4/2 Update

18-23 Mar 04, Thur-Tue: Aztec RV Resort, Mesa, AZ

We've added more days to our stay here at Aztec, making a full two weeks. Although we had planned to move north and east on the 20th, that's not happening.

During the recent days since our family departed, the pieces have fallen into place, and we're on the trail of a massage therapist and a Chiropractor. Both of us are feeling much better after a couple of appointments with the professionals.

We're taking advantage of our time in Mesa to do a little shopping in the area. The A/C is going full tilt and is keeping us comfy as can be during this unusual hot spell. Connie is taking advantage of the pool and both are learning more about the west from the books we recently purchased.

Yes, we were just mentioning the long, unusual cold spell, weren't we? We switched from catalytic heater to air conditioner in less than a week. The natives are complaining about these temps which are 20 degrees above normal, but we snowbirds are loving it. Do wish we could ship some of this heat back East where Spring is being so elusive.

24 Mar 04, Wed: Apache Gold Casino, San Carlos, AZ

It was on January 24th, two months ago, that we arrived in Apache Junction and that's a long time for us to stay in one area, but we've enjoyed every minute of this great part of the state.

Our two-weeks at Aztec RVR passed quickly, and now we've happily returned to open spaces, lower temps, and a delightful breeze here at Apache Gold Casino.

25-26 Mar 04, Thu-Fri: K-Bar RVP, Show Low, AZ

We're looking forward to our adventure in a new-to-us section of Arizona. As we left Globe on Rt 60 this morning, we climbed through the southeast corner of the Tonto Nat'l Forest, “a sea of desert shrub and semi-desert grasslands.”

The terrain soon changed to vegetation-covered hills. At the 6000 ft elevation, another change: pinyon pines and juniper, and soon ponderosa pines. After passing Seneca Lake in the San Carlos Apache Reservation where Geronimo once lived, the road dropped dramatically, opening up to breath-taking views of the Salt River Canyon.

You remember how we raved and carried on about the cliffs, canyons, and awesome vistas as we wound from Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt Lake a few weeks ago? Well, the Salt River Canyon is even more spectacular, in our opinion. (And the highway is wide, well paved, and has guardrails.) The great winding switchbacks were flanked by colorful sedimentary and basaltic rock faces—the canyons and mountains were totally awesome as we descended hundreds of feet to the bridge where the rushing Salt River coursed through the valley. Words can't do it justice.

Across the bridge we entered the White Mountain Apache Reservation and Rt. 60 climbed out of the Salt River Canyon with equally impressive vistas. We entered a deep Ponderosa pine forest and soon were in the town of Show Low.

Show Low is considered the capital/gateway of the White Mountains. It's home to about 8000 people but triples that number in the summer.

This K-Bar RVP is small, but nifty, and we love listening to the wind in the pines under which we're parked. The elevation is 6,330 feet, and at first wondered why we were getting out of breath so quickly. It's sunny and a very comfortable 77 degrees.

Friday, the 26th, after getting more info downtown at the Chamber of Commerce, we headed west on the Mogollon Rim Scenic Route. That's pronounced (Muggy-Own).

The Mogollon Rim is located on a fault line where the upward thrust of rock and soil helped it form 600 million years ago. The Rim is 7500 feet above sea level and 200 miles long. Three national forests combine to form a woodland area the size of Massachusetts, and it's a haven for campers, hikers, fishermen, hunters, golfers, equestrians, mountain bikers, and skiers.

For the first 60 miles Rt 260 on the Mogollon Plateau is mostly flat terrain, generously dotted with pines under which grass grows. A couple of towns, Overgaard and Heber, and a Bison Ranch entered the scene to add a bit of interest. Every few miles we were warned to “Watch for elk”, but alas, we saw none.

After driving all those miles with little change in the flat landscape, we suddenly knew we were approaching the Rim as, beyond and through the trees, there were mountains way off in the distance but nothing close by. Glancing through the trees and hundreds of feet down, there was a woodland forest. Then as Route 260 crossed the Rim and we descended to the valley, the Rim towered hundreds of feet above us to the north.

We continued down into the valley as far as the little town of Christopher Creek, then turned around and climbed back up over the Rim. We found a turnout on the edge of the Rim where we stopped for lunch. It's pretty amazing to note that terrain change; as soon as we crossed the Rim, we were back on the Plateau with trees growing on our level as far as we could see. We drove to the Military Sink Vista where we could walk to the edge of the Rim with nothing straight down for hundreds of feet and mountains in the distance. Took pictures, of course.

27-28 Mar 04, Sat-Sun: Hon Dah Casino, Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ

It's time to move on and a big traveling day it has been – 18 miles to this RV park at the Casino. The park is ok, gravel sites are closely packed, but we all have a cement pad and it's pleasant to be in the pines. We checked out the Casino's restaurant this evening, and that's a winner – excellent prime rib.

“Pinetop-Lakeside is located in the heart of the White Mountains and nestled among the largest contiguous stand of Ponderosa pine in the world. There are no less than 57 natural fishing lakes in the area.”

As we've been traveling on Rt 260 from Show Low west and then down here to Pinetop, we wondered about the need for a four-lane highway as the area is quite sleepy now. But we've learned that the cool summers and all the outdoor activities, precipitated by the lakes, mountains, and forests in this vacationland, swell the year-round population of Pinetop, for example, from 9000 to 30-35,000.

