights blinked under the snow!
Jerome is a cute town and a lovely spot to for a change of pace from the desert, especially during the holidays when it snows!
April 2018 – A few weeks ago we had the extraordinary experience of creating a video with a professional video production crew for Camping World as part of their new YouTube campaign, “RVing is for Everyone.”
We spent an exhilarating three days with the Isaac Aaron Media crew shooting for Camping World.
The casting call came out of the blue, and we weren’t sure what to expect.
It turned out to be three very thrilling, very long and very full days of quasi-acting and interviews that resulted in a beautiful and inspiring five and a half minute video that captures the spirit of our RV life perfectly. The video is included at the end of this article.
The video crew, Isaac Aaron Media, was a team of five who flew out from North Carolina to join us in Arizona. We suggested a few places where we could film in the Phoenix area, and they took it from there to decide on the camping locations and tourist attractions for filming.
Isaac Aaron led the team filming us
Isaac Aaron and his wife Jessica Piche are the founders and owners of Isaac Aaron Media. Their skilled camera crew were videographers Justin, Byron and Ben.
These guys know quite a bit about the RVing life. Isaac and Jessica own a motorhome, and Justin renovated and lived in a vintage travel trailer for over a year.
“Rolling!” Justin renovated and lived in a vintage travel trailer.
Byron was seeing the West in depth for the first time and loving every minute of it. He handled all the mobile video work during the shoot, carrying a camera on a cool gimbal system and walking around (often backward!) to give the video movement.
But when the video crew arrived, it was clear that the scenery would work really well for the images they wanted of us enjoying the RV life.
As soon as the crew unloaded their gear at our campsite, Byron headed out to the big grassy area behind our trailer and on down to the lake to begin getting scenery shots.
Byron filmed the pretty scenery at Canyon Lake Marina and RV Park.
The crew told us to just “do whatever you always do.” We had been playing with our new puppy, Buddy, in the grass, so we continued doing that. Suddenly, there were three cameras on us from different angles, and the video shoot had begun.
The entire video was unscripted. However, the director, Jessica, had a clear idea in her mind of what the team was creating. She asked us to walk over to a picnic table and sit down and admire the view as the crew filmed us.
She wanted the video to be authentic, and I had explained to her that we are photographers and that what we do in our RV life is take photos all day every day. She was fine with that. So, as the crew shot video of us, we took still images of everything around us!
I put Buddy up on a rock to get a photo of him with Canyon Lake in the background. As I clicked off a series of images, the video cameras rolled. Afterwards, when Jessica was going through the video footage, she emailed me with wonder, “How did you get Buddy to stay still on the rock like that?” I don’t know. I just put him there, said “Stay!” and he stared back at me while I took his portrait!
Buddy happily poses for me on a rock.
As we were goofing off by the shore, Mark got the idea to lure the resident flock of ducks over to us. These ducks know human actions well, so even though he didn’t have any bread for them, when he tossed a few pebbles in the water they came right over. And the video cameras rolled!
To show the nuts and bolts of the RV life, the crew wanted a few sequences of us breaking down and/or setting up camp. So, they asked us to pack up the trailer and do all the things involved in getting hitched up just like we normally do.
Cameras were on both of us as we folded up our camping chairs, and then cameras were on me as I washed the dishes and packed up the interior and cameras were on Mark as he mounted the bikes on the bike rack and put away the patio mat.
The video crew shot scenes of us packing up our rig.
The Apache Trail (Route 88 from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake), is one of the most stunning scenic drives in Arizona, and the plan was to capture images of us towing the trailer on this incredible winding road between Canyon Lake and Lost Dutchman State Park.
Until Mark and I drove the Apache Trail out to Canyon Lake a few days prior to the camera crew’s arrival, none of us had realized that the entire road was under construction, complete with cones in the road and big machinery working. Much of the road had been stripped of asphalt and was dirt too!
We would never advise driving a big rig on the Apache Trail without scouting it first, even when it is paved and free of construction crews, because there are tight switchbacks and lots of 15 mph turns with sheer drop-offs and no guard rail. Fortunately, Mark and I both know the road very well because we used to race our bicycles on it years ago!
We hopped in the truck to begin towing our trailer and suddenly discovered there was a video camera hanging from our rearview mirror! Any swearing at the challenging road conditions or crazy drivers would be caught on film (ahem, some of it may have been!).
