Agua Caliente: March 9-11, 2018


San Diego County Route S-2 heading east.  The clouds looked ominous but we only had sprinkles.


I hesitated to post this blog for the fear of it going viral and having the masses ruin it.  We did the most amazing hike on Saturday.  All the maps don’t name it and only one of our hiking books mentioned it.  When we got home I googled it and a handful of people have posted something about it, so what the hell, why not post it.

It’s called Hornblend Canyon and starts at mile 26.1 on S-2.  There’s a small pull out at the bottom of the hill on the east side.  The canyon entrance is directly across the road on the west side.  Kudos to R for scoping it out.  His last few times out here (this is a guy who has probably spent 150 nights at Agua Caliente) he has been eyeing this wash.  It’s different from most of the hikes we’ve done in Anza Borrego because it begins at 2,300 ft elevation.  It’s at a transitional zone, so you see the typical desert flora at the beginning, but as you gain elevation you get to observe the changes in the plant community.  It’s actually quite fascinating.  We did 6 miles round trip and 1,000 feet elevation gain.  Some scrambling was required.  And look out for the Cat Claw shrub, it’ll reach out and scratch you.  R was a bloody mess by the time we got back to the truck.  If you kept going you’d eventually summit Granite Mountain.

This was our third trip to Agua Caliente with the Airstream.  It’s without a doubt a place to visit mid week.  The campground was packed to the gills over the weekend.  Families with kids running around all over the place.  Camping is a great thing for families to do, especially here since there is zero, zip, nada cell service at Agua Caliente.  It’s like a throw back to another time when kids actually played and did things outside.  It was quite refreshing to see.



G and R at the beginning of the Hornblend Canyon hike.  The next eight pics are from the hike.


California Juniper berries, of course R had some wisecrack about gin.


Lichen covered rock was everywhere.


Two Glorious Beetles foraging on juniper.


Sugar Bush


One of the most amazing things we’ve ever seen in Anza Borrego, vertical honeycombs from wild honey bees.  Bees were flying in and out so we were a little scared to get any closer.


Arizona Dudleya, one section of the hike had dozens and dozens of them in various sizes clinging to the rock walls.


Looking down on the 10-foot-high dry water fall


At our turn around point.  Is this whole selfie craze ever going to end?


As I mentioned, there is no cell service at Agua Caliente.  You have to drive 4 miles west to this spot for reception.  I made the drive on Friday and Saturday.  I just had to know how the San Diego State Aztecs were doing in their conference tournament.  They won it and are on their way to the Big Dance!


Ocotillo bloom at our campsite


And then there’s always this guy and lucky us, he was our neighbor.  The lights on his fifth wheel were bright enough to luminate his flag and the entire campground.  I’ll give him this though, he was a flag etiquette guy, once he finally turned off his lights the flag came down.


Elephant Tree from our short Sunday morning hike up Torote Canyon.  Tortote is Spanish for Elephant Tree.


A windy Friday night


No dramatic sunrise or sunsets, but a beautiful view of the early morning light on Sunday.


If it’s Presidents’ weekend, this must be Borrego: February 15-18, 2018


South Fork Palm Wash Slot


We had a little AARP get together this Presidents’ weekend.  A few members from the local chapters 92127 and 94552 were present.  Ages: almost 50, 57, 60, 70, 72, and 74.  It was the maiden voyage for the Birch’s as close to new as you can get without being new 2017 Airstream Flying Cloud 25FB Twin.  An Eye Doctor in Orange county bought it seven months ago.  He and his wife never used it.  The furthest they went was a couple of miles from the dealer to a large empty parking lot to practice backing up.  They couldn’t back up, so they drove it back to the dealer, stored it there, and never took it out again.  It had never been slept or pooped in.  The plastic was still on the mattresses and toilet seat.  I never cease to be amazed by people.

We had a nice three night stay at our usual spot off of Rockhouse Trail Rd.  This is probably no surprise to anyone living in SoCal, but the odds of a super bloom this year are less than zero.  The drought is apparently back after a one year hiatus.  We basically saw no blooms.  On Friday, our friend Donna drove out for the day and the group did the South Fork Palm Wash Slot.



Friday morning sunrise


Glowing like an opal in the dawnlight


Old Man Birch and Donna entering the slot


The lighting was magnificent.


Oops, thankfully a wrong turn.  It might’ve been tough to get everyone up and over.  All of us waited while Donna and Amelia scouted it.


Amelia, Denise, and Donna


Exiting the slot, pictured OMB, myself, Donna, and Rob.


Sara Marie staring at you!


OMB, Rob, myself, and Amelia relaxing around the campfire.  Georgie and Diego moving fast.


On Saturday we decided to see and do something we haven’t done, The Pumpkin Patch, Una Palma, Five Palms, and the 17 Palms Oasis.  After reading up on the Pumpkin Patch we knew it was a 7.5 mile dirt road.  At about 7.2 miles you leave Anza-Borrego State Park and enter Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.  For some reason I didn’t put one and one together.  Thankfully all the palm stops were in the State Park.



This is what one and one equals.


The famous Pumpkin Patch


Una Palma is no más.


5 Palms: the tall one is the last remaining one of the original five.  5 palms is now 6.


17 Palm Oasis is now actually something like 26 Palm Oasis.


Georgie reading the comments in the log.


Can you spot the Long-nosed Leopard Lizard?


Our usual spot


Exhausted from the big Chinese New Year celebration.  Year of the Dog!


Every year there are more and more metal sculptures.  Now they are also in town.  This one at “The Mall” caught my attention.


My new bike on Clark Dry Lake.  Yes, neon yellow is back and cooler than ever!


Saturday night dinner, courtesy of Rob and Denise.


Rob, Georgie, and crazy eyes


Saturday evening sunset


You can bet we’ll be out here again next Presidents’ weekend, but next time we are thinking about camping in the Split Mountain area.  It’s time to give Rockhouse/Clark Dry Lake a break.

Hot Springs Mountain: January 5, 2018


Looking down on the old fire lookout tower from the summit.


At 6,535 feet Hot Springs Mountain is the highest peak in San Diego County.  Cuyamaca Peak, which most people incorrectly assume is the highest, is actually 23 feet shorter.  Over a decade ago, Amelia, R, and myself were in the area and on a lark thought we would summit the highest peak!  We were so ill-prepared and uninformed that we didn’t even realize it was on an Indian Reservation.  But we pushed forward anyway until we finally got scared of all the signs telling us to get out, so we turned around.  Since then the three of us have been itching to do it.  For a while they were not allowing any access and at one point the tribe leased out 5,000 acres to an off shoot of the infamous Blackwater Security called Eagle Rock Training Center.  The Tribe eventually evicted them.

This time Amelia did all the research, played phone tag with the Ranger that grants access, and eventually connected with him.  The short story is once you enter the Los Coyotes Reservation there is a little ranger station.  You check in there, every person must present their ID, your vehicle must be a 4×4, pay $10 per vehicle, the driver leaves her license in exchange for the key to unlock the gate.  When you come back down, exchange the key for your license.  It all sounded simple enough so we planned a day trip and invited R and our friend Laurie.

We left our house at 7am and arrived at the ranger station around 8:20.  The open sign was hanging and we were all excited, soon we’ll be at the summit of Hot Springs Mountain!  No one was in the ranger station, next door there was a portable bungalow that housed the police station, no one was there.  So we tried the phone number we had, and could hear it ringing in the ranger station.  All we could do was laugh and then begin to feel defeated.  We decided to wait until 9 to see if a ranger would arrive, but I really had to urinate, and wasn’t about to do it on the Rez for fear of being arrested, so we drove down the hill off the Rez to a sunny warm spot so I could take a leak.  Right when I zipped up my pants an Indian dude and a chick pulled up in a truck.  She rolled down the passenger window and he said, “Hey, is everything alright?”

I walked the few feet to his truck, leaned in and surely had the look of amazement in my eyes when I saw how inked up they were and all the awesome piercings she had.

“Actually, we were hoping to drive up to Hot Springs Mountain, but there was no one at the ranger station.”

He laughed, “Just drive up to the community center, we just came from there, there are people there that can help you.”

“How do I get there?”

“You can’t miss it, just drive up the hill, you’ll see tractors on the left and the community center on the right”

“Cool, thanks!”

I went back to our truck.  The three of them had caught most of the conversation.  So back to the Rez!  Once we went past the tractors there was a big sign for the community center.  We drove down a steep little hill and in between the two buildings was a Tribal Police SUV with two cops in it.  We cautiously approached and told our story.  The two rangers/cops couldn’t have been more helpful, friendly, and nice, perhaps the best interaction I’ve ever had with a couple of guys that were armed.  They said to follow them back down to the ranger station.  We paid the $10 cash.  They asked for our licenses.  Ranger Rivers said they take down our names in case we don’t come down off the mountain, he said it’s been know to happen.  They couldn’t find the spare key to the gate, so we got a police escort to the gate.  They unlocked it, let us pass through, and then put the chain back up without locking the lock.  They told us to lock it on our way back.

The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians have the largest Reservation in San Diego County with 25,000 acres.  It’s an incredible piece of land and a beautiful drive to the top.  Two-thirds of the way up we entered a mixed conifer forest with Jeffery Pine, White Fir, and Incense Cedar.  There was one dicey stretch of road, but the Tundra handled it in 4hi.

The summit was amazing.  The views spectacular.  You could see Woodson, Iron, Black Mountain, Cowles, Fortuna, San Miguel, Cuyamca, Middle Peak, North Peak, Toro, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Santa Rosas, Salton Sea, Santiago, and Baldy.  With the binoculars you could see downtown San Diego skyline, Mount Soledad, and Point Loma. We had the entire mountain to ourselves, not a soul in sight anywhere, then two hours later, as we were all taking in the view to the north one last time, two fighter jets buzzed us, a mere 100 feet way.  It was like they were silently suspended in mid air within our reach.  It was dead silence until they passed and the sound caught up to us.  WOW!



Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 5.48.11 PM

The red marker is Hot Springs Mountain


The sign says open, but it wasn’t.


Amelia with Ranger Rivers after he unlocked the gate for us.




The fire lookout tower is not the summit.  It was built in 1942.  It was the third and last tower on Hot Springs Mountain.  R and Amelia in the picture.


The Tank below the lookout


The girls relaxing at a vantage point


Lake Henshaw and way, way in the distance Black Mountain



In the near distance is Palomar.  The far peak is Santiago in Orange County.


My wife


The tall lump in the distance is Cuyamaca, Middle Peak, and North Peak.


A magnificent old growth Eastwood Manzanita. You follow the little orange flags to get to the summit.


Amelia and Laurie on the summit. There’s a concrete foundation on top which may or may not be part of the original fire outlook in the photo below.


I found this on  An early photo, date unknown, of the original lookout built in 1912. Thanks to John Robinson for providing this photo.  You can tell it’s the same boulder the girls are standing on.


A Reference Mark points to the Benchmark. Usually they are within 50 feet of the Benchmark.


The Benchmark was placed here in 1939.


These straps were definitely needed to get up and down the summit.


Santa Rosa Mountains


Lichen Fungi


R on the trail leaving the summit


Group selfie by R


The end of the adventure, Amelia locking the gate

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: 12/30/2017-1/2/2018



Yes, that’s an Organ Pipe Cactus next to Amelia.


When we left MMRP, we intentionally took the long way to Organ Pipe Cactus through Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation on Indian Route 15.  It was a beautiful sad drive.  We’ve never seen so many roadside shrines (descansos) on one stretch of road.  There were dozens and dozens of descansos set up, many with altars, and at least three makeshift graveyards.  All told, easily over a hundred sites.  They were all colorful and beautifully decorated.  We really wanted to stop and respectfully check some of them out, but there was no shoulder or pull outs big enough for the truck and Airstream.  So we don’t have any photos to share.  It just seemed like way too many deaths to be all car accidents, so we started wondering if it was perhaps migrants that died crossing the border.  I couldn’t find any information on the internet, so I guess it’ll remain a sad mystery.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established in 1937 by FDR.  It’s 516 square miles.  In 1976, the United Nations recognized it as a Biosphere Reserve and it still is.  In 2017, United States withdrew 17 sites from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program, so now we are down to 30 sites.  This is the only place in the United States where you can see large stands of the Organ Pipe Cacti growing naturally.  A pretty cool place worth checking out!



Twin Peaks Campground site 161 in the no generator section.  Five miles from the border.


New Year’s Eve sunrise, silhouettes of Organ Pipe Cacti, Ocotillo, and Saguaros


Arch Canyon in the Ajo Mountains


Bare wooden ribs of a dead Saguaro


Amelia standing between a couple of mature Chain Fruit Chollas


Bull Pasture hike


Bull Pasture, the mountains in the background are in Mexico


Are they trying to warn or scare you?  I guess it depends on you.


These water stations are set up by Humane Borders.


Over 3,000 migrants have died in the Arizona desert since 1999.


The fence that separates USA and Mexico.  The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument southern boundary is the border.


Not car problems, Packrat, aka white-throated wood rat problems.  The park recommends leaving your hood open so they don’t nest in your engine compartment.  It was pretty funny walking the campground loop and seeing everyone’s hood open.


Forget the ball drop at Times Square, we said goodbye to 2017 with an incredible sunset.  Late afternoon I began predicting to anyone that would listen to me that the sunset was going to be one for the ages.  It was a spectacular hour long show that was better than anything we’ve seen on Netflix all year.



4:42pm…this is when I knew my prediction was going to come true


5:19pm…progressing nicely









5:51pm…this is my favorite.  The blue just pops.




The iPhone takes amazing pictures, but it still struggles with moon pictures.  There’s just not enough light.



New Year’s Day 6:08am…Super Moon setting between two Saguaros


New Year’s Day 5:47pm…Super Moon rising over the Ajo Mountains


MMRP: December 25-30, 2017


Crazy late afternoon sky


Have you heard this one?  There are people that are afraid to take the I-8 between Phoenix and San Diego because of the Mexican drug cartel.  The interstate runs too close to the border.  The rumor is the cartel is on the mountaintops and has spotlights sending signals to each other regarding when to move the drugs across the border.   You don’t want to be on the road when it happens because they’ll kill you.  So the safe bet is to always take the I-10.   At least until the wall is built!

We rolled the dice and took the I-8 on Christmas morning.  At one point between Yuma and Dome Valley I thought I saw someone signaling with a mirror towards the border.  It must’ve been my imagination getting the best of me.  In less than seven hours we made it out to McDowell Mountain Regional Park (MMRP).

MMRP is one of the best campgrounds in which we’ve stayed.  It’s a well maintained, beautiful park with wide open vistas of the desert and surrounding mountains.  If you are in the south loop there’s so much space between sites it feels like you are boondocking.  Hell, we’ve been in closer quarters boondocking in Borrego.  It’s $30 a night and all sites come with water and power, no sewer.  The bathrooms and showers are very clean.  The shower is included in the price so no need to hoard quarters.  And I’m talking about hot showers (what’s with this cold shower craze all the health and wellness nuts are swearing by?)  The catch is the campground is always full, so you need to plan in advance.  And they are only open for six months.  It’s just too hot the other six months.

And now for the biking, because why else would we be there for five nights?  There are miles and miles of beautiful singletrack in MMRP and it connects to Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which also has miles and miles of beautiful singletrack.  It is fast, flowy, and fun, not the least bit challenging, but still very enjoyable.  My favorite was the Long Loop at McDowell Competitive Track.  Both areas were really easy to navigate because of the terrific signs at every intersection.

The weather in the greater Phoenix area, aka Valley of the Sun, is very pleasant this time of the year, just like San Diego, but a little drier.  Call me soft if you want, but I think Valley of the Sun is uninhabitable in the summer.  It’s just way too hot and I couldn’t imagine being a prisoner to air conditioning 24/7.

Every morning and evening the campsite was full of birds that we don’t see in San Diego. Coveys of Gambel’s Quail walking through our site.  Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers perched on Saguaros and Cardinals flying around.  We enjoyed our stay so much we tried to extend it, but all 76 sites were completely booked.  When Amelia turns 70 she’s going to do a 6 month camp host gig out there, she said I can come too if I want.



Merry Christmas from McDowell Mountain Regional Park site #43.


I never thought I’d be saying this but, kudos to Maricopa County.


One of the few sustained climbs


Amelia works in Escondido and my mom used to, so I had to take a picture.


Sunrise over the mountains.  That’s Four Peaks on the left.


The Queen of MMRP


McDowell Competitive Track has three loops: Sport, Techincal, and Long.  We did all three, Long was the favorite and Technical was not technical, but fun.


This is the entrance to Long Loop.  As the sign states, if you want to doinky doink around go over to MMRP.  This is a one directional, put the hammer down, and go fast trail.


Jackass Junction: you gotta love the skeleton wearing a Santa hat and flipping the bird.  The couple that doesn’t look like mountain bikers aren’t mountain bikers.  They are E bikers.


I love this kind of stuff.


Bike part art


Bring water, when it’s half way gone turn around…solid advice.


Amelia already put this on The Instagrams and Facebooks, kind of taking the wind out of my sails.  People on the trail with headphones, ear buds, or speakers are a big pet peeve of ours.


McDowell Sonora Preserve has the first no E bikes sign I’ve seen.  They allow them at MMRP.


Typical singletrack


A fun section on Rock Knob trail


MMRP is a fantastic campground!






Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada: November 21-22, 2017


Fire Wave


On our way home we had a quick overnight stay at Valley of Fire.  We got there early and were lucky enough to grab a campsite.  There are two campgrounds with a total of 72 sites.  It’s all first-come, first-served.  It’s a shame we only had a few hours instead of a few days.  There are a lot of hikes and amazing things to see in the park.  And Lake Mead is just a few minutes away.  We drove the scenic White Domes Rd and got in one short hike to the Fire Wave.

In the middle of the night the campground was dead quiet.  Amelia, sensing I was also awake, said, “Do you hear that noise?”

“Yes, I’ve been listening to it for a while,” I replied.

“What do you think it is? Could it be a moth?”

“I don’t think so, it sounds like a rat.”

“Well get up and figure it out!”

So I dragged my rear out of bed and of course Sara also got up.  The sound was definitely coming from under the sink, but Sara was banging on the door, so we went outside and both pottied.  The stars were amazing.  We came back in and I opened the cabinet sink, sure enough rodent droppings, but no vermin.  Good, I was thinking let’s go back to sleep.  A few minutes later Amelia says, ” I hear it again.”

So did I, so we all got up this time to have a closer inspection.  Of course, we couldn’t spot it, but we saw what it was chewing on, a small container that holds Sara’s treats.  There were pink plastic shavings and teeth marks on the container.  So we removed all the food items and even Sara’s pill containers.  “Problem solved,” I said.  “Now let’s go back to bed, it’ll be light in 3 hours.”

A few minutes later, Amelia says again, “I hear it again!  I think it’s in the trash can.”

I drop a barrage of F bombs, get up yet again, and pull out the garbage can.  After that it was peace and quiet.  The big question is, did the vermin hitchhike a ride to San Diego?

We had an easy just over six hour ride home.  I was grinning ear to ear at all the suckers going north on the 15 through the dreadful Inland Empire.  The only thing dumber than going north on the 15 on a Friday, is going on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving!

When we pulled up to our house at 2pm it was 100 degrees.  That’s quite a hoax the Chinese are perpetrating on the world.



Campsite #10


A sure sign the apocalypse is near, those darn Pink Jeep Tours are now at the Valley of Fire.


This huge One Way street sign couldn’t be more out of place.


Rideable rock everywhere


A perspective shot


We intentionally ventured off course.


Our first glimpse at the Fire Wave.


Fire Wave


We didn’t get The Narrows, but this was quite an unplanned treat.


So many different colors of rock




Petroglyphs on Atlati Rock.  It’s a shame there are so many stupid people that vandalize.


This area was named Valley of Fire because of the sunsets!


I couldn’t resist including this artsy Airstream picture.

Sheep Bridge Road, Virgin, Utah: November 17-21, 2017


Sunrise on Sheep Bridge Road with the peaks of Zion National Park.


Note to self:  Never, never, ever take the 15 North towards Vegas on a holiday Friday, or any Friday for that matter.  And don’t think if you leave at noon it’ll be all right.  A six plus hour drive to Mesquite turned into an eight plus hour drive.  Traffic always sucks, but to be out in the Mohave desert, in the middle of nowhere, in stop and go traffic is stupid.  Waze isn’t going to help you on this drive.

We were hemming and hawing since our last trip about where to go pre-Thanksgiving.  Then the Bennetts contacted us in mid October; their Belgium trip fell through and they wanted to know if we’d like to meet them in the Zion area.  We thought about it for a minute and replied if the weather is cooperating we’ll be there!  Odds are it would be chilly, so we wouldn’t need full hook-ups like we do in warm weather to prevent Sara from baking like a potato in the Airstream while we are out riding.  This could be the perfect opportunity to boondock and finally hike The Narrows in Zion.  Every Spring when we are out there The Narrows are typically closed because the North Fork of the Virgin River is flowing too fast and too high.  So we boned up on boondocking and The Narrows and even researched pet sitters, so we could exceed the 6 hour max alone time for Sara in the Airstream.

Two weeks before departure while riding with my Thursday night group, Cory mentions he’s going to Hurricane with Josh and a couple of other guys.  None of them had ever been so he’d been researching all the rides.  Their dates matched our dates, so I told him to stop his research, that I was the mayor of Hurricane, and I’d love to guide his group around.  We get a real kick out of showing first timers the incredible rock terrain.  It’s like reliving our first visit.



You haven’t lived until you wake up at sunrise in a Walmart parking lot. This one is in Mesquite, Nevada.


Less than two hours later a prime spot on Sheep Bridge Road with Gooseberry Mesa in the background.  Sheep Bridge Road runs between Utah Highways 9 & 59.


What the hell!  Get off the table!


Rest in peace Robin.


North Rim of Gooseberry Mesa, Amelia close to the edge.




Cory and a short stocky guy.  I’ve lost an inch and a quarter off of my height.



Amelia on Gooseberry Mesa.


I’m predicting when I hit 60 in three years, Amelia will be taller than me.


Beautiful morning light at our campsite.


She loves her morning sun.


Post Gooseberry ride get together.


Mike, Amelia, and Chris on the one and only Little Creek Mesa.


Amelia with perfect form.


Josh airborne.


Who drained the pool?


Mike’s laughing, bending his knees, doing his best to make me not look like a short stocky guy.


Amelia riding away on Little Creek Mesa.


After Little Creek, the guys came back for dinner.


And a little revelry.  Left to right, Mike, Chris, Cory, Christian, Josh, and Amelia.  A very compatible and super fun group of folks.



What a scenic spot and free!  


The Queen of Sheep Bridge Road.



If you are blogging about the Hurricane area, you have to include a pic of Molly’s nipple.  That speck is Amelia.


Buzzkill, but one hell of a sunset.


The flat tire was the final nail in the coffin of The Narrows hike.  It just wasn’t meant to be; red flags were popping up everywhere.  First, the road in Springdale, the town right before the entrance to Zion, was all tore up, with only one lane open, and a flagman 24 hours a day, with waits up to 30 minutes each direction.  Second, Zion was a lot more crowded than the park service anticipated.  It got so bad they stopped letting people enter the park.  In hindsight I’m sure they wished the shuttles were operating.  Third, the pet sitter never got back to us.  Finally, while we were driving into Springdale the evening before our big Narrows adventure to rent gear for hiking up the river, we got the flat tire.  At least it didn’t happen while we were towing!  The Narrows will have to wait for another day.



The Lagunas: September 22-24, 2017


California Goldenrod


It might not be the Sierras or the Rockies, but the Laguna Mountains are pretty darn nice and only an hour away!  Yet we seem to only get out there about four times a year to ride our bikes, and every time we ask ourselves, why don’t we come out here more often?  This time we took the Airstream and spent the weekend at Burnt Rancheria Campground.

We were very impressed with the campground.  It has 110 sites, mostly for tenters, but a handful a sites will accomodate trailers our size and larger.  It is very spacious and spread over multiple loops.  Even though it was nearly full, it was quiet.  Since it is at 6,000 feet it’s only open from May till typically the end of October.  Yes, it snows in San Diego County.

According to R, Amelia actually camped here in the fall of 1971 in the family’s VW bus, but she was too young to remember it.



Brand spanking new sign.  Beware, if you are driving north on Sunrise Highway, the sign is immediately past the entrance.  We passed it and had to hang a u-turn, which is always interesting while towing.


OMB checking out the campground map.


Yucca loop, site #24, selected for optimum solar power.


The Birch’s site, Yucca Loop #22.  A beautiful oak canopy spot.  That’s Georgie and Diego on the road.  OMB is backing in.


Friday afternoon we did the short hike to the desert overlook.  Saturday morning our friend Quan met us at the trailhead for Noble Canyon, an IMBA Epic ride.  There are two types of riders, those who shuttle and those who don’t.  We didn’t.  Saturday afternoon, Shelli and Osborne came down from Orange County, spent the night with us, and rode the Big Laguna Trails on Sunday with OMB, and another friend Jennifer, who drove out that morning.  After the ride we had a few snacks, broke down camp, hitched up, and were back home in 70 minutes!  One more day sure would have been nice.



Acorn Woodpeckers are all over the campground.  They drill holes into the bark of Jeffery Pines  to store acorns.  It does not harm the tree.  These are called granary trees, from the latin word granaria, a store house for corn.


Here’s an up close shot.  See the acorns?  When the fresh ones dry out they’ll move them to another smaller hole.


Boo hoo no bikes.


The Desert View trail overlaps a small portion of the PCT.  In our dreams, PCT stands for perfect cycling trail.  Someday it will be open to bicycles, but probably not in my lifetime.


Eastwood Manzanita


The Desert View.  That’s the Salton Sea way, way off in the distance.


Amelia, Sara, and the Birches, leaving the Desert View.


Amelia at the top of the first grueling climb of the Noble Canyon loop: Pine Creek Road, 4 miles and 1,100 feet elevation gain.


The girls taking it easy before the next climb.


The next climb is Indian Creek Trail: 2 miles and 800 feet elevation gain, but this is dirt!  Not that easy pavement stuff.


Indian Creek trail.  If you enlarge the pic you might be able to see Amelia.  That’s Cuyamaca Peak in the background.


Quan and Amelia taking a quick break at Penny Pines.


Back at the bottom, sorry no pics of the fun downhill, we were too busy passing and staying out of the way of runners that were competing in the Noble Canyon 50k.


Amelia and Shelli, bundled up.  It was chilly.  Low 30s in the morning, we even had ice on the truck and Airstream Saturday morning.  The mat and chairs at the rear are a telltale sign of the campground really being for tenters.


Sara and her two boyfriends.


Crowded Airstream for dinner, 5 adults and 3 dogs.  Yup, that’s an Alpine Duet IPA on the table!


Big Laguna Lake


Amelia, Shelli, and Jennifer


Incense Cedar


Jennifer and Shelli


The blogger


Big Laguna Trail


North Rim Grand Canyon: July 29th -August 2nd, 2017


The view from Bright Angel Point.


We knew the North Rim was going to be fantastic, because the South Rim was, and come on, it’s the Grand Canyon!  But the big surprise was the drive from Jacob Lake to the campground entrance.  Once you get a few miles in, there are multiple huge meadows on both sides of the road.  Green grass, flower fields, and a mixed conifer forest with Blue Spruce, White Fir, Ponderosa, Doug Fir, and Quaking Aspen.

Visiting one of the popular National Parks is kind of like a United Nations field trip.  You hear all kinds of languages.  It’s really quite interesting.  We heard German, Dutch, French, Japanese, and Spanish being spoken.  And those are just the ones we were able to ID.  Of course Amelia busted out her Spanish and chatted up a group.

Unfortunately there were some ugly Americans in the campground.  Three rich families traveling together in their Cruise America RV rentals.  Two on one side of the road, one on the other.  Constantly yelling back and forth to each other; the kids were little shits, and the parents worse.  Just really annoying oblivious people.  They left Monday morning and the campground turned into a serene paradise.

The Grand Canyon is ginormous.  What a lot of people don’t realize is part of it isn’t in the National Park, but instead the National Forest, and on the North Rim there are places you can camp right on the rim.  That’s where we rode the Rainbow Rim Trail on our first day.  It was an hour drive to get there from the campground, mostly on dirt roads, but totally worth it.  The next day we did a strenuous 9.4 mile round trip, 3,000 plus feet drop in elevation hike down into the Grand Canyon to Roaring Springs.  It’s always a whole different perspective being in it and looking up as opposed to just viewing it from the top down.  On our last day we put on our tourists hats and drove the Cape Royal Road to all the view points.

My only negative comment, and I’m sure “they” have their reasons, but National Parks aren’t exactly pet friendly.  Not that Sara is a hiking dog, but it still puts a limit on what we can do with her.



One of the meadows on the drive in.


Beautiful campground, but between the afternoon clouds and pine trees our solar panel really struggled.  It struggled so much that we even pondered if we should invest in a generator.


Pineywoods Geranium


This viewpoint was less than a 5 minute walk from our campsite.


Rainbow Rim Trail


Parissawampitts Point on the Rainbow Rim Trail.  Our neighbor thought it looked like a fake movie backdrop.  This is the real deal.  Standing at a Grand Canyon viewpoint is amazing.  Ripping around a corner on a mountain bike and having the view in your peripheral vision is mind blowing.



Another pic of the Rainbow Rim Trail.


In 1984 a thunder downburst caused a timber blowdown in the Kaibab National Forest.  200 acres were completely destroyed.  This is some of the replant and why it seems unnaturally in rows.  This is off of the FS22 road on the way out to Rainbow Rim.


Bigelow’s Tansyaster


Slendertube Skyrocket


Nodding Dwarf Sunflower


Oxeye Daisy


This is the Beagle in Sara.  She’s trying to dig a hole to China.


I know it’s blurry, but I just had to include it.  Sometimes I just love campgrounds.  This is post downpour and I got a kick out of this couple in their matching clothes, including Hawaiian Juice jackets.  Amelia said something like, “I don’t see why you think it’s so funny.  Look at us we, look like bobbsey twins.  Same black Columbia jackets, khaki shorts, and sandals.”  She had a point!


On our way down to Roaring Springs we had to pass two mule trains.  Thankfully the mules only go two miles down to the Supai Tunnel.  There was fresh mule shit and puddles of urine everywhere.  Amelia was disgusted.


Supai Tunnel



You can see Redwall Bridge in this pic and the trail beyond it.



Redwall Bridge, the 2.6 mile mark.



Dwarfed by the canyon walls.


