Petroglyph Painted Rock Site

26 Feb, 2017; PP Rock BLM Campground, Gila Bend, AZ

A dot on the map, but I've wanted to visit for 3 years

I had read that this site contains over 4,000 petroglyphs created over thousands of years by a succession of native peoples.  Current thinking is that the earliest glyphs (mostly abstract patterns like spirals, ladders, zigzags and grids) were created in the 'Western Archaic Style', 7500BC-1AD; later glyphs (adding animals and people) were most likely created by the Hohokam people in the 'Gila Style', 300BC - 1450AD.

The rocks are just covered in glyphs!

The BLM campground consists of about 70 primitive sites, well spread out into 2 loops (including some group sites).  Each site has a concrete picnic table and iron fire pit.  There are vault toilets.  The per night fee is $8.00 ($4 with the geezer pass).  Cell towers dot a mountain top to the west so coverage and internet was excellent.  The town of Gila Bend is about 20 miles away.

Older spiral petroglyph with temporary orange tag from the Archeology Survey

Combination of older 'grids' and snakes with newer animal glyphs

The camp host said that the campground can get pretty crowded on weekends, but I think this weekend, it was only about 1/2 full.  Surprisingly, there were THREE Escapes (including me) - all 19's!  One couple we met at the Quartzite Fiberglass Rally, the other couple traveling from Maine along with a friend (she has a tricked-out Roadtrek 190).

Sharing a campfire and sunset with Escape Owners from Maine

The petroglyphs are largely situated on a sizable rock mound surrounded by a path, a lot of signage giving the historical context for the petroglyphs and subsequent pioneer history.  There are a couple big covered picnic shelters nearby.  If you get tired of looking at the glyphs, there is a population of tiny prairie dogs (someone said that they are 'Mexican Prairie Dogs') to watch.

While we were there, a group called Archeology Southwest was doing a survey of the petroglyphs.  I thought they might be using some really fancy photographic technology - and, it turns out they were - just not what I thought.  Apparently, Go Pro is so sophisticated that it does the job.  They take still pictures 360 degrees around each rock inventoried and then they have software that stitches all the stills into a 3-D model of the area.  Some of the work is already published on the internet (I haven't gone to look yet, but I was told it's accessible by the public - just in case you don't want to drive out here yourself).

Screening the rock so the light is good for photographing

Focusing on the glyphs, I almost missed these sunning lizards.

Yuma & Algodones

22 Feb, 2017; Yuma, AZ

Where to stay?

There are lots of options for boondocking near Yuma; Ogilby Rd, American Girl Mine Road, Mittry Lake, Imperial Dam LTVA and Pilot Knob LTVA - just the ones I know about.  We decide, since we're just in Yuma to re-supply then cross into Mexico so Julie can get a dental cleaning, that we'll stay at Pilot Knob 14-day BLM area.

Pilot Knob is not so scenic and is within sight and sound of I8, but it is convenient - only one exit from Hwy 186 and a couple miles from the entry point into Algodones, Mexico.  Pilot Knob is at the edge of a huge dune area, so it is flat, sandy and pretty bleak.  But, even when the desert seems totally lifeless - it's not.  Desert Lily was popping up all over, the Creosote and brittle bush is starting to bloom as well.

Desert Lily

Brisk winds blew up a lot of sand late in the afternoon (and set the trailer rocking overnight) that made sitting outside uncomfortable; however, the sunset looked kind of neat through all the sand.

Algodones, Mexico

The crossing into Mexico is through an Indian Reservation.  They maintain a big parking lot so that tourists can safely leave their cars and just walk over into Mexico.  That's by far the safest and easiest thing to do - parking would be impossible and the streets of this little town are choked with tourists and vendors.  While the streets and sidewalks are just a chaos of vendors and people, colorful patios offer some peace and quiet.

Getting into Mexico is a lot easier than getting out!   The lines stretch around the exit building and up a hill.  Waits of a couple hours are common; we were in line for about 90 minutes.

Yikes! A scorpion under the Welcome mat!

21 Feb, 2017; Kofa Wildlife Refuge

The Welcome mat is not intended for scorpion, spiders or snakes!

Wintering in the desert has made me complacent!  When I lived in west Texas, I was diligent about never putting my fingers or feet anywhere I didn't have a clear view.  I always shook out my clothes in the morning and upended my shoes.  I used to wonder how scorpions got into closed suitcases in the back of my closet.

But, in getting ready to pack things up for moving camp, I just grabbed the welcome mat and was, unpleasantly, surprised by a large scorpion under the mat.  I think all the rain in the last few days must have driven it out of it's burrow.  

I'm glad Fay Wray was inside - she might have tried to play with it.  The scorpion was pretty large (the body alone was about 1.5-2" long) and an unusual color - I'm used to tan/brown ones that are somewhat smaller.

I was going to 'rehome' it so that FW could come outside and be in the sun - but, by the time I got a cup, etc.  it had wandered off.  At least, I hope it wandered off and isn't inside one of my trailer chalks or folding chairs!

