Poor Puppy

January 15th, 2011

It turns out that Rain doesn’t remember much about the desert from her infant days. Or really, that she never learned much about it and certainly not about the Arizona desert. Last night she got to play with some other dogs out here at Quartzsite and came back bloody and battered.

It looks like she ran right into a Cholla cactus. Those are the real nasty little guys that have way more tiny spines than nature should allow all going in different directions. It started out on one paw, but as she tried to get it off, it ended up in her tongue, gums and the roof of her mouth!

Now picture one scared, hurt puppy lying in Jenn’s lap while about eight people crowded around holding flashlights, pliers, dog parts and other implements of destruction. The extraction process must have taken fifteen minutes even with two to three people pulling spines at once. Despite all of this, Rain lay relatively calmly and let us work on her as long as the body part being worked on was held firmly to prevent her jerking away as a spine was pulled.

Of course, afterwards, she didn’t want to run in the desert for a bit. In fact, she didn’t want to touch the ground and went from person to person via lap. Today though, she’s all fired up and ready to conquer the world again.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

March 29th, 2009

Gila Cliff Dwellings, Gila NF

It’s actually been so long ago that when Jenn mentioned she was uploading the pictures from Gila National Forest, I had no idea what she was talking about! Obviously, this post is way overdue. About six weeks overdue actually.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings weren’t really on our way; in fact, I think you could say they aren’t on the way to anywhere, but we took a little detour to see them anyway. By little detour, I mean it was about fifty miles off our route. Did I mention that the last twenty-five or thirty miles were on some pretty hairy mountain roads? That leg alone took around two hours. The signs advised no vehicles over thirty feet! The grades were fairly steep; the turns were sharp and many.

However, it was a very pleasant ride as we weren’t in a hurry to get there and were planning on staying over in one of the many campsites along the way. And there were quite a few campsites. Dispersed camping and a number of actual campgrounds lined the route. Many, if not all, of the forestry campgrounds were free, but memory is a bit hazy. It was nice to see a bit of snow on the ground still, when temperatures were pushing eighty in the desert we’d been driving through just a bit earlier.

The cliff dwellings were quite interesting. They are built inside of natural sandstone caves and have walls built inside of them that are still standing today, despite time, weather and treasure hunters. We were lucky enough to show up just as the interpretive presentation began and had a guided tour through the dwellings. As usual, our America the Beautiful pass covered the cost of the tour, but it was a fairly small price in any event. Don’t quote me, but I think it was in the range of $5 per person. It’s a bit awe inspiring to realize that people have been using the same area for thousands of years and by the way, that’s their house right over there!

If you’re going anyway, by all means check out the displays at the visitor center as well as the nature display at the base of the cliff dwellings. Both are well worth a look. In addition, there are a few other dwellings in the area that are on a smaller scale. Ask the local volunteers and they’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.

A Railroad Tycoon’s RV

February 21st, 2009

Jay Gould's Exquisite Railway Car

What do you get when you combine one of Jenn’s favorite games (Railroad Tycoon) and the RV lifestyle? You get a railroad car fitted out for fulltiming! That’s just what we found as we were passing through Jefferson, Texas a couple of weeks ago. The Garden Club has acquired the personal car of Jay Gould, a railroad tycoon, and restored it to something close to it’s original splendor.

The car had four staterooms for passengers, two of which were adjoining with a bathroom, including tub and shower between them. The others all had their own plumbing, even if a bit primitive by modern standards. There was a couch as well as a pullman bed in each of the staterooms. The car would be able to take on water at the same water depots that the train used. We didn’t ask, but I assume the black and gray water would have been simply dumped along the tracks as soon as it was generated.

There were two rooms devoted to cooking with a pass through between them. Based on the layout, I would assume that the car originally had bunks for two servants, but only one of the kitchen cars still had a pullman berth at the ceiling. The icebox had something I think we could all use today, a glass door. How often have you opened the fridge and stared at what was there while deciding what you wanted?

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Natchez Trace Parkway

February 10th, 2009

old_natchez_trace

Leaving Tennessee, we hopped on the Natchez Trace Parkway a bit south of Nashville and took it to the end in Natchez, Mississippi. Now, it wasn’t leaf peeper or flower sniffer season, but it was still a beautiful drive. The entire parkway is around four hundred and fifty miles long, two lane blacktop through the countryside. It closely follows the original Natchez Trace, which was a footpath through the forest used by Indians and traders up until the late nineteenth century. The speed limit is fifty miles an hour and only non-commercial use is allowed. In short, you couldn’t hope for a more leisurely drive. I was surprised how light traffic was. We often went fifteen minutes or more without seeing another vehicle.

If you get tired of driving, the park system has you covered. There is some kind of pull off every few miles. These range from historic areas and exhibits to nature areas and hiking trails. In addition, there are three free, primitive campgrounds on the parkway, spaced roughly every hundred and fifty miles. You may also overnight at the visitor center in Natchez. We’ve heard that these campgrounds fill up quickly during the snowbird migration, but in mid-January, the campgrounds were pretty empty.

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On the nature of campgrounds

July 7th, 2008

We just finished up a week long stay at a commercial campground with Jenn’s family. The entire week was a blast. There was good food, good company and plenty of kids to keep things interesting. However, after spending the prior month in the middle of the national forests, we had a bit of culture shock coming back into ‘the city’.

It started as we came into Pigeon Forge, which is about as big a tourist trap as Myrtle Beach. Six lanes of traffic, giant signs on both sides of the street and lots of useless shops and attractions. Thankfully, we got out of the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas and back into the National Park lands for the last few miles.

However, as soon as we arrived at the campground, we ran into the owner who quizzed us about pets and whether or not we were planning to ride our moped in the campground. She then pointed us at the site we were to occupy; it was, in fact, next to the creek, but the creek was very low. It was also thirty feet from the entrance to the campground and as close as you can get to the road. At least, we had three sites together, so that we only backed the truck camper in halfway, turned around the pop-up camper on one side with the class A on the other and had the creek to form the fourth ‘wall’ of the compound.

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