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  1. #1

    Default SW Winter Quick Trips - February 2016

    February brought warmer temperatures in the SouthWest, perfect for camping. We took advantage of the weather and made some short trips from our base in Tucson, AZ. Our first trip was to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, then a few days in the Phoenix area before heading to Death Valley National Park for the Super Bloom. Over the next few days I'll post a trip report and pictures from these quick trips.

  2. #2

    Default Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument - Day 1

    Monday, February 8, 2016
    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monumen

    On our way west from Tucson on AZ 86 we stopped in Sells for lunch at the Desert Rain Cafe for a tasty lunch of squash enchiladas, tepary beans and salad. This restaurant is run by the local tribe, Tohono O'odham, and off the main highway, but well worth the detour. It is only open M - F from 6:30 - 3:00. Each dish contains at least one traditional native food and the meal was very tasty.

    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a very favorite National Park Service (NPS) site, one we have visited annually for over 30 years. Recently a new superintendent has been appointed. He has not only re-opened areas closed for several years, but also opened areas that have not been open in the 30 years we have been visiting. Also he has extended van service (free) beyond the dirt road loops, now van transportation is provided to ranger programs at outlying sites. Campground has an extended no-generator buffer area, especially for tent campers. A few years ago they added solar showers to several of the restrooms.

    After setting up camp we did a short hike along the Victoria Mine Trail, it started very near our campsite. Along the way the light was striking an ocotillo highlighting the small, green leaves. This plant only leafs out when there has been enough rain recently. A treat for us desert rats.

    Victoria Mine Trailhead


    Back at camp we enjoyed our first campsite Happy Hour in 2016 with a gin 'n tonic and snacks!

    Happy Hour

    The sunset brought some color.
    Last edited by Pmount; 02-29-2016 at 08:14 PM. Reason: Day of week corrected

  3. #3

    Default Day 2 - Organ Pipe Cactus NM

    Tuesday, February 9, 2016

    We enjoyed a slow morning in camp before heading out. A new trail for us was the Alamo Canyon Trail which begins from a small primitive campground, near the north side of the park. It followed an old dirt road to a ranch cabin and ended at a corral. Later we were told that bighorn sheep had been spotted along the upper ridges in the canyon, but not seen by us today.

    Blue sky and Organ Pipe Cactus - no bighorn sheep

    Ranch house opening

    Alamo Canyon Corral

    Organ Pipe Cactus - small, medium & large

    Before going back to camp we went down to the border to confirm Lukeville still had services. Someone in the campground wondered if they had ice there or if Why, at the north end of the park, was the closest source for ice. There is still a restaurant, gas station and small store in business and selling ice.

    We then took a new section of road, one previously not open, that headed east along the border to two ranch locations. We stopped at the first one, Gachado Line Camp. There is an adobe building and some shade trees.

    Gachado Line Camp

    Back at camp we enjoyed another beautiful evening, daytime temperatures were in the low 80s with the morning lows at low 50s.

    Evening light through Ocotillo and moon

  4. #4

    Default Day 3 - Organ Pipe Cactus NM

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    After breakfast and before heading home we hiked the Desert View Nature Trail. This is a favorite hike that we have down many times, but always enjoy. It begins at the group campground, just behind the regular campground. It is a 1-1/2 mile loop trail with informative signs about the plants. It climbs up a slope, crosses a wash, then climbs to a saddle for great views to the west. There were some clouds that gave contrast to the blue sky.

    Desert View Trail

    Ocotillo blooms

    As part of the NPS Centennial year this park is offering an 'I Hike for Health' pin for completing at least 5 miles of hiking. There is a handout at the visitor center to record the trails you hike and you need to take a picture of yourself along the trail. We did several short hikes, as we don't get up and moving early enough to avoid the mid-day heat to enjoy a longer hike. The staff also provides van transport to trailheads, check at the visitor center to sign up and find out the schedule. The van stops in the campground, as well as the visitor center. This allows for a one-way hike back to the campground or visitor center.

    I Hike for Health brochure and pin

    A number of other park sites are offering this Centennial hiking program, some providing pins, others a sticker. So far I have learned that Coronado National Memorial, Chiricahua National Monument, and Ft. Bowie NHS all have the attractive pins.

    The drive back across AZ 86 was just as beautiful with a few poppies and other flowers starting to show.

  5. #5

    Default Mesa - Scottsdale - Tonto National Monument

    Thursday - Sunday, February 18 - 21, 2016

    I spent several days around Phoenix while my husband was busy volunteering at a state stamp show in Mesa, Airpex. We drove up on Thursday and spent the afternoon helping to set up the booth. The weather forecast was for clear skies and mid-80s, with morning lows in the low 50s, another great weather forecast for camping.

    The Phoenix area has a great set of regional parks managed by Maricopa County. On the east edge of Mesa is Usery Mountain Park. The sites have water and electric, and are very large. The restrooms are well designed with separate rooms for showers, at no extra charge. A site costs $30 per night with an $8 reservation fee. I had made reservations because this weekend the park sponsors an archery tournament; the campground is usually booked in advance.

    The evening was wonderful - beautiful sky at 180 degrees; facing east and west.

