Camping Autumn Joy List: Photo Friday Style

Last weekend we went camping at Chiricahua National Monument near Willcox, AZ.  Pure bliss!

On the way down we stopped at Apple Annie’s and picked pumpkins and did the corn maze.  A very muddy corn maze but we enjoyed it anyway.


IMG_8185Pumpkin checkers!

IMG_8217We found some fall color on our hike to Far Away Ranch. The weather was perfect, not hot, not too chilly.

Far Away Ranch has a great history filled with strong women.  The fireplace was made from stones taken from a monument to President Garfield that was falling down.  The names were chiseled by Buffalo Soldiers stationed there before Far Away Ranch became Far Away Ranch.

We had a wonderful tour of the house led by Ranger Anne.

IMG_8235In the afternoon we hiked to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain.  This is an old fire lookout tower and proof that we went all the way to the top.

IMG_8248At one point we actually hiked through the mountain!

IMG_8228I would have thought it was too cold for the snakes to be out, especially in the shade, but apparently not.  This is a black tailed rattlesnake I believe, right near the beginning of the trail. Luckily other hikers gave us a heads up preventing any heart attacks.

IMG_8250Still there on the trip back, we had marked his spot with a small rock cairn so as to not get caught unawares.

IMG_8191There are no fire pits at Bonita Canyon Campground so we brought our own, perfectly legal.  The rangers will let you have a small fire in the grill (if there are no fire restrictions of course!)  This was much nicer and we cooked hot dogs and s’mores the first night. It was perfect sitting around the fire weather.

Okay, while seeing the snake on the hike and a skunk (which I did not take pictures of) one night near our campsite (when I was sitting alone by the fire!) did not exactly bring me joy it was still cool (you know, afterwards).  But this guy brought a smile to my face:

IMG_8200The mom had already crossed the road and then I came along and the fawn stopped and I stopped and I told him to go ahead.  I could see the mama deer anxiously looking back and after a moments hesitation the baby deer bounded across the road and caught up to his mama.  We saw a lot of deer, they know they are safe in the National Park area during hunting season.

Chiricahua National Monument

More from our three day MLK weekend camping trip.

We almost went home Sunday morning. But small child wanted to stay so after the traditional rainy day lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup we opted to brave the elements and go for a hike. Turned out to be a great idea.  It was delightful being out in some winter weather.  Normally I would have taken very few pictures because of the cold but I found the above nifty gloves/mittens in the trailer and they worked great! And since I bundled up I was surprisingly comfortable and didn’t mind the damp and cold at all.

Our hike started around 7000′ and we walked the 3.3 mile Echo Canyon loop that went past the Grotto and down into Echo Canyon.  The weather changes as we descended and rose were quite marked.

Snow at the start of our hike.

We started out in the clouds with a stiff breeze and some light snain (rain/snow mix).

In the clouds.

Soon we descended below the clouds, were sheltered from the wind and the precipitation stopped.

A fairly dry section of trail.


We bundled up pretty good, it was 32° at the start of our hike, cold for us desert dwellers.


At one point we seemed to be looking down on the clouds.


We could barely see the rock formations for much of the hike.




Creepy tree.


One last shot.

When we returned to the truck the weather was the same as when we left:  windy, damp and gray.  We were happy to return to our home on wheels and mugs of hot cocoa.  Nothing like cocoa on a wintry day, such a rare and wonderful desert treat!

Not Going to Canada (And perhaps TMI)

The view from our campsite last year.  There is a firepit to the left.


Turns out my misery problem was a simple case of PMS that totally caught me off guard. Since the onset of “I am seriously going into menopause symptoms”, my period has become very irregular in timing and duration. This means I have no idea how I am going to feel physically or emotionally on any given day. Fun Stuff!

Part of the problem is everytime I get any sort of period I think, “this is it! my last one!”  and imagine a great summer of swimming and traveling without any surprise emotional meltdowns or um, need for feminine products.  The disheartening truth is I have months of uncertainty ahead of me.

