Rock, Cactus, Sunset

Unlike camping in an RV park or campground, out in the desert, there are no numbered spaces with set boundaries. It’s nice to have the freedom to put our house where we want, but it also means a lot of variables and choices. And, with our double-trailer rig, an old dog, and a woman who loves a view, you’ll see it can be quite a process to select a space.

Nollind gets first say on whether or not a spot works. Can we get in? And, the more important, can we get out? Even out here in the open desert, there are obstacles to manoeuvre around like trees, cactus, other campers, sudden elevation changes (aka washes and hills), and rocks. It’s not like one big parking lot out here. Well … in some places it’s actually quite a lot like a big parking lot.

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Our current camp spot at Dome Rock.

Once that’s settled, is the area level enough? The trailer can be easily adjusted front to back but side to side requires blocks on one side or digging on the other. Up at Wickenburg where the ground is softer, we dug down on the high side. Here at Quartzsite where everything is rock, we added our fancy red levellers. But, if a spot is too far off level, it just doesn’t work.

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I sleep so much better when the couch is level.

Next … Is there cell service? Because Teresa and Nollind still run a business, do contract work, and spend time volunteering for things back home, they do need to be available by phone and internet. And, of course, we dogs need to be able to post our blog every week. Wickenburg was borderline, but we made do for the two and half weeks.

Then we start getting into aesthetics. Noise. Is the space far enough from a road and further yet from a highway? Is the space far enough from other campers and do the neighbours have solar power or generators? Hondas and Yamahas are tolerable. Champion generators are to be avoided at all cost.

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Enjoying a quiet spot with lots of elbow room.

Dust. Is the camping spot upwind of where other campers will be travelling? Being on the south side of a dusty road around here is pretty much guaranteed to have you breathing dirt.

Surface. Is the ground friendly enough to build a patio on or is it filled with large or sharp rocks?

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Enjoying our Dome Rock patio.

View. Is there a view to the sunset and, preferably, the sunrise? Are there hills or mountains nearby? I don’t care much about this stuff but it’s important to Teresa.

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Wickenburg sunrise.

Vegetation. Are there saguaro, ocotillo, or palo verde trees? These are the good ones. Are there cholla cactus? These are the not-so-good ones that are known to attack the feet and legs of unfortunate dogs (and people sometimes too … Sue).

And this year there’s a whole other level of site choosing. Me! They’ve always considered us dogs but, this year, with my ramp and my bum leg and my enjoyment of lying around outside, I’ve moved way up the priority list. This spot we’re in right now at Dome Rock? Chosen largely because of me.

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I can’t walk very far anymore, but I sure enjoy my time outdoors.

 

It’s tough to find a spot around Quartzsite that isn’t rocky, and it’s tough for me to walk on rocks this year, so quite a lot of effort and driving of dusty roads went into finding a good spot. In the end, we came back to Dome Rock, but in a different location. This time we set up next to a big, wide, sandy wash with multiple roads and trails through it. Perfect.

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Walking the wash near camp.

The times it’s easiest to select a spot is when someone else does it for you, but this is a rare occurrence. It happened once last year and once again this trip and both times were orchestrated by the same people — Sue and Leon. Last year it was this terrific spot at Ogilby Road down near Yuma, and this year they invited us to camp next to them at Scaddan Wash by Quartzsite. All we had to do was roll in, manoeuvre until we were mostly level, throw down the anchor, and join in the festivities. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I can’t believe I just said that. I’ve been spending too much time with Chico.

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Me, smack in the middle of the morning visit. That’s Sue, Keith, and Leon on the far side.

We’re here at Dome Rock for at least a few more days, maybe a week, maybe closer to two. Once we dig ourselves into a spot, it can be hard to get us out.

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Wickenburg … Wow!

It was an eventful eighteen days in Wickenburg, even for us dogs who stayed home for the local dining, art shows, and horse events that T and Nollind enjoyed.

This was our fourth time visiting Wickenburg, and our third time camping in the area. I think it was love at first sight for T—the cactus, the mountains, the horses. It’s only an hour and a half from Quartzsite but the 1200 feet of elevation gain makes a big difference to what grows. This means lots of Saguaro and other types of cactus, more trees, and even grass sometimes, although this year it was very dry.

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The desert near Vulture Peak.

 

And then there’s that horse thing of T’s. She enjoys being away from the seven-day-a-week responsibility of the horses, but I know she misses them, and Wickenburg is chock full of horses and horse people, most of them snowbirds just like us.

02-chico-wickenburg-onmatThis year, we were there for a horse-oriented purpose too, but without the actual horses. T’s new book, all about a Vancouver journalist who inherits her grandfather’s horse ranch in Alberta, has a major horse focus so she thought Wickenburg would be the perfect place to finish the first draft of the book. Turns out, she was right! She wrapped that up last Sunday.

The walking was fantastic, even the short Logie walks. After eighteen days, we were still finding new trails to explore from camp, most of them sandy and easy walking for my old friend. He loved it. And built himself this great den that he’ll probably tell you about at some point. I have to say, it was one of his best.

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Den under construction.

We had a huge amount of freedom around camp. In fact, Logan stayed outside most of the morning, and sometimes all afternoon, just hanging out in the sun, under the trailer, or in his den. He was one happy camper.

