Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Things have been a bit slow on the photo and blog front (they go hand in hand, with me), so I have not been posting for the last few days.

But here is the update. I forgot to mention that northbound from Yuma on Highway 95 I came across the sign to Martinez lake. Since I have not been there in the past I decided to check it out on the way north.
Maybe it was the weather, but I did not see any good boondocking sites, and the National Wildlife Refuge does not permit camping, so after a bit of a look around headed back north.

After Christmas I headed up to Lake Havasu, hoping for warmer weather, but it was a mixed bag and none too warm. I did drive a bit further up the Craggy Wash BLM site this time to see where that road went. I found that about the 3 mile mark it turns more or less into a quad trail.
But this did not deter me - for a while.
But I was worried about scratching the paint, so I soon turned around.
And, back down to where it was a bit more mellow.
I went into the Lake Havasu Home Depot to look at chainsaws, and was amazed to find some quite rude sales people - including some managers!
I was interested in a saw they had on display - but had none to sell. And the one they had listed was not on display. They argued with me for quite some time - till I was walking out in disgust. When I tried to find another manager to complain to about some of the staff, I finally found one who listened - and evenually sold me the saw I wanted (he let me name the price!). MOST of the staff were really good and helpful, but the ones I dealt with will ensure I won't go back any time soon. End of rant.

Unlike past times I have been to Lake Havasu, when there was hot boats parked side by side in the channel, this time there was only a single boat puttering through with a load of bundled up occupants, and a few stragglers wandering the waterfront paths.

So then, it was back to Quartzsite where I broke down and had a new propane heater installed in the camper, temporarily. The existing furnace works great, and is entirely sufficient, but it does consume power, which could be a problem night after night, or if you want to spend some time indoors during the day as well.
It would also come in handy if I ever decided to use the camper to go skiing or camp out in really cold weather, without a ready source of power to keep the furnace running.
But what I really bought it for, is for the 5th wheel at home, which would take a lot more power to keep the furnace running. With this heater, it can be operated and moved to the area of the rig that requires the heat, without necessarily heating the whole thing.
Stay tuned for ongoing reports of it's operation.
This morning in Quartzsite (above).

I took this photo of the beer sign to demonstrate the differences in prices between Canada and the US. As a general rule of thumb in Canada, you can figure $2/beer, then add a bit more.

Here, it is closer to 50 cents each. You figure out who is getting ripped off on the taxes!
Another rant!
Got the heater installed this morning in Quartzsite, now I have to decide where to go next. Or maybe I should do laundry, and get a haircut?
See you down the road.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

From the wide-open spaces of the Slabs, the next stop on my itinerary called for a stop in Yuma to visit friends and relatives.

Even the beer cans in this neighbourhood are well organized.
Some are even painted to resemble the local vegetation.
Flowers were blooming - at least in the baskets hanging close to the camper.
And I did say it was a bit of a change from the wide-open spaces of the desert.
Gosh. More flowers! Who would have known. Must have had a film to finish :-)
There was a helathy space of at least 2" on the driver's side.
And it must have been at least 5" clearance on the other side. Let's say it was cozy.
But the price was right and the hospitality was great and the food was good.
From there, it was up to Quartzsite for a few days over Christmas. Christmas was a good day to replace a vent cap on the roof and touch up some other areas with some fresh sealant.
As well as sit back, relax with the binoculars and see what was happening in the area.
Had the satellite dish out and watched a little 'Corner Gas' on Christmas eve.
Camp was in the 'short-term' visitor area where stays are limited to 14 days, but it was on the border to the LTVA, where a nominal fee is charged for several months.
Pancakes were on the breakfast menu. Pretty bad when you are blogging about pancakes - sounds like it would be better on Twitter (which I don't do).

It's been sunny, but not that warm here - so, it's off to Lake Havasu to see what's up there?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

When the time was right to leave Borrego Springs behind I looked at the map and thought that I would perhaps head south and check out some of the vast southern parts of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

But when I looked closer at some of the places along the way, I realized that I had already been there. So, instead I decided to head over to the well known 'Slab City' on the east side of the Salton Sea, and just east of the town of Niland. I had heard a lot about the place, but had not yet paid a visit.
I won't go into great details, but the place was a former US military base that was decomissioned decades ago, and has since been home to a few hardy year-round residents, and a great variety of winter visitors and residents.

Here is one of the military guard posts at the entrance to the area. 'Almost there'.And another onefurther down the road.

Right at the entrance is Salvation Mountain. It has been written about a lot and photographed a lot and it and Slab City were featured in the movie 'Into the Wild'. In August I blogged about another part of the movie that took place in Alaska.
The 'mountain' is pretty amazing and obviously is the result of thousands of hours of work and thousands of gallons of paint. You can Google it and find out many more details.
Here, you canwalk right up the painted face.
On a painted trail.
To the top; looking back down at the parking lot.
The 'company cars' are all painted and well adorned as well. I spotted one of these in Niland, and there was no doubt where it had come from!
Another view looking down.
And the back side of a new area. Wood, hay bales, plywood, pallets, you name it.

I realized that it is very difficult to generalize about this place - the extremes are just that.
You will see pretty much anything and everything here.And everything in between.
Sometimes it is not clear if something is undergoing construction - or demolition. Or both?But at least there is a complaint department in the 'Loner's on Wheels' section!

While generally everyone is very friendly, there are some gates and keep out signs, with all manner of debris used as fencing or barricades, or decoration.

