A Dusty Trail and a Dozen Jackasses!

Last weekend I rode the XR, AKA the B.O.M. (Big Old Mare) for three days in west-central Arizona with my good friends Robert and Emilio!  It was the first time I’ve ridden for multiple-days when packing all my gear on the bike.

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Most of the gear for my 3 day motorcycle trip.

I’ve trailered the B.O.M to campsites before and then gone on long day-trips, but this was my first time I’ve taken everything I needed on the bike from clothing to food and all necessary camping gear.  I know, 3 days is not exactly an “epic-adventure,” but I had to start somewhere!  It was a great training ride for  future “multi-country” trips I’m planning!

The trip took us from Prescott to Lake Alamo, where we camped just a few feet from the water.  Late in the evening, Robert rounded-up some firewood and demonstrated superior Boy Scout fire-starting skills, (his secret, lots of gasoline on the wood) to provide us with a few hours of fireside enjoyment!  The wild burros brayed all night and were only interrupted briefly by Emilio’s and Robert’s snoring.  I think their snoring might have actually enticed the Burros to visit our campsite overnight.  They said I snored too, but it didn’t seem to bother me?

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Lake Alamo, Arizona.

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The Big Old Mare at Lake Alamo, 2015.

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Robert’s hard work paid off in the form of a nice campfire!

Early the next morning after a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, we headed west to Parker where we spent the day on the banks of the picturesque Colorado River and camped at Buckskin State Park.  The park has RV sites with full hookups and concrete-floored cabanas for rent along the river.  We rented an open-air cabana for $30.00 and did our best to get some rest, which proved  a bit difficult with the mariachi-music blasting from a loudspeaker at a dance club on the California side of the river.  I can still hear the sound of the trumpets ringing in my ears!  They say if the music is too loud, then you’re too old… well I guess I’m too old for Mariachi Music!

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The view from our cabana at Buckskin State Park. 

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Departing Buckskin State Park, with Mariachi Music ringing in my ears!

After a night of listening to out of tune trumpets… we continued north to Lake Havasu and Oatman.  Oatman is a historic little mining town about 26 miles south of Kingman.  It’s famous for the wild burros who wander the streets in search of food handed out by tourists and shopkeepers.

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The Wild Burros of Oatman, Arizona.

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A Wild Burro on Main Street in Oatman, Arizona.

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A vintage Truck Camper on Main Street Oatman,

After the mandatory “selfies” with all the jackasses, the four legged ones that is, and a visit to some of the shops, we continued our journey on two wheels to Kingman for lunch.

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Along the road between Oatman and Kingman.

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Emilio on his Suzuki DRZ 400.

From Kingman we headed south to Yucca and followed a dusty trail for 56 miles to Lake Alamo again!  This time we were on the west side of Lake Alamo,  which is only accessible from the west!  One way in and one way out!

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The dusty trail east of Yucca, Arizona.

We departed Lake Alamo late in the evening and 30 miles later we rolled into our impromptu campsite just before dark.  We threw our ground mats in the sand of a dry wash and camped for the 3rd night near Wickiup!  I must admit, day 3 of riding wore me out!  It was a total of about 220 miles, with 160 miles on trail.

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Our impromptu campsite near Wickiup, Arizona.

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The sky was clear and the bugs were few so we didn’t need tents.

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Robert on gear watch… yeah right!

The trip was a fantastic way to spend 3 days with good friends!  It was really great training for future, longer trips and took us across some difficult terrain.  I learned to much better navigate my motorcycle in deep sand and on rocky hills!  The best part of the trip was that we suffered no breakdowns and no injuries!  I thank the Motorcycle-Gods for that!

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Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew… a la Solar Oven

It’s no secret, I like to eat!  The good thing for me is that I’m not afraid to try new and exotic dishes whenever I travel!  Since I’m traveling in the US now, it makes sense that I learn to cook some of the dishes I really enjoy that are often difficult, if not impossible, to find in small town America.  With the internet and You Tube available anywhere your smart-phone has reception, it’s pretty easy to learn how to make just about any dish imaginable, as long as you can find the necessary ingredients!

