Monday, April 25, 2016

Campground Review: Buckeye Hills Recreation Area Buckeye, AZ

Continuing west along I-10 from the Escapee RV park I passed through Buckeye, AZ where I stopped to workout at an Anytime Fitness franchise and grocery shopped, restocking the Tank.  Buckeye is the westernmost suburb of Phoenix and appeared to be a very nice-sized city of about 56,000 people.  About seven miles southwest of Buckeye lies the Buckeye Hills Recreation Area which is administered by Maricopa County and where you are allowed to camp for up to fourteen days free.

The Sheriff Dept. shooting range is down the road to the left.
Warning:  if you use Google Maps to get to the rec area it takes you to the Maricopa County Sheriff Department's shooting range rather than into the camping area.  When Google tells you to turn left after you pass the above sign ignore it and continue straight for about two more miles.  I'm sure the Sheriff Department personnel were wondering about why a pickup camper was driving in circles in their parking lot until the driver got his bearings.

Here's the rec area data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None                                      
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                         
Water Access:                                     None                          
Fresh Water:                                        None                          
Trash Service:                                      In the picnic area only                                    
Toilets:                                                Vault toilet in the picnic area                         
Showers:                                             No                        
Dump station:                                      No                         
WiFi:                                                   No                         
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              No                                          
Store:                                                  No                                          
Pool:                                                    No                              
Shade:                                                 No                              
Verizon reception:                                4G, 3 bars                   
Internet reception:                                3 bars              
Cost:                                                  Free for up to 14 days

As you can tell from the lack of amenities in the data sheet camping at Buckeye Hills is your basic boondock experience.  The more choice camping sites are fairly distant from the day-use picnic area so plan on packing out your trash.

A covered picnic table in the day-use area.
My only real knock against the camping experience at Buckeye Hills was the lack of hiking trails.  You could easily walk through the desert-like terrain on your own "trail" but I was unable to find a single pre-marked trail anywhere in the area.

"And a story is told of a river that flowed made me sad to think it was dead."
The sunrises in the desert were really nice.

Sunrise over Buckeye, AZ.
My campsite was about a mile from the day-use picnic area.

The Tank's site.
The weather was uniformly perfect during my seven day stay at Buckeye Hills, days in the low-80's and mid-50's at night with strong breezes in the day.  I would imagine sometime in May the temperatures get high enough that camping at Buckeye Hills in June to September would get somewhat uncomfortable during the day.  Surprisingly, considering it's proximity to the Phoenix metro area the rec area wasn't at all crowded with plenty of sites available even on the weekend I stayed.  The picnic area got some use then but even it wasn't full on the weekend and was deserted during weekdays.

If you like off the grid boondocking check out Buckeye Hills Recreation Area in mid-April, the weather is ideal then.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Campground Review: Escapee's Saguaro Co-Op Benson, AZ

I transitioned from complete off the grid boondocking on BLM land at Indian Bread Recreation Area to the full amenity hookups at the Escapee's Saguaro Co-Op in Benson, AZ.

The Saguaro Co-Op check-in office.
The reason I made this move was two-fold.  First Benson is the closest town of any size to Indian Bread rec area and after a week there some of the Tank's supplies needed restocking.  The second reason was that the Co-Op offers a tremendous first visit deal to Escapee's, seven days of full hookups and use of their facilities for $50.00!  (I'm uncertain if non-members can get the same deal, call ahead and ask.)  The hookups even include free cable and the RV park has very strong WiFi that was more than usable.  For less than $8 a day you can't beat this deal anywhere.

The view from the Tank's site at the Co-Op.
Here's the Co-Op data sheet:

Hookups:                                             30 and 50 amp, water, sewer                         
Fire ring:                                              No                                          
Water Access:                                     No                                          
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                             
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                         
Toilets:                                                Yes                             
Showers:                                             Yes                             
Dump station:                                      Yes                             
WiFi:                                                   Yes, strong                             
Level sites:                                          Yes                             
Laundry:                                              Yes                             
Store:                                                   No                                          
Pool:                                                    No                              
Shade:                                                 No                  
Verizon reception:                                4G, 4 bars                                                       
Internet reception:                                4 bars  
Cost:                                                  $50 for 7 days (first time visits only)    

The residents at the Saguaro Co-Op are like Escapee's everywhere, uniformly friendly and older than me and they really welcome renter's because the rent goes into a master fund that defrays any annual assessments the residents may incur like road repair or storm damage repair, etc.    The Welcome Lady (every Escapee facility has one) who comes by the first day to explain the Co-Op and tell you about the facility only put the mildest of sales pitches on me in encouraging me to get on the Co-Op's wait list to buy a spot in the Co-Op when it opened up, no time-share type grilling.  I figure I have several years of full-timing in me before I "settle down" so I politely passed on putting down the $500 refundable wait list deposit, but she did mention the list was 275 names long!  

The Co-Op clubhouse.  It even had a workout room with weight machine!
In my exercise walking around the quiet streets of the Co-Op (speed limit 15 mph) I was struck by how meticulous the grounds were kept, both resident's sites and the common areas.  Almost every plant in the landscape schemes had hand lettered little name plates telling you the name of the plant which was kind of cool!

A cactus in one of the public areas with it's name plate.
As the Co-Op is in the middle of the desert a few miles south of Benson the landscape scheme centers around desert plants and stone, I don't remember seeing a single blade of grass but the whole place was very attractive with the mountains in the background.

I enjoyed the luxury of having hookups and exercise facilities for a week at the Saguaro Co-Op and would recommend taking advantage of their tremendous first visit offer.  You DO have to pay for your electricity but my heavy usage only came to $3.75 for the whole week so no big deal there.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Campground Review: Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area Bowie, AZ

If you are driving along west on I-10 and take the Bowie, AZ exit and then proceed south on Apache Pass Point Rd for about seven miles you would come upon Happy Camp Canyon Rd.  Turn onto it and after about four miles of road that is marked by signs like this:

The road wasn't as bad as this sign makes you think.
You cross four cattle guards and come to the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area which is administered by the BLM.