We got in our truck to find a video camera mounted on our rear view mirror!
The video crew had hired a photography location scout, Alan Benoit, to help them with finding locations to shoot and to give them advice on where the best turnouts would be along the Apache Trail so they could to set up their cameras to capture our rig driving by. He gave them all kinds of pointers and also drove ahead of us in his own car so he could open up a gap in front of us and ensure there would be no cars ahead of us as the video cameras rolled.
The video team fanned out to different locations along the route to catch us at various bends and curves in the road, and we got a kick out of seeing them as we drove past.
Byron gets a shot of us rolling by in our rig.
The Apache Trail between Lost Dutchman and Canyon Lake is about 11 miles long, so we pulled over a few times to allow the video crew to drive ahead and get set up in new positions to wait for us. We had radios for communication between all the vehicles because there isn’t any cell service out there!
Once the video crew had captured a bunch of scenes of us driving, including going under one of the trestle bridges on the route, we unhitched and dropped the trailer off in a pullout so we could all drive back to Tortilla Flat for lunch. Tortilla Flat is a very popular restaurant offering both indoor and outdoor seating and live music most afternoons.
We check the menus at Tortilla Flat, a fun western themed restaurant on the Apache Trail.
Tortilla Flat has a funky vibe and there’s an old toilet seat hanging up on the porch where you can get a framed selfie.
We were filmed boarding the Dolly Steamboat before our memorable cruise on Canyon Lake.
Once all the passengers were aboard the boat, the video crew filmed us walking down the dock and giving our tickets to the captain. I’m not sure what the other passengers thought as they watched us do the ticket buying scene a couple of times. Fortunately, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon and no one was in a rush.
I suspect most folks thought it was a bit of a hoot to have a professional camera crew aboard, and there were smiles of recognition, probably from RVers camping in the area, when we explained it was a video shoot for Camping World.
Byron films us greeting Captain Jasion and giving hime our tickets.
The video team had brought a drone, and they flew it from the deck of the Dolly Steamboat. While everyone on the boat oohed and aahhed at the stunning desert canyon views around us, the drone flew higher and higher above us. Then, after having it zoom around the lake, the crew brought it back to the boat. Jessica reached out to grab it out of the air as it hovered above the deck.
Jessica caught the drone after it circled the Dolly Steamboat from high above the lake.
We had had quite a day, and we were all totally pooped as we drove our trailer on the last stretch of the Apache Trail to Lost Dutchman Campground. We all hit the sack early.
Phew! It’s hard work being a movie star!
Before sunrise the next morning, Buddy suddenly sat up and gave a muffled woof when he heard activity right outside our trailer. We opened the blinds to see the video crew moving around in the pitch dark with headlamps on their heads. They were setting up a timelapse video of our rig silhouetted against the sunrise that would soon begin.
We quickly got dressed and ran outside with our own cameras to capture the pretty pink sky as it slowly began to brighten.
We were all very fortunate that Mother Nature gave us such a beautiful light show and that no one had stayed in the campsite next to ours. This gave the crew plenty of room for their gear and an unobstructed view of our trailer. We stayed at Lost Dutchman for the next three nights after that, and not only was there never as nice a sunrise again but we had neighbors in that campsite every night!
The video crew was at our campsite setting up a time lapse video before sunrise.
After bolting some breakfast, we were off to the Superstition Mountain Museum for more filming. The museum docent gave the crew pointers on what the highlights were and where the best photo ops might be as we strolled the grounds to view the artifacts from the historic gold mining days.
At Superstition Mountain Museum the video crew got tips on where the best photo ops would be.
Making a video involves a lot of waiting around while the crew sets up and breaks down their video gear, and there’s also a lot of repeated movements as each scene is shot a few times. It is trying for people, but is potentially even more challenging for puppies.
Buddy was only four months old and we had had him for only five weeks, but he had been amazing so far. No matter where we asked him to walk or sit, he went along with the flow. Best of all, the guys in the crew loved him, and he quickly became the star of the show.
Isaac gets a close-up of Buddy.
The Superstition Mountain Museum is a treasure trove of history, and we walked and walked and walked all around the extensive grounds for several hours. Cameras were on us at all times.
