Map of ArizonaDEATH VALLEY and ARIZONA  
February 26–March 25, 2010


    The drive from Nederland to Death Valley is 877 miles: two full days across I-70 to Salina, Utah, where we spent a night, then south on I-15 to Las Vegas, and finally northwest on US 95 to the east entrance to the National Park. After four days we moved to Katherine Landing on the shore of Lake Mohave, then drove down the Colorado River to Quartzite, and east to Tucson for three days of family visits. South of Tucson is Patagonia Lake State Park where we did some semi-serious birding before parking in the driveway of a friend’s house just north of Patagonia. We returned to the Tucson area for some R&R and visiting friends in Marana. We left for home by way of Albuquerque to visit old friends while we waited for a window of good weather to make the dash up I-25 through Denver and Boulder to Nederland.

    A brief memory of this past winter’s weather: Seeking a shot of sun and warmth, we took a short but disappointingly cool trip in February to Florida’s panhandle (Destin specifically). That didn’t work our as we planned, so we therefore hoped for the warm, dry desert southwest to take away the chill. But this was not ordinary winter, in any part of the country. We entered Death Valley, one of the driest parts of the country, in a driving rain! Several days later, Quartzite was hit with rain for most of the time we were there. After that, all was as anticipated until we left for home: we appealed for an extra day with friends in Albuquerque to slip north between snow storms. Compared to other parts of the country, where snowfalls set records, we were fortunate—yet surprised by all the moisture but grateful for some warmth. We had hoped for fields of desert wildflowers, but we were three weeks early. Maybe next year we’ll get it right.


    The rain that fell as we entered the park was unusual, we were told, but not unheard of. About every 10-15 years a few inches falls and makes a real lake at Badwater, the lowest point in the country. Of course, there were puddles everywhere. We got a site in the RV Park at Furnace Creek, which is primarily for use by permanent residents and employees; a few slots are available for overnighters. The appearance of this dilapidated unkempt place for RVs and permanent mobile homes was hardly park-like. Perhaps that happens when the government turns over the responsibility for management of certain concessions to a private company. However, we did need the hook-ups since our water system was still winterized from last fall and other systems in the rig needed to be checked out. After a couple of nights (at $31/night) we moved across the street to the the Sunset Campground, a dry camping area ($6/night for seniors) for two more nights. Sunset Campground is a giant gravel parking lot with bathrooms; it's pretty basic but doesn't pretend to be anything else but what it is, which is clean and level.
    As planned, we met cousins Ken and Carol with whom we would travel for the next week and a half. They pull a fifth wheel and so we were able to ride with them in their pickup to different areas in and around the park each day, and take advantage of hikes lead by park rangers.


    The first day we drove outside the park to the nearby ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada, a true boom town that lasted five glorious years filled with optimism and energy. The town sprang to life in 1905 with a gold rush that brought thousands of gold seekers and speculators to this desolate unpopulated area. Rhyolite (named after the silica-rich volcanic rock common in the area) grew from a barren patch of desert to a city of up to 4,000–6,000 (some say as many as 8,000) by 1907, with all the dreams and comforts of a big city-in-the-making, including electricity, a water and sewer system, three railroads, concrete sidewalks, a newspaper, telephones, an opera house, a stock exchange and three banks, as well as schools, churches, and a variety of stores. Did we mention bars? The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 started the decline of mining investments which, along with a decline in mine production, led to the abandonment of the area: by 1910 there were only 675 residents, and ten years later there were a scant, but hearty 14 folks who hadn’t given up the dream (or had nowhere else to go). Many of the buildings and materials were moved to Beatty, just a few miles away. Today’s rise in the price of gold and an increase in tourism have given the town some income, though it’s unlikely to ever realize the dreams folks had a hundred years ago.
Rhyolite Cemetery
    What has been left behind is worth the visit and a walk through history. The once magnificent railroad station, which had been converted into a casino when the trains left, stands in fairly good repair behind a protective chain link fence; Tim Kelley’s famous “Bottle House,” made with the empties from his saloon—about 30,000 in all, mostly from the Busch Brewing Co.—is watched over by the BLM; and the skeletal remains of the ambitious Cook Bank Building (see photo), claimed to be the “most photographed bank building in the state of Nevada,” soar to the sky; it was built with imported Italian marble and featured electric lights, a telephone, and inside plumbing!

