Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Campground Review: North Little Grand Canyon Road, BLM Land off Table Mesa Road New River, AZ

Trying to maintain my "Goldilocks" camping environment (not too hot, not too cold) I drifted about 30 miles north of Phoenix along I-17 to BLM land off of Table Mesa Road.  North Little Grand Canyon "Road" turns north off Table Mesa.  I put road in parenthesis because it's really a rock-strewn one lane clay path that leads past several obvious camping sites before it turns into a off-road vehicle only path.

There's a hiking trail called Black Canyon trail just to keep it confusing.

Having boondocked on BLM land for a number of years I've learned (the hard way) not to blindly drive down one lane dirt paths so I parked the pickup and Mini at a wide open area about a quarter of a mile into North Little Grand Canyon Road to search on foot for a good campsite.  Right before the spot where the road becomes too tough for bigger RV's was a really nice site with great views -- and it was vacant!  I almost ran back to the Mini fearing someone else would drive by me and take it, but I got there first.

The Mini's desert campsite.

Here's the data sheet on North Little Grand Canyon Road:

Hookups:                                             None (Dry camping)                                                  
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     No                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      No (Pack in, pack out)                                               
Toilets:                                                 No                                          
Showers:                                             No                                                                              
Dump station:                                      No                                          
WiFi:                                                    No                                          
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              No                                                      
Store:                                                   No (Walmart 11 miles away)                                     
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 No                                          
Verizon reception:                               4G, 3 bars                               
Internet reception:                               3 bars
Cost:                                                    Free for up to 14 days

The temperatures were probably a little on the cool side for the second half of March, mid-70's in the day and high-40's at night, which meant pretty optimal.  My campsite had really great 360 degree vistas of the mountains and what I assume was North Little Grand Canyon.

The view from my lawn chair.  Note one of the few trees in the area.

While you can appreciate the natural beauty of the area from the photos, what you can't see is the litter that folks have decided to deposit in the area.  Every day when I did my walks I'd take a plastic Walmart bag and pick up beer cans and empty plastic water bottles until the bag was full but I'm afraid I didn't make much of a dent.  It's just really disheartening that people do this.  I don't know if it would help if Arizona instituted a 10 cent can deposit like in some other states but certain areas I've camped in this year are in real trouble.

There's an official shooting range about a mile and a half from where I camped so there is fairly steady gunfire on the weekends and occasionally during weekdays so if that would bother your camping experience be forewarned, it doesn't really bother me.  Also, on the other side of the canyon is a working mine but it hardly makes any sound at all although there is some truck traffic on Table Mesa Road during the day.

First time I've camped with a mine in the area.

Some one who had previously camped at my site had an artistic bent:

It's about 3 ft in diameter.  The green is beer bottle glass.

I've always enjoyed my times camping on BLM land and, to be honest, I liked my experience AT MY SITE along North Little Grand Canyon Road after I cleared my area of litter.  Whoever gets it after I leave will have the nicest campsite in the area, hopefully they'll read this review and fill some Walmart bags of their own.  As to returning I'll really have to think about it next year, the litter is kind of depressing and diminishes the camping experience.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March Madness

My college basketball team - Michigan State - qualified for the NCAA Tournament so with two possible games over the weekend to watch I elected to move 20 miles north of Gunsite Wash to a RV park in the small town of Ajo, AZ so I'd have hookups.  Shadow Ridge RV park is a nice little stop right along AZ Hwy 85 which runs through Ajo with about 120 closely packed sites.

Shadow Ridge RV Resort's office.

Here's the Shadow Ridge data sheet:
Hookups:                                             30, 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                                         
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                             Yes                                                     
Store:                                                   No (Mini-mart next door)                                          
Pool:                                                    No                                          
Shade:                                                 No                                          
Verizon reception:                              4G, 5 bars                                           
Internet reception                                5 bars
Cost:                                                    $12/day 1, $24/day thereafter with Passport America

Passport America is a RV discount card that a lot of RV parks honor.  Arizona RV Parks accepting Passport America .  As a member of Escapees RV Club I qualified for an extra 3 months on the annual card cost of $44.  Using it at Shadow Ridge netted me back $24 on savings from my stay so you can see that if you spend any time at all at RV parks getting a Passport America card is a no-brainer.

I did a couple loads of laundry in their spotless laundry room.

The staff at Shadow Ridge were really friendly and helpful, the only ding I'd give the park is the smallish size of the sites.

The Mini with the pickup attached JUST fits into site 20.