As we’d gaze at something or pass through a doorway, we’d suddenly be asked, “Could you do that again?” Some scenes were set up more deliberately, and we had to wait for those classic commands: “Rolling… Action!” The first few times we started on “Rolling!” rather than “Action!” Such rookies!!
We spoke from the heart, and she let us go on at length on some topics when we had a lot to say.
The team checked the cameras and lighting before Jessica interviewed us at the Superstition Mountain Museum.
Of course, there was room for bloopers too, and we fell into the same funny trap that several other couples had.
The theme of the Camping World video series is “RVing is for Everyone,” but when asked about our RV experiences, we naturally talked about them in terms of being full-time RVers, not seasonal RVers or vacationers. So, at one point, after describing the wonders and thrills of downsizing out of our house and running away to live in an RV, Mark blurted out, “Of course, it’s not for everyone!”
Isaac chuckled and said, “We’ve heard that before, and what you probably mean is that full-time RVing isn’t for everyone!”
We had lunch all together at the western themed Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon at Goldfield Ghost Town next door and then went back to our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park where the video crew got set up for us to do some hiking.
There was a nice hiking trail that led towards the Superstition Mountains right from the back of our campsite, so once the camera gear was ready, off we went with Buddy bounding along while the video cameras rolled!
We hiked the trail behind our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park.
After our hike, when we came back to the campsite we suddenly noticed the Red Baron bi-plane soaring overhead doing somersaults in the sky. What a perfect photo op, and how typical of our lifestyle that something unexpected and fun zoomed into our lives at just the right moment. Mark and I simultaneously swung our cameras towards the sky.
The Red Baron is a popular ride in the Scottsdale/Mesa area, and Mark got this beautiful shot.
We love shooting shoulder to shoulder because we always get different images. Here’s mine.
Gradually the shadows got longer and then the sky began to get orange. Everyone lined up to get a photo of the sunset around a gangly saguaro cactus that was in a campsite across the street.
Back at our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park we all got ready for a sunset shot.
As the sun went down the cameras went up.
An orange glow around a saguaro cactus in the next campsite.
We had all been up since before dawn, and now it was dark again. The video crew left and we crashed in our camper, totally exhausted!
The next morning we all met at Goldfield Ghost Town about a mile away from Lost Dutchman State Park. This tourist attraction is very similar to the Superstition Mountain Museum with lots of paths that wander between antique buildings from the gold mining days.
Bright and early the next morning, we all gathered at Goldfield Ghost Town for another day of shooting.
There is a little train that circles the property that was definitely worth a quick video clip.
Ben caught the train on video just as it came around the bend and tooted its horn.
Goldfield Ghost Town is full of fabulous photo ops, and Mark and I had fun just roaming around taking photos. Shooting high or shooting low our creative juices flowed. And the camera crew was there to catch it all.
I set up my own shot while the video crew takes theirs!
Mark got a photo of the front of the jail, and we laughed as we read the jailhouse rules posted out front, joking that they sounded a bit like the rules for video actors:
No Complaining, No Profanity, No Loud Talk, Two Visits to the Outhouse Daily, Meals—Beans, Bread and Water.
Well, our meals at the area restaurants had actually been quite delicious!!
These rules applied to more than just the jail house!
Mark took a quick trip to the outhouse and Buddy peaked through the outhouse window. They didn’t know that the video cameras were on them even then!
The video crew caught this moment too.
Goldfield Ghost Town has a Bordello on the second floor of one building, and there’s a neat metal winding staircase leading up to it. The video crew loved that staircase, and we walked up and down it quite a few times as the cameras rolled. Buddy negotiated the stairs really well, and Mark and I got lots of great pics from the top.
We wound up and down the staircase to the Bordello on the second floor several times!
The view from the top of the stairs was pretty great!
It was hot and dry walking around Goldfield, and at one point we snuck Buddy off to a spigot on the side of a building to get a sip of water. He was such a little trooper though. A quick rest in the shade and he was as good as new again and ready for more filming by an antique tractor.
Being filmed from sunrise onward wore us all down, but some shade and a drink revived us.
We had fun playing tourist, and the video crew didn’t miss a moment.
After quite a few hours of shooting we all took a break and then reconvened at our Lost Dutchman campsite once again. Soon, it was time for our main interview which became the voiceover narrative for most of the video.
The Superstition Mountains were lit up behind our campsite in glorious fashion, but getting our faces lit without us being blinded by the sun and without my head casting a shadow across Mark’s face proved tricky. We messed with the chairs and the foil reflector quite a bit and finally got everything set up just right.
