We left Tucson for the Superstition Mountains just east of Phoenix. You would think that since the RV broke down going up a mountain last week, we would have been a bit afraid to ask her to climb another right away. This road was not nearly as steep and everything was fine - in fact better than fine. We had followed the scenic Apache Trail once before, seven years ago, but I had almost forgotten how stunning it is.
At the time of my last post we were still camping in the back of a repair shop, broken down in Tucson, and trying to solve the Roadtrek's electrical "issue". Our bad luck, the problem turned out to be the most expensive electronic component - the computer itself. Randy often longs for the days, not so long ago when, even if he couldn't fix it himself, he could usually diagnose a vehicle repair problem. Now everything is tied to a computer and, without thousands of dollars invested in scanners, a home mechanic doesn't stand a chance.
With the problem isolated, it should have been quickly solved - not so. We bought the replacement part at the Dodge dealership but, after it was installed, discovered that the new computer was defective. Another one had to be ordered.
So we had another day of waiting without "wheels" but at least the weather was pleasant and we had a safe, free place to camp. In fact, we were feeling quite at home here in the security of the gated lot behind our friend's repair shop. It's not in the best area to wander around at night so evenings were long and we had to be inventive. With the radio tuned to an "oldies" station, the concrete slab where we were parked was our dancefloor under the stars. And the floor was never too crowded. If the neighbors were watching, I wonder what they thought. We were making the best of things - making lemonade so to speak. After all, the breakdown had happened on the drive up to Mount Lemon.
Finally, the repair was done. We said our thank yous and goodbyes, eager to get out of Dodge (or at least away from the Dodge dealership).
But first - a stop at the nearest free RV Dump Station where, upon finishing the job, someone approached us who recognized me from my blog. Dave was from Florida and had come to Tucson to pick up a new purchase - his first RV. This was his first ever experience with the whole "RV dump thing" and he had two requests: Could Randy show him the ropes and could he have a photo taken with me. I was glad Dave had figured out that I am NOT the dump expert in our party!
When we reached the Superstition Mountains, the sun was shining, the desert green, wildflowers blooming, and we were once again doing what we enjoy most: hiking and camping in beautiful surroundings.
We were surprised and disappointed that the Forest Service campground at Tortilla Flat had been closed indefinitely but thankful that the free boondocking we had found on our last trip was still available.
The scenic Apache Trail climbs gently into the Superstition Mountains. Our first stop of several was at the old gold-mining ghost town (aka tourist attraction). Unlike similar sites we saw in California, there was no admission charge to park and wander the old-style streets and buildings. Of course, there's plenty of opportunity to drop a few dollars on "true old-west experiences" such as panning for gold, touring a mine, riding a steam engine train, or sitting in a real saloon sipping a sasparella. There was live music on the saloon patio on a Monday afternoon and, on the weekends, you can expect to witness a gunfight or two in the streets. There was also a bordello but I'm thinking probably that "old-west experience" was no longer available.
Lost Dutchman State Park at the foot of the Mountains has a great network of hiking trails. You don't have to pay park admission to hike them either; parking areas and trailheads just outside the park give access to the same trail system.
Continuing on Apache Trail, through the National Forest, the scenery is stellar. The winding road offers plenty of pull-offs for photos. Canyon Lake is so pretty.
We can't understand why Tortilla Flat Campground was closed. Sure, we know there are budget cuts but this was a very appealing campground, a reasonable size, and near a huge population base. It would seem that, as Forest Service campgrounds go, it was likely one of this state's more profitable ones. The Tortilla Flat saloon, restaurant, and mercantile across the road from the campground still seem to be doing just fine. We won't be surprised (but, disappointed) if the campground reopens in the near future, but now operated by a concessionaire. When that happens, the camping rate will be more than double what the Forest Service charged ($12.00 per night). Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend, especially in areas with high demand.
We returned to the desert south of Phoenix and finished our week with a visit to Casa Grande National Monument. This is not a big park in size but it left a huge impression. A three-story adobe ruins stands under a protective roof in the middle of the desert. It is unlike any other structure built by the native Hohokam people in the fourteenth century. Archeologists think it was an observatory to study the positions of the moon, sun, and stars. The way it was built (without wood or stone) and the reasons for it are equally amazing!
It's almost the end of March and things are heating up in the desert. Daytime temperatures which have been in the 80s are now reaching into the 90s, occasionally over 100. When they say "it's a dry heat", they're not kidding. We don't have to toast our bread. In the time it takes to make a sandwich, fresh bread is as dry as toast. Evenings cool down nicely and we sit to watch the stars, still in our shorts and sandals. There are no biting insects to speak of. The night air is perfect for sleeping. We've put aside the double sleeping bags we used when this trip started in January and sleep, instead, with windows open and a gentle breeze.
At this time of year, the weather is just perfect in southern Arizona so why is everyone leaving? I'm serious. We are seeing a huge exodus of RVs - the Snowbirds are flying north. Of course, we do know why. Within two or three weeks, the desert will no longer be a people-friendly place. How nice, then, that we live on wheels. Where shall we go next?
Days On The Road at time of writing: 77
Camping Costs To Date: $103.00