13 November 2011

Dive Arizona

Well we arrived in Tucson AZ yesterday and are staying at the FamCamp at Davis-Monthan AFB which is known informally as the boneyard as it is the storage place for decommissioned aircraft from all the military services.  I like being across the street from a fleet of B-52's and their supporting KC-135 tankers. And, as we came in we say more C-130 then I knew existed, all mothballed!  

While the general understanding of the boneyard is that these are all worn out and useless aircraft, the fact is that any aircraft here is capable of  being returned to combat status.  They have been prepared for storage in this dry climate by removing some of the electronics, the engines in some cases and sealing up the aircraft as best possible. They all seem to be in amazingly good condition - the B-52's are over 50 years old!

One of the mothballed B-52's at Davis-Monthan AFB

 Also, as some of you know, I have been looking at dive opportunities while we are in AZ for the next 6-7 weeks!  I have come across several dive shops in Tucson and Phoenix.  We will be in Phoenix from after T-day until early Jan.  There are some interesting opportunities in AZ in lakes such as Lake Havasaw and Lake Pleasant, but that is not really what I am interested in.  San Carlos, Mexico about 300 miles south of Tucson is apparently a popular destination, as is Puerto Penasco at northern end of the Gulf of California.

However, reading some of the descriptions of the trips I am not sure I want to get involved.  Driving 300 miles into Mexico is not my idea of a relaxing weekend!  And., the accomaditions and dive boats are still a question mark in my mind.  Following is a direct quote from one from the dive shop websites. 
All this, and a toilet too!
That's right! The Dive shop provides real FLUSH toilets and a shower for your comfort. We supply the heat via a gas water heater; you just need to supply the water for the shower. This is camping in style.
Obviously, I have a different definition of "camping in style" and am concerned about what other differences I might have with their trip descriptions, e.g. easy, enjoyable drive to San Carlos!  San Carlos is 300 miles into Mexico!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

11 November 2011

Moving On

Today we are moving on west to AZ our final resting place (for this year)!   We stopped for an overnight at Rockhound State Park and that was five nights ago!  We have enjoyed it.  BJ has increased her rock colection significantly and I got in a lot of beautiful hiking in some rugged terrain!

Yesterday I took the Gray Ghost around to the east side of Little FL mountains.  I was about 2 miles from the RV as the crow flies but about 15 road/off-road miles.  We were literally out in the middle of nowhere.  First time I have been somewhere that I had to have 4-wd and several times needed granny level 4-wd to get across some deep gulches and washes in the desert floor.  Several times I just took off across the desert because there was not trail I could find to go where I wanted to go.  Saw several abandoned mines, understand there are plenty of them in the Florida Mountains!

Gray Ghost in the desert!  Note he left Pickle and Banana at home!

An interesting arch on east side of Little FL Mt

An interesting looking abandoned mine.  Was really tempted to explore, but didn't!!

Another mine entrance, not so inviting!

My trusty steed awaits me in the vast wilderness!

BJ and some valuable (to her) rocks!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

08 November 2011

The Florida Mountains

Little Florida range on left & Big FL range on right
These Florida mountains are in SW NM just south of Deming.  Two relatively small ranges running parallel to each other north to south and about 3 miles apart.  Looks like Big Florida range to the west is about 5 miles long and the other one is a little shorter.

The real story!
We are in Rockhound State Park which is at the base of Little FL range near the north end.  Nice state campground that is apparently a favorite for snowbirds. 
The camp host told us their busy season is just starting! Of course BJ has become a rockhound so this is a great place for her.  There are a number of trails in the mountains and for a change they are not delineated by signs to stay on the trail.  Here you can wonder freely among the rocks!!  And, each person can take up to 15 pounds of rocks with them!!  So if any of you all get a box of rocks from us you will know we have run out of space to store them!!
RV park at base of Little Florida mountains

Big Florida mountains

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

07 November 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

So this AM abut mid-AM we finished packing up Lucy and the crew to move on west!!  The day was a bit cloudy, but the sky had a number of bright spots and wind was a gentle breeze vs. the gale of yesterday!  (We have been advised that it was not a gale, but be prepared for one!)