Back at our campsite the crew worked hard to get the best lighting possible for our final interview when the Superstitions lit up at the golden hour before sunset.
The questions were excellent, and we had a chance to express a little of our philosophy of how important it is to pay attention to your dreams, to nurture them and to fulfill them. Mark signed off with a fantastic quote, and when we were finally silent, a hush fell on everyone.
Speaking about the importance of pursuing your dreams and making them come true had swept us all into a spell. We feel so fortunate to live this way, and I suspect the crew was lost in thought pondering their own dreams too.
Coming back to reality, they asked us for one more quickie shot. The sun was setting fast, but we hopped on our bikes for a final scene of us riding around the campground loop.
At last we all gathered at the back of our trailer so I could capture an image of us all together saying that famous Hollywood line: “That’s a wrap!”
“And that’s a wrap!”
DELETED SCENES – Oh yes, there were quite a few!
Of course, no movie would be complete with our a track of deleted scenes. After three full days of three or four cameras going most of the time, the video crew had hours and hours of video to sift through. Most of it had to end up on the editing room floor, of course, because the final video would be less than six minutes long.
One of the more unusual deleted scenes was at the Superstition Mountain Museum chapel where we discovered a statue of Elvis inside!
We walked in the chapel to find Elvis, but the scene didn’t make the cut.
We spent several hours on the last day doing a detailed tour of our rig. We showed every corner of our little abode and explained how and why we set it up as we have and why we chose this particular floorplan as our rolling home ten years ago.
We’ve decorated the walls with post cards from some of the National Parks and National Monuments we’ve visited, and the only original piece of furniture we still have is the dining table. So, there was a lot to talk about and see.
The best part of this RV interior sequence was when one of the guys asked Mark offhand what he would normally be doing “right about now” when we started showing off the kitchen. “I’d be getting a beer!” He joked. They said he should go ahead and do just that!
So, they did a full sequence of him reaching into the fridge and pulling out a beer, then reaching into the freezer for a chilled pint glass, and then pouring himself an ice cold yummy beer. He hammed it up a bit and it was very cute.
We did a detailed tour of our rig, and Mark had fun doing several takes of getting a beer from the fridge!
At Goldfield Ghost town there are several souvenir shops, and we went to two of them and picked out and purchased some goodies. Jessica suggested we buy some salsa, so we set up a scene where we scanned the shelves for locally made salsas and then chose one. The idea was that we would take the salsa back to the trailer later and do a scene where we were eating chips with it.
We ran out of time before we could shoot the scene of us eating the salsa in the trailer, but we sure did enjoy it a few days later!
We were filmed buying salsa at a tourist shop with plans to film us enjoying it later.
We also did a scene where we looked over some handmade soaps and picked out a bar of soap to purchase. Again, the whole sequence involved admiring and the picking out the soap and then, in a different scene, going to the register and paying for it.
The clerk was very cooperative, and the other tourists waited patiently outside the store for us to finish since there was barely enough room for us and a few cameras. In fact, for some of it the cameras were outside the store and shooting in.
During our interview later we talked about how in the full-time RV life you have to be selective about buying souvenirs and make sure they are consumable or else you’ll end up with a rig full of stuff!
We also chose a homemade soap as a consumable souvenir to take home.
There was also a scene where I showed some of the articles I’ve written in the RVing and sailing industry magazines and talked about how important writing and photography have become in our day-to-day lives. This has been a totally unexpected dream-come-true since we began traveling nearly 11 years ago.
But there were only so many seconds of footage that could be included!
I talked a little about how fulfilling it has been to write for the RVing and sailing magazines, including my back page Trailer Life column.
After the whole video shoot was over, the crew went on to make some other videos in Arizona while we collapsed in our trailer and reflected with awe on what had just happened to us.
What a totally cool and special experience it was to be movie stars for three days!
Thank you, Camping World, for this unique opportunity, and kudos to Isaac Aaron Media for producing a beautifully crafted video.
Although we are full-timers — which is not for everyone — RVing definitely IS for everyone. We loved weekends in our popup tent trailer years ago as much as we love full-timing in our fiver now.