    A mile or two below the town we walked through the Bullfrog-Rhyolite Cemetery (Bullfrog was the name of the mining district). It was a bit of challenge to locate since nothing in the cemetery stands taller than the desert brush, but a few signs and dirt tracks more used than others led us there. Fewer than 20 graves have been located, and only nine names have been identified. Still, the cemetery is a testament to the determination and courage of those who came to this harsh area in search of wealth and dreams.


    After a picnic lunch across from the old train station, we drove back to Death Valley for a tour of one of the most unlikely and remarkable homes ever constructed: Scotty’s Castle. It is neither a castle nor did Walter “Death Valley Scotty” Scott own it. Rather it was an elaborate, almost fanciful vacation house built by Albert Johnson, a wealthy Chicago insurance banker. The story of how this remarkable complex eventually was competed is worth the time to read about.
Scotty's Castle    
    Johnson bought the land because it had access to a good water supply, and because his wife, Bessie, thought the dry climate was good for his health. The story of Albert’s relationship with Scotty, who was after all a liar, con man, and storyteller, is the stuff of western folklore and myth. Johnson began constructing what he called his Death Valley Ranch in 1922, but completion was held up when President Hoover proclaimed the area a national monument in 1930. Further complications involved the discovery of an inaccurate survey (the ranch was not on what he thought was his property!) and, in 1937, the death of Johnson’s beloved wife. There is much more to the saga of building and maintaining this desert masterpiece, as well as the story of the unlikely relationship that developed between the educated midwestern millionaire and the scruffy western con man.

    To reach Scotty’s Castle, we drove across the arid landscape to the north end of the park where the road led us up narrow, twisting Grapevine Canyon. Around the last corner we saw mature palms and a green grassy park next to a flowing stream that surround the 32,000 square foot home designed in Spanish-Moorish architecture. We were delighted to have an outstanding and entertaining guide, dressed in period clothes from the 1930s, who shared her passion for the building and the people who are at the heart of this remarkable venture. It is certainly worth the 53-mile drive from Furnace Creek to the Castle. It’s an experience we’ll not soon forget.


    Borax Mine. Ken and Hughes biked a couple of miles to the remains of an old borax mine that was once a going business in the area, complete with wagons and water tanks that hauled the ore out by mules. The site is undergoing restoration and the self-guided trail around the site tells the story of mining and transporting the borax under extreme conditions.

Lake Badwater    [The name of the mineral, borax (sodium borate), is used in the production of the laundry detergent 20 Mule Team Borax and Boraxo, the hand soap, both of which are still available. For those of you who remember black-and-white television will remember that Ronald Reagan hosted “Death Valley Days,” sponsored by US Borax. The iconic mule team and wagon was always featured at the beginning of the show. So even in our fantasies and nightmares, there may be a connection to reality.]

     Badwater. At 282' below sea level, “Lake” Badwater sits in a basin in the lowest, driest, and hottest place in the country. Visitors usually look upon an extensive dry lake bed with 11,331' Telescope Peak in the distance. Our experience was quite different: we walked from the parking area, past a large puddle, to the edge of a vast lake surrounded by mud and white salt crystals that form as the water begins to evaporate, which it does quite rapidly. The snow covered Panamint Mountains provided a surreal reflection in the water. We didn’t stay long; there’s not all that much to see or do even at that elevation below sea level except to admire the beauty of the area. We took our tourist snapshots and left for an interesting experience just down the road.

    Natural Bridge. The canyons that surround the valley are formed by the flow of rain and snow melt that erode the sides of the mountains. The bridge that spans this narrow canyon a few miles hike from the road was formed by powerful, large floods that occur every 30–40 years. Ranger Bob Stoepel, a former geologist, described the mineralogy of the area, showed us fault lines throughout the canyon, pointed out the alluvial wash and fans that are common throughout the park, and explained why the bridge was not an arch. It was the end of a great day: informative, slow paced, fine weather, and good scenery.