This morning (Sunday) we walked the Rim trail which departs from Rt. 260 a few miles north of our RV Park. It's a well-maintained, mile-long trail where at a sandstone outcropping, we looked from the Rim down to the valley. The Rim is not so high here on this eastern end as what we saw yesterday, but the view beyond is beautiful and interesting. Trees and shrubs were identified on the trail so now we can recognize bearberry (similar to our blueberry), Douglas fir, Utah juniper, pinion pine, etc. The walk was enhanced by the wind singing in the tall pines above.

The Woodland Lake Park, near the Rim Trail in Pinetop, was our target this afternoon. The Park has tennis courts, softball fields, playgrounds and charcoal grills, but the feature of the most interest to us was the paved trail around the lake. We're so grateful to be here at this time with few people. Yesterday and today the temperature struggled to reach 60 degrees at 7100 above sea level, but the warm sun makes it totally pleasant to be enjoying this gorgeous area.

29-30 Mar 04 Mon-Tue: Casa Malpais RV P, Springerville, AZ

We departed Pinetop-Lakeview on this beautiful sunny morning and continued east on Rt 260/White Mountain Rd, and we're still in the Apache National Forest.

We climbed steadily from 7100 feet at the Casino RV P through majestic Ponderosa pines and an occasional grassy meadow. Then at 9100 ft we just had to stop and take some pictures. We felt as if we were on top of the world -- the open range extended uninterrupted to mountains where snow remained on the ski trails.

We then descended as quickly to the sister towns of Eagar and Springerville. We love Casa Malpais RV P one and a half miles north of Springerville Center on Rt 60. We're parked on the edge of the Park with open range between us and the mountains.

The mesa where the Casa Malpais Ruins are located is directly across Rt 60 from this park, but one must check in at the museum downtown for a guided tour which we did this afternoon.

Casa Malpais, house of the badlands, was home to the Mogollon, Sinagua, Anasazi and Hohokam Indians at different times from the 11th through the 14th centuries. In this 14-acre, 5-level pueblo, archaeologists have uncovered small rooms, a Great Kiva, circular structures, an observation area, and ceremonial plazas.

We were blessed with a perfect, sunny, windless afternoon. Our guide told us that sometimes the wind is so strong it's hard to stand up on the fifth level.

Tuesday morning our Honda took us south on Rt 260 to Rt 180, also known as the scenic Coronado Trail. There were mountains, the Nelson Reservoir and roads leading to little lakes on our way to Alpine where we drove through the tiny town and stopped for a toasted English muffin at Bear Wallow Cafe, as small and quaint as it sounds. It was early, and we were good for more adventuring so took Rt 191 south and were immediately in a pine forest. The tall, skinny, dense pines were very close to the road. About 20 miles of this was quite lovely but promised to continue for many more miles so we turned around at Hannagan Creek where there was a foot of snow beside the road.

31 Mar 04, Wed: Crystal Forest Museum and RV P, Petrified Forest, AZ

Another short run today to the southern entrance of Petrified Forest National Park. There are two gift shops here outside the entrance to the park. They both advertise "Free Camping". The one on the north side offers his free camping under the condition one buys 20 bucks worth of stuff. The one on the south side has no fine print on his sign and only asks for 10 bucks if one plugs into the electric.

Needless to say, we are boondocking on the south side. We decided we needed some exercise and the ravens had done a pretty good job of spreading the trash from the barrels, and with the help of the wind, it was all over the place, so we picked it all up. We didn't think the owner had seen us; but when we went inside to make a purchase, he thanked us profusely for our kindness.

1-2 April 04, Thu-Fri: Root 66 RV Park, Sun Valley, AZ

We took our time enjoying the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert today – it took us 8 hours to cover 28 miles. It was great to have our home with us for meals, etc.

The petrified wood we saw “today was formed fifty to two hundred million years ago. It is made up of trees that were buried in mud, sand or volcanic ash ages ago and turned to stone through the action caused by water seeping through the mud and sand into the logs. There it filled the empty cells of the decaying wood with mineral matter until the whole structure became solid stone.

“The water that provided the silica for petrification of the wood also contained other minerals which were added to the petrifying process.” Those different minerals produced various reds, yellows, browns, blue or blue green, black, white and gray.

In addition to the fantastic and amazing variety all along the 28 miles, we viewed and photographed the best petroglyphs we've ever seen.

We crossed over I-40 and were in the Painted Desert which is part of the Petrified Forest Nat'l Park. The richly colored badlands are awesome. The soft clay soils and constantly shifting landscape offer varying hues of pinks and grays depending on the light and shadows. The Painted Desert arcs from this Park westward to the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon.

Friday: Talk about perfect timing: we awoke to heavy rain this morning just as we've completed our sightseeing and are ready to head northeast. So we're staying put today; we'll prepare this update for shipment, have a number of computer projects on our minds, and Connie will be creative in the kitchen (Cal's interpretation).

Tomorrow, Saturday, we'll wrap up our three months in Arizona and be off to New Mexico. In the next update you'll be reading of our homeward trek.

Think spring everyone – New England is having a hard time consistently getting the idea.

Cal and Connie