The first is the Scorpion Bay Grill at Scorpion Bay Marina on Lake Pleasant on the northwest edge of Phoenix. Lake Pleasant is large enough to have two marinas, one on the east side which is privately owned and another — Scorpion Bay — on the west side which is part of the Maricopa County Parks system.
Friends of ours told us about the Scorpion Bay Grill and suggested we have dinner with them there. Despite having the word “scorpion” in the name, we were totally charmed by this special spot.
The first thing that struck us as unusual and kinda neat about Scorpion Bay Marina was the funicular ride that takes you from the parking lot down to the water. A “funicular” is a kind of enclosed cross between an escalator and an elevator that gets people up and down a steep slope without having to climb a million stairs. We first rode one in the colorful town of Guanajuato, Mexico, which is built on a steep hillside.
The steep climb down to the marina is easier if you take the funky funicular ride!
You can take the stairs at Scorpion Bay, but we went for the ride. Mark opened the door to the funicular and down we went!
Mark and Buddy head on into the funicular car.
The Scorpion Bay Grill is built on a huge floating dock so the water is all around you. The fabulous outdoor patio has a view of the lake and is a great place to watch the sunset. The fish and chips dinner was outstanding!
There’s special seating for people with dogs, and now that we count ourselves as “people with dogs” we sat there. Each dog is given his own mat next to the table! The dog area is on the shady side of the patio, which is great in the hotter months, but the view is not as dramatic as the people-only area out front, but Buddy loved it.
We had such a great time eating dinner with this up-close lake view that we forgot to take any pics (oops!). But here is a sunset shot on a different night at Lake Pleasant to give you an idea of what’s possible when you enjoy a sundowner at the Scorpion Bay Grill.
Parker, Arizona, loves visitors and has plenty water sports and RV parks and lots of fun events.
Lots of RV parks along the Colorado River have campsites right on the water.
There are many places to access the Colorado River around Parker, some with palm trees and others with beaches and picnic ramamdas.
Mexican Palm trees along the Colorado River make the scenery reminiscent of their namesake country.
A party boat lands on the beach.
The Bluewater Casino and Marina Resort just east of downtown Parker has a big marina.
The docks at the Bluewater Casino and Marina Resort
And there’s a little outdoor bar next to the boat docks called the River’s Edge Cantina.
River’s Edge Cantina
Some folks arrive at the River’s Edge Cantina by boat!
The River’s Edge Cantina is a popular stop for boats going up and down the Colorado River.
The setting gives you a waterfront view and is very casual. It’s a pretty spot for a beer as the sun goes down.
It’s simple but scenic…and dog friendly!
This outdoor patio is dog-friendly too, and we brought our little pooch along. Buddy even tried to order a beer (he wanted a Bud), but they don’t serve beer to people who walk on four legs.
Buddy was hoping for a Bud.
Nearby there was a little grassy area to play. When Buddy heard that, he ran down to the docks and jumped for joy!
“Did someone say it’s time to play?” All four feet off the ground — pure joy!
This is a great spot to romp with a favorite toy.
Down by the water’s edge you can put a toe — or paw — in the water.
How’s the water?
Buddy was quite parched, since his request for a beer had been turned down, so he reached down and put two paws in the water for a drink.
The water’s good enough to drink!
He leaned out a little too far and suddenly he fell in. Oops! Well, we all found out he knows how to dog paddle! He got a great bath and came out of the water sparkling clean.
But Cleanliness is not next to Dogliness, he told us. So, he made a beeline for a dirt patch under a bush, plopped himself down in the dirt and started digging holes as fast as his paws could go.
What better to do when you’re soaked than start digging in the dirt?!
When he stood up he was shocked to discover he was a muddy mess!
He ran around in circles a few times and then settled down on the dock to lick himself clean.
How many licks will it take to clean up?
He was too cute for words, so our cameras were clicking away.
Mark gets a close-up.
With two owners constantly following him around taking his photo, Buddy is now a much photographed dog. And he’s becoming quite aware of his status as a model.
When I crouched down to get a shot of him showing off his backside for Mark’s camera, he squinted his eyes and gave me a sly look and muttered under his breath, “Talk to my agent!”
“Talk to my agent…”
Even without a puppy, the boat docks and area around River’s Edge Cantina are a lovely place for a stroll in the late afternoon.
The docks at River’s Edge Cantina.
Life on the Colorado River in the late afternoon — beautiful!
