Off Grid Camping in the Coconino Forest, Arizona, 2012

I just spent the last two days camping in the Mountains East of Flagstaff, Arizona in the Coconino National Forest. My buddy and I decided to spend a few days off-grid near the Blue Ridge Reservoir, a manmade lake about 7 miles long at 7600 feet elevation in the Coconino Forest.  It was my first time to the reservoir and I was really impressed with its beauty!  When we departed Prescott Valley at 10:00 AM a few days ago, it was overcast but warm.  By the time we set up camp in the mountains at 7600 feet elevation, 8 hours later,  the storm had arrived!  It rained hard all night and temps dropped to 33 degrees.  The nice red clay trail that guided us to our off-grid campsite soon became a muddy mess! This was one time when 4×4 was necessary, and Bertha did a great job in the mud!  At 3:00 AM, when the temp inside my camper dropped to 45 degrees, I decided to use my propane heater for a few hours.  Unfortunately my friend, who was camping in his trailer-top tent (see pictures below) a few yards away didn’t have the luxury of a heater.  I offered to set up the dinette table-bed for him but he was determined to spend the night in “his” set-up.  I awoke warm and toasty and he awoke cold… I didn’t feel too guilty because I did offer a warm bed in Bertha!   After a breakfast of sausage and scrambled eggs, we spent the day in my friend’s “Porta-Bote,” a small folding fishing boat.  We went from one end of the reservoir to the other and back, along the way I saw a herd of elk, hawks and lots of ducks, what a great way to spend the day.

Above, the view from our campsite, the Blue Ridge Reservoir in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Below, a beautiful bend in the Blue Ridge Reservoir in the Coconino National Forest.

Below, a brief explanation and map of the Reservoir.

Above and Below, our campsite.  As you can see above,  my friend has a pretty cool set-up.  It’s a trailer-top tent.  His motorcycle and “Porta-Bote” fit nicely in the trailer and he sleeps above in the Mombasa Tent.

Above and Below, the view from the water on the Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Above, a view of the dam that makes the reservoir possible.


Motorbike Ride to Williams, Arizona, 2012

Yesterday was my forth day of riding the mountain trails of Northern Arizona.  The rides have gotten progressively longer and the terrain a bit rougher.  We covered about 240 miles yesterday and visited the towns of Williams, Seligman, Jerome, Chino Valley and the Grand Canyon Caverns.  About 1/2 the ride was on blacktop and 1/2 on hard packed dirt trails.  We drove for miles without seeing another vehicle, just cattle and a few elk!  Depending on the elevation, the vegetation varied significantly in a relatively short distance.   Pine trees covered the mountains around Williams and provided some welcome shade from the noon sun.  On the north side of Mt. Mingus the trails were narrow with significant drop-offs and no guardrails, but offered great views of the red rocks of Sedona and the twin snow-covered mountain peaks of Flagstaff to the North.

Above, the morning before the ride, Bertha and the B.O.M. sit in front of my buddy’s home in Prescott Valley, Arizona.  As you may notice, I added a larger gas tank I had to help lessen the need to stop for fuel.  I have about a 200 mile range with the 4 gallon Clark tank instead of the stock 2.8 gallon tank I was using before!

Below, a picture of me and the B.O.M on a trail near Chino Valley, Arizona.  I don’t add too many pictures of myself on the Blog because it’s hard to take a picture of yourself, but since the motorbike rides have been with one or two friends they insisted I take a few pictures!

Above, my Buddy on his 2012 Kawasaki KLR 650 on a bridge north of Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Below, a Honda XR650L, a Kawasaki KLR 650 and a Yamaha Super Tenere 1200 on a trail near Williams, Arizona.

Below, the B.O.M. overlooks the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona about 20 miles to the North!



Motorbiking the Trails of Mt. Mingus, 2012

For the past two days I have been exploring the mountain trails around Mt. Mingus east of Prescott Valley.  I’ve put about 150 miles on the “Big Old Mare” aka “B.O.M.” (Honda XR 650 L Motorcycle).  My buddy here in Prescott Valley has been kind enough to lead the way on 2 trips and take me to some great places I wouldn’t have found on my own.  So far we have been to Camp Verde, the Verde River, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, Prescott and of course Prescott Valley using primarily dirt roads and trails.  Bertha the Truck Camper got a break for a few days and she definitely is not nimble nor “slim” enough to have negotiated the trails of the past few days!  150 miles on blacktop is usually a few hours ride but the 150 miles we have done have been on trails where speeds were limited to 10 or 15 miles an hour due to rough terrain.  That’s exactly what I want to experience here in northern Arizona!  I am not ready to post a bunch of pictures yet, but below are a few from a ride we did yesterday to Camp Verde and Jerome!

