Nomadic Super Bowl Party!

There’s no getting around the fact that the Super Bowl is essentially an American holiday. There was plenty of noise in my Twitter feed about escaping onto the trails or the slopes to take advantage of the fact that most of us were settled in with horrible fatty food, beer, and a television set.

Laguna Mountains

Out here at our lakeside camp, we decided to do both.

I got in two short little hikes: one with Sprocket and the other with Mike, F, and Sprocket right before the game started.

Laguna Mountains

Beth & Sprocket

F and Sprocket

At game time, our little nomad crew worked together to have a proper Super Bowl Party. Randy offered up a TV (and some of his ample battery power), I improvised buffalo chicken dip (aka “Death by Dairy) on the stove top, and Lou made nachos.

Nomad Super Bowl Party

Even better, the Seahawks won!

Sprocket


RV Friendly Buffalo Chicken Dip, aka Death By Dairy

adapted from po’man meals

  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 2 c. Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 c. bleu cheese or ranch dressing
  • 1-12oz can chicken, drained
  • 3TBS minced garlic
  • 1/4 c. tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 4TBS Tapatio

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, and 1 cup Monterey Jack. In another bowl, combine chicken, garlic, tomato paste, water, and hot sauce. Layer the cream cheese mixture in the bottom of a large skillet and top with the chicken mixture and the remaining Monterey Jack. Cover and heat on low until the cheese is melted. (I had to move my skillet around a bit to get everything to heat evenly.)

I subsituted the tomato paste and water for tomato sauce since it’s much easier to keep a tube of tomato paste in the refrigerator. The buffalo layer was a little on the thin side so I might err on the side of less water next time. I’ve also upped the hot sauce from the original recipe, be sure to experiment with the type and amount to find what works for you. (We’ve tried Tabasco and buffalo-style Tabasco but prefer the Tapatio.)

 

Laguna Mountains: Exploring

We’ve been hanging out in our sweet canalside camp spot for the last week enjoying the gorgeous Arizona sunshine. (Did you know that 60°F feels really cold after a week of 80°F? I’m writing this in a down vest…). Yes, that is a private dock next to the camper:

Gila River Canal Campsite

The mountains are full of quad trails and Sprocket and I have crossed over the mountains several different ways. The desert here is not lush but there are some cool rock formations to explore. Placer mining has been practiced here for almost 100 years: it’s probably that I have to thank for the tangle of roads crisscrossing the hills.

Laguna Mountains

Sprocket is in love with this place: water, dirt, and the quad.

Sprocket running with quad

Plus, we happen to be camped with people who Sprocket has taken quite a shine to. Fortunately, the feeling is mutual and he is welcomed in their camps as he makes the rounds each day.

Camp on Gila Gravity Canal

During our exploring we ambled to the top of “Laguna Summit,” a bump of 711′ in the hills:

Laguna Summit

We’ve ridden the quad to the tower in the distance and looked down onto Laguna Dam and Mittry Lake:

Laguna Mountains

Mittry Lake Wildlife Area

Mittry Lake

We even found the inlet to the longer of the Gila Gravity Dam tunnels:

Gila Gravity Canal Tunnel

Not too shabby…not at all:

F and Sprocket

Laguna Mountains: Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

Located just north of Yuma, Arizona are the Laguna Mountains. Nestled between the Gila Gravity Canal (more on that coming soon!), the Colorado River, the Yuma Proving Grounds, and US 95 the Lagunas are a roughly circular range of scrubby, barren hills. We’re camped right near “Sugarloaf,” a 668′ chunk of rock presiding over western edge of the Lagunas so yesterday F and I decided to head up and check out the view.

Green Rocks

We approached the mountain via a big wash to the northwest of the peak doing a bit of exploring as we circled around to the southeast to climb the peak. Some sources say to take along a rope if you’re going to the summit but we found it to be a very simple scramble to the top.

F and Sugarloaf

F on Sugarloaf

At the summit, we were treated to big views all around the Yuma area: looking northeast we could see Castle Dome, back to the east were the Muggins Mountains, to the southeast the Gila Mountains and Tinjas Altas, to the southwest Pilot Knob, to the west the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, and to the south the smog of San Luis, Mexico.

