A Mid-Week Campout Close to Home

30 Jan - 3 Feb 2012 - Slideshow Below Text

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We hadn’t been to Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountain Park since our stay there over Easter weekend, 2010 with our Airstream friends Michele & Carol from Clarkdale, AZ. And that’s really a shame, because it’s a wonderful place that’s less than an hour from our home, and as they say at Old Tucson Studios,  just down the road from Gilbert Ray … “It’s 10 miles and 100 years from Tucson!” And it really is. You feel like you’re really away from town even though Tucson lies just on the other side of the Tucson Mountains. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a world-class desert nature museum and a “must see” for visitors is also nearby … as is Saguaro National Park – West … so there’s lots to do and see … if just enjoying this particularly beautiful area of desert is not enough … with its sweeping panoramic views of the Avra Valley to the west and the rugged Tucson Mountains to the east.

We had been home all of January since the 4CU New Year’s Rally. It had been a sobering month. Just after New Year’s a close friend was diagnosed with a serious condition and had to undergo surgery as soon as it could be arranged. It took everyone by surprise and family and friends were reeling from it. It was an awful blow for our friend and we were very concerned for her. Fortunately, things moved quickly, she got in for surgery quickly, and she had come through it well the week before ... and was recuperating in the hospital with a several-day hospital stay ahead. After we paid her a visit and we were satisfied that she was in good hands for the time being, we decided to get out of Dodge for a bit … but not too far out of Dodge … just in case we were needed. We wanted to be available to help if we were needed. So on Monday, 30 January, we headed to Gilbert Ray … and planned to stay until Friday, 3 February. We could stay in touch by phone and email and we could feel as helpless there as we could at home. Much of our time was spent just relaxing, regrouping and recharging our batteries. We had no agenda other than to lay low, relax and send our best vibes to our friend.

Gilbert Ray, which is operated by Pima County, is a great place to do that because the desert there is very serene. One of the things we like about the campground is that one feels “in” nature there. Most of the campsites are nestled into the native vegetation and one feels “cloistered” in a sense. The area is thick with saguaros, palo verde trees, creosote bushes, and prickly pear and cholla cacti. There are no ground fires allowed, presumably because of the proximity to the vegetation. There are permanent picnic tables and grills at each site, and the RV sites have electricity. Water is available at spigots scattered throughout the campground. There are bathrooms, but no showers, and there is a dump station. The campground is laid out in three main loop areas with one of the larger loops having the capability to be partially closed, depending on how busy the campground is. They do not accept reservations, and though it does get busy with winter visitors during the high season and over holiday weekends, it’s a good-size campground and we have never been turned away. Currently the cost is $20/night for an electric site. There are also tent sites available.

The campground is close to many hiking opportunities in the area … Tucson Mountain Park, Saguaro National Park, and other public areas. A day at hte Museum is quite a hike in itself. In the early spring when the desert is “waking up” from the winter — though the weather is spectacular, campers and hikers need to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes and other desert critters that you don’t want to pick a fight with. It’s not uncommon to hear packs of coyotes that seem to be very close howling during the night. And there can be skunks. Packs of javelina (wild pigs) are not unheard of. (Yes, baby javelina are very cute but you do not want to get between a baby and its mother … adults are interesting, but not so “cute” and not known for a gentle demeanor … and you’ll remember their scent.) Then there are the insect critters. There’s no need to be afraid of all this, just be aware … and don’t stick your hand into places you can’t see into!

The Girls had a good time on the trip. Sadie, an old hand at camping, hand been to Gilbert Ray many times. She knows how to relax and get the most from her camping experience. Abbey is young and energetic and curious … sometimes too curious. She has a tendency to investigate things with her nose … so sometimes we have to pull her away from cholla cacti along the walkways and keep her from sniffing in the underbrush. She’s a happy girl, though, and we love that about her ... that is until she gets a prickly sticker in her paw ... then she’s a drama queen.

We had selected “Golden Zebra” as the décor for the Bambi on this trip … and were amazed at how well Abbey goes with it! She sort of disappears into the fabric at times. Golden Zebra was one of the first décors Greg made for the Bambi, and it continues to deliver a good feel. It has very tailored feeling and seems very “uptown” somehow … and looks great with the color of the cabinetry in the Bambi. It had been a while since we used it, and it was nice to see it in play again.

Being mid-week, the campground was a bit less busy than on weekends when the weekend warriors come out, but still fairly active with the winter visitors. We spent our days taking walks with the Girls, catching up with email and correspondence, generally relaxing, and watching a movie here and there. We threw the Girls in the truck a few times and took drives to explore some of the neighboring areas … nothing strenuous or demanding ... it was a time of rest for us. We enjoyed a combination of simple fare and grilled meals in the evenings, and as always, though we packed in a hurry, we brought too much food … again. It’s a toss-up as to whether we will ever get the food thing down to an exact science … you think, well, we’ll have this or that in the morning and we’ll have this for lunch and that for dinner. Then when it gets to it, we end up snacking so we don’t always eat as many regular meals as we thought we would, especially when we are really not exerting much and mostly being lounge lizards. We admit it. But we did enjoy it, and that’s what counts.

Of course we took a bazillion pictures. Sunsets are great at Gilbert Ray and the late afternoon sun does wonderful things to the mountains. It never fails to delight. The problem is that many of the pictures look the same ... kind of like taking pictures pf the Grand Canyon! Thank goodness for digital cameras — we’d never be able to afford to get all the pictures developed if we were still using film!

We kept in touch with our friend to make sure she was doing OK, and before we knew it, Friday had come and it was time to head home. It had been a short but very cathartic trip for out in the desert ... to enjoy nature and to be refreshed by it. We felt we were re-energized and hoped that we could be of more value to our friend … who was far from out of the woods. The surgery was only the beginning of what would become a series of surgeries and a long and difficult journey for her.

Below are some pictures from the trip. We hope you enjoy. This was a short one, but a good one. We all need one like this from time to time ... with no demands or pressures … the kind that allows you to take a breath and regroup.

This “return to Gilbert Ray” was our very first trip for 2012, so we had just begun. And we hpe to be able to add a significant number of memorable trips in the months to come. You can visit other trip logs by clicking on the “Return to 2012 Trips” button below or at the end of the photos section. See you down the road!

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