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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Travel Memories: The Old Town Of Yuma, AZ And Our Camp Life

December 02
The old town of Yuma. AZ

Today we went to see the old town of Yuma and pick up our mail. After 2 previous attempts we receive our mail at the Yuma Post Office. Then we drive down to see what is left from the old days. Well, there isn't too much being really old. Most of the old center has been rebuilt even though architecture reminds of long-ago days. Some single buildings seem to be from the beginning of last century. The center, or "Main Street Plaza" as it is called, resembles a market place with its numerous booths of artistic merchandise. 

Since we are close to Christmas, a decorated tree has been put up at the entry. Yuma Main Plaza has a relaxed atmosphere which is underlined through a country musician on stage. People are hanging out here, browsing, buying or just sitting around on benches under the shaded store fronts.
Yuma has indeed a rich history beginning already at the time when several Indian tribes were populating the banks of the Colorado River, these were namely the Quechans, the Cocopahs and the Mohaves. Recording, however first started in the 16th. century when explorers, adventurers and pioneers were pressing on to reach the American west. At that time the river was broad, untamed and wild rushing towards the Gulf of California. Some places the riverbed was 15miles wide and quite impossible to fort. Because of a geological formation the river narrowed into a 400 yards wide channel at the future town site of Yuma. Until 1950 the tribe of the Quechans were also called the Yumas and as a result the Colorado Fort was called Yuma Crossing. 

Yuma's history recordings began on a day in 1540 when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Alarcon arrived at the Colorado River. From that day and until 1854 Yuma was under the Spanish and Mexican flag. Then, in 1854 and as part of the Gadsden Purchase Yuma became part of the U.S. Territory. As a strategic point with an increasing east-west traffic Fort Yuma was founded in 1849. Being the only viable south western route 60.000 people passed through Yuma from 1849-1850. During this time the town was called Colorado City. In 1870 Yuma had become an integral part of the Wild West and represented a challenge for law and order. Bandits preyed upon the civilized part of the population and in 1876 the Arizona Territorial Prison was built in Yuma. housing the most dangerous and notorious criminals until 1909. It soon became a symbol of frontier justice and still stands as a landmark for Arizona's intolerance of treachery.

December 03

The day turns out to be windy and I have a terrible back pain and we stay home.

December 04

Another windy day. Walking along the canal is quite impossible because of blowing sand. I am still in back pain.

December 05

Today we have to bring the trailer to the Sani Dump in El Centro. Louis and Terri help putting the 5th.wheel hitch into the truck bed. From El Centro we go to Calexico for laundry, from where I call home to get the newest.

December 06

It seems the nights are getting chilly. As of this morning we had about 0 C (32F) however at 8 am we have 18 C in the sun and actually can sit outside. Desert temps during the winter.

December 07

We decide to do a drive to famous Quartzsite today. Quartzsite is the renown capitol of the snowbirds in America.

Several TV-crews have published footage about Quartzsite and its millions of winter campers coming from all over North America.

So we follow Hwy 78 east and north. At Palo Verde the road touches the banks of the Colorado and the County offers a nice free campground right besides the river. On both sides of the road farmers are growing cotton, and now is the time of harvest.

Passing Ripley the 78 soon connects to Interstate 10. At Blythe we stop to buy some lunch. And then we reach Quartzsite. The first thing you'll see is ---- RV's. There are RV's everywhere. Parked in the desert within the town, at RV-Resorts, the reason why Quartzsite is known to the world. It simply is the capitol of all winter vacationing campers of North America.

Besides of coming here for spending the winter people love the Gem and Rock Shows. It all kicks off in January when the big RV-show is on. 

But right now we are interested in visiting the flea market. And what a flea market that is. You have been looking for that rare kitchen item what your grandma had in the fifties? You'll find it right here. Looking for a part for your 56 Chevrolet BelAir or a couple of used tires or an old gun? You like old records of the sixties? Ok start looking at the Quartzsite flea market. Chances are you'll find it all here. 

Here we also meet Joe, standing by his sales booth ready for a talk with a potential customer. I don't know what Joe actually is selling, because his personality takes all of my attention. I assume him to be around 75 years old. His face, marked by wrinkles as deep as the Grand Canyon, is framed by gray hair growing wildly from everywhere where a mans face might show hair, forming a collar around his neck. He's holding his 1 year old grandson (?) on his lap, while he is telling us about Quartzsite. "You wait until next month and there will be approx. 1.5 mill. people here leaving you no chance to park your truck anywhere close to town".