    Golden Canyon. Judy, Ken, and Hughes bicycled south (and downhill!) from Furnace Creek to the Golden Canyon area for another ranger hike. Carol met us there with the pick-up to carry the bikes back for those who didn’t want to pedal uphill.  The terrain was, not surprisingly, a lot like what we found at Natural Bridge: alluvial gravel at our feet (though the first mile or so we hiked on the remains of a blacktop road that predictably did not stand up to one of those every 30–40 year floods). The gravel material consisted of smaller particles of a lighter color, which contrasted with the varying colors of the conglomerates of the canyon walls and the red-brown of the mountains in the distance.
Badwater Sign
    Mosaic Canyon. Stovepipe Wells is the area that serves visitors who enter the park from the west. From Stovepipe Wells there are three miles of rough road heading away from the highway to the entrance to Mosaic Canyon. We saw most of the same alluvial rock and gravel we found elsewhere, but here it is overlaid upon a thick marble formation that is quite smooth, beautifully striated, and quite slippery to walk on. We walked just a bit over a mile to appreciate how different this side canyon is from what we had seen earlier. On the way back, we drove by but did not stop at the only real sand dunes we saw in the park. Mosaic Canyon was to be our final hike in Death Valley.

    After three days, we decided we needed to vary the scenery, though we all agreed that, while we had seen much of what the park has to offer, there is more for visitors than we saw, especially those who come with 4-wheel drive vehicles at other times of the year. We were fortunate to see Death Valley at a particularly wet time, but many back country roads were closed because of wet or snowy conditions. We would have rented a jeep to see some of the outlying areas, but snow and mud made access impossible. Next time.


    The four of us left Death Valley and convoyed to Las Vegas through Pahrump (Nevada), stopping long enough to buy groceries and get a very minor repair to the RV (an electrical glitch) that took a scant few minutes to locate and fix.

    [Last summer on our trip back east, the customer friendly folks at Charger Enterprises in Elkhart, Indiana, solved three minor problems for us as we were leaving town. “No charge, folks. Have a safe trip,” was what they said when we asked how much we owed them. The people at Super Service RV in Pahrump have a much different policy. For the three minute “repair,” Brian (the service manager), after filling out five different forms on his new computer and printer, charged a half hour service fee. Outrageous. Even he thought so and said as much, but he was worried what would happen to him if “his boss” found out. We wonder how long he’ll last, always looking over his shoulder or passing the buck to someone else.]
Katherine Landing
    On past Las Vegas on US 95 we stopped at Katherine Landing at the Lake Mohave section of Lake Mead National Recreational Area near Laughlin and Bullhead City. The campground there was a pleasant change from the “parking lot” at Death Valley: trees covered the grounds for shade and privacy overlooking Lake Mohave (really a wide place in the Colorado River). The campground was nearly full, yet quiet, with little traffic, and nicely organized; five dollars a night bought us flush toilets, a comfortable and interesting place to relax, and good hiking. It was so nice we decided to stay a little longer than planned.

    Judy ran each morning for the first time in several days. Hughes biked and hiked up to the Katherine Mine several miles away. The Katherine was the location of an early 1900s gold strike that was not fabulously productive, but enough gold was taken to keep a few miners busy through the early years of WW II when the government closed it as they did a lot of mining ventures because of the war. We walked the dogs regularly around the campground area and down to the marina, watchful for coyotes that were known to be in the area.

    One day we drove to Bullhead City looking for a frabic/knitting store to resupply both Judy and Carol. Our GPS was no help and we were about to drive back in frustration when we stumbled upon Marge’s Hobby House along the main street. Marge’s is the knitting, sewing, and crafts equivalent of an old time hardware store: she has bins and shelves and displays and counters containing every possible yarn type, needles of all sizes, patterns, and all the things Judy and Carol wanted—and many they didn’t know they wanted. Marge’s is a treasure to all those who think Jo-Ann Fabric sets the standard for those who knit, paint, make dolls, do macrame, embroider, crochet, sew—even decorate cakes.

    [One of the many pleasures of traveling with Carol and Ken is, not only that are they good company and always cheerful, but that they are card players. In Puerto Vallarta the four of us played Shanghai Rummy nearly every day. We did the same on this trip: cards and cocktails before dinner and again after dinner until we pooped out, usually before 9:00. That’s another thing we have in common: we all go to bed early.]

London Bridge
    We passed Lake Havasu City on the way south to Quartzite. One of us wanted to see London Bridge. We learned that it was purchased in 1968 by Robert McCulloch (of chain saw fame) and transported brick by brick, stone by stone from London to Lake Havasu. Reconstruction was completed in 1971 and the bridge, which connects the town to Havasu Island and Lake Havasu State Park, has become Arizona’s second most popular tourist attraction (after the Grand Canyon). We have no idea how many visitors are surprised and underwhelmed upon first seeing the bridge; McCulloch, after all, did not purchase London’s Tower Bridge, which is what many people think of when they imagine London Bridge. (Maybe McCulloch was fooled too?) We did enjoy walking the dogs along the river walk on the island, watching folks riding bicycles, playing frisbee, and relaxing on the many benches placed throughout this lovely shaded park.