I don't usually stay in RV parks, preferring to either boondock or stay at State and National parks but with my team's participation in Madness I jumped at the chance to get a good spot with hookups to watch.  Shadow Ridge was a lucky find.  I'd return.  Go Green!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

When you're camped out in Gunsite Wash you're about 20 miles north of the visitor center for the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I traveled to the center and the adjacent campground one day for a day trip.

Just 20 miles south on Hwy 85 from Gunsite Wash.

The Organ Pipe cactus, a distinct looking plant, only grows within the 570 square miles of the national monument, thus it's name.  That's one on the right side of the sign above.

The entrance to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center at Organ Pipe.

I really drove down to the visitor center because the campground is near it and I wanted to evaluate it as a possible site for staying at next year, but first I toured the visitor center and it's exhibits.

One of the cactus exhibits inside the visitor center.

It only takes a few minutes to walk thru the internal displays at the visitor center but there's a nice outdoor nature trail outside that is cool to walk.

One of the stops along the visitor center nature trail, the sign explains the view.

At the rear of the center the nature trail ends with a neat little pond housing some type of small endangered fish that is indigenous to the National Monument.  It was constructed by some middle school kids from nearby Ajo, AZ.

The pond housing tiny little endangered fish.

About a mile away from the visitor center is the Twin Peaks campground where you can dry camp (no hookups) for $9 a night if you have a US Senior Pass.

The Twin Peaks campground entrance.

The campground consists of 128 camp sites with four restroom facilities.  There are no hookups but I did notice a cell phone charging area up near the campground office.

Campsites among the Organ Pipe cactus (and Saguaro).

Not sure what type this one is but the flowers were pretty.

I spent an enjoyable and educational morning at the Organ Pipe National Monument.  Next year when I return to Gunsite Wash to camp I will probably add a few days at the Twin Peaks campground so I can hike the monument.  You really can't go wrong choosing where to camp in this part of Arizona!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Campground Review: Gunsite Wash Why, AZ

After paying for two weeks stay at the Escapees North Ranch facility I was ready for some free boondocking which Arizona is renowned for.  Three miles south of the tiny Arizona town of Why in the Sonora Desert on the west side of Arizona Hwy 85 lay Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administered land called Gunsite Wash.  You can camp for free at Gunsite Wash for up to 14 consecutive days after which you have to relocate at least 25 miles away.

This message board greets you at the entrance to Gunsite Wash.

If you decide to try camping at Gunsite Wash DO NOT use a Google Maps search of "Gunsite Wash",  the app will direct you down an extremely narrow bush lined two track path that it wants you to travel on for 5 miles!  I trusted my gut and immediately turned back to Hwy 85 rather than try to tow the Mini down Google's dubious trail.  The western turn in for the Wash is just past mile marker 55 immediately after you cross a small bridge.

A typical campsite at Gunsite Wash, note the stone fire ring.

Here's the Gunsite Wash data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None (Dry camping.)                                                 
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     No                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      No (Pack in/pack out)                                                
Toilets:                                                 No                                                      
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      No                                                                  
WiFi:                                                    No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                   No (Convenience store in Why)                                
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 No                                          
Verizon reception:                               4G,  4 bars                                          
Internet reception                                4 bars
Cost:                                                    Free for up to 14 days

The weather during my stay at the Wash (I'm going to stay for another week) has been near perfect with days in the high 70's and nights in the mid-40's.  One thing I like about Gunsite Wash when I compare it to Craggy Wash is the multitude of trails through Gunsite that are perfect for me to get in my daily three mile hike (Gotta get my steps in!).

A path I walk daily while at Gunsite Wash.

One of the things you notice while camped at the Wash is how quiet it is.  The Mini's camp site is far enough away from Hwy 85 that there is no ambient noise whatsoever.

The Mini set up in the Sonora Desert at Gunsite Wash.

Gunsite Wash is about 20 miles north of the international border and there are signs reminding you of that fact at the entrance to the Wash.

There was a strong Border Patrol presence in the Wash area and along Hwy 85.

With fellow RV'ers within a couple hundred yards of the Mini's campsite I never felt at all uneasy even given the warning signs and I never saw anything or anyone suspicious during my daily walk although three Border Patrol SUV's raced through the Wash one day heading west, I don't know what they were after.

After almost five years of full-time RV life my list of great camp areas I want to return to on an annual basis is getting pretty long.  I'll publish it in a post one of these days but I'll definitely be adding Gunsite Wash to it with a note that the first 14 days of March is the time to experience great camping weather!

Thanks for reading!