After parting with Joe we are heading down Hwy 95 south towards Yuma. And here, right after leaving Quartzsite we discover the biggest campground in the world. 11,000 acres (4,500ha's) of desert land are giving space to several hundred thousand campers. This is the biggest LTVA within the BLM-system. Besides of that, you are free to park anywhere else outside of designated areas for max 14 days without a permit.

The area borders to the KOFA Wildlife Refuge east of Hwy 95. Here we admire peaks, towers and pinnacles striving against the blue sky out of the flat desert landscape making the perfect backdrop for a Mel Gibson Fiction movie.

Far to the west Bea notices a huge dust cloud moving through the desert. Oh, that sure looks like the Santa Fe Stage Coach crossing. We wonder what that might be and stop for taking a picture of the huge old giants of the southwestern desert, the SAGUARO CACTI. A Saguaro gets many hundred years old, and it is said that it takes 100 years before the first arm starts poking out. The process of dying takes not less than 40 years, but you'll rarely see a completely dead Saguaro as their stems are popular for making lamps, selling for hundreds of Dollars at tourist places like Sedona, AZ.
Meanwhile the dust 
cloud has moved across the desert and towards Hwy 95. Finally, a mile ahead we see a big tank truck appearing out of the cloud, and turning onto Hwy95. Of course we are disappointed of not seeing that Stage Coach we hoped for.
When reaching Yuma the sun is about to drop behind the horizon. And shortly after it is dark. We have to shop some groceries and fill diesel and propane. Rolling in on our campground at 6.30 Ca-time we have a quick supper and then join our neighbors at the fire.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Icey Days

 I am interrupting my series of travel memories to let you know about some up-to-date happenings here on the home turf.

After my last posting it has become evident that January has left the scene to the month of February, which around here, always seems to be the coldest and most snowy month of winter. That has especially been true for the last 4-5 years. Winter seems to start later than in former years and rather keeps us with company into the months of March or even April. (God forbid!)

Out here at the coast, winter does not only mean snow and ice but more than anything ferocious winds (means storms) In combination with temperatures way below the freezing mark, this also means that a person can receive serious frostbites. And hardly ever have I come across a word better fitted to its meaning than "frostbite". The wind chill is quite literally biting into any part of your exposed skin, which encourages a person to cover up any possible surface against a potential frost attack. And that does not mean you are fit to step outside with your usual pair of jeans and a regular jacket. No Sir, when you want to step outside, and we have to do that on a regular basis with Dixie, our Anatolian Shepherd, you have to get dressed in multiple layers. I am talking a good woolen sweater above your shirt, a very thick down-filled long winter coat with a fur-lined hood, under which it is advisable to sport a woolen bobble hat kind-of-thing, and even better, another thinner fleece hood with integrated collar covering your exposed neck underneath.

Hopefully, you never leave your long johns off during winter, but even with long johns under your jeans, your legs will quickly change color to a bright pinkish red, if you should attempt to meet the gales out of the north-east on a frosty February day. So you need another layer, like something windproof with a fake fur or fleece on the inside.

Now it's time to look at your feet. I hate getting my feet cold during a hike, so I find my thickest woolen socks and 2 pairs of it, for again, think "layers". 2 socks on each foot "may" just be enough, but it'll depend on your type of boots. Forget about Gortex. It might be waterproof, but it'll welcome the cold right onto your poor feet, and your dog will look at you and wonder why the early return home. You'd be well equipped if you got fleece- or fake-fur-lined boots. That, together with your double-layered socks will keep your feet warm.

Now, that we are dressed somewhat appropriately, we can find the dog and step outside. It'll hurt a lot on unprotected parts of your face, but you either get used to that or you can use your Covid-19 facemask for further protection. They are NOT fleece-lined though! Remember you can't cover your eyes as you need to see where you are going. Have a wonderful hike!

Oh darn....we forgot our lined gloves!

        Photo credit: Beatrix Kohlhaas taken with Nikon P-900

Monday, January 25, 2021

Travel Memories: Camp Life and Picacho Recreation Area

November 15

Despite another hot day is coming up we decide to drive to Yuma and do some shopping.