   We continued south to 88 Shades RV Park in downtown Quartzite, where we had stayed last winter. The park hadn’t change in a year, though there were puddles from recent rain and the weather was a bit cooler than last year when we were there in February. We paid for two nights ($22.50, including cable and wi-fi). This is a very welcoming and comfortable place to stay: they have lots of planned activities (concerts, breakfasts, cards and games, etc.) and amenities (free car/truck/RV wash station, a place to change your oil, and fresh picked oranges every day until they’re gone). Judy did our laundry and, since it was sunny and dry day for a change, we hung it on the clotheslines provided. Ken and Hughes enjoyed the (free) ice cream social on Sunday afternoon where they ate their monthly quota with hot fudge sauce.

    Quartzite is best known as the home of probably the largest combined gem show/RV Expo/swap meet/Indian pow wow in the country. Some reports claim a million people travel to this small desert town each winter, especially for the swap meet, gem show, and related events. The greatest number of vendors and displays come in the last part of January through early February. By the time we arrived (early March) at least 80% of the vendors had moved on for other shows in other towns. However, we still had fun and the selection was smaller but almost as varied as the “big” show. We didn’t spend much money and not nearly as much time as last year.


Bob and Ginny     Judy and Carol have a first cousin who lives in Tucson, and it’s our pleasure to visit Bob and his wife, Ginny, when we are in the area. We chose to stay, sight unseen, at the Far Horizons RV Park because it is close to Bob and Ginny’s. Next time, we’ll stay a bit further away. Far Horizons is overpriced without many amenities and lots of restrictions that probably suit the folks who live there full time.

   We met Bob and Ginny at their favorite restaurant, La Parrilla Suiza, where the two of them go often enough that they know the staff well. It also serves good Mexican dinners. We caught up with family news and what’s been going on since we saw them last year; we continued talking into the evening at their home. Ginny’s brother, Gary, was there as was their granddaughter, Abrianna, and her son, Damion. In the morning we shopped at the local Sunflower for groceries, and Judy went for a morning run. After lunch we returned to Bob and Ginny’s for more stories and family photos. Later we drove to an RV dealer for a major repair.

    [While we were in Death Valley, our awning brackets failed and the awning partially fell away from the side of the rig and some internal parts broke. After calling the insurance folks to report the damage, we called or stopped at several RV dealers to see if they could fix the problem. Most couldn’t or wouldn’t, but La Mesa RV in Tucson, an authorized Itasca dealer, said they could and would. It meant changing our itinerary and extending our trip nearly a week. So we left the awning with them and planned to return in two weeks to have the repaired awning reinstalled. When we returned, they said they fixed the awning but had received the wrong brackets to secure it to the RV, which could take another week or more to deliver. We returned home to Nederland with the awning inside the RV and planned a date with dealership in the Denver area. After two weeks, they, too, received the wrong brackets and a month later it’s still not fixed!]

Patagonia Lake
    We said good-bye to Ken and Carol who were returning to their favorite RV/golf park in Naco (Arizona) on the Mexican border. We set our sights on Patagonia Lake State Park, about halfway between Nogales and the town of Patagonia. It’s a comfortable and scenic state park with gentle trails and a small lake for fishing. We had stayed there before and looked forward to several days of relaxing, some hiking and, as it turned out, some serious birding. We were not sure how long we would stay; we were to contact David and Lada, friends who were staying at another friend’s home north of Patagonia who had suggested we park our RV in their yard for a time to visit. David had run on Judy’s relay team that completed the 195-mile Wild West Relay a few years ago; they will be on the same team that is entered in the 200-mile “Reach the Beach” relay in New Hampshire in September. David was looking forward to taking Judy running in the back roads and the Arizona Trail near Patagonia.
Elegant Trogon
    When we checked into the park we learned that morning bird walks were scheduled each day. Led by volunteers from around the country and Canada who come to the area every year, the walks promised a reasonable start time (9:00 am) and would last about three hours. We followed the group along the east side of the lake into areas of mesquite, marsh grasses, and hardwood trees. The group of about 15–20 birders were most enthusiastic, armed with spotting scopes, long lenses, and field guides. One volunteer kept a daily record of confirmed sightings. We felt a bit out of their league, but they willingly shared their knowledge with us and helped us fit right in. We learned a few tricks about how to spot and identify the many birds we saw: ruddy ducks, herons, and coots in the water; robins, several variety of woodpeckers including the first Arizona woodpecker of the season, flickers, verdins, goldfinches, vermilion flycatchers, and many others in the trees away from shore.