Sugarloaf Benchmark Army Corps of Engineers

Plus, we could see where the All-American Canal headed west towards the Imperial Valley, where the Colorado River cut through the Yuma Valley, and all the lush green agricultural fields.

Valley views

View from Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

F on volcanic ridge

Los Algodones, Mexico

Beth & PacificoLos Algodones water tower

Over the last week or so we’ve been hanging out in Los Algodones catching up on dental work and eating delicious tacos. Actually, I’ve been eating a lot tacos while F is stuck with cheese quesadillas due to the aforementioned dental work. Thankfully, his teeth are better and he’s done his best to make up in the taco department.

Quesadillas in Mexico

Algodones is the self proclaimed “Dentistry capital of the world” and is also home to a pharmacy on every block. The streets of town are full of Americans and Canadians getting dental work and stocking up on prescription drugs for cheap.

Mexico, perscription drugs

The streets are colorful and filled with street vendors selling sunglasses, blankets, hats, jewelery, lawn ornaments, and more. All the booths are more or less the same but at least everything is colorful!

Los Algodones

Los Algodones

Colors!

El Paradiso is really popular with those from north of the border. The food looks like it pales in comparison to taco trucks and stands outside the main tourist area but it’s got energy and the $2 Coronas and $5 margaritas were pretty delicious.

Margaritas in Mexico

F in El Paradiso

Beth & Pacifico

In the end, our stay near the border was really great: F got all caught up on dental work, I got a cleaning, we ate tacos, and thoroughly explored Algodones. Of course, all the tacos whetted our whistles for traveling further south but that’s for another time!

Sunday Sermon

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure—self-determined, self-motivated, often risky—forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind—and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”

Mark Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

-Mark Jenkins

Signal Peak

Signal Peak, located just south of Quartzsite, Arizona, is the highest point in Yuma County. I’ve been meaning to climb it since last year when we first visited Quartzsite but finally convinced F and Mike to join me on Wednesday; Mike’s dog Katie and Sprocket joined us as well. Signal Peak (4,877′) stands high over the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (fun fact: the word “Kofa” comes from “King-OF-Arizona” a mine that used to operate south of Signal Peak).

The drive up Kofa Queen Canyon Road is gorgeous. Traveling just north of the Signal Peak massif, it heads up through some very impressive spires and rock formations. The angle of the morning light wasn’t ideal for photography but I did grab some on the way out. Signal Peak is one big chunk of rock!

Signal Peak

After bouncing along Kofa Queen Road for quite awhile, we finally found the trailhead. F and I quickly confirmed that what we were seeing on the ground matched our online beta about the route and away we went. While preparing for the hike, I’d read several trip reports that said route finding was tricky. Using the photos available on the SummitPost.org site, I’d say that it was really quite easy to find your way.

Ten Ewe/Indian Canyon

Just barely on the trail, we spotted these gorgeous Desert Bighorn:

Desert Bighorn, Kofa Wildife Refuge

Part of the way up, Katie started limping a bit so Mike decided that he’d turn around and meet us back at the truck. F, Sprocket, and I continued heading up the mountain. The promised “scrambling” section of the hike barely rated a class 3. It’d been awhile since F had been on a hike like this with Sprocket and I and we all had a blast. I think we were both quite proud of Sprocket: he’s become quite the little mountain goat!

F and Sprocket

Along the way we spotted some more Desert Bighorns. They’re so amazing to watch run along the steep cactus covered hillsides!

Desert Bighorn

Cholla

Eventually, we asended into a bowl between the summit of Signal and Ten Ewe Peak:

Ten Ewe

At the summit, we took some time to relax, eat lunch, and try to name as many of the mountain ranges around us as we could. We’re slowly starting to learn the geography of western Arizona and far-eastern California!

Kofa 2 Benchmark/Signal Peak

View from Signal Peak

Signal Peak view to the southwest

Signal Peak was one of the best hikes I’ve been on in awhile. The drive in is long but breathtaking. The hike itself is challenging but not too horrible (it did not feel like 2,000′ of gain in less than 2 miles). And the view from the top is astounding.

 

Pilot Knob

Yesterday morning, Sprocket and I headed out for a hike. Camped outside the Quechan Casino near Yuma, we’d been looking out towards Pilot Knob (874′) for a couple of days and I finally decided it was time to head up and check out the view.