On the I-8 with a sand storm
Not the Sahara but the Imperial Dunes

On our way east we see a sandstorm driving off the Yuma sand dunes. The air is yellow and at first it looked like fog. We remember that our awning at the trailer is down and that windows are left open for ventilation. So quickly we decide to turn around and go back. The sandstorm follows us but subsides when we get closer to the campground. After taking in the awning and closing all windows we go off again. The sand dunes are huge and apparently a target destination for many from from the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles using their ATV's and sand buggies.

Yuma is on the Arizona-side and appears to be bigger than I expected. We ask for mail at the main post office but there is nothing yet. At Wal-Mart we find our groceries and go back home.
                       Our home place for the time being

November 16

Today we want to drive up to the Picacho State Recreation Area north of Yuma. We turn of Interstate 8 and go onto S24 which runs north then makes a sharp bend east. We leave the S24 at that point and go on straight ahead on a gravel road running for 18 miles towards the banks of the Colorado, crossing the American Canal, then leading up to a high plateau from where we enjoy a wide view over the valley below.

Irrigation Canal for vegetable production

Bea looking at Ocotillo Cactus
The Cholla Cactus also called "Teddy bear Cactus"

When the road accesses the mountains after several miles we approach a strange moon-like landscape where the volcanic activities from millions of years ago can be seen. We easily recognize the gas bubbles in the rock from where hot lava was spewn out into the area. Though vegetation is sparse huge cacti are growing besides the road. In spring this area must be a wondrous land of flowers and bloom.
                Rugged landscape along the Colorado River

After leaving the highest mountain area behind, the road goes into the bottom of a valley and follows an old riverbed. If weather conditions might imply heavy rains this may turn into a fast running stream. Some side paths are veering off here and there. Some will run into little gorges and canyons. The area also has a history from the California Gold Rush. But after the river was dammed up no water was coming down in this area and all activity ceased even though the mines were far from being depleted. In 1984 activity resumed and there is a huge area around a mountain being fenced off with barb wire. We anticipate that being the privately owned gold mine.

Finally the road gets into the Picacho State Recreation Area at The Colorado River. What a nice scenery we meet you might see in our pictures. The blue waters of the river standing in nice contrast with its green riverbanks and the red rocks and unto purple mountains in the distance. A deck has been built with shaded benches and barbeques. A campground invites for a longer stay, but be aware of that long rigs cannot be hauled down the gravel road and through the mountains. And you might bring your boat for there is a boat launch into the river. The solitude of this place is intriguing and we find it hard to leave and before we so do we follow a sign to Taylor Lake 1,5 miles river upwards. Immediately the gravel road becomes rough and very narrow. Washouts on one side force me to let the truck climp up the opposite side in order to avoid falling into holes. One place I have to get out of the truck scouting around the next corner, because of a steep grade and a following sharp bend. But we make it to Taylor Lake which really is just a partially overgrown side arm of the Colorado River. A little pickup camper has been placed on the top of a steep hill, overlooking the entire scenery.

But a descending sun forces us to start on our way home. When getting down to where the gravel road ends we turn onto the S24 and go to Imperial Dam, which is another LTVA. There we have beautiful lookouts over Squaw Lake. Palm Trees are growing everywhere, but the campground itself is on a windy and rocky plateau with no protection from bushes or trees.

Content with the experiences of the day we return to Hot Springs where we soon after dinner settle in for the night.

November 17

We spend the day in camp, interrupted by going to Holtville for a few phone calls.

November 18

Bea finds an old rim in the bushes somewhere and some old wood as well. So our first campfire starts.

Tomorrow we have to drive to El Centro for emptying the holding tanks. El Centro is about 18 miles from the Hot Springs.

This morning we take the trailer to El Centro. Of course at first we can't find the dumping station and are whirring through a residential area with it's challenges of sharp bends and parked vehicles everywhere. Finally we find the service station right besides the Interstate 8 exit. Stupid us! Gas prices are slowly coming down. Thanks God!

For tomorrow we have planned a trip to San Diego for picking up our satellite dish, and Bea wants to come along. Alright so we'll be starting early before the heat of the day rolls along.