Nollind spent a bunch of time at the Starbucks in the Safeway about four miles from camp. You see, as great a place as it was for T to write her novel, it wasn’t so great for Nollind’s work that required internet. Cell reception, at least for T and Nollind’s service provider, is terrible at the Vulture Peak camping area. He tried a few in-camp solutions but finally gave in and drove to the Safeway every morning.

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Looking for a cell signal.

Evenings were sunset and campfire time almost every day, even when it was chilly for a few days. I’ve really come to appreciate a good sunset, especially from the comfort (and warmth) of my camp chair and serape.

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Sunset time.

There was, however, a bit of a hitch in our Wickenburg glory. I got sick. They think I might have picked up something at the dog wash place we went to in Surprise because I was sick a few days later. Monday was bath day, Wednesday I was feeling a bit off, and Thursday I was so hot I didn’t want to get off the floor and was barely able to eat my breakfast. Yes, of course, I still ate it. I wasn’t dead!

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Thursday morning with T’s bean bag from the freezer.

When they took me to the vet in Wickenburg I just lay on the floor in the waiting area until it was my turn. I think I really worried T and Nollind when a woman came in carrying a tray of food and I didn’t get up. That cool floor just felt too good.

Not a big surprise, I had a fever, but the x-rays and blood tests didn’t show up anything else of concern, like a foreign object lodged somewhere, or a life-threatening disease, so they pumped me full of fluids and sent me home with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Not sure just what worked but I was feeling somewhat better after only a day and, a week later, I am feeling 100% … other than this itchy skin. They think I also had a reaction to the shampoo at the dog bath place. I don’t think we’ll be going back there.

The good news is that I recovered in time for one last Wickenburg adventure. On Tuesday, I got my first big ride in Fang! I’ve ridden in Fang a few times but just to scout a campsite or shuttle Fang in or out of a camping area. But this was a real ride, for miles into the hills near Vulture Peak, destination, a trailhead and a one-hour hike up to a viewpoint.

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I don’t get a seat but my spot on the floor is pretty comfy with a great view out the side.

I was still a little draggy and the heat of the late morning was a challenge, but I wasn’t giving in and missing my big chance. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t uncomfortable and I’m pretty sure I scored myself a spot on future rides.

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View from the top.

We moved back to Quartzsite on Wednesday and are camping with our friends Sue and Leon until Sunday. Looks like it will be a few days of wieners, carrots, and hugs!

Two Minus One (Sometimes)

I knew it would come to this eventually. There have been hints for months now. A trip to the Strathmore Dog Park without Logan, an extra walk for just me here and there, but now it’s becoming the norm, doing things without my long-time buddy.

I don’t mind being an only dog on outings, I even got to sit in the front seat on one trip into Quartzsite, but I miss my wingman.  He’s been a good friend these past seven years, best dog friend I’ve ever had, maybe ever will.

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Heading into Quartzsite.

 

The first solo adventure was just over to Q Mountain in Quartzsite. It’s not a long hike, but it gets pretty steep, much tougher than Logan’s legs could manage. We were there together a few years ago and there was a 13-year-old dog doing the climb that we were all impressed with. At the time, I figured Logan would be matching that, and probably beating it! But I was wrong. His mountain climbing days are all but over.

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On top of Q Mountain.

 

The second solo outing was to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. There’s a rock spiral that someone has created in the desert, what’s considered by some to be “desert graffiti”. I thought T and I were going to have to walk the entire labyrinth to get to the centre, but it had rained the day before so, when we got to the rings with mud, we cut across to the middle. If he’d been there, Logan wouldn’t have waited for the muddy part, he would have cut right to the centre with Nollind.

 

A little further up the same road is the trailhead for Palm Canyon. From the parking lot, it’s about a half mile uphill walk into the canyon where you can see the palms growing. Fan palms are the only palm tree variety that is native to Arizona and you don’t see them growing naturally in a lot of places. This was another hike we did a few years ago when Logan was just eleven. He aced it back then, was hardly tired by the end. A lot has changed in three years.

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Water stop on the Palm Canyon Trail.

 

Here at Wickenburg, there is a bunch of great hiking right from camp and in all directions. With Logan’s weakened condition, I was a little worried I wouldn’t get out to do much exploring but, every second day, after the morning’s half-hour walk with Logan, we drop him off at the trailer and continue on in another direction. The first day it was just a long walk through some washes. The second was a trip across the road to the gun range and up over the hill that’s there. And yesterday was the best yet. We climbed the hills to the east of us and could see the whole Wickenburg valley down below. Can’t wait to see where we might go tomorrow.

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Looking toward Wickenburg.

 

What’s good is that Logan doesn’t seem to mind too much. He’s tired by the time we get back from our first walk, ready for some couch time. He’s probably doing a little inner dance of joy when the trailer door closes with him on the comfortable side of it.

But it won’t be the same. T and Nollind are great but they miss the best part of our excursions … the smells! I’ll look up at them like, “Hey, check this out!” but they just carry on up the trail without even a making an effort to pick up the scent. Logan would have had his nose pushed right in there beside mine.

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The humans miss so much.

 

Back at the trailer, things are a lot like they always have been. Me and Loges, barking at intruders (like the two dogs that showed up in camp this morning), playing with squeaky toys, doing tricks for treats, hanging by the evening campfire, and napping on the floor.  And for that, I’m grateful. I see what’s happening, and I know I can’t stop it, so I’ll just savour every moment, every day, that we get to walk, or nap, side by side.

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Shared nap space.