    One bird in particular was considered a prize to spot: the Elegant Trogon. We joined in the search for this elusive and fairly rare bird (its range is largely in Mexico and in a small area in the southeastern tip of Arizona). On the second day, we met a couple of guys carrying serious video and sound equipment who had been up since before dawn and were on their way back to the campground; they said they had spotted and filmed an elegant trogan in the area near when we were headed. Of course we all spread out in the particular wash covered with mesquite to search. An hour or more later someone spotted the bird and we all clustered around observing and taking lots of pictures. Fortunately, the elegant trogon is not camera shy nor particularly skittish so long as he doesn’t feel surrounded. He certainly wasn’t bothered by the harsh clicking of a dozen cameras going off incessantly.

    Cell service in the park is very spotty, but Judy found a spot where she could place a call to David and Lada at the Patagonia House. They didn’t answer, but she left a message saying where we were and that since cell service is unreliable, we’d try again. That evening we were surprised when they knocked on the door of the RV and invited us to dinner in Nogales, a short 20 minutes away. We spent the evening getting reacquainted and made plans to move to the Chapin Hacienda up Casa Blanca Canyon (see photo below), giving us explicit directions for finding the place. David also told Judy of a race in Nogales the following Saturday that she might enjoy running. David was going to run the half marathon and Judy decided the 5K would be more her speed. Lada was going to volunteer and the three of them would leave at 5:00 am. Hughes decided he should stay with the dogs (and sleep in).

    [The Race for Goodness in Nogales was the inaugural event and we hope the organizers learned a lot about putting on a good race. Online results are still incomplete. At the last minute, the course was changed at the request of the city police for safety reasons, making the 5K distance 3.5 miles and the half marathon a 14-mile event. The awards were really disorganized: David is 70 years old and we believe finished ninth overall; he was certainly the only guy over 40 or so to finish. He received a trophy that reads “First Place 19-Under.” Judy was the third overall female, and clearly the oldest of the women runners. She did not receive a trophy; she did, however, receive a phone call that evening from the race director (he knew we were staying with David and Lada) apologizing for the oversight and promising that she would receive her trophy (whatever it might say on it) in the mail. A month later it has still not arrived.]Chapin House in Patagonia

    When we arrived at the Chapin Hacienda, we parked the RV in the drive, turned the dogs loose, got a tour of the lovely adobe house and patios, and plugged into an electric outlet in the garage. Since David and Lada were responsible for the well-being of two house cats, we decided that we would sleep in the RV with the dogs rather than in the bedroom waiting for us. This arrangement worked out well for both us and the dogs, who don’t know much about cats except that they are interesting and fun to chase. The cats probably would object.

    What an enjoyable time we had with David and Lada! In the brief time we were together, we drove with them all over the area:

        •Through the wine country of nearby Sonoita and Elgin;

        •To a trailhead at the head of Santa Rita Canyon on the Arizona Trail to evaluate part of a 15-mile stretch of the trail for a possible long run for David and Judy (It was pretty rocky, steep, and in some places too wet for Judy to feel comfortable running or for Hughes to bike);

        •We biked six miles into Patagonia one Sunday morning for the tiny farmers market and to meet David and Lada who had gone to church in Nogales. Patagonia is small (less that 900 population) but has interesting shops and historic buildings. We did find some organic produce and good snacks at the Red Mountain Foods store, a former coop that has retained the informal atmosphere of the original business. When David and Lada found us, we put the bikes in the back of the car and drove to another trailhead on the Arizona Trail, which Judy decided still was more distance than she was prepared to do;
Lada and David
        •We drove to the ghost town of Harshaw with its glorious cemetery (on the hill in the background) still well maintained, though the lone remaining town building is in a state of supreme disrepair. The townsite lies in an area of magnificent sycamores that go back before the town was laid out. We looked for Mowry, another ghost town in the area, but never did locate it, even with the help of one of the many border patrol personnel who we saw parked throughout this sparsely populated area;