Elevations from 4000 to 7500 feet.
As you enter the recreation area there is a small picnic area on your left underneath a giant (and the area's sole) live oak tree.

This is the only "real" tree in the whole rec area.
Because Indian Bread Rocks (I have no idea what the name refers to) is BLM land you are allowed to camp for free for up to 14 days out of each 30 day period, which is why I drove there.

The Tank's campsite at the very end of the access road.
I drove down a two-track dirt/rock access road for about two miles, stopping to reconnoiter some potential sites (they are marked by stone fire rings)  until it ended and I lucked into what I consider the best boondock site in the whole area.  The site was secluded and there were no other campers within sight of my camp and zero traffic along the access road.  Here's the campground data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None
Fire ring:                                              Yes
Water Access:                                     No
Fresh Water:                                        No
Trash Service:                                      No (pack in, pack out)
Toilets:                                                Yes – by the picnic area
Showers:                                             No
Dump station:                                      No
WiFi:                                                   No
Level sites:                                          No
Laundry:                                              No
Store:                                                  No
Pool:                                                   No
Shade:                                                No
Verizon reception:                               4G – 3 bars
Internet reception:                               3 bars
Cost:                                                  Free up to 14 days

Indian Bread Rocks Rec Area is the access point to the Dos Cabezas Mountains Wilderness area which covers 11,700 acres in Cochise County, AZ.  Beyond the beautiful desert environment the main attraction of the rec area!

One of the climbable rock formations in the rec area.
This looked like one the bad guys rolled in front of the stagecoach to rob it.
You have to look where you're stepping because, like a lot of BLM land, the rec area hosts free range cattle who happen to leave little "surprises" (and some NOT so little) behind wherever the graze.

Grazing cattle, they stayed well clear of my camp.
  I never saw any water tanks and there was zero standing or running water in the area so I was never able to figure out how the cattle drank but I did run across salt licks.

Note the tongue impressions from the cattle licking the salt.
I was only able to stay at Indian Bread Rocks for a week because I had to file my taxes which entailed needing to print out some documentation (the Tank doesn't carry a printer) and I actually considered driving into Wilcox, AZ (Bowie is extremely tiny, make sure you stock up at Wilcox or another decent sized city because there is nothing in Bowie.) and coming back but plans changed so I had to mark it down as a "will definitely return" location.  On my way out of the area I ran across this little guy by one of the cattle guards:

He was either lost or wild, I think he was wild.
Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area might have a strange name but it is an outstanding boondock location that is especially great in Spring, (I would guess it might be too hot in the summer) or Fall.  I fully recommend it, just remember to bring everything you're going to require!

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Back to Dreamcatcher RV Park

I crossed over into New Mexico hitting the Anytime Fitness club in Las Cruces and then continued on to Deming, NM to the Escapees' Dreamcatcher RV Park I previously reviewed here:  Dreamcatcher Review .

As always the staff at the Escapee park were super friendly and I extended my stay for a few days while zeroing in on a great looking boondock destination on some nearby BLM land.  I'll review that location in my next post.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Campground Review: Davis Mountains State Park Fort Davis, TX

Five miles west from Fort Davis along Texas 118 is the turn off to Davis Mountains State Park, where I headed after touring the Fort Davis National Historical Site.  Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 the park was opened in 1938 and occupies 2700 acres at elevations of 5000 - 6000 feet.  Campground facilities weren't added to the park until 1967.

5200 feet.  Who would have guessed in flat old Texas?
94 campsites are nestled into a small valley between to sets of large foothills at Davis Mountains state Park.  I got assigned to one that was shaded by a huge live oak tree.

Campsite number 47.
Here's the park data sheet:

Hookups:                                             30, 50 amp, water
Fire ring:                                              Yes
Water Access:                                     No
Fresh Water:                                        Yes
Trash Service:                                      Yes
Toilets:                                                Yes
Showers:                                             Yes
Dump station:                                      Yes
WiFi:                                                   Yes
Level sites:                                          No
Laundry:                                              No
Store:                                                  Yes (memorabilia only)
Pool:                                                   No
Shade:                                                Yes
Verizon reception:                               None (occasional 1 bar 4G)
Internet reception:                               None
Cost:                                                 $20 /  night

When I got my camp set up and checked Verizon internet reception I found there was absolutely none, even with my signal booster, given there was a large mountain between me and the cell towers in Fort Davis this wasn't surprising.  I'm not sure this was the reason but the park actually had usable from campsite free wifi unlike every other Texas State Park I've visited to date.  You couldn't stream Netflix but it was more than adequate for email and casual surfing.

Note the Wifi antenna on the roof of the Interpretive Center.
The Interpretive Center was close enough to my camp to allow me to access it's wifi antenna.  The Center contained displays of local wildlife and a video loop about the park projected on a big screen TV.

The mini-museum within the Interpretive Center.
The park has several miles of hiking trails and seven miles of equestrian trails in a special section north of Texas 118 (most of the park is south of 118).

Sign at one of the trail heads.
There is even a trail that goes all the way from the park back to the visitor center at the Fort Davis Historical Site but it looked like about a 10 mile round trip so I passed on taking it.

Davis Mountains State Park is one of the quietest Texas State Parks I've stayed at.  The three days I stayed there had almost ideal sunny temperatures.  Again, it's one of those places you don't end up in unless you set out to go there in the first place but, combined with a visit to Fort Davis Historic Site, would make a great four or five day outing.

 Thanks for reading!