And at either the Scorpion Bay Grill on Lake Pleasant or the River’s Edge Cantina on the Colorado River, there’s always the chance you’ll get a classic Arizona sunset as you enjoy your lakeside sundowners!!
March 2018 – Continuing our theme this year of seeking out places where the southwestern deserts and waterways meet, we drove the scenic drive that follows the Colorado River from the town of Parker, Arizona, up to the Parker Dam. Starting in Parker, we went up the California side of the river to the dam and then we came back down the Arizona side to Parker.
The Colorado River is a favorite spot for boaters.
The Colorado River is a popular place for water sports and water play, and even though the river was cold and the air was springtime cool, there were still lots of boats out enjoying the water.
The desert mountain backdrop is beautiful and RV parks line the shore for miles.
From power boats to party barges, there was plenty of boating action going on.
A party boat rides the current on the Colorado River
The Parker Dam Road on the California side of the river south of Parker Dam is a combination of wild and natural recreation areas and RV parks. One RV Resort ends and then the next one begins with a smattering of BLM managed Rec areas tucked in between.
As we rounded one bend on this road, we noticed some wild burros in the road ahead of us. How cool!
We slowed down as we approached them, and another car coming the opposite way did too. The wild burros slowly crossed the road over to the other car and said hello to the folks inside.
The burros crossed the road to say hi!
Then I noticed that there were more wild burros on our side of the road. They were standing around just hanging out.
A wild burro’s life is pretty chill!
Suddenly one of them walked up to our truck and poked his head in our truck window.
Buddy was fascinated and leaned way out of the truck window to have a closer look. The burro pulled his head back out. Buddy’s face was reflected in the mirror and it made a cool image.
Buddy leaned over for a closer look.
Then the burro poked his head in again. He seemed to be smiling. Buddy shied away a little.
Then Buddy stared up at the enormous muzzle in amazement.
“What kind of breed are you?” He seemed to be asking.
Buddy braced himself on the window sill to get a different perspective.
The two got a good look at each other.
Then the burro and the puppy touched noses for a brief second.
I reached out and petted the burro’s mane. He didn’t seem to mind at all. Then the burro slowly moved away, and I noticed a young colt standing off in the distance. He looked like a little stuffed animal!
What a cutie.
By then, Mark had climbed out of the truck and was taking Buddy over to meet some of the other burros.
The burros were very calm and inquisitive too.
Everyone was relaxed and a bit curious as well.
What a neat animal encounter that was!
If you are traveling in the northwestern corner of Arizona near Parker and Lake Havasu, the drive on Parker Dam Road on the western side (California side) of the Colorado River makes for a nice excursion. There are thousands of RV campsites to suit any budget, and the lake is a great place for recreation of all kinds.
Hopefully, the wild burros will come say “hi” to you too!
March 2018 – As we started the first few weeks of the Chinese Year of the Dog, we realized that it really is a dog’s life out here in our cozy little RV.
It’s a dog’s life in our little RV.
The best part about it is there’s always an endless range of possibilities waiting for us just outside our RV window.
What do you want to do today?
And for folks like us whose home address is a campsite, there’s nothing like camping out on a lake!
Buddy loves exploring the shores of Lake Pleasant.
There’s always something going on out there on the lake, whether it’s people fishing from their boats, or folks out sailing, or pretty ducks floating by.
Mark took some old bread down to the shore to feed the ducks. Buddy was fascinated and watched intently.
Mark and Buddy feed the ducks.
Since we took Buddy under our wings, we have discovered that he is quite the socialite. Where we kinda stick to ourselves and lead quiet lives, Buddy likes to be the life of the party. He happily trots from RV door to RV door to find out just where the party is.
Buddy is at home on the fifth wheel steps.But this isn’t our fifth wheel!
As one glorious lakeside day rolled into the next one, we were blessed with many magical moments. One of the first was when we woke up to see fog and snow on the distant mountains. This isn’t very common in the Arizona desert, but it is truly magical when it happens.
Fog and mist swirl around the distant mountains.
Snow in the mountains!
Another morning we suddenly noticed a hot air balloon drifting over the lake. What a fun surprise!
On a cold morning we noticed a hot air balloon sailing over the lake.
Flying with the birds.
In no time the balloon was flying right overhead, the flame easily visible above the basket. On the side of the balloon were the words, “God bless.”
