Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Where to Next? Pahrump to Burro Creek, Arizona

March 23-28,2019

We arrived in Pahrump to find out that the RV parks were full of snowbirds and gamblers. It's Nevada, even the grocery store had a small room of slot machinges as you exited and entered it's one central entrance. (We decided not to gamble away the grocery money...) We finally found a nice RV park run by and behind the Best Western motel. We seemed to be the only transients. Everyone else was there at least for the season, if not longer. We paid for two nights, hooked up, and took care of groceries and laundry. We got over the air TV there, so we could view some news and weather.

Our next task was to figure out where to travel. We need to be back to Maryland by the middle of April to prepare for our volunteer job at the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park in Maine. That starts May 1st. The long range forecast is calling for storms to keep rolling in off the Pacific Ocean which for us means, rain, cold, and impassable roads for boondocking. We've spent the winter working our way to California, with the plan of making our way up Route 395 on the east side of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains, and as the weather warmed, visiting our favorite boondocking sites and a few new ones. Sadly, we realized that we couldn't wait out the weather and we needed to begin the turn east. So, it needed to be “Goodbye, California!”

Our first task after leaving Pahrump was to relocate ourselves back in Arizona. The higher elevations are still too cold, especially at night when dry camping, and the desert floor is beginning to heat up during the day. We drove past Las Vegas, over Hoover Dam, and retraced our journey south on Route 93 until we reached I-40 in Kingman, Arizona. A short drive east on that and we were soon driving south on Route 93 towards Phoenix. Greg had spotted Burro Creek Campground, a BLM spot on the way. It looked good for a night or two, if there were no connections. As we drove in we were surprised to see a dump and water. We found a site looking over the creek and canyon and settled in. The sun was shining and it was hot!

Looking down at Lake Mead from I-11
The view across Burro Creek from our campsite
Burro Creek BLM
We were just downstream from the US 93 bridge over Burro Creek

Enjoying cool desert shade

Neither of our phones had any connection. I have AT&T service and Greg has Verizon, both through Straight Talk. Our WIFI hotspot is T-Mobile through Millenicom. The hotspot has had the worst coverage as we travel. We assumed until the second day that it wouldn't connect either. Surprise! There is T-Mobile here and nothing else! That made our decision to stay 2 more nights easy. This is a quiet campground, easy to get to off the highway, but far enough away for privacy.

Burro Creek

Recent flood deposits of basketball size boulders
Raccoon Prints?
Our spot overlooking the creek valley

View from the top of the canyon

We have continued to debate where to go. Our plans have changed a couple times. In the morning we'll work our way over to Prescott and up to I-40 and head towards New Mexico and Texas. Currently, the weather looks good and we are far enough east now to be out of the rain and cold.

Death Valley and Ash Meadow

March 20-22, 2019

Once again, the weather was turning. Another storm was due in off the Pacific Ocean bringing rain and cooler temperatures. Death Valley looked like the only place that might escape, so since we had been hopeful to make it there this trip, we packed up and left Hole-In-The-Wall as the rain and cold came in. By the time we reached the northern side of the huge park at Baker, California, the sun was shining and the temperatures were warm. We struck off across the barren desert for Death Valley. This would be our third trip into the park and we were hoping to finally see parts of it that are only accessible with our four-wheel-drive truck. Driving the View motorhome around the park had limited us to paved roads and crowded parking at trailheads.

The sun was still shining as we reached the valley floor. We headed for Texas Spring Campground above Furnace Creek. We've had no problem getting in there in the past. All but part of one of the Death Valley campgrounds are first-come first-served. Texas Spring is generator free. This time there were no campsites available there. That was when we realized it was Spring Break! We drove back down to the main road and reluctantly checked in to Sunset Campground. It is a huge gravel parking lot marked off into campsites. No hook-ups here either, but we could get water and dump. Once again we were stuck beside all the big rigs running their loud generators from 7 am until 9 pm.

"Scenic" campsite in Death Valley
The temperatures remained fairly comfortable, but the rain started and went on all night. The next morning we had planned to drive out of the valley and visit Ash Meadow National Wildlife Refuge on the east side of Death Valley. We wanted to introduce ourselves to the volunteer coordinator and inquire about volunteering next winter. Change of plans, the road out was closed due to four feet of mud blocking it! The road south down the valley to Badwater was closed for the same reason. All the unpaved back roads were closed. Since we had no connections in the valley, we had to rely on the visitor center weather forecast. It read high of 78 degrees, partly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of rain. Okay, we decided to drive the paved roads and get out and see what we could, and try to do a hike. On the way to Stovepipe Wells we found a flooded road, but could drive through it. At Stovepipe Wells we got fuel, wandered the gift shop, and ate our picnic lunch in the truck as the rain started again. There appeared to be huge sheets of rain falling between us and the campground, so we gave up and drove back again before the road flooding got worse.

