Saturday, February 25, 2017

Campground Review: Craggy Wash Lake Havasu City, AZ

While I was in the Yuma area it had started getting unseasonably warm, like in the 90's, so I decided to head north and find more temperate weather.  About two miles north of Lake Havasu City off AZ Highway 95 is the turnoff to Craggy Wash, government land managed by the BLM.  The road in is pretty rough but if you take it slow it's not too bad and after a mile or so you come to the start of the approved camping areas.

The beginning of the camping area at Craggy Wash.

This time of year in Arizona almost all the BLM land is pretty heavily populated with snowbirds and Craggy Wash was no exception.  I pulled into the first vacant campsite I saw with the intention of parking the Tank there and walking around looking for an upgrade site as the one I grabbed was pretty close to the road in and would be subject to traffic noise and dust.  There are two main camping areas at Craggy Wash, the first is a wide open space you encounter just past the above sign, then further along the road back into the hills are dozens of camp sites along or just off the road going back at least two or three miles.  I chose a "permanent" spot at the very back corner of the wide open space that was pretty far removed from the road.

The Tank's Craggy Wash site after scouting it on foot.
Here's the Craggy Wash data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None                                                                          
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     No                                                      
Fresh Water:                                        No                                          
Trash Service:                                      No                                          
Toilets:                                                No                                                      
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      No                                                      
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No (You’re 1.5 miles from a Walmart)                      
Pool:                                                   No                                                      
Shade:                                                No                  
Verizon reception:                                4G, 4 bars                   
Internet reception:                                4 bars              
Cost:                                                  Free for up to 14 days

Lake Havasu as seen from the Craggy Wash access road.
 It's a little unusual to find BLM camping so close to a good sized city and there's a Walmart Super Store just a mile and a half south of the Craggy Wash access road off AZ 95 that a lot of the folks camping there frequented.  I had stocked the Tank up there before getting to Craggy Wash but it was good to know if you ran out of anything you didn't have far to go to replenish.

If you squint at this picture you can just see the cell tower next to the camp sites.
On my walks I walked the access road back into the hills and saw some pretty nice camp sites but most were situated so that there was a hill (or small mountain) between the sites and the cell tower that provides the main area where I was with excellent Internet reception so I guess that might prevent me from venturing too far away from the main area where I was.

One of Craggy Wash's "crags".
 My black tank lasted the first 12 of my 14 days which forced me to regrettably have to shorten my stay at what I really found to be a pleasant camping experience.  There was a Canadian guy and his girlfriend (there were LOTS of Canadian license plates at Craggy Wash) who camped near me and they were a musician/singer kind of act and they put on impromptu concerts at night with guitar, mandolin and singing...kind of cool!

I'm adding Craggy Wash to next year's camp rotation, it was a very nice camping experience and I really recommend it!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Campground Review: Mittry Lake Wildlife Area Yuma, AZ

Fifteen miles northeast of Yuma, AZ the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages 3000 acres of lake surface, marshland and upland where you can camp for up to ten days in a calendar year.  The duration limit is somewhat unusual for BLM administered land as typically the limit is 14 days in a month but ten days per year is the limit at Mittry Lake.  You don't need any BLM permit or anything else to stay at Mittry Lake Wildlife area.  I split my ten days at two different campsites, the first too near a dusty road that had quite a bit more traffic than what I had deduced from reading other blogs about it so I relocated after two dusty days.

Marshland leading to Mittry Lake (way in the background)
My original campsite was right along the Imperial Canal but as I mentioned there was way too much traffic on the road that the campsites were just 20 or so feet from so I wouldn't recommend taking one of those sites.

The canal along the dusty road.
Here's the Mittry Lake Wildlife Area data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None                                                                          
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                                 
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                         
Toilets:                                                Yes (near boat ramp)                                                  
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      No                                                      
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No                                                                              
Pool:                                                   No                                                      
Shade:                                                 No                                                      
Verizon reception:                                4G, 2 bars                                                       
Internet reception:                                2 out of 5 bars                                    
Cost:                                                 Free for up to 10 days

I said there was no shade in the data sheet because most of the vegetation around the wildlife area consists of big bushes but there are a few big trees with campsites near them so I guess you could find some shade.

My second campsite, note the vegetation and stony soil.
One drawback to camping in the wildlife area is the presence of mosquito's which is the first time I encountered them in camping in Arizona, maybe I've just been lucky.  The infuriating thing was that even with the Tank's windows and door closed the little pests still found a way in at night, no doubt attracted by the light.  Based on some of the itchy bites I woke up with in the morning I guessed that I had made several contributions to their meals.