That excitement over, I glanced over at the ever-changing Kofa mountains

The mountains change color all day as the sun moves; and, over the past few rainy days, has been playing peek-a-boo among all the rain clouds.   This morning, I noticed that a big cloud (or ground fog) was rolling along the desert floor in front of the mountains so that only the top peaks could be seen.  

Apparently, this cloud got a 'flat' - maybe a puncture from an especially tall saguaro, and deflated to ground level.

Last night's western view of the sunset was too glitzy to pair with the alpen glow on the mountains to the east.

The light on the mountains to the east was so ethereal  that I didn't want to spoil it with these flashier pictures of the sunset view to the west.  Tonight's sunset was kind of 'meh', so here's the one from last night.

Walking the Spiral Labrynth

20 Feb, 2017; Kofa Wildlife Refuge, SW Arizona

Spiral Labyrinth only a mile from my camp site

I had heard that there was a neat feature that someone had carved into the desert pavement - using a technique very much like ancient people here carved giant picto-glyphs by raking the gravel away from the underlying sand.  I don't know when this feature was carved and normally I don't approve of defacing the natural landscape (it's pretty permanent now), this was pretty cool.

We walked the spiral as a meditation and it was quite powerful.

The day, having started out in such a spiritual way, ended with a sunset that was also unusually other-worldly.

The mountains and middle ground just glowed!

What a perfect ending to the day!

Weather event in the desert

18 Feb, 2017; Kofa Wildlife Refuge, near Quartzite AZ

My Weather Bug app says we’re in for some excitement

Weather Bug has proven to be a very helpful application.  I get alerts for my local area and it stores multiple locations so that I can plan ahead.  The news here is high winds for a day followed by rain for a couple of days.

Hiking gets us out of the wind for the morning - a brief interlude

So, yesterday, we decided to hike up Palm Canyon to see the California fan palms.  This is the only place that they occur naturally in Arizona anymore.  The hike is pleasant and since we’re in the canyon, we get relief from the wind.

Hiking all the way up to the palms requires rock scrambling and some climbing - saw some hikers up there today.

Looking back down the canyon to a cinder cone; campers along the road on the lower left

This group was checking out all the different plants.  They let us tag along and I learned a few new plants.

The canyon was mostly in shadow but I love how the sun splashes color over the rock as the day progresses.

The wind gets stronger, luckily our rigs are positioned well

Winds here often come out of the Southeast and that is convenient.  I like to position my trailer pointing South to Southeast so that my fridge is <mostly> out of the sun and I can watch the sunrise thru my side window as I drink my morning coffee. 

This time, that positioning means that wind is hitting the trailer mostly head-on and I get minimal rocking.  Sometimes, I get it wrong and spend the night wondering if the trailer will be blown over!
I clamp down the front rock guard, lock the outside flap for the stove hood fan, collapse all the chairs and little patio table and wedge them between the trailer and the bike rack,  I weigh down the welcome mat so it doesn’t blow away and cable lock the empty water jerry cans to the bumper too.

Even so, I still get a lot of noise.  I hear a constant rattle.  Hmmm . . . I go outside, but everything seems tight – until I notice the license plate and holder.  It’s shaking and buzzing – I thought about getting some duck tape and trying to tape it quiet, but just then the rain started.

Roz, who has a weather gauge on her rig, reports that the winds last night were sustained at about 25 mph, and gusted to as high as 42 mph.  This tracks with what Weather Bug fore casted.

Hopefully, this fellow made it home before the storm hit

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my trailer chatting with Jeannie when suddenly she spotted this coyote trotting along purposefully just behind my trailer.  He crossed our camp site passing very close to Jeannie’s Chinook and then down the desert pavement into the distance.

We met some volunteer refuge hosts on our hike who said that coyote sightings have been pretty rare this year – lots of howling at night – but not much activity around people’s camp sites.  Even so, a reminder for us to keep the dogs (and Fay Wray) close.

How quickly the weather changes

The view of the Kofa mountains is crystal clear

Sand, blown up by the heavy winds, along with the clouds 'gray out' the mountains 

The mountains are going . . . going . . . .


Looks like a good day for indoor chores.

KOFA Wildlife Refuge

16 Feb, 2017; KOFA, S. of Quartzite AZ on Hwy 95

A very, very quiet place!

After the <relative> hustle and bustle of the last 6 weeks of Rallies, KOFA is a real retreat.  There are few people here, it's very quiet - no highway noise; the sky is very dark at night and the mountains are gorgeous. 

The Kofa Mountains rise up from the surrounding Sonoran desert to a height of 4,877 feet.  Bighorn sheep make the mountains their home (although, I've never seen them).  The 664,327 acre refuge was established in 1939 as a refuge for the sheep and other native wildlife following a campaign by the Arizona Boy Scouts.

The desert 'pavement' is softer here . . . 

Where we are camped on Palm Canyon Road is part of many miles of flood plains - and the desert pavement reflects that!

The big 'MoHo' almost got stuck!