Let me first make a *disclaimer,*… I do not claim to be a formally trained executive chef!  But I’m not afraid to try my hand at preparing dishes that some may consider “a bridge too far” while vehicle camping or Overlanding!  Let’s face it… just because you are car-camping or RVing doesn’t mean you have to eat hotdogs and hamburgers everyday!  A friend who happens to be a really great cook once told me, “if you can read and have an imagination, then you can learn to cook.”  I will take it one step further… if you can watch a video and have an imagination, then you can learn to cook!  A few years ago I traveled to Morocco and Greece, two countries that know how to make great lamb dishes.  It was at that time I really fell in love with lamb… the cooked kind mind you!  Since I love Lamb and spice… I decided to try my hand at a Moroccan-style lamb stew today for a late lunch!  I headed to the local Whole Foods Market and had the butcher section-up a pound of lamb shank for me.  I also picked up a few of the spices I was missing and headed back to my campsite.  Today’s meal was prepared completely outdoors with the use of a single burner butane stove (ChefMaster brand, $20) and a folding solar oven (SunFlair brand $90).

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The ChefMaster Butane one burner stove and the SunFlair Solar Oven.

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By adding a simple piece of metal grate to your stove you will be able to cook with a tin cup or canteen cup.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about solar cooking over the last few years.  If you are interested in learning more about solar cooking, just type in the word “solar” in my blog’s search window and other solar cooking post will appear.

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All the ingredients needed to make a Moroccan Style Lamb Stew.

The ingredients for the Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew are,

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound of cubed lamb shank.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion

1 small tomato or small can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 can garbanzo beans

2 cups chicken broth

1 generous sprig of cilantro

To prepare, take the first 6 ingredients listed above and combine in a pot.  Stir in the olive oil and add the cubed lamb.  Sauté on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

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Browning the lamb before cooking in the solar oven helps the meat remain moist as you slow cook it.

The browning of the lamb before you place it in the solar oven helps seal in moisture as it slow cooks.

Next, chop your onion and add the rest of the ingredients listed above to the pot, then place the covered pot in the solar oven.  Depending on where you are and the time of year… your solar oven cooking temperature will differ slightly.  Today I cooked the stew for 2 hours at a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees f.  Remember, you will need to adjust the angle of your solar oven every 30 minuets or so to keep it best aligned with the suns rays.

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All the ingredients, ready to go into the solar oven.

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The SunFlair Solar Oven can be used just about anywhere! Today’s Lamb Stew was cooked for 2 hours at 250 degrees f.

I know some of you are saying… “Geez, that’s too complicated with too may ingredients.”  Truth is, all the spices listed above can be found in the small 1/2 oz size containers for less than a few dollars each and the only ingredients requiring refrigeration are the lamb, onion, tomato and cilantro.  It takes minimal prep-time and the results are well worth the effort.  The stew was incredible, the lamb was very moist and the dish had just the right amount of spice kick to it!  The recipe above made enough to serve two people!

So next time you are Car-Camping, RVing or Overlanding, break-out your smart-phone, search for a dish you like on You Tube, pick up the ingredients, turn on your imagination and try your hand at cooking a new dish, you might just surprise yourself and bring out your inner-chef!

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The finished lamb stew ready for consumption.

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The stew was delicious, with just the right amount of kick to it!

 

 

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Hitched My Horse at the Palace Station

From Prescott, the “Palace Station” stagecoach stop, located approximately 17 miles south of Prescott along old Senator Highway in the heart of the Bradshaw Mountains, is a great adventure motorcycle day-ride destination!  The buildings now administered by the US Park Service were first built in 1874 by Alfred Spence, who decided the location, half-way between the lucrative Peck Mine and the town of Prescott, would serve as an ideal spot for a stagecoach stop.  Travelers could get a meal from Alfred’s wife, Matilda, and water their horses before continuing two hours in either direction to the Peck Mine or the Town of Prescott.  In looking for information on the Palace Station, I found one website that claims Doc Holiday and his girlfriend “Big Nose Kate” passed through the “Station” on their way to Phoenix and then on to Tombstone.  For many years, the “Station” served as a meeting place for local miners who I’m sure enjoyed the outdoor kitchen and saloon!  Alfred died in 1908 and is buried in a local cemetery only a hundred yards from the “Station.”  Alfred’s wife sold the “Station” in 1910 and moved to Prescott.

To reach Palace Station, from Prescott, head South on Mt Vernon Street (Old Senator Highway) for about 17 miles.  The first 5 miles of road are two lane asphalt, the rest of the highway is a single lane hard packed dirt (and lots of rocks) road.

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Old Senator Highway in the heart of the Bradshaw Mountains.