       •While Lada was at an all-day retreat at St. Rita’s Abbey, we went rockhounding with David and the dogs for rhodachrosite and pyrite at a site recommended in Mitchell’s Gem Trails of Arizona (Gem Guide Books, 2001): Providencia Canyon just off the Duquesne Road, east of Nogales. According to Mitchell, this area “In addition to the often beautiful pink rhodachrosite is renowned for its often large pyrite crystals.” The road was steep but in good condition. When we were close to the mine dumps, we turned the dogs loose to sniff for gemstones while we ate a picnic lunch. Locating “large pyrite crystals” was a challenge, as was finding rhodachrosite crystals larger than a quarter inch. However, we did return with lots of surface pyrite and a “Johnny Rock” for the Chapins’ patio.

    Judy and David did get in a good run up Casa Blanca Canyon near the house, a six mile out and back route on a smooth dirt road surface. Our evenings took on a very pleasant routine: cocktails or wine before dinner and cards afterwards: they taught us “Krazy Kings,” a delightful and easy to learn variation on rummy that we have played with others since.  Lada and David were excellent hosts and quite hospitable: always interesting conversation and very upbeat.
Judy in ther Grass

    On the day we said good-bye to David and Lada, we drove north through Sonoita to visit the Empire Ranch, just off State Highway 83 towards Tucson, which David and Lada recommended to us. We stopped and walked around the main buildings, though without someone there to be an official guide we felt more like intruders than visitors. So we continued to drive further east out into the Las Cienegas Conservation Area, a large tract of public land. After several miles of a graded dirt road we spied what turned out to be a new bathroom building (pristine vault toilets and lots of toilet paper) and a very flat area on the other side of the road. The landscape reminded us of the Serengeti with mesquite rather than acacia trees and minus the wildebeests and zebras. We decided this was a perfect place to spend at least one night. We let the dogs loose without worrying about cactus and cholla prickers or hills to block our view of them. Judy ran on the flat dirt roads, and together we biked miles into the public lands. Away from towns and city lights, a million stars came out that night and all we could hear was the sound of the gentle wind and our breathing. It was glorious!


   We left the serenity of the Las Cienegas Conservation Area to return to Tucson. We took a southern route through Sahuarita, one of the major pecan growing areas in Arizona, past the huge tailings of ASARCO’s copper mining complex on the south side of Tucson, to San Xavier.

San Xavier Mission
Church at San Xavier
     We stopped for a tour of the San Xavier del Bac Mission, a startlingly beautiful church begun in the 17th century by the Jesuit Father Kino and ultimately completed by the Franciscans in the 18th century following the suppression of the Jesuits. Damage from earthquakes and lightning made restoration necessary in the 19th and 20 centuries. In fact, reconstruction seems to be ongoing to maintain the building’s integrity and stability. There is no entry fee and the small gift shop and donations help to raise funds for the church’s upkeep. This unique landmark, constructed in an isolated region of “New Spain,” is remarkable for its design and architecture and for the beauty of the interior religious paintings and artwork. It is an experience not to be missed; it would be like going to Paris and not visiting Notre Dame, or skipping St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.

Desert Trails RV Park

    We don’t often rave about a campground or RV Park. We’ve stayed at some good ones, some cheap ones, and briefly endured a few ugly ones. But Desert Trails is in a class by itself. A fellow camper and birder we met at Patagonia Lake State Park was planning to return to this campground located about 20 miles west of downtown Tucson. She thought we might like it if we were going to be staying in the area. It is near Tucson Mountain Park, Saguaro National Park West, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum the and the Old Tucson Studios, each of which is worthwhile visiting. Desert Trails charges a daily rate of $24 and there are no other charges for such things as wi-fi, soft drinks, coffee and tea at all hours, laundry (there are three), a dog wash area, swimming pool and hot tub, and daily activities/classes that are extensive and cover a variety of interests. They maintain a complex of hiking trails adjoining the park grounds and have samples of native plants throughout the grounds. It is, in short, a gathering place for friendly, active people from all over the country and Canada to enjoy the best of southwest winter weather and sights. (We did run into the woman from Patagonia Lake and thanked her for the recommendation.)

Lucy's Shaved Legs
    Some years ago, Nederland neighbors Jim and Sandi invested in a duplex in a golf resort development in Marana, a suburb of Tucson 20 miles to the north. The development is an area of lovely duplexes with a first rate golf course and a clubhouse with planned activities, exercise equipment, and a pool; there is also a fine running trail along the edge of the area. In spite of the density of homes, it’s quiet with a focus on wildlife (bobcats, javalinas, many birds, rabbits, etc.) and a wide variety of desert plants. For many reasons, we think it was a good investment for them.

