Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bogart Park in Cherry Valley, California

Friday, March 24, 2017

In 2010, we flew to California and purchased our motor home. We drove to the city of Banning where the owners lived, handed over a cashiers check, drove off in our new-to-us motor home, and spent two nights at nearby Bogart Park.  If you want to read about that adventure, click here

As we made our way across California this spring, we decided to take a trip down memory lane and return to Bogart Park. 

Bogart Park is 400 acres of horse corrals, hiking trails, a stream, and is in the foothills of Mt. Gorgonio, the highest peak in southern California.  The park seemed a less well-cared for than when we were there last time; we couldn’t even find the spot we camped in last time as it was hidden in tall grass.  Actually, we couldn’t even find the park at first -- although that had everything to do with our GPS and not the park. Finally we unhooked the tow car from the rig which is what we do when we’re not sure what’s up ahead, did some exploring, and got in the main gate.

Part of the Riverside County, California, park system, Bogart is in the small unincorporated community of Cherry Valley.  It’s only 80 miles due east of the sprawling city of Los Angeles, yet seems so rural.  The park is named after a physician who, at about the start of the Great Depression, recreated an authentic Japanese cherry blossom festival in the nearby town of Beaumont. The event was such a success (I read that 32,000 people came to Beaumont that day, back when the town only had a 1,000 residents) that Dr. Bogart convinced 25 local business people to donate $100 each to buy property that became the home to the festival.  It later became the Riverside County park that bears his name.
Our 2017 camping spot at Bogart Park in Cherry Valley, California. The first time we visited in 2010, we'd never before owned an RV, so along with hiking and exploring we did a lot of owners-manual reading. Even then, we had to call someone to ask where the sewer hose was.  Seven years later we are well acquainted with the location and use of the sewer hose.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Borrego Springs, California

March, 2017

I wanted to camp at the Salton Sea, 30 miles north of El Centro. But three El Centro locals said "no way.”  Icky, lots of dead fish, not scenic, don't go in the water, beach may be dangerous, they said. Based on those bad reviews, after El Centro we headed for Borrego Springs, CA. I’d still like to go to the Salton Sea sometime. It was formed when irrigation dams from the Colorado River broke in the early 1900s. Since then it’s been fed by a couple of small rivers and agricultural run off. But this time we headed a little further west.

The small town of Borrego Springs has about 3,500 people and is completely surrounded by Anza-Borrego State Park, the largest state park in California. 

It’s also a “dark sky” community, meaning it has no stop lights and little night-time lighting in order to protect views of the night sky. But the big attraction while we were there was a desert flower “super bloom.”

California deserts had an uncharacteristically rainy fall and winter -- so much so that the state’s drought has officially been declared over.  All that rain provided enough moisture for way-more-than-usual flowers to bloom from seeds that may have been dormant as many as ten years.

So we walked through and drove by many a desert flower. One of the best places was a huge field right next to the Palm Canyon RV Park, where we stayed for for three nights. The campground was in a good location, but our RV spot and those around us were very small.  Several people pulled in near us but left after backing to and fro and trying to hook up to water/electric/sewer.  Our rig is only 27 feet long so we fit, but it was tight.

One late afternoon after flower gazing, we stopped at Carlee’s Place, a down-home-looking diner.  We sat at the bar.  Pretty soon a woman named Mary--maybe our age--came in with a younger guy and sat next to us.  Turns out they both live in Slab City, which might offer the last free real estate in the USA.  Slab City is an abandoned Marine base owned by the state of California.  People can move there in an RV or whatever portable housing they have, make up an address, and live there at no cost.

They told us that the guy drives Mary around in exchange for her buying him dinner.  Said driver guy:  “It's like 'Driving Miss Daisy' if Miss Daisy was drunk and cranky."  Mary laughed.

 Locals told us many of the visitors inundating Borrego Springs asked  "Where can I go to see the flowers?"  Answer:  "Look out your car window."
The purple flowers in this photo belong to the prickly pear cactus.
One of the few desert flowers I can identify:  indigo.
I think this is yellow desert daisy.
Maddie enjoying the superbloom.  That's Arlo and Jim ahead of her, just barely visible in the upper left.
Palm Canyon RV Park had 7 "glampers" for rent--remodeled Airstream and other vintage trailers built in the 1950s through the 1980s.  The glampers looked totally occupied the weekend we were at Palm Canyon.  Our camping space was close to the glampers 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

El Centro, California

The plan was to finish our blog posts about our winter/spring trip to Arizona, California, Nevada and back to Utah.  But on the date of my last post -- May 1 -- my Mom fell and broke her hip.  May 3 I flew to Ohio where Mom lives and where I grew up.  The operation to fix Mom’s hip (actually her upper femur) went well, as did recovery and physical therapy.  