Above, The “B.O.M.” in front of the “Billion Dollar Copper Mine” in Jerome, Arizona.

Below, the “B.O.M.” in front of the “Jerome Grand Hotel.”

Above, somewhere along the trails of Mt. Mingus, near Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Below, the appropriately named Verde River (Green River) near Camp Verde, Arizona.


Rock Climbing in the Granite Dells, Prescott, Arizona.

After a brief hike into the Granite Dells a few days ago, I decided to return to the area yesterday and spend a few hours exploring.  I followed the trails for about an hour and then went off trail and climbed some of the beautiful rock formations and boulders.  The 360 degree views are priceless and it’s pretty hard to get disoriented, Watson Lake serves as a great reference point to get you back to your starting point!  For “WanderLusters” interested in climbing some boulders or granite rock formations, Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona is a great place to spend the day!

Below, the Granite Rock Formations and Boulders at Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona are a great place to spend the day climbing and exploring!


Free Wireless……. Thanks McDonalds!

In an era where it’s fashionable to despise big corporations like banks, oil companies, the auto industry, etc…. I want to momentarily buck the trend by saying thanks to the “McDonalds Restaurant” chain!  McDonalds has made internet communications and blogging really easy and inexpensive for “WanderLusters” and travelers like me!  Every McDonalds I have visited during this trip has had free, fast and very reliable wireless internet (Wi-Fi)!  I always buy at least a coffee, for some reason I feel better if I buy something.  But if you were penniless on a particular day, you could blog, check emails or surf the internet for free, provided you have your own computer or smart-phone!  I know McDonalds is not the only company to offer free internet and like I’ve said before, “nothing is really free,” (someone is paying for it in the price of goods they buy).  I still think it’s great to be able to stop in just about any medium sized city or larger in America and know that there will be reliable wireless internet!  On the McDonalds’ website they claim that over 11,500 restaurants have free wireless (Wi-Fi), that’s pretty awesome!
Again, thanks McDonalds!



Kayaking in Prescott, Arizona, 2012

Today, I spent a few hours kayaking on Lake Watson in Prescott, Arizona.  The lake is on HWY 89 just north of Downtown Prescott about 4 miles.  Located in the Granite Dells, Lake Watson is an awesome recreation area owned by the City of Prescott.  Rock climbers, kayakers, fishermen and hikers frequent the lake and the surrounding trails / area 365 days a year.  For a great photo-op, enter the recreation area and drive straight past the ticket kiosk and take your first left after the open athletic field.  Park in the parking lot and walk down the road a few hundred yards to the lake.  Then if you are able to climb a little, its more bouldering than climbing, then go up into the rocks to the north of the boat ramp area and from there you will have great views of the entire lake and the surrounding Granite Dells!  If you don’t have a kayak you can rent one at the lake.  After entering the park, take your first right and head to the boat ramp about 400 yards down the road.  The metal 20′ storage containers in the parking area next to the dock are where the rental kayaks are located.  If they are open then chances are someone is there to rent you one!

Above,   a view of Lake Watson in Prescott, Arizona from my Kayak.

Below, after a bit of paddling, I climbed some of the rock islands in the middle of Lake Watson for a different view.

Above and Below, more views of Lake Watson from the Kayak!

Above and Below, after a few hours on the water I dried and stowed the Kayak and decided to hike into the Granite Dells for a better view of Lake Watson!

Below, after the recent heavy rains,  even the cactus are in bloom!

Below, a short video of Kayaking on Lake Watson, Prescott, Arizona.


Arizona’s Route 66, 2012

Yesterday was an interesting travel day.  I started the day at 5:00 AM in Monterey, California and headed south east with my destination goal being Prescott, Arizona.  After 10 hours of driving in windy, cloudy, wet and snowy weather, I decided to call it a day and overnight in Kingman, Arizona.  Like so many places WanderLusters pass-by for many years without stopping, Kingman was one of those places for me.  I bet I have passed Kingman at least 1/2 a dozen times going either east or west on HWY 40 and never stopped for more than fuel.  Last night the forecast was calling for possible snowfall to the east in Flagstaff.  That sealed the decision for me… Kingman would be a nice place to stop and button up for the night.  I got a great night’s rest as temps only dipped into the mid-40!  I continued my journey to Prescott at 8:00 AM this morning and decided to take HWY 66 as far east as I could until the junction with HWY 89 where I turned south for Prescott.  It was a wonderful day, Rt 66 was really interesting and the Buffalo Burger at the “Roadkill Cafe” was excellent.  I arrived safety at 3:00 PM in Prescott, one of my favorite Arizona towns!

