Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2010. Usery Mountain Regional Park
House Finches on Saguaro Cactus
On this New Year’s Eve, we hope everyone has a Happy and Prosperous New year!
The last few days have been spent with my Father and Karen mixed with hanging out in the park with the dogs. A few nights ago we shared a nice campfire at our campsite. It was a cool evening with no wind which made it perfect for the fire. 
Desert sunset from our campsite.
On Wednesday we drove to the local Verizon Store to update our phones. Our phones were two years old and showing their age.  At one point, we had discussed getting a “smart phone” for Joyce to have internet on the road and because she’s always checking her Face Book account. However, we had decided against it due to the anticipated additional monthly costs.
At the Verizon Store we were helped by a very good saleswoman, Lesli who really knew their products and phone plans. Lesli showed us how we were overpaying on our current plans. The plan for our 5 gigs of broadband data on the MiFi had decreased by $10 a month. She said it looked like we were using only 2 gigs a month and they have a 3 gig plan that would save us another $15 a month, but we decided to keep our 5 gigs and just take the $10 savings. Lesli checked our phone records to determine that we averaged less than 200 minutes a month well below our 1400 minute plan. So, she reduced us to a 700 minute plan saving an additional $20. With the savings, we again began considering a “smart phone” for Joyce.  After checking out the Droid phones, Joyce settled on a Droid X. Her phone is like a mini IPad that makes phone calls!
Droid X and Casio Ravine
I picked up a rugged phone (with no broadband service) called the Casio Ravine. So with the monthly service savings, the cost of unlimited internet on Joyce’s Droid was a wash making our monthly phone bill the same. So aside from having to pay the upfront cost of both phones we made out pretty good. After rebates, my phone will be free and Joyce’s will be $199.
After getting our phones we set off in the rain to a theater to watch the newly released movie, True Grit. We missed the 1:30 showing and walked around the shopping plaza as Joyce played with her new phone till the 3:00 show. The movie itself was very good and worth watching if you like “westerns”.
Lately, it seems we’ve done a lot of driving and shopping. Yesterday we visited both Sam’s Club and Costco just because, we like to look around and we were killing time staying inside from the miserable cold outside. I don’t mind the cold as long as the sun comes out. However, it’s been cloudy and cold. In fact yesterday we saw snowflakes here in Mesa and the local news captured pictures of a light dusting of snow that stuck for a few hours in the local area. 
The low last night was below freezing. I disconnected the rig’s water hose last night and let the campsite spicket drip. We used the rig’s water tank and pump for water till late this morning. I turned on a 60 watt drop light in the basement next to the water tank and pump to help keep the basement warm. Our basement and tanks are heated but only if I run the furnace. We had two ceramic heaters running all night but we were still cold. When we woke this morning it was 60 degrees inside and 48 in the basement. I turned on the furnace this morning to chase away the chill. Outside the water in the dog’s water bowl froze solid! It’s suppose to be colder tonight with temperatures dipping into the 20’s! We don’t have any plans for “ringing in the New Year” so we will see what happens.
As some readers have suggested, we can in fact stay here at Usery Mountain Regional Park beyond the 14 day limit. It just requires that we move out of our current site and into another available site. We are undecided on whether or not we will move to another site and stay longer or just press on towards Tucson on Monday.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Relaxing the Day After Christmas

December 26, 2010 Usery Mountain Regional Park.
Pass Mountain
We hope everyone had a Very Merry Christmas. On Christmas Eve we drove to Cousin Raymond's House for a family get together and some traditional tamales! We spent Christmas morning at my Father and Karen's home in Mesa. My Father prepared an outstanding breakfast with eggs, potatoes, bacon and tamales. Afterwards, we traveled 50 miles to my Cousin Terry and Rick's home in Glendale, Az where we ate more tamales! We had a great time visiting with relatives, enjoying the holiday and eating too much.
Today was a day to relax and decompress. Joyce went to a few stores this morning with Karen to return a few items and no doubt buy some more! I stayed at home with Maggie and Rico enjoying the cool weather.
Later in the day I took a short walk along a wash in the back of our campground site. There are so many large and beautiful Saguaro Cactus in the park.
Large Cholla in the foreground.
Pass Mountain in the distance.
Phoenix to the West.
Relaxing in the mild climate of the Sonoran Desert. Does it get any better than this? We intend to find out as we continue to travel next year. Stopping to enjoy one state at a time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wind Cave Hike in Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa

December 24, 2010 Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa Az.
Located on the Valley’s east side, this park takes in 3,648 acres set at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains, adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. 
The last few days since arriving have been filled with last minute Christmas shopping and visiting with my Father and Karen. We've done a lot of driving to and fro and I'm sure we will do a lot more as we plan to visit relatives throughout the Phoenix Valley.
We had some rainy cloudy weather as the system that devastated California earlier in the week, passed over the Valley. I actually was looking forward to the rain to wash off the dust on the roof of the rig!
View on the door side of our rig.
Yesterday, it was still cloudy and cool with a forecasted high of 65 but the weather was clearing. We decided on doing the most popular hike in Usery Mountain Regional Park, The Wind Cave Hike.
The park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Along the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support hanging gardens of Rock Daisy. The Wind Cave is formed at the boundary between the volcanic tuff and granite on Pass Mountain. Breathtaking views from this 2,840-foot elevation are offered to all visitors
Beginning the hike.
Pass Mountain
The trail was washed out in many areas no doubt, due to the recent rain fall. Much of the trail up the mountain required stepping over large fallen rocks which made it more challenging.
One of the smoothest sections of the trail
Near the top
The Wind Cave is basically a large hollow in the side of the mountain. I didn't include a picture as there were other people in the photos I took. The hike seemed to be very popular. We found a secluded perch near the cave where we sat and enjoyed our snack and the beautiful view of the valley.
Perched by the Wind Cave.
View looking South.
Our campground in the distance looking West.
While seated from my perch on Pass Mountain, I played with my Canon camera using the 40x zoom to capture the picture below of our campsite. You can see our silver Dodge and the Cameo behind it.
Our site from afar!
We climbed back down returning to the Jeep after our two-hour trek which is the average according to the park information on the hike.
We like Usery Mountain Regional Park especially the campground. The views are fantastic. There is a shooting range in the park and I can hear the target shooting when outside but it's not annoying. Maggie and Rico continue to have encounters with the cactus spines on the ground from time to time so we have to be cautious. There is no sewer hook-up so we have to be frugal with water. I have to empty my 18 gallon grey tote everyday. I don't want to fill my grey (rig) tank as then it can be messy draining it into the grey tote. But that's just me!
We are considering staying longer in the valley but it's difficult to find a park that isn't 55 plus. So we may just stay here for another week. You may only stay at Usery Mountain Regional Park for 14 days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Travel Day to Usery Mountain Regional Park Mesa, AZ

December 20, 2010
We were up by 7:30 excited about leaving. It was an exceptionally cloudy morning and heavy rain was expected in the evening. We made our final preparations, pulled in the slides and hitched up. We backed out of our space and parked. I took the picture above with Lake Havasu in the background, to replace the previous photo at the header of our blog. 
Afterwards we said our goodbyes to the staff, volunteers and interns of Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge. Some of the folks gave us cookies and treats before we left (so we had snacks for the trip). We will miss everyone and hope to run into all these fine folks down the road. We enjoyed our volunteer work at the refuge even though the first month of the four we volunteered was a bit rough due to the heat! We got on the road at 10:15. After 4 months of being parked in the same spot, getting behind the wheel of the rig is initially a bit daunting. After awhile, it all felt right again!
Our trip to Usery Mountain Regional Park was just over 200 miles. We made a rest stop on I-10 at about the halfway mark. Thankfully the trip was uneventful and we arrived at 2:20.  The camping fee is $25 a night. However, they charged us an additional $6 a night for the jeep (an extra vehicle) which is the park's day use fee. So I feel like we got taken considering we didn't have to pay that fee this past May when we were at the park. Oh well, with the bad economy, I bet this will be a sign of things to come!  

We had several sites to choose from but there was only one site available on the exterior loop which has the best views. We ended up with site 9 on the exterior loop.