The most scenic campsites are along the water portion of Mittry Lake which are almost the first you come to upon entering the area but the drawback with these is the access road that runs virtually right next to these sites.  If you continue along the access road past the boat launch for a mile or so you can find trails down off the access road that leads to more private, though less scenic, sites.

My time at the Mittry Lake Wildlife Area was fairly enjoyable but not really a top-notch boondocking experience due to congestion and lack of hiking trails but if you're looking for some free camping near Yuma the wildlife area fits the bill.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Stuck (Again)

I've been in the Yuma, AZ area for the last couple of weeks, mostly boondocking around Mittry Lake which is about 15 miles northeast of Yuma, close to the California border.  (I'll do a campground review in another post.) Most of the campsites around the lake are unfortunately near a dusty access road that circles the lake and with even the moderate traffic if you camp at one of the roadside sites your rig is soon covered in dust.  My intent was to find a somewhat more secluded campsite more off the access road so as to not eat dust all day.  There are many ATV trails leading off the access road so I followed a fairly established one that looked to be heading for a good spot.  The trail was hard-packed sand and gravel with some big rocks so I initially wasn't concerned about the possibility of becoming stuck...initially.  My mistake (this time) was in not comparing the Tank's 10,000 lb weight with the relatively light (1500 lbs) ATV's that had made the trail over the sand in the first place.  After following the trail for about 200 yards I got concerned that it was beginning to degrade just as I passed a wide enough area to do a three point turn around to get back to the access road.  I began the turnaround and as I stopped to put the Tank in reverse I felt the rear wheels sink about six inches...and not move the Tank backward.  Having the dubious distinction of being a multiple time "stuck-ee" I knew not to spin the tires and climbed out to look at how bad things might be..

The road to trouble!
It wasn't good.  The weight of the Tank had caused it's rear tires to break through the hard packed "crust" that the ATV's could drive across and beneath the crust was loose unconsolidated sand that offered very little traction.  I first hit on the idea of piling rocks, which are all over this part of Arizona, behind my drive wheel so as to offer more traction and allow the Tank to move out of the sand.  No luck, the Tank's weight simply pushed the rocks deeper into the loose sand and by now there was about a six inch "step" behind the drive wheel that resisted the wheel going backward, I'd have to dig this step out into a more gentle incline.  Out came my utility shovel.

My little shovel...don't leave home without one!
I shoveled out all four tires so there wasn't anything but a gentle incline behind each wheel then I reloaded rocks behind the drive wheel and tried backing up again, once again the Tank merely pushed the "traction rocks" deep into the sand and I only moved about six inches backward.  Finally, I remembered that when I was stuck in Utah I had taken a charcoal bag that still had some charcoal in it and used it as a way to get traction...I decided to give this approach a try.  The Albertsons across the California line I had grocery shopped at doesn't use normal plastic shopping bags (this might be a California thing) but they WILL sell you much bigger and thicker plastic bags for $.10.  I had kept mine because they seemed like they'd come in handy for some application and boy was I ever glad I did!  I filled an Albertsons bag with rocks and put it behind the drive wheel and crossed my fingers, this time I felt the drive wheel catch on the rock bag and the Tank lurched back a couple feet and, more importantly, the drive wheel stayed up on the hard pack crust, I was free, sort of.

The "quicksand" where the Tank got stuck.
I still had to make a left turn to aim the Tank back up the trail towards the access road and to build up any momentum I was going to have to head back "down" into very place I had just got unstuck from.  I realized there wasn't an easy fix to this so I carefully shoveled out grooves in the sand for my front wheels to initiate the turn in so they wouldn't just push piles of sand in front of them and hinder building up some speed and momentum.  Then I got back into the Tank and, with the knowledge I was driving back into what had just taken me a half hour to get out of, I gave the Tank gas and kept up enough momentum to get back out of the loose sandy area and back onto the hard pack of the ATV trail!  Another boondocking lesson learned:  If the Tank weighs five times more than a ATV it just MIGHT not be able to go where ATV's go, duh!  I was so grateful I had the utility shovel with me, I would never had been able to move all the sand that was necessary to be moved without it.  You can buy them at Home Depot or Lowes and I think mine cost $8 or something, what a great investment!

Thanks for reading!