Up, up and away!
And then, in the blink of an eye, the magical moment had passed and the balloon disappeared in the distance.
The balloon slipped from view.
One afternoon I returned from a little hike with Buddy to find a crowd of people staring at the dock. A bald eagle had just landed on the dock and was making short work of a fish he held down with his feet.
A bald eagle stands over its catch.
I was floored at how big the eagle was. He dwarfed the nearby mallard ducks and seagulls. He was also very calm as he quietly tore the fish apart.
Fresh fish. Yum!
I figured there was no way I could get back to our buggy and get my camera out in time, but I ran with Buddy and grabbed the camera with the big lens on it that was sitting on the table. I noticed it was Mark’s camera, but heck, he wasn’t here. No problem!
Just then, Mark opened the door. I shoved the camera into his hands and said, “Bald eagle! Quick! Run!” and pointed at the dock.
He took off like greased lightning while I hunted around for my camera and got my big 150-600 mm lens loaded onto it. Then Buddy and I took off for the dock too.
Even though quite a few minutes had passed, the eagle was still happily munching away on his fish. Some opportunistic seagulls were milling around nearby hoping for tidbits.
Both Mark and I were able to fire off some wonderful shots of this gorgeous bird as he finished his meal.
He needed to wipe his beak — which he did right before flying off.
Then he wiped his beak on the wooden dock and pumped his wings hard to fly up in the air. Looking at the photos later, I just loved the puffy pantaloons on his legs.
And then off he went. It had been another truly magical moment that soared into our lives and then flew away and into our memory.
One morning I woke up early and lazily raised the blinds to see what was going on in the world. To my astonishment, a fabulous orange full moon was in the midst of setting. It was another incredible OMG moment that I wanted desperately to catch on camera.
I tore through my clothes trying to find pants and a jacket and shoes as well as a camera with a long lens and a tripod to mount it on.
Our sweet puppy Buddy is not a morning person at all, but he watched me in amazement from his cozy spot under the blankets as I threw things all over the place in a total panic.
To get the biggest possible orb in the sky, I grabbed my beautiful brand new Nikon D500 that Mark had given me a few weeks prior for my birthday, and I attached my mammoth 150-600 mm lens to it. Being a crop-sensor camera, this effectively gave me a 900 mm lens.
But unfortunately I hadn’t memorized all the buttons on my new camera yet, and as I stood outside shivering in icy blasts of wind, I couldn’t remember how to get the settings I wanted.
The moon set right before dawn.
As the moon dropped steadily out of the sky and slipped behind a saguaro cactus, framing a fabulous image I desperately wanted to capture, I chastised myself for not having taken the time yet to study this miraculous piece of gear.
Mark heard all the commotion and suddenly appeared at my side in his skivvies and bare feet as the bitter wind whipped across the lake. He gave me one of those “are you kidding?” and “tsk tsk” kind of looks and calmly showed me the buttons I’d been looking for.
We both got a good laugh, but we couldn’t wait to get another chance for better pics when the moon set at the end of the day. We would be prepared this time!
The moon set behind a saguaro cactus…
So, late in the afternoon we watched for the moon to rise which happened right as the sun was setting. (For those who haven’t studied the night sky, that’s how full moons work: they shine all night long, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise).
At dusk a full moon suddenly rises behind a ridge.
It rose across the lake, casting a beautiful shaft of orange light across the water and the docks where a man was peacefully fishing. It was another magical moment.
Fishing by the light of the moon.
The next morning we set the alarm so we wouldn’t miss the setting of the moon. This time we were completely prepared with all our gear laid out, including our Hoodman loupes, so we could see exactly what our pics looked like, and our remote shutter releases to help the cameras stay perfectly still as we took each photo.
The moon set about an hour later than it had the morning before, so the sky was lighter, and the moon’s path was quite a ways left of where it had been. We moved our positions so we could line the moon up with a different saguaro cactus. Then, slowly but surely, the moon sank behind the cactus and we each got some very satisfying shots.
The moon sets behind a saguaro cactus.
It’s hard to describe the beauty of our RV lifestyle, because the most wondrous part is when beautiful surprises come to us unexpectedly. We couldn’t script happier days than these very special ones that were filled with such magical moments.
February 2018 – Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Arizona, just east of Phoenix, is one of our favorite RV campgrounds. Back when we first started RVing with our popup tent trailer, we visited Lost Dutchman State Park frequently.