Plenty of privacy between sites

Back Yard
We got set up to include setting the satellite Dish on the tripod and getting it aligned just in time to catch this quick photo of the sunset.
We are happy to have made the trip safely and look forward to our stay here in what has to be one of the most beautiful parks we've stayed at. We will be here for at least a week through Christmas. The only downside is that there isn't a sewer hook-up so I'll be using the gray tote for the gray water (shower-sink water).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last Day of Volunteering at BWR and Preparing to Leave

Friday December 17, was our last day of volunteering at The Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. On our last day, Joyce did some work in the visitor center and I took a trip with Stan, the assistant refuge manager and Hanna, the hydrologist intern to Mineral Wash. It's about an hour drive one way and 60 miles to get to Mineral Wash which is within the refuge.
Stan needed to show Hanna the wells that she would be visiting monthly to record the ground level water depths. This required them to slosh through the river and riverbed wearing waterproof overalls and boots.
I decided to climb on the butte above the river and try to monitor their activity from above. 
I scrambled up the very steep slope of the butte slipping frequently on the loose soil. After considerable exertion and climbing with hands and feet, I made it to the top. 
I could hear Stan and Hanna talking down below in the Willow Trees as they trudged along in the shallow river but, I couldn't see them.
While walking through a saddle at the top of the Butte I discovered a large area where a mountain lion had been marking its territory with piles of scat. 
I decided it was probably time to find my way down! Getting down was almost as challenging as climbing. (Later, I showed the scat pics to Stan who confirmed it was from a mountain lion).
After about 3 hrs. we rejoined at the truck and moved on to another area within the refuge. We spent the better part of the day in the field as I tagged along. It was great to be out walking in the refuge.
Saturday, I spent the day preparing for our move. It's amazing how much there is to do when you've been in the same spot for nearly 4 months. I fueled up my truck and then later aired up the rear dually tires from 45 to 65 p.s.i. I then aired up the trailer tires to 110 p.s.i. for my G rated Goodyears. I also attached my TST tire pressure monitors, tightened the lug nuts and shot 4 pumps of grease into each of the wheel bearing grease fittings. I put the bikes and the lawn furniture in their respective places on the rig and put some other miscellaneous things away in preparation. Before long the day was spent.
This morning, Sunday we took the interns, Hanna and Melly to breakfast and then to the flea market in Lake Havasu City. We had a great time exploring the flea market and making some minor gift purchases.
Tomorrow morning if the weather is good, we will be moving on to Mesa, Az for the holidays. Right now the wind is howling outside and rain is forecasted!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Powerboat Tour of Topock Gorge and Christmas Party

December 16, 2010. Bill Williams River NWR
Yesterday December 15, the refuge treated us to a boat ride up the Colorado River from the quaint English Village (shopping area) surrounding the London Bridge. The SCA interns, Melly and Hanna rode with us to The London Bridge. We boarded the Starship 2010 of Blue Water Jet Boat Tours with the other volunteers and some of the refuge staff.

Preparing to Depart
Fun and Frivolity
Melly, Joyce and Hanna at the stern of the ship.
It was very overcast all day but still it was a beautiful boat ride. We saw Bald Eagles, Peregrin Falcons, Wild Burros and a Beaver lodge. 
The calm waters on a cloudy day.
The boat trip took about 2.5 hours and we all enjoyed ourselves. Throughout portions of the ride, the boat operator explained some of the history of the river which was very informative. You may recall that we took a kayak trip through Topock Gorge on November 14.
The London Bridge decorated for Christmas
After the boat tour we wanted to treat the interns to dinner. So, we met the assistant refuge manager, Stan Culling, his girlfriend and his young son at the Javelina Cantina for Taco Wednesday. We had a blast enjoying the company and the $1 tacos. Afterwards we did some grocery shopping before heading back to the refuge.

Today we had a lunchtime Christmas party at the refuge. We all had purchased "secret Santa" gifts for exchange and had a potluck lunch/dinner. The gift exchange was very entertaining! Joyce and I also got a few nice gifts for our volunteer service from the refuge. Some of these gifts included a 500 hour pin and our National Parks Pass good for one year. Joyce and I took this opportunity to present to Dick Gilbert, the refuge manager and his assistant Stan Culling with some framed and matted photos that I had taken at the refuge. Joyce and I presented them with pictures of a coyote chewing on a drip line and a picture of the refuge compound taken from high above in the Buckskin Mountains.
Stan Culling and Dick Gilbert, The Refuge Manager
One more day of volunteer work and then I'll make final preparations over the weekend for our departure on Monday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Hike in the Bill Williams River NWR