A Grand Canyon Rattlesnake!  This subspecies is found nowhere in the world but the Grand Canyon.  Some Grateful Dead looking hippie kid from Olympia, Washington pointed it out to us.  He was going uphill, we were going down.  He was watching it slither for 30 minutes.  He said it was the first rattlesnake he’d ever seen.  I told him they were a dime a dozen where we live.


Roaring Springs, 4.7 miles down.


Angels Window.  Can you see the Colorado River in the window?


On top of Angels Window.  That’s the Colorado River to the right of Amelia.


A Grand Canyon Sunset.


Monsoon Season in Flag: July 25-29, 2017

Just so you know, no one refers to Flagstaff as Flagstaff.  It’s Flag.  And the WTF stickers on cars in the area mean Welcome To Flag.


Airstream living.


Well, maybe it’s because I’ve learned to lower the bar in my old age, so not to be so easily disappointed, but Flag exceeded my expectations.  We had a great boondocking spot on Shultz Creek Road, great biking trails just outside our door, we met a great guy, Matt, and biked with him for three days.  All that and my buddy, Acomb, came to Flag with his youngest son to visit us and his oldest son, that lives in Flag, recently graduated from NAU, and works at Mother Road Brewing.

We were able to ride every morning, albeit one day we got soaked at the end of the ride. The novelty of the monsoon season has worn off.  Rain, rain, go away.  Between Prescott and Flag we had rain for 11 straight days.  Amelia thinks one day it didn’t rain, but I think she’s nuts.

So who is Matt?  Here’s how we met him…

Once we got to the dispersed camping area, Amelia pulled the Airstream off to the side of the road and I got on my bike to scout for a proper boondock spot for our 25 foot Airstream.  That’s our routine when boondocking.  The last thing you want to do is get yourself into trouble trying to get to a spot.  It could be a rough road, not have enough sun for solar, or not enough room to turn around.

The first spot had a couple of tents and was difficult to access.  The next spot was perfect: wide open and like a cul de sac.  And that’s where Matt and his Vanagon were.  So I struck up a conversation with him and asked if he’d mind us horning in on his spot.  He said, “Not at all.”  I biked the half mile back down the road, told Amelia we have a choice spot, and to follow me.  We got in no problem and unhitched.  While Amelia was fiddling around in the Airstream, I went over to chat with Matt.  I instantly knew he was a good egg.  And totally out of character, I invited him to bike with us the next morning at 8 am, without even conferring with Amelia!  It’s always the other way around; in our group of biking friends Amelia is famous for inviting strangers on rides.  He seemed happy to have the invite.  The next morning it became quickly apparent that he was like Amelia’s cousin Forest, about one skill level above us, but still we rode together and shared meals and beers.

Matt is in his late 20’s, and has lived outside of Seattle his entire life.  He decided to roll the dice and move out to Tennessee to live with relatives and try something different.  He left the Seattle area in mid June and hopes to be in Tennessee by the end of August. Meanwhile he is mountain biking all the hot spots in the west and visiting friends along the way.  I have a hundred bucks that says he won’t make it to Tennessee by the end of August; he’s having too much fun!



Here’s the spot!  Elevation 7,461 ft.  It’s an optical illusion, the Airstream looks slanted but we are actually level.


Matt and I at the junction of Dogfood and the Arizona trail.


Amelia on the Arizona Trail.


Cutleaf Coneflower


Matt getting air.


Flat tire for the blogger.  That’s what happens when big guys try to get air on a hardtail!


Tachinid Fly on Amelia’s handlebar grip.


Day two, end of the ride it just poured on us.  Amelia was soaked, cold, and not happy.


I was feeling like a little boy splashing through puddles, getting muddy, and completely drenched.


Matt and Amelia, day three, we did a shuttle ride from the top of Elden Mountain, down Sunset to Little Bear to Schultz Creek to Arizona Trail, and down Dogfood to our campsite.


This part of the trail was faint, around the next corner we saw a herd of elk above us.




A rare pic of the Harris’ riding together.  Thanks Matt!


New Mexican Vervain


It was amazing riding through lush green flower filled meadows.


Yellow Salsify


Acomb’s oldest, Brent, and chubby Sara.  She always puts on a few ounces while vacationing, but then again who doesn’t?  We hosted dinner for six on Thursday night in the rain.  Somehow this was the only pic?


Acomb and I with his two boys, Tanner and Brent.


Downtown Flag


Saturday morning, saying good bye and good luck to Matt.


Sweet curtains in his Vanagon!