Last Friday Mom came home. I’m still in Ohio with her and my brothers are a godsend.  So is Jim, who for now is in Utah with the house and the dogs. Jim and are are figuring out how/when we can get the two of us back together. And in the meantime, and as things are a little calmer, I’m going to try to remember what we did after Dateland, Arizona, and get it in writing. 

Anyway:  March 2017

There's a military RV campground in El Centro, CA, that Jim wanted to stop. So from Dateland, AZ, we drove 130 miles west to El Centro and spent two nights.

The El Centro Naval Facility is the winter home of the Navy's flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels. El Centro is also where the singer Cher was born, which was news to me until I was so informed by the internet.

Once we got on base, our directions took us to a parking lot at a dead end street. The base police noticed us wandering around, stopped us, and lead us right to the camp host at the military RV park. No flashing lights, but very helpful. 

El Centro is the largest US city to be completely below sea level: 42 feet below.  It's about 100 miles east of San Diego and only about 10 miles north of Mexico, and in an agricultural area. We saw lots of hay, but the area also grows veggies (broccoli, asparagus, carrots, onions, beets,squash), melons, and citrus.

It was at El Centro that Maddie got violently ill again.  Poor baby.  She and I spent a lot of time one night walking outside and getting rid of what was ailing her.  Arlo was not far behind her in the sickness arena. We bought chicken and rice and for a couple of weeks that's all both dogs ate.

Other than cooking chicken and rice, we drove around El Centro. There are supposed to be some brew pubs nearby, but the ones we found were closed.  Both nearby museums -- Pioneers Museum in Imperial Ca. and the Imperial Valley Desert museum in Ocotillo were also closed.  Probably just as well, considering our doggie duties. We did find a chain brew pub called Burgers and Beer at the Imperial Valley Mall, and while we aren't normally fans of chains, the beer, food, and service were great.

Flags and retired Blue Angel planes as seen near the entrance of the El Centro Naval Facility.   The weekend before we arrived, the Blue Angels had put on a demonstration and we were told the RV park was packed. Not so when we got there. We had our pick of spots.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Picacho Peak and Dateland, AZ

March 2017

After we left Tucson, we spent two nights at Picacho Peak State Park, about halfway between Tucson and Phoenix. The park has 85 camping spots with electricity in three loops, several day use areas, hiking trails, and lots of saguaros -- all at the base of a distinctive peak that has been used as a landmark for travelers “since prehistoric times,” says the park brochure.  

We hiked with and without dogs and explored by car. The area is the site of the westernmost Civil War battle, and a reenactment was held the weekend we left. 

After the state park we spent one night at the Oasis RV Park in Dateland, Arizona, about 135 miles further west. A private RV park, it can't be seen from the highway. It’s clean, well-run, had a pool and -- more importantly for us -- lots of space to walk the dogs.

Our car and always-present-in-case-we-find-some-water kayaks nestled among the saguaro at Arizona's Picacho Peak State Park. People in this area of the country look at us and our boats like we are nuts.
Our camp site at Picacho Peak State Park near Eloy, Arizona. We got the last campsite available for the time frame we needed. It cost $30 a night.
Jim on his way to Picacho Peak. We didn't do the entire hike. It was way too hot for us, so we stuck to short walks. The actual hike to the peak has metal cables along the path  to help you get to the top -- and wearing gloves is advised. The day we arrived a rescue crew had to help a hiker make it back down.
Sun set as seen from our Picacho Peak camp site.
Waiting for the Civil War to start:  If you look closely -- or click on the photo to enlarge -- you can see Civil War reenactment on lookers. On April 15, 1862, a union cavalry patrol from California skirmished with Confederate troops from Texas and three men were killed including the Union leader, Lt.James Barrett. Not sure why the reenactment is done in March.  Too hot in April?  Conflicts with income taxes?  I should have asked.
Union reenactors getting ready for war.  During practice, they pointed their guns, the lieutenant said fire, and the soldiers said "boom." If only.
Brittlebush was in full bloom at the park and all along I-8 from Picacho Peak to Dateland. Brittle bush is a common shrub with silvery gray leaves found all over northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S.  The name comes from the brittleness of its stems.
Our rig at the Oasis Campground in Dateland, Arizona.  The manager met us at the entrance and lead us to this spot.  If you are ever in the middle of nowhere just east of Yuma, it's a great campground.
The Dateland RV park was $25 a night and had a swimming pool, hot tub and club house.  Instead, we walked the dogs. 
There were several pioneer-era buildings at our Dateland RV campground. The one on the right had to be a water tank.  Guessing the other was a home.