Final Days on the Road

Another RV snowbird trip, my sixth, has come to an end. And it finished on a definite high note.

When last I wrote, we’d just moved from the dispersed camping area near Valley of Fire north of Las Vegas, and that spot made fourteen and a half straight weeks of boondocking. The reason this is significant is that boondocking means water rationing, rocky campsites, monitoring battery levels, finding places to drop off garbage, and other such off-grid camping necessities. Don’t get me wrong, we all love being “out there” but the humans do miss the luxuries of home after a time, like non-military-style showers, and we usually break up the winter with short stints in RV parks or campgrounds.

Looking down into the gorge from up top. Nope. I didn’t hike those stairs.

Nevada state parks are all first come, first served, and when we reached Cathedral Gorge State Park at around eleven in the morning, the sites were all full, other than two tiny, van-sized spots we had no hope of getting into. After our second time around the loop, just to make sure, we crossed paths with the ranger coming in to do his rounds. A lucky break, as it turned out. He directed us to a large pull-through site that was one of two sites set up for disabled campers. Paved, level, garbage disposal right in camp, and showers just steps away (on a paved path) from the trailer. The peeps were pretty excited, especially when the ranger told us we could stay in the site as long as we wanted. And we did. A full week! (That’s our camp in the banner image.)

Happy campers.

I didn’t try the showers, but apparently they were well worth the one- or two-quarter cost. And the scenery and hiking were worth the nightly fee. I tend to be more of a scents than views guy, but Cathedral Gorge is a spectacular little corner of Nevada. And in addition to its cathedral-like spires and slot canyons, there are three very cool communities nearby and three more state parks, all of which we explored during our week in the area.

I’d noticed T was sometimes homesick after we left Lake Havasu, but that disappeared when we got to Cathedral Gorge. It breathed a whole new life into her and we were constantly out walking around the campground or exploring the caves and canyons. At least we were until … the WINDSTORM.

Happy travellers.

It was a windy winter in general, with at least one wind advisory in every place we stayed, and many other windy days that didn’t quite reach advisory strength. But the wind at Cathedral Gorge was on a whole new level, especially in the blowing dust category. Holy sandstorm! The canyon looks like it does because of all the sandstone cliffs, which means there’s a lot of loose sand everywhere, and it was everywhere, a bunch of it inside the trailer after two days.

See all that sand just waiting to be relocated?

But we endured and got in one more hike around Juniper Draw on our last day. Between the hill climbing at Valley of Fire dispersed and the many walks at Cathedral Gorge, I was feeling pretty fit by the end of the trip, so much so that I passed Nollind and my chariot at one point on the trail. If it hadn’t been sunny and warm, I probably wouldn’t have needed a ride at all and it’s a 5+ kilometre loop!

On your left!

We spent two nights in Cedar City getting Sid ready to store for the summer, and the temperatures at 5,800 feet were a bit of a shock to all of us. My ramp became a slide after some overnight rain! Last Fur-iday morning, we dropped Sid at a storage place north of Cedar City and were on our way, homeward bound. It was a good thing I’d gotten used to riding in the front seat because there was no room in the backseat for me. We were filled to the roof with everything that needed to travel home with us.

One final night around the fire at Cathedral Gorge SP.

After two days of driving and one night in a motel in Idaho Falls, we were across the Canada/US border and home. I didn’t leap out and zoom around as I’ve done on other arrivals home, but I was pretty excited in my old-dog way. There is truly no place like home, especially when you’ve spent some time wondering if you’re ever going to see it again, like I did when I was so ill back in December/January.

Hitting the road.

I am confused about one thing, though. How did our floors get so slippery while I was gone? Did someone polish them? But, more about that next time.

Return to Kelso

Way back in our first winter of RV travel ten years ago, a guy Nollind talked to in an RV park in Las Vegas told him about boondocking, or dispersed camping. This was two months and many RV parks into our journey, and it opened us up to a whole new world.

Our first ever boondocking spot at the Kelso Dunes.

Our very first dip in the boondocking pool was at the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve. We could hardly believe we were the only campers at such an awesome place. For the humans, the scenery was spectacular, plus it was quiet, dark, and … FREE! For the canines, we had our first experience of running up and down sand dunes and some much-needed off-leash time.

On our way up the highest dune.

We returned to Kelso in 2015. Logan was eleven by this time and not quite up to the full climb with his bad elbow, but we climbed a good piece of the way up the largest dune and did some hiking on the smaller ones.

It was a big climb for a senior dog.

We didn’t plan to go to Kelso this year. We left our last stop near Parker aimed for the Joshua trees of a place called Stouts Well. When that didn’t pan out, due to many miles of rough road to get there, we turned west toward the Mojave Preserve and a campground called Hole in the Wall.

A happy trio, undeterred by the first failed destination, setting off for the Mojave Preserve.

We climbed far up and into the Mojave from the highway, and despite the big drop in temperature at Hole in the Wall’s 4200 feet, the place was packed. No room at the inn for Sid. Even the dispersed camping spots in the area were full of people (or inaccessible with our rig). So we found ourselves outbound at sunset, headed for the other main road into the Mojave and a place called Kelbaker Boulders.

