We have a “usual” route that we take when we’re traveling in the winter—we don’t have much choice, given that we live in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by mountain passes that are snow covered by early November. Brrr. Honestly, I’m still questioning why the heck we decided to return to Ashland in WINTER. Anyway, this is the brief version of the final 10 days of our journey.
We stayed at Catalina State Park for the first time in a decade. We ordinarily stay at Gilbert Ray County Park, which I prefer for the remote location, more interesting hiking, and proximity to Saguaro National Park. To my taste, it’s a more beautiful desert landscape. But we enjoyed our stay, including hiking the trails every day, an opportunity to get up close to scary desert critters (Gila monsters and various snakes) during a nature program in the park, an afternoon at the lovely botanical garden Tohono Chul, and dinner at Café Poca Cosa, a wonderful restaurant with a creative Mexican flair.
The attraction here for us is El Dorado Hot Springs, an offbeat and terrific place to soak and relax in private natural hot springs tubs. We stay a couple of miles away at Saddleback Mountain RV Park (not exactly a nature experience, but quiet, nice, and with Passport America just $18 a night) and we reserve the Sunset Tub at El Dorado for a couple of hours at sunset. (Of course!)
Joshua Tree National Park, California
We love it here. We never tire of the stunning landscape of boulders and Joshua trees, the magical golden afternoon light, the great hiking, the dark night skies, and the incredible peace.
We camp at the glider port, which has a nice little RV park. It’s a fine place for an overnight, and in the half-dozen times we’ve stayed, there have only been two or three other RV’s in the entire campground. It’s peaceful, quiet (except for the howling coyotes, which we like), and convenient.
Mercey Hot Springs, California
This is our reward on our way home (or a treat at the beginning of a trip). I-5 runs like a zipper up the center of California; it’s the most direct route home, and also b-o-r-i-n-g. Finding good places to stay reasonably close to the interstate (but not overlooking the interstate) is problematic. Mercey Hot Springs is a gem; an oasis for body and spirit and only 13 miles off of I-5. Beautiful hiking in the surrounding hills, claw-foot private tubs on a cedar deck under the stars, and in the winter, long eared owls perch
Black Butte Lake, California
Not too far off of I-5, this pretty Corps of Engineers campground has good hiking trails and nice campsites. Not many campers, either, at least in the winter. Every time we stay here we plan to get our bikes down (there are great biking trails) but it’s our last stop before home, and Eric is like a donkey heading for the barn. Me, I prefer to dawdle along, but then we’d never get home.
And so, we’re back at home, settling in for the long winter. We’ve loved having all of you accompany us, and we’ve enjoyed so much your comments and your emails. We wish for you a wonderful new year of peace and the richness of all that makes you happy.