The Desert Rats are Back in Southwest Arizona!

We don’t mind being called desert rats, since we usually spend our winters in Arizona.  We even endured a long hot summer here, too 😦  We like this area and are always excited to see the Saguaros and the centennial sign of Arizona as we drive into the area.

Unlike our usual south/north trajectory, 2019 began in Florida, traveling east-to-west and eventually spending several summer weeks on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  Then, as usual we meandered back south to Arizona.  It was a busy year, covering 7,460 miles and staying at 68 RV parks/campgrounds.  We met up with many new and old friends, and visited family in California too.  It was a year full of adventure, with some challenges thrown in to add a little excitement and anxiety to our travels.

But once again I’m getting ahead of myself…

Surprised to see a Joshua Tree Forest along I-93 in Arizona from Kingman to Wickenburg

From Boulder City, Nevada we were “winter homeward” bound as we crossed into Arizona, making several stops along the way to Tucson:

Kingman, AZ

Located at the crossroads of the southwest, Kingman sits at the intersection of Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, U.S. Route 93, and Arizona Highway 68.  It’s known as the Heart of Historic Route 66, because the longest remaining preserved stretch of the famous all-American road runs through downtown.  We spent a day just cruising around and enjoying the surrounding basaltic hills and rock formations.  We didn’t have enough time to see the airplane boneyard nor the 3 museums in town, preferring to enjoy the nice weather while sitting outside with a snack and a cold brew.

One of the popular trails in town is the 7-mile Monolith Garden Trail.  As the name implies we encountered many interesting volcanic rock formations as we hiked through Mohave Desert vegetation, boulder fields, stacked rock and scalloped hillsides:

Oatman, AZ

Less than an hour away from Kingman is the living ghost town of Oatman.  To get there we drove historic 66 west on a twisted ribbon of pavement that climbed and wound along the eastern slopes of the Black Mountains, all the way up to Sitgreaves Pass.  We stopped there to soak in the view and gaze into California and Nevada.  It’s estimated that 36 million dollars worth of gold was mined around Oatman in 1930, but today the town is a popular tourist stop with an eclectic collection of gift shops, restaurants, a handful of historical buildings and the four-legged ambassadors that seem to own the town:

Rising above town is the jagged peak of white quartz known as Elephant’s Tooth (I don’t know which one of those peaks is the tooth)

Arriving in Oatman, we were welcomed by their famous residents, the burros.  They are descendants animals that worked the mines a century ago:

Wickenburg, AZ

You may recall that we stopped in Wickenburg late spring this year to see if we might want to settle down here.  This time we stayed a bit longer, checking out properties and getting a feel for the area.  While the town was ho-hum during our last visit, this time it was bustling with horse-roping activities.  Six roping arenas were filling up with horse trailers, horses, cows, and of course cowboys and their families.

October through March are the National Team Roping and other related events here, making Wickenburg the Team Roping Capital of the World – Hee-yah!  We wanted to see what it would be like to live here during the “busy” time of the year.

Although we’re not really “horse people”, the town is still near the top of our list of places to settle down.  We stayed at Hidden Hacienda Horse and RV Park for 12 days, where the owner also happens to be a real estate agent.  She was a good source of information about the real estate market here.

Bullet, the Hacienda’s goat wants to come inside Betsy

While here we shared a trek at Vulture Peak Trail with our friends Mark and Joodie, who drove quite a ways for “hike and a lunch” with us.  I had forgotten how steep the second half of the trail was, and told Joodie that she wouldn’t need hiking poles – my mistake!  But we had a blast and since there were no disastrous falls into the abyss I was forgiven 🙂

Click here for Joodies funny story about our hike.

At the tip of the Saguaro’s nose was our destination, the saddle of Vulture Peak

It was also time for Betsy’s annual maintenance, so we drove her to Freightliner Oasis in Tollerson, 60 miles to the east.  We spent a night in their full hookup lot, and although the maintenance wasn’t as comprehensive as what we’re used to getting in Gaffney, SC, they seemed to have done a good job of changing the fluids and inspecting the chassis.

An impressive shop and 7 sites with full hookups

While Betsy was in the shop we met up with our friends Al and Ingrid.  In the midst of our conversations, we realized that we were celebrating our friendship anniversary, since we’d been following each other’s blogs and first met 7 years ago at Cave Creek Regional Park.  How time flies!

Al and Ingrid, the first RV/blogger friends we’d met during our travels

Usery Mountain Regional Park

The only regional park we hadn’t stayed at in the Phoenix area was Usery Mountain Regional Park, so we reserved a week there.  We’ve always been happy with our stays at Regional Parks here; they’re well maintained with spacious sites, and there’s always hiking available just a short walk from the campground.  We followed the popular Pass Mountain, Wind Cave and Cholla Forest trails during our visit.  These trails have enough elevation to see spectacular vistas across the plains, the flat land south of the recreation area, and the surrounding mountains to the north.

