Well actually, we’ve been home in San Francisco, sheltering in place like everyone else for almost two weeks now. I’m not really sure why I’ve been procrastinating this last post. Perhaps having to truncate the second month of the trip had something to do with it. This entire trip was difficult from the start. I had a couple of RV things go wrong before we left, and along the way we kept having to rethink our plans as more and more facilities shut down. In the end, the only practical and wise thing to do was to return home. So this post is about the last couple of excursions we took on the way.
Deadhorse State Park, AZ
We left McDowell Mountain Regional Park around mid-morning for the leisurely drive north to Dead Horse State Park. Because cancelations were coming in as fast as new requests for campgrounds, we were fortunate enough to reserve three days at the park on short notice. The weather had gotten quite windy and cold by mid-afternoon when we arrived. After the travel, we stayed in camp for the rest of the afternoon.In the morning, Mary was out very early. Not to photograph, but to hit the grocery store during the 6 AM senior hours, in hopes of scoring some much needed toilet paper and a few other scarce items – to no avail. They didn’t stock anything new since yesterday for the poor old folks. Mary was back to camp by 7 AM so we grabbed our coffee and headed out for a walk around the three main lakes that make up a large portion of the park. It is a very easy path to walk and this early in the morning, there are few other out. We parked in the lot at one end of the lakes and set out for the walk.We have always found interesting wildlife to photograph here. One year a javelina came trotting through our campground, another year we had nightly visits by a roadrunner. There wasn’t as much running around this time though. After crossing a dry wash to get to the lake, we were approached by a pair of mallards who were hoping for a crumb of something. Nothing for them, but they did make a rather attractive pair. The surprise this visit was the bald eagle that we found surveying it’s domaine. I couldn’t get nearly close enough to get more than this – another eagle dot to add to the collection. Also on this morning’s walk, we saw cormorants and grackles, red shouldered blackbirds, and great blue herons. The trees here are mostly cottonwood and perhaps mesquite. They often lent a tortured feel to the view – or maybe that’s just how I’m feeling. Where the cottonwoods were sprouting, the bright green foliage and graceful lines of the trunks inspired me. Along the edges of each lagoon, reeds and grasses grew into the water. The early low angled light helped enliven the scene. I wouldn’t really call any of the hikes here beautiful, but really lovely images can be made. I found joy in some simple bent reeds in one spot, while in another, I used the wide pathway to draw the viewer in. As I waited for Mary to come around the final lagoon, I spotted a great blue heron standing on the far bank. I knew it would take flight as soon as Mary got close – she hadn’t seen it. I stood ready to photograph it’s flight as Mary approached. When it took flight, I followed with my camera. Still not close enough, and not a single frame is sharp, but it was a fun exercise. We made our way back to camp and later took a rather confusing hike while trying to get to the Verde River that runs through the park. When the only access we found to the river was muddy and debris filled, we turned back. They’ve had quite a lot of rain this year.
March 26In the morning of our last day here, after a little breakfast and coffee, we took a short drive inside the park to the Coconino Trailhead. We had hoped for abundant wildflowers growing in the hills, but while there were a few, it was still too early for most plants to have developed. The trail is mostly very open with no trees nearby. From several points we could see the mountain mining town of Jerome. It’s a very touristy town these days and because of the pandemic, we will stay away. Along the way, the Tuzigoot ruins can be seen on one of the hilltops, while closer to town, urban sprawl is quickly eating up open space. This was a leg stretching walk today. We’ve seen very few birds and no wildlife, and the surrounding landscape was just not inspiring today. The day had been quite cold so far, but as we finished the trail, the rain that had been threatening, began to snow! Just a few hundred flakes, but it was a pleasant thing to see and it won’t be around for the drive tomorrow.
March 31We spent a couple of days driving our way back to California. Our route took us through Sedona, where the usual 45 minute slog through this busy sprawling town, took all of 20 minutes to get through. It was more of a ghost town today. There is extensive roadwork going on in the main part of town. Into the narrow 2 lane road, they are installing a center wall. I assume it will be to keep pedestrians from jaywalking across this very busy section of roadway, but it would have been an additional delay. We also stopped in Kingman for a night, then Barstow, CA for another, before arriving in Bakersfield on Monday.We stayed at the same RV Park in Bakersfield that we did at the start of the trip. It was even more deserted than before, and communication was through a plate glass window. On the way over and down the Tehachapi’s, we noticed a few nice areas of wildflowers. Not the huge, shower expanses, but nice little collections here and there. We decided to stay an extra day in town and do a morning drive through these foothills above and outside of townMary concocted a loop that started on Caliente Bodfish Road that took us deep into the hillsides. During a very wet year, these hills would be covered in the colors of a wildflower spring. Today there were just hints of what was possible. Still, we found some nice pockets that kept us busy. Around the outskirts of the hills it was becoming sunny and warm. As we drove deeper into the hills, patches of heavy fog lingered. It both softened the light and added interest to the scene. In an area know as Twin Oaks, light broke out again and we got into fields of Goldfield wildflowers. In some of the higher portions of the road, we found Baby-Blue-Eyes, Fiddleneck, and Poppies. As we headed back down the foothills, we came across a couple cowboys moving their cattle to greener pastures. This almost always happens at some point in the trip. It’s fun to watch the work dogs nipping at the cattle to keep them in line. We followed at a slow pace for a mile or so before the cattle turned off. Just before the big decent back down the hill, we came across a pretty elaborate memorial to a lost soul. This one came complete with solar lighting. This is the end of the trip blog for the time being. We have another 200 mile day of driving to get to Casa de Fruta, near Gilroy, where we will clean up the RV, do a final dump of the holding tanks and drive the final 80 miles home. Coming back to the bay area was bittersweet. It is always nice to come back here, but with such an abbreviated trip, we were far from ready.