December 14, 2010 Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge
Sunday we had a small cook-out at our campsite with one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologists, his family and Hanna, one of the SCA interns working for the refuge. We all had a good time enjoying the beautiful weather, company and food. The temperature that day was 80 by late afternoon.
Yesterday, Saturday Joyce and I drove to Lake Havasu City and did some Christmas shopping for the refuge Christmas Party.
Today, we decided to do what will be perhaps our last hike in the Refuge. We started at the end of Planet Ranch Road.
River water between the bluffs
Cottonwoods in the Bill Williams Riverbed
As we hiked, we were often diverted by thick strands of Mesquite trees which forced us to climb up on the bluffs. We were told that there was a slot canyon in the area and after a couple hours of searching we found it. In the picture above you can see ATV tracks we left a few days ago. As we sat on the bluff taking a break over the riverbed, we saw a bobcat run across.
Slot Canyon in the distance
While preparing to hike down the bluff toward the slot canyon we came across Bobby and Wayne. They are volunteers working with the refuge ecologists. This is there 4th year volunteering here at the refuge. He's a retired biologist and both are avid birdwatchers. They are currently working to locate, identify and quantify bird and animal species in the refuge.
On the way down to the slot canyon, Bobby and Wayne took us on a short diversion to the riverbed via a hidden "rabbit hole" through the brush.
"Rabbit Hole" 
After leaving Bobby and Wayne we continued our hike to the slot canyon.
Joyce is dwarfed by the canyon walls

Striking a pose

On the other side of the slot canyon was a very large wash. We hiked around some more before heading back to the Jeep. We had spent about 4 hours in the field searching for the slot canyon. Time flies when you are having fun. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

CAP Tour and Training the Interns

December 11, 2010. Bill Williams River NWR
The last few work days have been pretty busy. On Thursday we took an impromptu tour of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) pumping plant with the other volunteers and the interns. The pumping plant pumps out of the cove outside our campsite door. I wrote about the CAP in this September 22 post.
This CAP station pumps 3 acre feet of water a minute out of Lake Havasu and through one of the Buckskin Mountains into an open aqua duct flowing towards Phoenix and Tucson Arizona.
The plant operates 6 pumps. We were told that just one pump uses more electricity than Lake Havasu City on a hot summer day. All 6 pumps use more electricity than any other city or entity in Arizona. Much more than the Parker Dam can produce.
The tour in the 5 story reinforced concrete building was interesting although it was virtually impossible to hear what was being said due to the noise of the pumps. The entire building shakes just a bit from the vibration of the pumps.
Later in the day, the assistant refuge manager asked me to work with Hanna, our newest intern. She will be doing the hydrology field work (checking wells) in the refuge.  However, first she needed help in learning to hitch and unhitch the ATV trailer. After she felt comfortable with that task, I had her practice backing and parking the trailer in a set of cones. She had previously never done any of these tasks in her 22 years so it was a matter of getting her comfortable with the basics.

After lunch she trailered the ATV to the end of Planet Ranch Road and we took a ride on the ATV to inspect the Cohen Ranch Field. The route to the field was covered with water from the ever changing/moving shallow Bill Williams River.
At the field we discovered that some of the pipes from the solar powered pump had broken. The PVC gets very brittle in the hot sun and can easily break especially if under pressure. The pump is used to drip feed a number of Mesquite trees and other plants planted in the field as part of a restoration project.
Friday, we worked with both interns, Hanna and Mely putting up some Christmas decorations in the visitor center to include some outdoor lights on the gabled entrance. (I thought I was done with Christmas Lights since we sold our house!) Mely is the intern assigned to do education projects for the public on the refuge.
Afterwards Stan the Assistant Refuge Manager, asked Joyce and I to take the interns out into the refuge, show them around and get them accustomed to the Ranger ATV. (They will receive formal ATV training in the near future).

We left the refuge entering BLM land through the locked gate after a precipitous rocky climb.
We traveled over some steep and rocky ascents and descents as I gave them the chance to drive. They were somewhat reluctant to drive as perhaps they were outside their comfort level. This was the same area were the previous hydrologist intern, Nicky had taken us a couple of months ago (Exploring The Bill Williams River Refuge.)

We returned to the refuge staying on flat sandy ground of the washes and riverbeds where they enjoyed learning to operate the ATV. In the picture below you can see the Bill Williams River area with the yellowing Cottonwood Trees and Salt Cedar.

Interns: Mely and Hannah
We all made it back safely and both of the interns had a blast. Frankly so did Joyce and I. We've always enjoyed going out into the refuge. I'm sure we will be going back out soon to make repairs to the damaged irrigation.
We only have 3 official work days left before we move on December 20th.