We enjoyed most of our stay at Holloman AFB and I got several good days of carving in on my Trikke on some base trails out into the desert!  But, it was time to leave.
Our NATO partner at Holloman AFB

The NATO Strike fighter in training at Holloman AFB

We headed west on US 70 from Holloman AFB, passed White Sands National Monument, then White Sands Missile Test Range Headquarters and finally went up a moderate grade at the south end of the San Andreus Mountain Range and crossed into the next basin and Las Cruses, NM.  Road was good all the way, 4-lane highway with good surface.

In Las Cruses we ran into I-25 and headed south for a short while and exited on University Blvd continuing west.  We stopped at a Jo-Ann Fabric store for BJ to pick up some material for the quilt of valor she is making for a wounded warrior project.  Then we continued west until we got to I-10 and stopped there and parked the RV and took the Jeep south a short way to Messilla, NM which is an old town where they have tried to preserve some of the old New Mexican flavor of a town.  Had some art galleries and a market in the town square.  We enjoyed if for a while and learned from one of the art gallery operators of a restaurant out of the tourist area that served good food.

The market square at Messilla

How right she was.  We had a fabulous lunch at Los Mariachis just south of Messilla on NM 28.  Highly recommended by us!

Then we headed back to Lucy and got back on I-10 headed west.  The sky had cleared and sun was bright and traffic was light!  We decided to head for Rockhound State Park just south of Deming, NM.  Sun was warming us up as we headed west.  Several miles before Deming we turned south for about 5 miles to get to the park which is between the Little Florida and Big Florida mountain ranges!  However, out here they pronounce it Flo-ree' da!
Big Florida Mountain Range!

Little Florida Mountains behind the RV Park!

We are nestled into a nice camping spot at the base of the Little Florida range looking at the Big Florida range across the valley.  Lots of hiking opportunities here and we plan onstaying until Wednesday afternoon 

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

06 November 2011

Is this normal??

It is 9 PM in the Keys and it is 72 degrees!  Here we are in Alamogordo in south NM and wind blowing like hell and the warmest it was today was at sunrise at 63 degrees.

So, we say, lets move, that is why we are in an RV.  We are heading west to AZ for the winter, so we check weather in Tucson, it is colder for the next 4 days there then here!  Well, OK we say Phoenix is warmer, because it is lower.  We have been above 4000 ft, substantially higher much of the time, so have figured that was reason it has been so cool COLD!  Phoenix is barely 1000 ft so we figured it would be warmer - NOT! 

A - Ice fishing hut in southern NM!

B - snapper catching in Mangrove Creek
So we are trying to deceide which of these two places do we belong??
A or B??

The is is the first time in many years we have not spent part of the Winter in the Keys and it may very well be the last time we are not there!!  Alaska is looking less desirable this summer as they probably think this is good weather up there!!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

05 November 2011

Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island and its reflexion!
We really enjoyed our stay in September in Ogden UT, immediately north of Salt Lake City on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.  Off shore in the Lake is a wonderful island that is a State Park that warrants a visit, if not a trip to see it!
The park is Antelope Island State Park and it is vast wonderland of interesting terrain and animals.  Dominating the island is a mountain that raises 2200 feet above the lake.

BJ on the beach!

It has a large public beach with beach shelters, a grill for lunch and beautiful vistas!

At the south end of the island is a compound with the buildings, both residential and shops, of the former cattle ranch that covered about half the island until early in the last century.  It was originally started by the Mormon church and was operated by the church for many years, but late in the 19th century they sold it to a private ranch that was also on the island and that combined operation carried on for about 40 years before it was finally to the State who owned the rest of the island by then.

In the mid-50's the State completed a 7 mile causeway from the mainland out to the island and started really developing the land then as a State Park.
The causeway out to Antelope Island with marina on left!

There is a marina at the island end of the causeway that is crowded with boats in the summer time.  It was nearly empty when we were there in late September.  On the north end of the island near the public beach is well done visitor center that explains the ecology of the island and its history and helps you understand the environment you are visiting.

There is a herd of 700 free roaming buffaloes on the island.   Only a cattle guard at the end of the causeway keep them from visiting the mainland!  Also, about 300 antelope are permanent residents along with untold number of mule deer and also some mountain sheep that live higher on the mountain.

There are several hiking trails, including one that goes to the peak of the mountain.  We opted not to do it because it was getting late in the day.  But, we did do a shorter one at the base of the mountain.
Part way up the mountain.  Mainland in background.

Another thing I liked about the park was the causeway.  It was wide and level and gave me a perfect place to go carving on the Trikke.  I took one day and went out and carved all the way out to the island and then back to the mainland.  BJ enjoyed some lone time while I did that.   It was nice since we have not been around any level ground for carving in quite awhile. 

Buffalo day on the beach!


A namesake of the island!

Carving on the causeway!
Sunflowers on Antelope Island

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

03 November 2011

A Blown Out Day

We are at Holloman AFB near Alamogordo in SW New Mexico.   Lots of beach sand but the water is missing.  Yesterday we spent the day doing chores, I worked on a few projects outside and BJ spent the whole day cleaning and scrubbing the inside.  Took down the front curtains and carried them to the dry cleaners.  Today we were looking forward to enjoying the area, maybe a trip to White Sands National Monument (more  beach) or Cloudcroft, a mountain retreat in the nearby Sacramento mountains. Also, there is an Air & Space Museum in Alamogordo we want to visit.  The morning was bright and sunny so I got out Trikke and was headed out to a cook on-base bike path when I noted it was windy and when I turned a corner so I was heading into the wind it was like a brick wall!  So I turned around and went back to the RV.

The wind only got worse as the day wore on - you could see the sand blowing.  The beach on the move!  Of course sand comes through the door, the windows and layers around.  Worse it was getting colder and colder.  High for next two days is in the high 50's - low 60's range rather then the mid-70's to low 80's we have been experiencing.  Hopefully those will be back by weekend! 

If not we will be moving on into winter quarters in AZ soon!!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

01 November 2011

Valley of Fires - WOW!

The black mass in the valley floor below!
We left ABQ about mid-AM and headed south toward Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, NM.  About 90 miles down I-25 we turned east on US 380 and tooling along talking about how long we would stay at Holloman AFB and what we would do.  As we were descending a grade into Tularosa Valley we noted this large black mass in the valley floor.  It was miles wide and extended out of sight to the north and south. 

The 44 mile long black mass from above!
We were fascinated by this obvious mass and tried to figure out what it was.  I even said it was a lava flow, but was only joking. 

Here is a “big picture” of what we were looking at courtesy of Google Earth.  That black scar down the center of the picture was what we were looking at and we were heading east toward where that small icon “A” is. 

At the bottom of the grade we finally got to the black mass and it was a lava flow, not active thank heavens!   Surprisingly plants were abundant and seemingly growing right out of the black lava.  The road went right through the lava field and near the other side we saw a campground on an “island of land” in the lava field.  It was a BLM recreation area.  We went on by and shortly came to Carrizozo, a nearby city where we stopped for lunch.  Over a great Mexican meal we decided to put our trip to Holloman on hold and return to the campground in the lava flow!    

We learned this was a relatively young lava flow, geologically speaking.  It erupted from vents in the valley floor about 4,000 years ago.  It is as wide as 3+ miles in some places and covers over 125 square miles of the valley that has White Sands National Monument at the opposite end of the 200 mile long valley.  The flow is as deep as 160 ft in some places.   At several locations there are peaks in the valley floor that were not overcome by the lava and became islands in the flow.   The campground was on one of these islands which was about .7 miles long and .5 miles wide.  A close up of the campground/island from Google Earth is shown here.   The while line to the left of the island is a interruptive boardwalk through the lava field.
The campground "island" in the lava field

We walked the boardwalk a number of times and each time it was something new.  The light on the coal black lava was always changing.  It seemed like it was a frozen sea with waves up to 20 ft high and small ripples frozen in time.  As the flow cooled from the outside strange things happened.  Air pockets formed in the still molten inner core, sometimes they were very small and other places they were the size of a room.  Eventually, a lot of these caved in as the flow weathered.  They then became areas that provided protection for the animals that were learning to live on the flow or plants that were starting to populate it.  Some animal species adopted their coloring to make them less noticeable in the black lava flow.  The same species living 100 miles south in the White Sands area have a lighter color to make them less noticeable in their environment. 

This was an interesting place and we enjoyed our two unexpected days there and we plan on coming back to visit again.  In fact they have 3 campground host couples there and this will be one place we will certainly consider being volunteer hosts at!  

Notice the water like ripples in the lava surface
A 400 year old Juniper growing in the lava field
The lava flow at the edge of the park!

Looking down on the lava field from the high point in campground
A cave formed during the cooling process of the lava.

Always at home, no matter where we are!!