It was dark by the time we arrived, but a short walk with a flashlight provided the bad news … Kelbaker Boulders was also full. The ranger at Hole in the Wall told us he’d never seen the preserve so busy in March. Just our luck. The ranger also gave us a backup plan if nothing else panned out– the day use parking lot at Kelso Dunes. Because it’s day use, we weren’t really supposed to park there overnight, but he told us to give his name and cite “safety reasons” if anyone gave us grief.

The next morning in the day use parking…for safety reasons.

So there we were, well after dark, bumping along the gravel road toward the Kelso Dunes. What had started out as a couple of hours to our next destination when we set out that morning, had turned into a ten-hour travel day. Unless you know an area really well, it’s hard to arrive at a dispersed camping area after dark as there are no lights, developed sites, numbered posts, or even reliable roads. So the sloped day-use lot it would be. With a little help from our levelers, we were parked, fed, and into bed. And Kelso lived up to its reputation. It was quiet, dark, and … FREE!

Kelso camping.

Early the next morning, we drove the last mile of the road to reach the dispersed camping area. The last part of the road was the worst in terms of washboards and bumps, but it was such a short drive compared to the previous day of failed destinations that nobody minded.

Hiking near the dunes instead of up them.

I probably don’t have to tell you we didn’t climb the tallest dune in celebration of ten years of boondocking. Nollind carried me up to the top of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes back in December, but Kelso is a whole other magnitude of dune. The highest one is over six hundred feet high, and steep, with footing that moves when you step on it. It was a young dog’s playground, but I’m no young dog anymore.

To give you a sense of size, those black dots are hikers.

Of all the places we travelled this winter, Kelso was the only boondocking place we returned to from that original journey of 2011/12. All the others have been discoveries we’ve made on trips since. Ten years of journeying. Ten years of stories. Ten years of discovering new places.

Whoever you were, guy in Las Vegas who told us about boondocking … THANKS!

And We’re Travelling!

Some of you are probably asking yourselves, “What? Haven’t they been travelling since late November?” That’s true, the 29th to be exact, but my “delicate condition” has greatly limited what we’ve been able to do. We spent five weeks in Quartzsite, for example, the longest we’ve ever stayed in any one area.

There was a lot of this in the first two months of the trip, many times a day.

T and Nollind were generous, telling me they wanted to stay there anyway, and I know they like Quartzsite, but I also know they wanted to get on the road. And then there were all those days when T stayed at the trailer while Nollind went into town. She’s easily entertained, and I’m pretty good company even when I’m sick, but I know she missed the outings.

Happier days.

So, the good news is that my digestive issues have resolved enough to allow more travel and day trips. The not-so-good news is that I still can only eat Natural Balance duck and potato canned food. I mean, it’s tasty, but I miss all the treats I used to get, dog and human.

What my food/treat cupboard looks like these days.

T found two kinds of Natural Balance duck and potato treats plus a bag of duck jerky. So far, two of the three have caused issues, but I think we’re going to try them again now that I’ve had ten days of no diarrhea or nausea. Ten days! And ten days would have been fourteen if not for the unfortunate “popcorn incident”. A bowl of popcorn got set at dog height and, before they could stop me, I’d wolfed down a couple of mouthfuls. I was so certain things would be okay the next day and we could add popcorn to my short list of approved foods, but no such luck.

This “Timbit” (Munchkin at Dunkin Donuts) experiment wasn’t a success either. Crap!

Meanwhile, back to that good news. In the last two weeks, I’ve been on a day trip into Yuma for a walk at the West Wetlands Park, another to a town southeast of Yuma called Wellton, a third excursion to dump and fill waste and water tanks, the journey from Ogilby Road camp to our current camp at the Kofa Wildlife Refuge, and a short day trip further into the refuge. That’s five trips in two weeks, all without my little blue pills and all without digestive chaos the next day. Yay me!

Walking at the wetlands park in Yuma.

I’m feeling a whole lot better, especially in the mornings, I’m putting on some of the weight I lost, and I’m able to do longer walks. Our last walk at Ogilby Road, I went a full hour, and here at Kofa on Wednesday, I walked forty-five minutes including a long uphill stretch. Since all of this started, I’ve turned thirteen, so I’m not expecting miracles, but it sure feels good to have a little more bounce in my step.

Besides feeling better physically, I’m happy to not be such a concern and focus for my peeps. For the first two months of the trip, I was such a wreck they spent a ton of time trying to figure out how to help me and what was triggering my IBD symptoms. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to just enjoy being in this place I know they both love.

She looks happier, right?

Today we’re on the road again, headed for another short stay in Quartzsite and a visit with some snowbird friends from back home in Alberta. Now that I’m so much better, such things are possible without planning for “Chico down days” after each day of travel.

And with possibilities opening up considerably, to my favourite peeps, I say…
“This is the first day of the rest of your trip … get out there and enjoy it!” (But since the separation anxiety is still a bit of an issue … take me with you.)

And to all of you I say …
“Stay tuned for my upcoming posts to return to more adventures and fewer misadventures!”