    Evening sky

    On Friday day I hiked up the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Mountains. The trail leads up to a saddle for a full view of Weaver's Needle, we hiked up part way to avoid the heat of the day. Weaver's Needle is a volcanic plug which can be seen from many vistas as you travel around the Superstition Mountains. Some flowers were starting to bloom.

    Trail views

    We got back to the parking lot for the trail head and found it full, 11:00 AM on a Friday. Back in town we enjoyed lunch at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company on Arizona Ave., just south of US 60. The beer was refreshing and the over-sized sandwiches tasty. They use the iconic US Forest Service shaped sign for their logo.

    The rest of the day was spent running errands and visiting with friends, then another delightful evening in camp.

    Saturday AM
    I spent the morning hiking around Papago Park, mainly looking for letterboxes. This park is now managed by the City of Phoenix and is very popular. At one point it was part of the National Park Service from 1914 to 1930. During WWII is was a Prisoner of War camp, 25 German prisoners tunneled out of the camp. Many turned themselves in once they realized they weren't familiar with the desert environment. This was in December, imagine if they had escaped in June!
    (Note: wikipedia was the only source that provided the history of the park)

    I enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch with a friend in Scottsdale at Kitchen 56. This was a casual place in an old gas station with a patio, bar and indoor searing. They food was very good and reasonably- priced.

    Evening at the campsite - friends came over to enjoy the sunset from Usery Mountain Park

    Starting from downtown Mesa I took a scenic day trip to Tonto National Monument. This is a small, out-of-the way unit which has ruins set up in a cliff. I drove north on AZ 87, Beeline Highway, through Fountain Hills, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and Tonto National Forest. Before reaching Payson, AZ I Turned SE onto AZ 188 towards Punkin Center along Rye Creek, as it feeds into Roosevelt Lake. There was more water than I have ever seen flowing along the creek, as well as snow-capped peaks. Before crossing the bridge that crosses behind the historic Roosevelt Dam I spotted a Great Blue Heron rookery, numerous of the birds perched in trees with nests nearby.

    Along the south shore of the lake is the turnoff to Tonto National Monument. The hike up to the ruins is steep, about 1/2 mi. New exhibits had been recently installed in the visitor center, which displayed and explained the local artifacts very nicely. Besides having the standard passport stamp there was the NPS Centennial stamp for this site.

    Afterwards I continued along AZ 188 into Globe, then back to Mesa on US 60. Some color from wildflowers showing up along the highway. Once back in Mesa we packed up the materials from the stamp show and headed back to Tucson. I enjoyed having several days to explore the Phoenix area.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-04-2016 at 09:28 AM. Reason: URL format herein

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    On the way back from Globe, along the 60 in Superior, is the Arboretum. That's always a nice stop, too!


  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    On the way back from Globe, along the 60 in Superior, is the Arboretum. That's always a nice stop, too!

    Yes, Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a great stop along US 60. It is now park of the Arizona State Parks system and this time of year is especially nice. An easy day trip from the Phoenix area.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default 4th Grader Program

    I was at Furnace Creek on Sunday to pick up my DV pass holder and I watched as a the NPS ranger on duty was providing the day pass to the 4th Grader who by virtue of her grade in school was providing free access for her famly to the park that day. Plus, he explained the Junior Ranger program to her. Very sweet interchange.

    Loved your report!


  9. #9

    Default Every Kid in a Park - 4th grade program until 8/31/16

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    I was at Furnace Creek on Sunday to pick up my DV pass holder and I watched as a the NPS ranger on duty was providing the day pass to the 4th Grader who by virtue of her grade in school was providing free access for her famly to the park that day. Plus, he explained the Junior Ranger program to her. Very sweet interchange.
    Thanks for mentioning about the 4th grader and her family getting free admission. This year, until August 31, 2016, every 4th grader in the U.S. can receive a free federal park pass good for the student and their family through the Every Kid in A Park. A classroom teacher or parent can access the paperwork to activate this incredible program. Anyone reading this who has contact with 4th graders please share!

  10. #10

    Default Heading to Death Valley NP

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016
    Start: Tucson, AZ
    Finish: Boulder Beach Campground (NPS), Lake Mead NRA, Boulder City, NV

    We left Tucson Tuesday AM with the aim to visit a new NPS site, collect the NPS Centennial stamps at several park sites and visit Death Valley NP during the 'super bloom' that had been reported extensively. I was thrilled with the flowers I had seen and photographed during our Spring trip last March, so I was curious what a 'super bloom' looked like in comparison.

    We took a new route through Phoenix to Wickenburg, the Google recommendation. The route took us north through Phoenix, up I-17 to W. Carefree Rd, AZ 74, across to Morristown, just east of Wickenburg on US 60. For a mid-day route through Phoenix it worked very well. With the growth of Sun City and surrounding towns in the NW Phoenix metro area, this route was faster, as it has less traffic lights.

    We arrived in Nevada, gaining an hour as we crossed into Pacific Time Zone, to Lake Mead National Recreation Area in time for me to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for this site. I worked on it at camp, Boulder Beach campground, just down the road from the visitor center. The evening light was gorgeous as we settled in for the evening.

    Across Lake Mead

    Only at a Vegas area NPS campground would you find the message about not using casino tokens to pay for camping.

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