    We visited them for a chance to relax, play some cards, and give Sandi her “dog fix” for a few days. This year we had the added “excitement” of Lucy eating some poison that a neighbor put out to kill moles and other rodent critters. Unfortunately (and thoughtlessly) he did not consider the possibility that other animals (perhaps even children) might be attracted to the pellets: birds, cats, coyotes, rabbits, bobcats, and dogs which are frequently on walks throughout the neighborhood. Putting the pellets out—even on his property next to the sidewalk—poses a real danger, and Lucy (on leash for her evening walk) at least sniffed, perhaps ate, some pellets and had to be rushed to a 24-hour emergency vet clinic for medical treatment and overnight observation. Judy enlisted the help of the national poison control hotline (after she was able to get the homeowner to admit he used poison and ultimately—and reluctantly—relinquished the bottle so that the vet would know what kind of poison Lucy got into), and reported the incident to the local police. We were surprised to be told by the investigating officer that in Marana it’s OK for homeowners, even in densely populated neighborhoods, to scatter poison on their property without regard to unintended consequences or ignoring the specific directions for its safe use (e.g., avoid putting it out so that it does not get into water runoff, or where birds and other wildlife can get to it, etc.). It was our good fortune that Sandi and Jim were able to locate the emergency vet clinic, drive us there very quickly, and that the vet knew the poison (“It’s really bad stuff”) and knew how to treat it. We are very grateful the staff at the Ina Road Animal Hospital in Marana for their quick and effective response to what was a dangerous and emotional situation. Follow-up blood tests here in Nederland when we returned confirmed there was no permanent damage to the kidneys, liver, etc., and Lucy is very much back to normal. The only reminder of the incident are the shaved strips around her front legs from where she had IVs at the vet’s office. It makes her look a lot like a poodle with a fancy “do.”

Judy and Anna Marie
    We try to stop in Albuquerque as often as we can to visit with Anna Marie, who was our neighbor in Ohio when our families first moved there in 1969 and with whom we’ve kept in touch ever since. This year, we also watched the weather between Tucson and Albuquerque, and between Albuquerque and Nederland. Somewhere along the way we thought we’d run into stormy weather. Luckily, we left Marana in sunshine that followed us all the way across I-10 to Deming, New Mexico, and up to I-25. We stopped at Hatch long enough to buy Anna Marie a supply of  Hatch chiles for which that the area is famous. She knows how to cook tasty Mexican food with them. The sun was still out by the time we reached her house where we she had a lovely dinner for us, and her son Erik who joined us later. We watched the weather report for the following day, which predicted a major winter storm for north-central New Mexico along the stretch of I-25 between Las Vegas (NM) and Raton at the border with Colorado. We prevailed upon Anna Marie to enjoy our company for a second day. She agreed and a day later we finally made the drive home without incident. We saw the piles of snow the plows had left along the highway all the way to Raton Pass, where there were slush and some icy patches coming down into Colorado.

    We arrived home to find our drive had been plowed since the 20" snowfall the previous couple of days. All we had to do was to crank up the snow thrower to clear the 50 feet of gravel that leads up to the garage (we don’t get that plowed because the gravel would not stand up to the plowing). Hughes didn’t get much plowing done because, as he learned the next day, he was having a heart attack. (That sounds pretty dramatic, but it’s true. What we thought was a case of “walking pneumonia” was something else quite different.) Well, that’s all been taken care of as you know from recent emails and he will soon be able to get back to the “manly” chores around here (throwing snow, chopping wood, lifting rocks, leaping tall buildings, etc.) in no time at all. Of course, in the short run he has to let Judy do those things because he’s not supposed to exert himself too soon. Thank goodness she’s a mountain woman!


    All in all, it was a trip we’re not likely to forget for some time. It was wet where it was supposed to be dry, cool where it was supposed to be warm. We found a castle in the middle of a desert and a masterpiece of a church built in the middle of nowhere. We lived through a dog poisoning and a heart attack. We spotted an Elegant Trogon where they’re not usually found and found a campground we can’t wait to go back to for another visit. What a time we had!—and we’re looking forward to going back again next year (even if we have to carry our passports when entering Arizona.)

Judy and Hughes Moir
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