3/9 Update

2 Mar 04, Tue: Oxbow Estates RVP, Payson, AZ

Soon after leaving Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, we were on Rt. 260, then had passed through Camp Verde, and the beauties of Coconino National Forest were ours for the next few hours. As we ascended and occasionally descended through the mountains, admiring canyons and buttes, it was fun to keep on eye on the changing altimeter. When we reached 7100 feet, there were six inches of snow in the woods and the evergreens were extra pretty with their white coating.

We saw a few snowflakes when we turned south on Rt. 87 and then we were in the little hamlet of Strawberry in the Tonto National Forest. The next town, Pine, is a neat little town which is probably bustling in the summer, but today was quiet and receiving generous rainfall. Payson is quite a busy metropolis with many stores and businesses along the main drag. This seems worthy of note after driving many miles through natural beauty with no signs of habitation.

We'd suggest that 'Estates' is a very generous name for this RV Park, but the host finally agreed to honor our Recreation USA membership so, at $10.66 for full hookups, it's very acceptable. Behind the park there's a well-marked trail to a good viewpoint of surrounding mountains so we included exercise in that rate.

3 Mar 04, Wed: Windy Hill National Park, Roosevelt, AZ

We descended from an elevation of about 4500 feet in Payson, continuing on Rt. 87 to Rt 188 through the Matatzal Wilderness with its 6-7000 foot peaks to our west.

It was fun to refresh our memories of Lake Roosevelt as we approached from the north and found this perfect site overlooking the Lake. We're the sixth camper in this huge park.

While here at Windy Hill ($5.00/nt and no hookups) we had a long visit with the Georgia couple who were parked next to us recently at Tortilla Flat.

4 Mar 04, Thu: Catfish Bay on San Carlos Lake, Indian Reservation, AZ

After leaving Roosevelt and continuing south on Routes 188, 288 and to Rt 60 in Globe, the picturesque mountain vistas were as awesome as they've been for the last few days.

We pulled into the Apache Gold Casino in San Carlos (east of Globe) to prepare a sandwich and then decided to go east on Rt 60 and then southeast on Rt 70 to the San Carlos Lake Reservation where our map indicated we'd find a park with hookups.

The ride through the Indian Reservation was nothing to write home about (their lack of pride was most evident). When the lake came into view. we had our eyes open for an RV park as we continued on a road which was getting narrower and marked, “low maintenance”. We crossed over the Coolidge Dam built in 1927 on a curve in the road, and then the road became even more interesting, i.e., narrow, clinging to steep cuts in the mountain, and very high above the lake. We finally spotted a few RVs down beside the lake; a sign indicated Catfish Bay, the gravel road looked sound and acceptable so down we went. It was quite fine except for the few low places where recent rains made for a squishy surface. No problem going down, but we did give serious thought to negotiating back up.

We selected a spot beside the Lake in an area with about 20 other RVs of various descriptions, all randomly parked. (No hookups and no sign of a place to deposit a fee.)

5 Mar 04, Fri: – still on Catfish Bay, San Carlos Lake

This place has worked out OK, but since it rained all night, it seems prudent to stay right here and let the roads dry out. There are some greasy spots. Our neighbor who has been coming here for 16 years gave us the best route to exit and advised that there were a lot of rocks on the paved road over by the dam which further reinforced our decision to stay put.

The precipitation last night left lots of snow capped mountains around us, and it's now very picturesque.

The sun is shining, and it's drying out so we should be departing tomorrow.

6 Mar 04, Sat: Apache Gold Casino, San Carlos, AZ

Our exodus from San Carlos Lake was totally pleasant and uneventful, thanks to the Arizona sun drying out the road, but this route suggested by our neighbor is wide and has no hills and the surface is solid.

Minutes after pulling into our site at the Casino a young man approached and asked where we were from in NH. (New Hampshirites are a rare breed out here in the southwest.) Charlie and Wendy are from Canaan so, of course, we told him we'd lived in Lebanon for 30 years. He works at the food co-op where we always shopped. We had a couple more fine chats with Charlie and Wendy before we departed the next morning.

Another highlight of the day is sunshine. We basked in the warmth this afternoon and then walked over to the Casino for a buffet dinner. When we checked into the RV park, we were given some coupons for the Casino. After dinner we exchanged them for two dollar's worth of nickels. It didn't take long to leave them for the Indians, but it was fun and comprised our gambling for this season! Gambling with someone else's money is the way to go.

7 Mar 04, Sun: Oak Flat Campground, US Forest Service, Superior, AZ

What a nifty spot. We forded a creek to reach the unassigned parking sites in this undeveloped campground and selected a pullthrough in the curve of the creek. We listened to the 'babbling brook' while enjoying the warm sun this afternoon. There are tall trees here (that's rare), a few other campers and, we have to mention again, what a treat it is to have sun. This afternoon we hiked up a very rough road (perfect for hiking but not for vehicles) where, at the top it leveled off, and we found three large RVs, some tents and quite a few motorcycles and folks enjoying their little piece of paradise with lawn chairs and picnics. Obviously, they had arrived via a different route from the one we took. We have this on the list to investigate further.

8-9 Mar 04, Mon, Tue: Santa Fe RVP, Apache Jct., AZ

It's taken us over a month to travel full circle back to this favorite park, and it's a good thing we had reservations, as it's a very popular park – we aren't the only ones who know a good place when we find it.

We'll be busy here with routine errands for a couple of days – laundry, mail arrival, shopping, 'n stuff.

After the longest session of inclement weather we've experienced in our five years of visiting the Southwest, we're totally delighted with this heat wave which is now upon us. Monday night the temperature went DOWN to 65 degrees. That's a first for us too – it almost always drops down into the 40's in the desert – at least during the time of year that we're here.

We must also mention the desert flowers – all that rain has brought them to full brilliance so the roadsides are glowing with Mexican gold poppies.

Tomorrow, 10 March, we'll be checking into the Aztec RV Resort in Mesa for a week.

Cheers, Cal and Connie