So I am not off to Canada but I am off to Coronado Island (near San Diego, Ca) for a few days. Long walks on the beach, a visit to the USS Midway, roasting hot dogs over a fire on our own little strip of sand at our campsite.  Hard to be miserable under those circumstances. I just hope my hormones agree.

C is for Camping



With a bit of a focus on  cold or inclement weather camping.  Most fortuitously for this post my family spent last week camping at the Grand Canyon.  It was cold and windy but we still had a great week, mostly because we were prepared for cold and windy weather.

We camped at Mather campground in the park.  No hookups but nice sized sites with fire pits and picnic tables.  There is also Trailer Village in the park with hookups but the sites aren’t as large or as private and no fire pits.  Another noteworthy point about Mather is limited generator hours.  You can only run your generator from 7:00 to 9:00 am and 6:00 to 8:00 pm.  Our neighbor ran theirs during the day and the Park Ranger chastised them and made them shut it off.

We own a 2011 23′ Jayco Jayflight Swift trailer.  I would like to point out that some people say camping in a trailer is not “real camping”.  However 50 to 75% of the tenters did not make it to their scheduled departure date but left early.  So who was “really camping”?  Those of us in the campground or those who were at home or in a hotel?  Just sayin’.

I love our trailer.  We have owned it almost five years now and I have yet to find a floorplan I like better.  (Which is really good as our trailer is now paid for.) This is our second trailer and we thought a lot about our needs when we purchased it.  We typically go camping five or six times a year.  We do as much winter camping as school breaks and our schedule allows and maybe a summer trip high up (above 8000′) into the mountains.  Much of our camping is done in cold weather, at least at night.

We opted for a hard sided trailer (instead of a pop up) for both better protection from the elements and from bears.  No worries about canvas popouts leaking or bears ripping their way in.

Size wise we wanted the smallest trailer we could all sleep in comfortably as well as spend two or three hours in during a monsoonal wind driven rain or a heavy snow shower.  And don’t forget about the pets!  My husband and I joke about how you can tell the size of a person’s camper by the size of their dog. We have a medium sized dog, hence a medium sized trailer 🙂 .

We keep a few games in the trailer so we are ready for a spell of bad weather.  This National Parks Yahtzee, wonderfully contained in a small cup is a current favorite.


We play lots of games here as well as eating when the weather is not so great.

The smaller the trailer the more campsites and even campgrounds are available to you.  Mather has a 30′ limit.  I do have to agree that if you have an RV that has three tvs, a dishwasher and a gourmet kitchen that doesn’t seem much like camping.  Also, larger campers tend to need hookups which limits where you can go.  We typically use our generator if we want to run the furnace and don’t have electric hook up. We don’t like to run the battery down as the fridge needs some juice even if running on propane.  We use battery operated lanterns for light and save the trailer battery for the water pump and fridge.  If the weather is mild we can easily go 3 or 4 days on just the battery.

What each family needs will vary but I suggest figuring out what your minimum comfort level is.  That is, what do your really need to have a good camping experience?  For me a safe place to sleep (hard sided trailer means I feel safe from bears), and “hot shower, flush toilet”.  When it is thirty degrees I do not want to have to trek to an outhouse in my pj’s at 3:00 am.  And I have to have a quick shower in the morning.  I do a “Navy” shower:  wet down, shut off the water, soap and shampoo and then rinse quickly.  I use a surprisingly small amount of water.  But without that quick shower I would feel miserable all day.

My best cold weather camping tip?  Even in a trailer sleep in sleeping bags, so much warmer than blankets.  We woke up to a 33° trailer one morning and 30° another but I slept just fine.  (It helps that I can sleep with my head totally buried in the bag keeping my nose warm.)

Another random tip?  Think about what you are cooking in the trailer.  In cold/wet weather the trailer is closed up and smells linger.  We have a camp stove we use for things like frying bacon.


A reversible rug by the door helps capture dirt. I got this at Goodwill and it washes up great and I like how we can flip it over if needed.


This over the door triple hook is perfect for coats, jackets and scarves. Keeps them off the couch and bed.


The Grand Canyon!

Don’t let cold weather keep you from being a happy camper!