Above, once I crossed the California / Arizona line on HWY 40, I looked north and saw the mighty Colorado River flowing it’s liquid-lifeblood into California!

Below, I stopped by the County Court House in Kingman for a photo-op with Bertha.

Above, the old County Jail in Kingman, built in 1910, sits as a reminder of what was necessary to maintain law and order in the Old West Towns!  After the Church, the Jails were often the first buildings built in the old West!

Below, a brief description of the Jail.

Below, don’t get caught talking to the prisoners!  It might just land you in the hole!

Above and Below, a few colorful murals in Downtown Kingman, Arizona!  Reminders of what put Kingman on the Map…. the Historic Rt 66!

Below, the start of my drive today, Rt 66 from Kingman to Ash Fork.

Above and Below, The “Roadkill Cafe” in Seligman, Arizona was my lunch-break spot.  If you can get past the name, it really is a great place to stop for a meal.  The Buffalo Burger was great and the wacky decor alone is worth a visit!



Mission San Miguel, Paso Robles, California

This morning I departed Monterey, California at about 5:00 AM and started my drive to Prescott, Arizona.  I spent about 6 weeks in California during this trip and would love to say longer but I have a planed motorbike ride with a friend next week.  If the weather permits, we are going to try to drive our dual-sport bikes from Prescott to the Grand Canyon on dirt trails.  Today’s drive was not one for sight-seeing because it was raining almost all the way into Arizona.  I did manage to stop along the way at the beautiful Mission San Miguel. The rain stopped long enough for me to take a few pictures.  The Mission is located about 120 miles south east of Monterey, California and just a few miles north of Paso Robles on HWY 101.  The sun was just cresting the mountains to the east and the Mission was wonderfully illuminated at 7:30 AM.  Founded in 1797 along the Salinas River and surrounded by numerous fresh water wells, the Mission is one of many along the California Coast.  The great thing about arriving so early is that there were only a few other people there so taking pictures was pretty easy!  

Below, a few pictures of the Mission San Miguel, a few miles north of Paso Robles on HWY 101.


Carmel By the Sea, 2012

Today I stopped for a short visit in the seaside town of Carmel By the Sea.  A picturesque little town a few miles south of Monterey on Hwy 1.  The easiest way to go straight to the Downtown area is to take the Ocean Ave exit off of Hwy 1 and go west for about a mile.  Carmel is a lovely little town, full of art galleries, restaurants and shops of all kinds but parking, for a bigger than normal vehicle (like a a full-size truck / camper named Bertha) can be a bit of a challenge!  The town is not especially RV friendly as most parking on the streets is limited to 2 hours and the spaces are not wide or long enough to accommodate larger vehicles!  But I guess with real estate being such a premium in Carmel By the Sea, there are not many places to put RV parking lots?  I was not deterred, and squeezed Bertha into two spots along a side street.  I walked down to the ocean and then around some of the shops on Ocean Ave, and to my relief Bertha was still there when I returned two hours later!        

Above, a mural-map depicting the layout of Carmel By the Sea, painted in 1981.

Below, one of the many picturesque little shops in Carmel By the Sea.

Above and Below, the views of the Pacific Ocean from the end of Ocean Ave in Carmel By the Sea.

Above, Bertha parked along a side street in Carmel By the Sea.


A Walk from Fisherman’s Wharf to Pacific Grove, California, 2012

After my morning kayak adventure, I needed to get the sea-whobble out of my legs and decided a long walk along the coast would do the trick.  I left Bertha parked at the boat ramp and headed south west towards Cannery Row and then into Pacific Grove.  I recommend first time visitors to Monterey, park near Fisherman’s Wharf and walk the same route, towards Cannery Row and Pacific Grove.  Parking is abundant near the Wharf and reasonably priced!  There are lots of shops, restaurants and cafes along the way where you can take a break!  Once you return to Fisherman’s Wharf, I recommend a bowl of clam chowder from one of the may restaurants!

Above, Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey, California.

Below, the Marina in Monterey, California seen from the commercial fishing pier.

Above, three restored fisherman’s homes in Cannery Row, Monterey, California, wonderful examples of minimalist-lving!

Above and Below, a few reminders of what put Monterey firmly on the map at the beginning of the 20th century, the commercial fishing industry.  Thinking about sardines has made me hungry!

Above and Below, the Pacific Coastline from Pacific Grove, California.

Above, wildflowers were in bloom along the entire coast, Pacific Grove, California 2012.