The Superstition Mountains are the centerpiece of Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona
We recently returned and were blown away once again by the beauty of this State Park and campground that is smack in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, tucked up against the stunning Superstition Mountains.
Lost Dutchman State Park has beautiful RV campsites.
Not only are the campsites spacious and often positioned with a great view of the Superstitions, but there are hiking trails leading out from each of the campground loops that invite you into the desert. On one afternoon we were greeted by a pair of horseback riders as we hiked.
Horses pass us on the hiking trail.
The sunrises and sunsets are colorful and dramatic, and we enjoyed walking the campground loop in the early morning and early evening light.
Sunrise at Lost Dutchman State Park.
Mountain bikers enjoy the trails at Lost Dutchman.
For a change of pace from the hiking, mountain biking and desert scenery inside Lost Dutchman State Park, there are two popular tourist attractions just outside the gate: Superstition Mountain Museum and Goldfield Ghost Town.
The Superstition Mountain Museum has lots of buildings and artifacts from the early gold mining days of the mid-1800s and tells the story of Jacob Waltz, “the Dutchman” (actually German) who made a big gold strike in the Superstition Mountains but took the details of its whereabouts to his grave.
The Chapel at the Superstition Mountain Museum.
I loved climbing into the stagecoach!
Buddy wanted to see the view from the stage coach window.
There is a saloon and a jail and lots of gold mining equipment too.
Buddy couldn’t go into the saloon because he’s underage.
The Superstition Mountain Museum is a non-profit organization that works to preserve the history of the Superstition mountains. Just a mile or so away Goldfield Ghost Town brings history to life with a replica of a gold mining town, complete with a brothel, bank and apothecary shop.
Goldfield Ghost Town has lots of boutique shops and gold mining artifacts.
Goldfield Ghost Town
Goldfield Ghost Town
Between the buildings at Goldfield Ghost Town we caught glimpses of the Superstition Mountains.
There are lots of things to do at Goldfield Ghost Town, including taking a gold mine tour. There are also various rides and guided tours that go out into the desert both by jeep and on horseback.
There are rides available by jeep, on horseback and by narrow guage railway train.
Horses rest between rides.
There’s also a narrow guage railroad train ride around the property. As I looked down the tracks to see if a train was coming I saw a hobo and his dog walking towards me on the tracks!
There was even an old outhouse with a moon shaped window.
No ghost town is complete without an outhouse!
A certain someone decided to check out the facilities and then peeked out the window.
A couple dressed in period outfits sang old folk songs by the side of the dirt road.
A deceased fiddle player accompanied them in a nearby boutique shop!
The music never dies.
There were lots of fun photo ops at both the Superstition Mountain Museum and Goldfield Ghost Town.
For RVers staying at Lost Dutchman State Park who appreciate a yummy cuppa joe and a muffin in the morning, there’s a terrific espresso coffee shop and bakery at Goldfield Ghost Town.
As we approached the door one morning, someone yelled from the deck, “Hey Mark and Emily!” It turned out our dog-loving friends Dick & Katie–who we hadn’t seen in two years–had noticed Buddy trotting up to the coffee shop and instantly recognized him from his pics on this blog. “I know that dog,” Katie said to Dick. Then they followed his leash up to our faces and recognized us too!
Buddy was sniffing around at the pet store recently and found some Buddy Biscuits!
Lost Dutchman State Park is the only public government-run campground in the greater Phoenix area that has a dry camping loop with big-rig friendly non-hookup sites. The terrific benefit for winter RVers is that even though all the dry camping sites can be reserved in advance, the hookup sites are much more popular and get booked up before the dry sites do.
So, unlike other campgrounds in the area, it is possible to stay at Lost Dutchman in a beautiful campsite without reserving a campsite months in advance. If you decide to stay there at the very last minute, there is an overflow area in a paved parking lot too, so you most likely won’t be turned away.
Hiking at Lost Dutchman is a real treat.
Golden hour in the Superstitions.
For photography buffs, the Superstitions light up with a beautiful golden glow in the late afternoon just before sunset.
Sunrise is also very lovely at Lost Dutchman, with pink and orange skies framing the silhouette of the Superstition Mountains.
Here are some books about the mystery of the Lost Dutchman and a hiking guide to the Superstition Mountains: