Christmas at Lost Dutchman & 4CU New Year’s Rally at Picacho Peak

22 Dec 2011 - 2 Jan 2012 - Slideshow Below Text

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We got up about 8:30 AM on 22 December and were on the road by 11:30 AM for  our annual Holiday Adventure beginning with Lost Dutchman State Park, only 110 miles from Tucson and 5 miles northeast of the town of Apache Junction, AZ … not a long tow for us at all. We took our normal route … north on Oracle Road in Tucson and through Florence on Route 79 to pick up US 60, then east to Apache Junction. We’ve been up that road so many times that the truck can practically do it on autopilot!

This was our third year camping there for the holidays, but the first year we would be staying in an electrical site. After years of talking about it, the park had finally converted the sites on the outer perimeter loops of the campground to electric & water sites. Those sites are genrally larger and more open in terms of vegetation. Our favorite site, #3, with a beautiful view of the Superstition Mountains, is located in one of the inner loops where the sites are smaller and more intimate. Unfortunately #3 was still a dry camping site ... and because we were going to be there for a full week again this year, we opted for electricity and to give an electric site a try.

We arrived at Lost Dutchman at about 1:45 PM, checked in and made our way to site #32 … a pull-through site in the southern-most loop of the campground and the site closest to the Mountains, giving it an unobstructed view of the western face of the rugged mountains. However the set-up was odd. It was a large site, but the picnic table and fire ring were all the way to the front of the site along the road (instead of in the middle of the pull-through) … and the electrical post and water were on the curb side of the site at the middle of the site. It felt like whomever had designed the site flayout had never been camping with an RV or trailer. We parked in the middle of the site, and ignored the picnic table and fire ring. We had brought our own fire pit, so we set that up where we wanted it. Other than the weird layout of the site, it was great…the mountains were right there with nothing between us and them except raw desert.

We noticed that it was pretty crowded — more so than in previous years. We attributed that to the fact that it is so close to town and with electricity now in place, it makes for a great place for winter visitors to plop themselves down for the max stay of 14 days. It’s also now possible to make reservations. Between having  hookups and offering reservations, the popularity of the park for winter visitors has increased.

That first night wasa quiet night one. We heated up some split pea soup that Greg had made earlier and frozen for camping, and made an early night of it. It was cold and windy that night, but we were all cozy and snug inside the Bambi. We didn’t suffer!

Friday morning we had a leisurely morning and decided to go to Apache Junction to check the local antique malls to see what we could find, and  then stop by Jim & Mary’s place at a local RV park in Apache Junction. They live in Colorado and winter in Arizona. The year before they had bought a vintage Airfloat Trailer located in the park where they now reside during the winter (using their Caravel Airstream for side trips). Marcy’s dad lives in Phoenix, so it’s nice that they can spend time here with him. We were anxious to see their progress on the Airfloat renovation. (See our Holiday Trip in 2010 for earlier pictures of their Airfoat.) It was fabulous! They had made a lot of progress on it … they weren’t done with the restoration, but did it ever look fantastic. What a find the trailer was for them! We had a nice visit with Marcy & Jim and caught up. They would be joining us for the New Year’s Rally at Picacho Peak in their Caravel, so we’d see them again before long … we knew they’d be busy with family during the actual holiday, so we said goodbye until the rally.

We had decided on the “Hidatsa Earth Blanket” for the Bambi’s décor for this trip. It’s based on the Pendleton blanket of the same name — which we had acquired on our trip to Zion National Park with Andy & Jason last August. Its reds, blacks and greys go great with the few Christmas decorations we brought along. We don’t have enough room for a full-blown Christmas decking-out! So we bring along the Airstream Christmas Tree Lot vignette that our friends Deb & Loretta had given us a few years back, some decorative miniature pine trees, plus a great little gnome-like Santa Claus figure that we’d found at a resale shop. It was great fun moving Santa around for pictures with different views. Our decorations were ust enough to remind us of the season and still not clutter our space too much. It all made for a cozy and festive space.

On Saturday, which was Christmas Eve Day, we had a relaxing time ... taking walks with the Girls ... and being lazy ... the first order of business! That evening we grilled burgers and had our first campfire in of the stay … in the portable fire pit. It was most pleasant.

Sunday, Christmas Day, we had another restful day of talking walks, lounging and exchanging Christmas emails and phone chats with friends. Terry created a digital Christmas card and sent that out. For Christmas dinner we had steak and shrimp on the grill with grilled asparagus and baked sweet potatoes. Mmmm – good. Life felt pretty good.

Monday we took off for more antiquing, going east into Mesa this time. We didn’t buy much but we did stop at a Walgreen’s to stock up on half-off Christmas candy! Can’t beat that! That evening we had grilled chicken, baked potatoes …and Christmas candy for dessert! Then we watched a video and hit the hay.

Tuesday,  27 December, Terry sent out the Four Corners Unit’s year-end membership renewal reminder (he’s the memebrship chair) to those who had not yet renewed their membership for 2012. He was pleased at the response he generated, picking up several more renewals from the handfull of folks who had been too busy before Christmas do get around to renewing. We stayed at the campground that day, having leftover chicken in tortillas for dinner … an easy meal.