Road flooding in the land of few storm drains
Rain Showers advancing across the valley. Temporary lake formed.

We spent the rest of the rainy day in the trailer listening to our neighbor's generators. The weather cleared overnight, the sun came out, and the roads were open, so we drove out of the valley to Ash Meadow. It was a 45-mile drive and then we drove the last five miles on gravel roads after we left the pavement and entered Nevada. It sits in the middle of a wide valley, or basin, since this is Western basin and range topography. The water flowing down from the surrounding mountains emerges here in crystal clear springs and streams and creates the last oasis in the Mojave Desert. There are many plants, flowers, and wildlife which only exist in this place and nowhere else on earth. The visitor center and exhibits are only five years old and top notch. We walked the one-mile-long boardwalk behind the center and visited the gorgeous blue spring pool that surfaces there.

Spring outflow getting lost in the desert
The stream flowing out of the Crystal Pool.

Nice new visitors center
Crystal Pool
On the boardwalk to the pool and looking back to the visitor center.

Not too much chance of getting lost on the way in.
We met the volunteer coordinator and are excited to have a phone interview coming up soon for positions next winter. It's our kind of place; remote, small staff, and a place of environmental importance where we can make a difference helping to maintain it, and educating visitors. We took time for a picnic lunch there and found out we had cell connections, so we stayed awhile and caught up before we descended back into connectionless Death Valley.

We drove the long way back to come into Death Valley from the south. We've never driven it before and it gives another perspective to the barren, yet beautiful park. The backroads were still in bad shape from the storm, so we stayed on the paved road. Hopefully our next visit will give us a chance to explore more. The next morning we left the valley. We had been 25 days dry camping with no connections and were ready for hookups, groceries, showers, laundry, vacuuming out the gravel and sand, and topping off the batteries. So, we hauled the trailer back up the mountains out of the park and drove to Pahrump, Nevada to plan our next moves.

The southern route to Death Valley on Jubilee Pass Road and Badwater Road

In the valley bottom near Badwater

The Death Valley Oasis Inn

Looking across the basin near Furnace Creek to snow-capped mountains.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Lava Flow Boondock and Hole-In -The Wall

March 14-19, 2019

We spent four days and nights at the lava flow in Mojave Preserve and loved it as much as last time! Greg did some biking on the old sand road and washes. The weather was warm and sunny and we had the wash all to ourselves. We were close enough to the road to see an occasional car go by, but the opening to the wash was small enough that unless a driver deliberately turned their head at just the right time to look, no one saw us there. One afternoon four vans showed up for a geology field trip and we stood at our campsite and heard the lecture. Greg was quietly answering the professor's questions!
Geology Field Trip
We hiked up the wash, and on top of the lava flow. We stargazed and enjoyed the full moon that was strong enough to cast shadows at night.

The top of the lava flow

Looking up at the cinder cone source of the lava (10,000 years ago)
Baby spiny things - Barrel Cacti

Desert Holly

Our cozy campsite
Joshua Tree
Beaver Tail Cactus
Barrel Cactus
Grilling by Moonlight
The only downside was that our solar power controller decided to go beserkus on us while we were there. It was rapidly flipping on and off, making a racket under the couch where it is mounted. At the same time it wasn't consistently charging our batteries. Properly working solar is essential for our boondocking. Greg shoved his torso under the couch, stared at it for a while and apparently scared it enough that it decided to work again. It has had another “attack” since then and is still not fully charging the battery, but we've been able to continue to dry camp as long as we have good sunlight. Finally, on the fifth day we left to relocate to Hole-In-The-Wall campground in the mountains of the Preserve.
Hole-In-The-Wall campground
Local Yucca
Hole-In-The-Wall camp site
After a quick stop at the Kelso Depot, which is the old train depot, and the visitor center, we started up the washboarded gravel road into the mountains. Sixteen jarring miles later we arrived at the campground and easily found a site with a beautiful view of the valley and surrounding mountains. The campground has no hookups, but water and a dump, which we needed after four days boondocking. It was cooler and windier there, but even though generators were allowed, quieter than the cacophony of Katherine Landing. Few campers choose to use them here.

We had several pairs of neighboring jackrabbits
We did one hike on the Rings Trail which runs around the backside of the mesa into Banshee Canyon. We hiked it 5 years ago and the finish of the hike is a climb up metal rings embedded in the canyon walls to exit the canyon. I knew this time I wasn't up for the climb, so Greg went on alone and I retraced my steps back to the trailhead. Good plan, even though he beat me back to the trailer by a half hour! It was a beautiful day and I took my time photographing on the way back!

Hiking the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail

The entrance to Hole-in-the-Wall Canyon

Fierce Wildlife
So many wildflowers!

Looking up Hole-in-the-Wall Canyon