Phoenix skyline viewed from Pass Mountain Trail
Flat plains (or Valley of the Sun) seen from Wind Cave Trail
Superstition Mountains seen from Pass Mountain Trail
The storm left some white stuff in the mountains

We also enjoyed dozens of different birdies (native and escapees) that came to get a meal at our feeders:

Our stay coincided with the Thanksgiving Holiday, and we were grateful that we could spend the day of thanks with our friends, Al and Ingrid and Mark and Joodie, who graciously hosted us.  We were rocking Mark and Joodie’s motorhome “Essie” with all of the laughter and fun during our visit.  The food was superb, and we went home fat and happy with leftovers.  We thank you all for your friendship, and cheers to more fun gatherings in the future!

We’re very thankful for friends we’ve met on the road!
The lovely bloggers – Me, Ingrid and Joodie

Catalina State Park

One of our favorite state parks is Catalina State Park in Oro Valley, north of Tucson.  The large sites are well laid out at the base of the Catalina Mountains.  This is our third visit here, and I’ve written enough about the park and our activities that there’s nothing new to report.  A great place to stay if you’re in the area, and the sunrises and sunsets are worth the price of admission!

Shall we dance?
Just one of those Southwest Arizona sunsets!




  1. We too like Wickenburg and one day may consider it as a landing spot. As you know we love the Maricopa Regional Parks also. While we’ve only stayed at Catalina once it quickly became a favorite, looking forward to our next visit in a few weeks. Looks like a wonderful Thanksgiving with great friends. We traveled Rt 66 prior to having an RV, cute fun town. See you soon!!

  2. I still can’t believe it was 7 years ago that we first met. Where has the time gone? It was so much fun getting together ‘twice’. I look forward to your return to AZ and once again catching up after your “BIG” adventure. Have fun!

  3. My favorite Desert Rats!! I am still so jealous that you got to hug the burros, or should we call the ones in Oatman burroats? 😀 And I’m also still upset that the Hacienda’s critters weren’t around when we were there. We loved our hike and holiday gathering with you, and we are excited to send you off on your BIG adventure! How I wish I could see those pretty little parrots — what a beautiful surprise they are. Your photo of the Gila woodpecker on the feeder is all too familiar. I just had one scare me when it was pitter-patting between the canvas topper and the to of the slide. I thought we had REAL desert rats!! Can’t wait till we can see you again ❤

    • Those were the only huggable burroats because they want something from you! Bullet was such a character he seem to show up only in the afternoon. I think the peach-faced lovebirds might come and visit you there in Apache Junction. just keep your eyes open and feeders filled all the time.

  4. That burro is just your size!! :-)) And I hope you let the little goat come inside for a visit. I love all the critters in your post—I’ve only seen a badger once, and it was gone back into its burrow before I could get a photo. And we’ve never seen those beautiful Peach-faced Lovebirds in the wild. You are the critter whisperer, LOL.

    Your Thanksgiving looks like so much fun! It really makes a difference for those of us on the road to have good friends to gather with. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas in Tucson. And I’m excited to hear more about your big upcoming adventure! Hugs and happy holidays!

    • What? are you saying I am a small person? He hehe
      The peach-faced Lovebirds were a surprise, I did not know there are a few of them in the Mesa area.
      Our thanksgiving would have been complete if you guys were here instead of there.

  5. While we are happily ensconced in Florida at the moment, all these photos are making me miss Arizona a LOT. There’s just something so magical about it – especially the Tucson area. Looks like you guys had a great time with Mark and Joodie and Ingrid and Al. You know how much importance I give to the social aspect of this whole thing and spending holidays with good travel friends is just awesome. Also, I had no idea you guys adopted a pet goat. Bullet is going to make a WONDERFUL travel companion. I cannot wait to meet him!!!!! 🙂

    • Unfortunately, Bullet was not allowed to go with us 😦 Winter time is always about social time, too bad we are on the opposite side of the country again. While you were here in AZ last year we were in Florida!

  6. I can see you’re happy to be back in AZ! This post makes me “home sick” for it. The regional parks around Phoenix are our favorites but are so hard to get in to now a days! Catalina State park is wonderful also but has the same problem. We’ve missed seeing you two and it doesn’t look like that will happen until after your big adventure some time so…..enjoy. Merry Christmas and we know you’ll have a wonderful New Year!

  7. Since Kingman is so close to us, we will have to head down one day to try out the Monolith Garden Trail. I looked up the museums and a couple sounds very interesting. I am keeping lists of things to do depending on the weather. Museums work well on cool, windy days. Glad you made it to Oatman to see the burros. Sounds like lot of fun moving to Tucson. Have a Merry Christmas and we’ll see right after the New Year!!

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