Gilbert Ray Campground Take 2

This week we’re back at Gilbert Ray Campground on the east side of Tucson. We’ve never made a return visit to a campground before, so I guess this must mean we really like the place. Last time we checked out all the spots and took note of the best sites. Even though  the campground was about 75% full when we arrived on Saturday, one of our choice sites was still available. Lucky us! H24 is a huge site located on the corner which means no neighbors on one side. We’ve also been lucky that no campers have occupied the site on our other side all week. It’s just us and and the gorgeous desert landscape.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Our spot in the H loop

The other lucky thing about coming back to Gilbert Ray is that we got a chance to meet two more airstreamers that we have communicated with online for awhile now. The first was a family of five who travel and live in a 2007 Airstream International 25FB Ocean Breeze. The Malimish crew (also known as Dan, Marlene, Ava, Mila & Luka) are currently on their second trip around the US in their airstream. It was great to meet them, especially since we’ve been following their daily blog for about 6 months now and feel like we already know all the intimate details of their lives (well everything that makes it on the blog at least). Unfortunately, we only spent a few hours with them as our stays at Gilbert Ray overlapped very briefly. Since they were staying in another loop of the campground we never got to see their airstream, and I somehow neglected to take a picture of the whole family. It’s okay though because we enjoyed our time talking with then and I am sure we will meet up again somewhere down the road.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Mila & Ava hanging in the shade of the truck with their sun parasols

We also got to meet Jenny, Matt and their adorable dog Hank. Jenny and Matt live in the Phoenix area and traveled down to Tucson for a quick weekend visit.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Jenny, Matt & Hank

Jenny & Matt have an awesome vintage 31- foot 1974 Airstream Sovereign that they are currently in the process of renovating. It has a great layout and some really cool original details that I seriously envy (avocado green counter top- yes!). Check out their blog at to see more pictures and follow along as they continue renovations. Since our next destination is the Phoenix area we hope to connect with them again soon.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Check out this kitchen!

The other reason we were excited for our return to Gilbert Ray was to explore more of the great hiking trails in the area. Earlier this week we took two hikes though the desert landscape that we have grown to love so much. Since for some reason dogs aren’t allowed on the trails around here, for our first hike we decided to get around the silly rule by going off-trail. We found a nice wash (the desert version of a dry creek bed) that as a bonus had some geocaches nearby and with Phineas in tow off we went.

Gilbert Ray Campground

We hiked up out of the wash and this it the view that greeted us

We’ve discovered that one of the surprise features to our new Geocaching hobby is that we often go to places and learn about things we might have otherwise missed. On this hike our search for the cache offered up a very interesting lesson on the local geology. The cache description included a long and detailed history of the geological features we were walking through. The most interesting were these huge slabs of rocks that dominated much of the wash floor. The cracks and joints that you see in the top picture are due to freezing and thawing and may not be that old in geological terms. In contrast, the ripple marks that you see on the rocks in the bottom picture are caused from water flowing over these rocks long, long ago when this area was covered by an ancient sea. Pretty cool huh?

Gilbert Ray Campground

Cracks from frost, Phin enjoying his walk, ancient water marked rocks

Our next hike took us over to the Ironwood Picnic area where we followed a network of mountain biking and hiking trails in a somewhat odd shaped circular route. The hike culminated at the top of a small hill covered with very red rocks and lots of cholla and saguaro cacti.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Red Rock Trail, Extreme close up of us (oops the camera was all the way zoomed), Cholla + Tim

Yesterday we took a break from hiking in nature for a little hiking in the city. We both tend to enjoy exploring nature much more than exploring city environments. But since we’ve spent almost 3 weeks in Tucson and have yet to see the city except for a few trips to the grocery store we decided it was time. We decided to check out the El Presidio district where a 2.5 mile walking trail leads you around the oldest and most historical part of the city. The Presidio Trail is marked by a turquoise line on the sidewalk which sometimes disappeared due to the immense amount of road construction in the area. After a quick stop at the visitor center to pick up a handy map and guide we set off to explore part of the trail. We didn’t walk the entire trail, but here are some of the highlights:

Pima County Courthouse circa 1929

Pima County Courthouse circa 1929

Gilbert Ray Campground

St. Augustine Cathedral

Gilbert Ray Campground

Hotel Congress circa 1919- famous for hosting members of John Dillenger’s gang in 1934

Gilbert Ray Campground

Historic Railroad Depot- Built in 1907 and restored to its 1942 appearance in 2004.

After our walk through history we found some much needed modern refreshment in the form of self-serve frozen yogurt.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Bet you can’t guess who had gummy worms with their yogurt?

Today was our day to stay to close to home. The t.v. weatherman had been warning about an impending winter storm all week, so we planned to stay inside to avoid the cold and rain. Turns out what we got was more than cold and rain. It was snow.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Starting to snow

The rain turned to snow mid-morning and by the time it stopped a little after noon we had about an half- inch of soft wet stuff on the ground and covering the poor shivering cacti.

gilbert ray campground

They call this a “snowstream”

Gilbert Ray Campground

Help! We’re covered with snow!

When it stopped coming down we ventured out to get some lunch and saw at least 10 cars (during our short 5 minute drive) pulled off the road with the occupants standing outside taking pictures. Guess this snow thing is a novelty around here. Even though we’re seasoned winter folks, and this was a very small amount of snow, we were delighted  to see this normally dry, sun-drenched land covered with a magical dusting of white.

Gilbert Ray Campground

A world of white

It rained a bit this afternoon and as of this evening most of the snow is gone. There is a little more expected tonight but then tomorrow the sun will come out and by the weekend the temperatures are forecasted to climb back up into the 60s. Nothing these New Englanders can’t handle! Oh, and in case you’re worried – it’s 74 degrees in our cozy little home right now.


  1. wheeling it says:

    Such cool shots of the snow!! And I like the idea of “getting around” the hiking rule by going off-trail. Hmmmm….maybe Gilbert Ray is in our future after all.

  2. Keith says:

    Love the post, you guys are so muck like us. We love to geocache because it gets you to some of the best locals places you could never find yourself (like watching turtles surf in Hawaii). We also love to bounce from the country and wilderness to the city.

    Thanks for the great blog posts, they give me inspiration as I prep our motorhome to get back on the road -


  3. Ingrid says:

    Small world. Its because of you we’re here at Gilbert Ray in site C-2. We were going to go to Catalina but with the storm coming, we wanted electric and Catalina was booked, thus putting us in the parking lot. I’m sure its not as crowded as the 3 day weekend but didn’t want to chance it. We’re here till Saturday and will stop by …..Ingrid :-)

  4. Leigh says:

    Love the cracked rocks, geocaching adventure. Tim had the gummies and that last snow pic is awesome.

    • Amanda says:

      Tim did have the gummies- and he took that last picture. He has much more patience than me when it comes to photos so the best one’s are usually his :)

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