There are operating businesses, such as this solar installation place, and a library that never closes - well, there are no doors.
On the entrance road there is a free 'shower'.
If you don't mind crawling down into a hole on a ladder.The glossy brochure said the water was from a hot springs, but when I felt it, it was rather cool. Likely very refreshing on a hot day, however.

There is a downside as well (in case you weren't paying attention), including probably decades of non garbage disposal etc.

There is no electricity, therefore there is a lot of solar happening, and a lot of generators. And a lot of dogs in some areas. There is live music on Friday nites, and apparently happy hour every day at 3.
I pulled in at dark the first night and did not know where to go, and ended up where there were a lot of running generators and barking dogs.

So the next day, I moved a bit further into the desert where I found plenty of peace and quiet.
With a nice view all around, and also back across the Salton Sea up towards Borrego Springs.
I could occasionally hear the Friday nite live music.
But that did not detract at all from the nice little campfire I was enjoying.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A spectacular 360 degree view was slowly revealed as the sun rose above the Salton Sea, illuminating the mountains and desert around me. Dull and drab in the darkness, they suddenly showed their vivid colours as the suns rays hit them.
I was on top of Font's Point, where the mesa suddenly drops away into a miriad of badlands, with numerous eroded channels twisting and turning as the infrequent floods searched for a way down to the Salton Sea, 20 miles to the east.

I had driven the four miles the previous evening up a shallow, unassuming wash, not really aware of any elevation gain, till sometime after sundown - which comes early in December here - when I walked up the short trail to the viewpoint and was somewhat shocked to find sheer cliffs dropping off all around. Even in the dark, it was impressive, the twinkling lights all around; most notably Borrego Springs, with it's airpot lights on far below and a lone aircraft making its late approach. But far to the east the lights of Salton City could also be seen, as well as a few scattered farms and homes out in the desert.
I had the place to myself, save a dedicated photographer, who spent the entire night out under the starry sky with his cameras taking photos of stars, meteor showers, and planets, I guess?
At first light he was gone, and with fresh coffee in hand, lawn chair, and binoculars and camera, I was set to watch the sun rise.
The view changes by the second, every change in angle of the sun reveals something new. I could see out to Salton Sea, where I had spent a night several years ago; I could see up into Rockhouse canyon where I had spent some time last year; I could see up into Coyote Canyon and Desert Garden where I had spent the night before; and I could see the winding state highway S22 as it winds and climbs it's way out of the valley bottom into the Pinyon range.
Bright white specks appeared in the desert; sometimes isolated and some in groups as fellow RV'ers camp spots were revealed. I had chatted with some 'Escapees' from Ontario the day before, and could see the group of their rigs in a modern day circling of the wagons. It wasn't too hard to imagine the colonization expedition that passed through this way and up Coyote canyon in the 1700's, except for the lack of cattle, as they headed to their eventual destination and established San Franciso.

I had departed Desert Hot Springs a few days previously, and spent a bit of time in Palm Springs filling up on propane, fuel, and groceries, as well as a Tomtom gps navigator. It was getting dark after leaving highway 86, onto the S22 towards Borrego Springs, even tho my new Tomtom wanted me to go the long way via highway 78! Just prior to entering the state park there was an RV or two pulled off, so I decided to join them, but found my own little mesa, surrounded on all sides by steep drop-offs and badlands. A low temperature of 10C was welcomed after some below freezing nights up around Barstow and beyond.

Then it was on into the town of Borrego Springs to catch up on bill payments, e-mail, news, weather, and then to the Park Info centre for an up to date map. Sunset is at 16:40 here at this time of year, so it is a bit of a rush to find a camp spot in daylight if you are in an unfamiliar area.
(Click on any photo for a larger view) New map in hand (Tomtom only knows 'real' roads), it was out to the north of town and into the Coyote Canyon area. We soon found a nice place to set up, and were serendaded a little later by the coyote choir - which was fitting. There had been sightings of a cougar and kitten in the area recently, but they must have been on days off!

The next day was sunny and warm, and a lot of time was spent just soaking up the warmth. I went for a short drive further up the canyon until it got a bit rough to be bouncing the camper over. There were some washouts and warning signs, and soft sand. I watched a humingbird for a while, before deciding on a more energetic pursuit.

The nearest trail was the Alcoholic Pass trail, so up we went. From the top, you can look over into adjoining Rockhouse canyon. From the story I heard at the info centre, the pass got it's name from early settlers who would hike over this pass to visit each other, always carrying a bottle or two to share with the neighbour?
As a result of the recent rain (the first rain since Feb, in this area I was told), some of the ocotillo cactus has begun to bloom.Others were not so lucky to survive in this harsh environment.
As I was sitting on a rock admiring the view, I heard a rock fall a short distance away and sure enough, there was my first (clumsy?!) Desert Bighorn Sheep! I managed to get a photo or two (where is that zoom lens when you need it) to prove my point.
It was about a 4/5 curl ram who looked very similar to our sheep at home in Alberta, but his horns were much lighter in color - perhaps due to the continuous sun exposure down here? We observed each other from about 150m, until he walked around the corner and out of sight.

When the hike was done, it was tempting just to sit back in the sun and let the early sunset take over, but instead I made a quick pass through town for some more groceries and headed out to check out this place called Fonts Point.

How great it is in the morning so step outside the camper with a hot coffee in hand, take in the view as it is revealed in the morning sun, and breathe in the aroma of sagebrush and mesquite! It would be better only if my cat Harley was along to enjoy it with me. He passed on just a year ago this week. I'm sure he is still along in spirit, and a few tufts of hair in the camper!