Right now I'm traveling with friends; Julie, with a Scamp; Jeannie, with a small Chinook; and Roz, with a medium sized MotorHome.  While my levelers sank into the sand a bit while I was setting up, Roz almost got stuck as her heavier rig sank into the gravel-covered sand. Luckily, she's an experienced driver, didn't panic and got to a more secure location!

I had to really move back to get all 4 rigs in the same frame - lots of room here!

One benefit of being on the flood plain is the increased vegetation.  It's very green here.  All the Ocotillo is leafed out and there are even small grass shoots coming up.

A whole grove of Ocotillo behind my trailer

The desert floor here is criss-crossed with small, but deep washes - the brush is thick and green!

Another great Arizona sunset

A bit breezy during the day, the wind abruptly died around sunset and we watched a very long sunset. The moon was quite late coming up, so when dark finally really fell, the stars were spectacular!

Big Day at the Rally

12 Feb, 2017; Dome Rock BLM, Quartzite AZ

A beautiful start to the day

I saw the sunrise this morning - had to get up early to get my stuff over to the swap meet - a great opportunity to find new homes for the camping stuff that hasn't worked out for me and perhaps pick up a few things that will be useful for me.  My used books and DVD's went on the 'free' table.

8 am is an early start for me; but even then, lots of folks showed up

Many people came with their coffee cups in hand, but sales were brisk - starting even before the 'official' open.

The cloudy skies meant a bit of rain later on for the ladder ball tournament and soup potluck - but not enough to scare off very many people.  As the rain lifted, an early campfire was started, and folks started to gather for a 'dessert potluck in the desert'.  This event was apparently a big hit last year -I really enjoyed it this year (although, I could have been a bit more restrained).

An entire potluck consisting of desserts?  Hey, we're grown-ups and can do whatever we want.

The 'unofficial' count for the rally was a bit less than last year but still a respectable 144 trailers (80 Casitas, 17 Scamps, 27 Escapes, a few BigFoots, Little Snoozy, Luc's 1974 Ventura, and a few SOB's).  The official count by brand/size will be posted on the Casita Forum.  I think the first year that I came (3 years ago), there were only about a half dozen Escapes!

Now, here's a novel way to exercise your dogs!

This Canadian animal-behaviorist has found a great way to keep her active dogs exercised!  She full-times in an Escape 17.

"Gee; Haw" - a paw-powered assist to this recumbent bike.  The Pomeranian sometimes ran alongside, sometimes hopped up for a ride.  Too cute!!

The day ended with another great sky

A Small town is developing

8 Feb, 2017; Dome Rock BLM,Quartzite AZ


Trailers keep pouring in 

Streets and loops are forming.  Addressing is being developed – ‘'I’m up on the Mezzanine Level” , “on the other side of the wash past the Ladder-ball area”,  or “up by Casita Heights”.  I’m “an East-ender”.

Ladderball practice area

Sweet shady spot with rock sculpture garden

"Casita Heights" - on the "mezzanine" level

One of the new style Escapes!!!  There are a lot of them here at the rally; some just a few days old!

This jumping cholla has been 'jumping' - hope this doesn't mean someone's dog got too close

BYOB/Chair and a concert!


Trailer Tours – a major activity

Walking in the nearby mountains, or just doing the rather large loops around our encampment, is great exercise.  Walking the trailer loop can take the better part of the day though – everyone is quite social so between meeting new/old folks and getting the scoop on clever trailer modifications, solutions to common problems and just cute decorating tips, I always look forward to picking up some good ideas.

Solar Port for hooking up an auxiliary solar panel - I'm gonna get this!

My Awning is ready for the wind . . . and visitors

Since the wind can pick up quickly, I wanted the sunblockers to be quick to remove so that I can put away the awning quickly if the wind gets too high.  I’ve replaced almost all the cord ties with quick release bungees.  I may add an awning tie-down for a little extra confidence (I may be getting paranoid after my experience with the PahaQue at Imperial Dam in December).

The ground is so hard I couldn't pound in stakes; so, I had to lash to big rocks!
The solar light is to help prevent tripping after dark.

I added grommets so the sideblocker would work (flipped vertically and horizontally from standard) for my size awning.  Still too long - but that's Ok - the front one is too short!

If the awning is still up at dusk, I add the solar rope lights so folks don’t walk into the arms.  I’ll run a strand of lights along the propane hose to the fire pit so no one trips on that when I’m using it, too.

Great sunset and some new friends returned

As we were settling in to watch the sunset, I got a message from Jeanne (FT in a small vintage Chinook) and Roz (motorhome towing a small car).  They'd been up at the Escapees North Ranch RV Park doing an RV 'Boot Camp' and doing the 'smart weigh' to get their rigs weighed and analyzed.

Now they're back in Quartzite for a bit more maintenance (interior shades repaired, and some solar mods).  They found a nice big open spot that easily fit both their rigs and gives them a great view of the mountains.

Today was sunny, warm and not windy.  So, it was still quite comfortable sitting outside as the sun went down.  I lit my propane fire pit and watched the stars come out.