A Day “Off”

Found autumn color on the Mogollon Rim

In my bullet journal I had written in Wed, Oct 21st as my day off. In ink. Coming back from our marvelous camping trip I didn’t quite feel the need for a day off anymore but it was in my bullet journal. In ink. So I took the day off.

Here is what I did:

  • three loads of laundry
  • watched ‘Gilmore Girls’ and ‘Home Fires’
  • made a batch of reese’s pieces oatmeal cookie dough (my absolute favorite autumn cookie!)
  • finished reading my library book and started my next Miss Marple novel
  • I ate a croissant for breakfast while it was raining and had a slice of homemade dutch apple pie (made the day prior) with my son after school, while it was raining
  • for dinner I made pumpkin sausage penne (interestingly good)


Pumpkin-Sausage Penne.  Creamy, tasty lusciousness! 

I don’t think I needed a day off so much as I needed a day at home.  I wore comfy pants and enjoyed the rain, my house all decorated for fall and now Halloween, good smells and the freedom to do what I wanted.  I ended up getting quite a few bits of my imaginary Monday!

It was hard coming back to Tucson after five marvelous days of autumn up in the mountains.  The air was crisp and I got to wear long sleeves.  We did some hiking and a lot of sitting around the camp fire.  I was even blessed with a bit of solitude while my husband and son kayaked and rode bikes.  The best part was I slept ten solid hours every night.  It was glorious. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, I mostly just soaked everything in.


For a moment I thought we had wandered off the path into Wonderland.


Only a sprinkle of rain but we still got a rainbow!

Happy Days are Here Again!

I am feeling much better these days. It is a huge relief to not feel crabby for no apparent reason all the time. There are various reasons I could be feeling better:

1. My husband is doing the Whole 30 with some co-workers and I decided to do it too since I was going to have to do all the food prep for him anyway. (My husband can grill but completely inept in the kitchen which I think he does on purpose.) I am on day 10 and I believe purging the grains and sugar from my diet are making a difference.

2.  I am getting outdoors a bit more despite the heat and humidity.  It is still unpleasant out but cloud cover makes it more bearable.  On Saturday afternoon we went for a short hike at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.  It had been raining all day but we just had a few sprinkles on our hike and on the way home the sun came out making it yucky hot.  On Labor Day we went to Apple Annie’s  and picked a ton of fruit  and veggies.  Despite being “only” 85 degrees,  with the humidity and sun it was sweltering.  But I love picking fruit and we enjoyed ourselves despite the weather.  It plain feels good to be outdoors more.

Good to see water flowing over the dam at Sabino Canyon.


Sabino Creek


A few sprinkles of rain during our hike felt good.


Really wish those clouds had been over the sun at Apple Annie’s.


A little taste of pre-autumn color in Willcox, AZ.

3.  It is September which means there must be an end in sight to the heat.  Okay, it will be anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks before we feel it but there is still a feeling of having survived another desert summer. (Well almost survived, only two more weeks of summer to go.)

4.  Lots to look forward to.  We are now in my “most wonderful time of the year”.  My husband and I sat down with the calendar and planned out our camping trips for the next few months.  The anticipation of true autumn weather (at higher elevations), wearing long sleeves, and gathering leaves makes me smile.

5.  It is football season!  This year we bought season tickets to University of Arizona Wildcat football games.  Nothing beats the atmosphere of college football.  Football and a marching band, what could be better in (almost) autumn?  Our first game was last Thursday and it started raining a  few hours before kickoff.  But the rain ended just as we were going to our seats.  We had remembered a towel to dry our seats off and it was a lovely, cool evening.  It was so perfect I thought I was going to cry.  Arizona won and as usual it was an entertaining game.

The Pride of Arizona marching band. (Wildcats, Pride, get it?)


Wonderful football weather.

Sunday I have my Denver Bronco’s to look forward to.  If only Peyton Manning can stay healthy and the O-line keep him protected!

6.  I was on-call for jury duty this week and did not have to report to the courthouse.  This means I have the whole week free to do whatever I want.  (I wish.)

I hope everyone is having a happy day.  🙂