We flew back to Arizona to reunite with our tiny rolling home during the first week of April. It felt great to return home after a cold few months in the northeast. With temps in the low 80s and the desert bursting with more greenery and flowers than I ever thought possible, it was a joyous homecoming.
While we were gone I missed my small, tidy house, my comfy bed surrounded by windows, and the ability to pee in the night without having to climb an entire flight of stairs (it’s the little things). But for sure, the thing I missed the most was the ability to go outside and enjoy nature.
Southern Connecticut is not exactly a nature lover’s paradise. Especially in the winter. In Vermont, we amused ourselves during the long winter by getting out and enjoying the snow. In Connecticut, winter just means everything is frozen and dead, with only an occasional smattering of snow. And even when (if) it does snow, there’s nowhere to enjoy it. So yeah, we didn’t spend much time outside while we were there.
After all this nature deprivation, the first order of business upon returning home was a hike. I arrived in AZ a few days before Tim and immediately took myself for a hike in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We had left the trailer at Coyote Howls in Why, and the monument is only a short drive down the road. I chose an easy trail that traveled between the visitor center and the campground and then extended it by hiking the Desert View loop. It was glorious!
After Tim made it back and I successfully picked him up at the airport in Phoenix (I swear if we never have to go back to Phoenix again I will not be disappointed) we made a beeline to Yuma for some Mexican dentistry. Tim had started the process for a tooth implant last winter and it was past time to finish it up. Fortunately, it all went very smooth and we only had to stay a few days.
Of course, the few days we were there it happened to be hot – like high 90s hot – so we found an RV park instead of boondocking. The AC was much appreciated and we even enjoyed the pool one afternoon.
As soon as we could get out of Yuma, we hightailed it east to Tucson for more outdoor time. A few days at Gilbert Ray – our very favorite Tucson area campground – was just what we needed. Even though we didn’t get settled into our site that first day until nearly 3 pm, we couldn’t resist an afternoon hike on the Brown Mtn Loop.
The rest of our time in Tucson was all about hiking. We climbed up Wasson Peak via the Hugh Norris Trail, drove over to Catalina SP and hiked the Romero Pools trail, and tackled the Bren Peak loop off of the Gates Pass Rd.
While it feels great to back in the west, our plan for the next month is to travel back to the northeast for the summer. We will be helping Tim’s mom through some more health issues and plan to be there all summer and into the fall. Which means from Tucson, the only real option was to continue heading east.
We explored some ideas for places to stop on our way through the state, including a night of tenting at White Sands, but in the end, a forecast filled with wind and rain led us to forgo that idea and instead continue on to Oliver Lee State Park.
A few years ago, we spent several months touring around New Mexico. Since then, we’ve driven through a couple of different times, but always while on the way somewhere else. Once again, we find ourselves traveling through the state with little time to stop and explore. Someday we’ll get back for a longer visit New Mexico, I promise!
For now, we settled on a brief three-night stay at Oliver Lee State Park. It was just enough time to relax and enjoy the views from our scenic site.
We also hiked the 11-mile Dog Canyon Trail. The only trail in the park, this grueling uphill trek is not for the faint of heart. It starts off strong with a 600-foot climb up a series of switchbacks that rise quickly up a cliff behind the visitor center. From the top, we could see the campground below and the desert beyond.
A few miles of steady, gradual uphill took us across an open grassy area to the edge of the canyon. From there, we descended into the canyon, passed uncle Tom’s cabin, and began climbing up the other side. This is where things got interesting. The trail hugs the edge of a steep-sided cliff while rising rapidly up through the prickly pear studded boulders.
In retrospect, we probably should have stopped and turned around at the top of the cliff, but I was determined to finish out the trail. I am pretty sure Tim would have happily called it a day, but I kept thinking that if we just went a few more miles another amazing view would open up. It never did, and after 5.5 miles we reached an unforgettable crossroads where the trail met up with an old 4×4 road. It was time to turn around.
The next morning, feeling only slightly sore after our canyon adventure, we packed up and headed into Texas for one last wild west adventure before we leave the mountains and canyons behind.