Approaching Pilot Knob

Starting up the mountain, I wasn’t sure how much of an adventure this was going to be. Sometimes climbing random desert peaks requires some route finding and, especially with Sprocket, cactus avoidance. This time, it was as easy as finding my way out of the fence surrounding the Indian reservation and heading up one of the many boot paths in the mountains. Sprocket highly prefers when there’s a path and he can lead the way!

Climbing Pilot Knob

Los Algodones, MX

Beth & Sprocket

Pilot Knob Panorama

Atop the peak, we had an awesome view down in to Los Algodones and back towards Yuma. It was pretty windy on top so we didn’t stick around too long and headed back down the hill. I knew we’d made pretty good time, but I was still confused when I opened the door of the camper and F immediately asked me, “What happened?” Turns out Sprocket and I had nailed our 4 mile, 700′ gain hike in under an hour and a half. What a team!

This was also my first hike in my Columbia Peak Freak Enduro shoes. I’m excited to pile some more miles on them so I can write a solid review soon! So far, so good.

Peak Freak Enduro Outdry

On-The-Road Friends: Glamis, California to Quartzsite, Arizona

While we were in Glamis, F observed that five bicyclists had ridden up and were making camp near us. Glamis is full of all sorts of motorized recreation and bicyclists are really an anomaly so it took me a minute to actually process what he was actually talking about. Curious about what they were up to, we wandered over to introduce ourselves.

Lisa, Spencer, Miriam, and Tok had just met up with Tyler, a fellow Southern Tier traveler as they pulled into the dunes looking for a place to camp. Over a round of beers, we talked about our travels. F and I decided to pull the camper over near their tents to have a shared camp. We invited them to cook their dinner in the camper where Tok whipped together a delicious noodle and soup dish for us all. We chatted until the weary bicyclists were ready for bed and in the morning we said our goodbyes.

Camper on the Colorado River

Several hours later, F and I made camp along the shores of the Colorado River at the “hippie hole” near Cibola, Arizona. As we relaxed, we thought of our fellow travelers pedaling our way and F decided he’d take the truck back to the highway and invite them down to our camp again. Tyler had continued on to Blythe but the other riders were happy to join us at our cozy little spot. This time, we spent a quiet evening relaxing next to the campfire as the evening chill began to fall swapping stories of travel, life, books, and adventure.

Palo Verde Peak

In the morning, we said our goodbyes once again before Lisa, Spencer, Miriam, and Tok pressed on. As we passed them several miles up the road, we pulled over and invited them to join us at our camp in Quartzsite. Happily, they agreed and we had a mid-afternoon rendezvous at the grocery store in Blythe so we could ferry their groceries to camp.

BicyclistsWhen they rode into camp at dusk, they had Tyler with them! It quickly became chilly outside. I would never have believed it but we managed to pack all seven of us into the camper for a lovely dinner party. Lisa made a delicious meal of sausages, salad, and potatoes while conversation flowed.

Camper party

Cooking

This time, as the intrepid bicyclists rode eastward, it really was goodbye. It was wonderful to get to know new people, especially fellow travelers and adventurers. We cannot wait to meet you again somewhere on the road!

Southern Tier riders

Axle Deep in 2014

F and I closed out 2013 with a campfire and finger food buffet with friends in the Slabs as well as listening to the music at The Range.

We’d decided to head back out to Red Island for a couple of days. Instead of hanging out in the camp area, we drove out to a boat launch near the mouth of the Alamo River. As he gazed out towards the Sea, F asked, “I wonder how soft it is out there?” and gently guided the truck off the hardpacked road.

As luck would have it, the sand was soft. F looked at me and asked me to air down the rear tires to see if we could back out. I did but when we tried to move, they dug further into the sand burying the truck past the axle.

Truck and camper stuck in sand

…On the plus side, it was really easy to get in the camper…

Stuck truck

What we didn’t know was the sand is only a foot deep underlain with soft sticky mud! Fortunately, after taking turns digging we were able to drag some old carpet from the boat launch area. We also aired down the tires to 4 PSI and we were able to drive right out!

Tire ruts

Sitting nice and low with 4 psi in the tires!

5psi, aired down

Later, long after we were unstuck, we were treated to a pretty sunset over the Salton Sea:

Sunset on the Salton Sea

Sunset on the Chocolate Mountains