The dirt road climbs for a few miles to the junction with Golden Eagle Road and then descends along Groom Creek down to the “Palace Station.”  There are numerous tight hairpin turns along the route that should be taken with caution.  Mainly because of the many ATVs traveling in the opposite direction at a high rate of speed.  Many side roads off Senator Highway are worthy of exploration, particularly Golden Eagle Road.  The views from Golden Eagle are spectacular!  Getting lost in the area is not a big concern.  As long as you can make your way back to Old Senator Highway you can easily find your way back to Prescott.  So, top-off your gas tank, pack a lunch and escape Prescott for the day with a visit to the “Palace Station.”

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A hitching post at the Palace Station.

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The Palace Station has been owned and administered by the US Parks Service since 1963.

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Along Old Senator Highway, you will encounter half a dozen  minor water obstacles.

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Groom Creek runs along Old Senator Highway. This time of year the creek was flowing steady with clear water!

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On the way back to Prescott from the Palace Station I took a detour on Golden Eagle Road, the views were amazing.

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Golden Eagle Road.

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Golden Eagle Road.

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Like I said, many rocks along the road, add to the riding pleasure!

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A great place to escape for the day!

 

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Hiking the Granite Mountain Wilderness.

I recently saw a bumper-sticker that read, “Nature is my Church.”  So Easter Sunday, I decided to spend all day in ‘church’ and hiked the Granite Mountain Wilderness Area.  Probably the two most recognizable physical landmarks in Prescott, Arizona are ‘Thumb Butte’ and ‘Granite Mountain.’  From just about anywhere in Downtown Prescott you can see the imposing nature of both Thumb Butte and Granite Mountain.  At only 7,600 ft elevation, Granite Mountain is not the tallest mountain in the area but since it stands alone, it looks quite impressive.  The 9,600 acre ‘Granite Mountain Wilderness’ area was designated a ‘Wilderness’ area by an act of Congress in 1984.  This ‘status’ protects the area from any further development and thus protects the mountain lions, pronghorn antelope, javelina, peregrine falcons and other animals that make the ‘Wilderness’ their homes!

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Granite Lake, a 5 acre fish-able lake in the Wilderness.

The ‘Wilderness’ is often referred to as an ‘Urban Wilderness’ because of its proximity to town.  It’s located only about 8 miles from downtown Prescott and is easily accessible by paved road.  A simple Google search will give you the only way into or out of the area by vehicle. The Metate Trailhead parking lot is probably the best place to park your car in order to explore the ‘Wilderness.’  After you pay the $5.00 park day use fee, you can top-off your water bottles at the water-pump located next to the pit-toilets before your hike!  In order to see the most diverse landscape the ‘Wilderness’ has to offer, I recommend hiking trail      # 261.  It’s an out and back, 7 mile hike to the top of Granite Mountain through some really beautiful terrain.  At the top of Granite Mountain you have incredible views of Williamson Valley and the town of Prescott.

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The first mile of trail 261 follows a seasonal creek through a lush green meadow.

The first mile and a half of the hike takes you along a small piñon pine and white oak lined seasonal creek. This time of year, the creek is flowing steadily, bringing life blood to the many wildflowers you will encounter.

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In the Spring, wildflowers are abundant.

As you ascend out of the creek-bed the landscape changes quickly, the massive granite boulders surround you as the trail zigzags up the mountain.

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The zigzag portion up Granite Mountain offers wonderful views.

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Recent wildfires have left their mark on Granite Mountain.

Make sure you stop along the ascent and look at the massive granite cliff rock-face off to the right.  It’s home to nesting peregrine falcons, and you will probably see a few of them demonstrate their aerial acrobatic skills only a few hundred feet above you!

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Stopping for a great view of the ascent and the Peregrine Falcons above!

You really can’t get lost as the trail is well worn by the thousands of hikers who summit the mountain every year.  As I crested the mountain just beyond the long series of switchbacks, I came face to face with 3 pronghorn antelope enjoying a breakfast of green grass in a clearing.  I was more startled than they were…they just slowly walked away into the adjacent pine forest, but not before I was able to snap a few pictures.

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A happy pronghorn antelope on Granite Mountain.

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3 pronghorn antelope are interrupted while enjoying breakfast.

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The pronghorn slowly move off into the pine forest.

Once on top of Granite Mountain, there is still about a one mile walk to the best View Point overlooking the entire route up the mountain and the town of Prescott.  Bring your lunch and sit a top one of the massive boulders and enjoy the view, before you tackle the downhill portion of your hike!  Hiking at an easy pace, the 7 mile out and back route took me about 4 and 1/2 hours to complete.  It was perhaps the most peaceful Easter Sunday I’ve ever had!

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The view from the end of trail 261 on top of Granite Mountain. Granite Lake and Thumb Butte can be seen in the distance.

 

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