Wednesday was our last full day at Lost Dutchman. Where did the time go?? We had to make a run to the Ace Harware in Apache Junction to get some propane canisters so we’d have plenty for the New Year’s Rally. W had also discovered there was a burned out tail light on the truck which we needed to replace before we traveled again, so we got that as well. Terry had already taken off the tail light housing to see what bulb was needed. After gassing up the truck we went back at the campground and did a little early packing for the next day’s move … and Terry replaced the bulb in the tail light. Good as new!

On Thursday we were up at 9:00 AM to finish packing up for the trip south to Picacho Peak State Park where the 4CU New Year’s Rally was to be held By 11:45 were hitting the dump station and heading out. In town we stopped at the Fry’s crocery store for a few food items for the rally ... and dog food. We got out of Apache Junction a little after noon. We took the route east on US 60, south to Florence, and then west to Coolidge, AZ, and on west and south to Eloy and picked up I-10 just north of Picacho Peak State Park. It’s a route we only seem to take when we go from Apache Junction to Picacho Peak. It’s always interesting because it goes through farmland with a lot of cotton fields and other crops that we otherwise would never see.

When we got to Picacho Peak, Mike & Betty from Grayling, Michigan, were in front of us with their Airstream, checking in at the ranger station. Ed & Ann pulled in behind us with their rig, and behind them was Jeanne, who is also from Michigan and had been traveling with Mike & Betty. We checked in and made our way to the dry camping Quail Group Area to calim a space for the rally. Ken & Linda and Louis & Sergio (the rally co-hosts), Richard & Jan, Julianne, and Anthony & Tamara were already there. Just after we arrived, Deb & Jon, Pat & Babs, Barbara & Janis, Marvin & Annie from Canada, and John from Massachusetts pulled in.  Paul & Linda and Carroll & Paula were set up in the neighboring electrical loop. It’s no unudual for a couple of attendees who need to have electricity for one reason or another to opt for a site int he electric loops. It’s not far away form the Group area, and it’s also where the showers are located.

We had just enough time to get set up next to Julianne in the second “group” of trailers as one comes into the group site, settle in a bit, and say lots of hellos before it was time to get ready for the early bird happy hour at 4:00 PM! It was official!  The New Year’s Rally had begun!

Friday was a parade of more of 4CU Airstreamers and guests arriving at the park… Ray & Rose Mary, Bill & Jan, David & Judy, Joseph & Victoria, Mike & Frank, Jim & Marcy, Charles & Annette, Erick & Mona, Betsey & Buddy … 4:00 PM arrived with another happy hour and a great spread of snacks and goodies followed by a great campfire, with lots of catching up, laughs and lies delivered around the campfire. The fire was a welcomed event, as it got down into the low 40s that night … chilly!

Saturday was New Year’s Eve Day. Everyone visited and walked around the campground and enjoying the weather. We had another great happy hour followed by a potluck that was themed “Your Favorite Family Comfort food.” Terry made a version of goulash his family had called “More” (because they always seemed to want “more”). There were lots of yummy comfrot food dishes like Banana Pudding Pie, Ziti, Tater Tot Casserole, Sloppy Joes, etc etc etc. It was all good and all very comforting! Howard & Carolyn walked away with first place in the food competition with their great Ribs & Kraut. And it was well-deserved ... it was good!

That evening before the bonfire, we had the traditional White Elephant gift exchange … lot of laughs, lots of crazy gifts, as usualy. It took a full two hours to get through all the gifts folks had piled onto the table! Some of the gifts made a “repeat appearance” from previous years ... like a contraption we decided wad best used as a “Weiny Dog Carrier” and which had gained a traditon all its own! Fun stuff!

By 8:30 PM we had a roaring bonfire and at 10:00 PM we began celebrating New Year’s starting with the dropping of the NY’s Ball in Mew York City ... and marched across the US time zones … with champagne and cider…followed by more drinks. And finally — the countdown to midnight, Arizona time! By this time everyone was well-lubricated and quite ready to ring in the New Year with style. We usually have stayed up quite a bit late hanging out at the campfire, but this year, though we hated to admit it .... we were exhausted and ready to hit the trailer by 12:15 AM! But we had done it up right, and were ready to crash. There were plenty of others who carried on the traditon of tending the fire and telling more yarns aorund the campfire into the wee hours.

Sunday was the traditional ostrich egg omelet breakfast made from a single ostrich egg (providing enough o fee the whole gang) from Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Farm located just down the road from the park’s entrance … and a hike upu othe Peak for those who wished to do it. Some hiked. Some watched. And saddly, some from locations further away, had to break camp and head for home that day. We said our fond farewells as each one pulled out. We were staying until Monday, so we were in no hurry.  We waved as Buddy & Betsey, Barbara & Janis, Deb & Jon headed out… That night we had our last potluck of the rally. Greg made chocolate mint mouse in idividual servings for dessert. Later we got to he business fo the final bonfire, and the task of “burning the rest of the firewood” folks had donated to the cause.

Monday was the end of the rally. All good things must come to an end, so we all packed up and headed out one by one … knowing that we had had another very successful New Year’s Rally under our belts, thanks to our gracious and creative co-hosts, Louis & Sergio and Ken & Linda. Thanks guys! What a great way to begin the  New Year!

Below are pictures from our Holiday trip… You can go back to previous trips via the 2011 trips list page using the button below or at the end of the picture section. Just click on the year you want, away you’ll go! Enjoy, and we’ll see you soon with our first trip of 2012!

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