Thanksgiving at Roper Lake, 25 - 28 Nov 2011 - Slideshow Below Text

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These days we usually spend Thanksgiving weekend camping — usually somewhere close by and easy to get to. But this year, we had a Thanksgiving Day dinner invitation from Ron & Mark. We would like to have gone camping with Ron & Mark to celebrate the holiday, but it’s not an easy time for Mark, who works in the hospitality industry, to get time off … so we did the next best thing. We celebrated the holiday at Ron & Mark’s with Louis & Sergio and Julianne from Phoenix followed by a short get-away for the rest of the long weekend wiht Louis & Sergio.

Ron spent the better part of the day cooking for us all, and by the time Mark got home from work we had all gathered for the festivities. Louis & Sergio brought their Airstream down to Tucson and Julianne came to spend the night. Dinner was wonderful, of course, and we had a great time together ... catching up, hearing all about Louis & Sergio and Julianne’s escapades in Bisbee for Halloween (complete with incriminating pictures) in exchange for a rundown on our last trip to Mexico with Ron & Mark. It was a great time.

We, along with Louis & Sergio, had reservations to head out Friday to camp the rest of the weekend at Roper Lake State Park, near Safford, AZ, about 90 miles east of Tucson and north of I-10 about 30 miles. Julianne would have liked to join us in her trailer, but she had to be back in Phoenix on the weekend to begin a dog-sitting stint for friends.  So ... after getting stuffed at Ron’s Thanksgiving feast, we headed home to finish getting ready to head out the next morning. We were basically ready, but there are always last-minute chores to take care of.

Friday morning, 25 November, we met Louis & Sergio at I-10 and Houghton Road, on the southeast side of Tucson, headed in the direction of Safford. They had a long night the night before and were dragging a bit (exactly the reason we went home when we did!) … but they did make it to our rendezvous point and we all got back onto I-10 and headed out. It’s an easy drive, and after stopping in Benson to gas up Louis & Sergio’s truck, we arrived a Roper Lake in good time to set up and have the rest of the afternoon to visit and relax. This was Louis & Sergio’s first time at Roper Lake but we’d been there many times before … usually two or three times a year at least. We had reserved sites that backed up to each other so we were close to one another, making it a short walk between our rigs.

It was a short holiday weekend for Louis & Sergio as they had to leave on Sunday to be ready to be back in the saddle on Monday, but we had a nice time with them  nonetheless, visiting and catching up more … we hadn’t seen them since Richard’s retirement party earlier in November. We walked the dogs — Louis & Sergio’s Riley & Audrey, and our Sadie & Abbey — often, had extended cocktail hours and of course, shared meals through the weekend, and just generally hung out.

Saturday morning we went into Safford to check out the local antique stores and resale shops … and then had a late breakfast at a downtown family-run diner on Main Street, which is most likely a community institution in the small town of Safford. It was good diner food and we had a fun time.

It was a nice, pleasant, low-key time for us all. We wished that Louis & Sergio were able to stay longer and that the rest of our little “gang” had been able to be there, for sure ... but we took what we can get. We were pleased to introduce Louis & Sergio to Roper Lake State Park .... after hearing about it from us for forever.

Sunday it was time for Louis & Sergio to pack up and head home to Phoenix. We were staying until Monday, so we “helped” them pack up. (“Helped” in quotes because we are not sure just how much “help” we actually were!) They were in no particular hurry since checkout times are liberal and there wasn’t anyone waiting impatiently to get into their space. Instead of taking the route through Tucson home, they took Route 70 through Safford northwest to Globe to pick up US 60 to head into the Phoenix Metro area … it’s a much shorter route than going via Tucson. We have never taken that route because, of course, there are better and faster ways to get to Tucson from Safford. Maybe some day we’ll make that drive when we are heading to some other event and not Tucson.

After we said our good byes to Louis & Sergio and they departed, we resumed our routine of relaxing, walking the Girls and not doing a lot of anything in particular. We took the Girls over to the “Island” to check that out. Sadie had been there many times, but this was Abbey’s first trip to Roper, so it was all new to her. She was like a kid in a candy store, too … sniffing intently at all the “points of interest” and taking it all in. She is such a fearless little explorer.

Most of those camping for the long holiday weekend left on Sunday afternoon and we were left to a fairly empty campground for our last night there, which was fine with us. We thought about staying longer, but we decided to go home as scheduled on Monday and call it good. It had been a nice, albeit short, little get-away. We’ve found that short campouts are cathartic and as rejuvenating as long ones ... and therefore very much worth the effort.

Monday, 28 November, we took our time packing up but were still able to be on our way before checkout time. We would normally retrace the route back to Tucson that we came on, but Terry — who is always in favoar a exploring a new route — wanted to take an alternate route to Willcox and I-10 that would take us west through a low pass in the southern part of the Pinaleño Mountains, part of the Coronado National Forest … south of High Peak (the official name for what is usually call Mt. Graham) with an altitude of 10,730’ and just north of the lesser Mt. Greasewood. The route would take us through an area called Turkey Flat. So when we got to the junction of US 191 south from Safford and Route 266, we took 266 west toward the pass. It was an interesting drive, with some pretty country with plesant, winding roads, clumps of cottonwoods, and unexpected rocky outcrops. We saw a few places along the route in the low hills where a few people were boon docking, and we saw one area containing several trailers, horse trailers and a temporary corral with horses. There was very little traffic and we felt remarkably “off” the beaten path in this area. It might be a good place to explore a little further for camping off the grid in the cooler times of year. There are campgrounds on Mt. Graham which we’d like to explore and would be cool retreats in the Southern Arizona summers. But the road up the mountain is one of those that has lots of twists, no guardrails and shear drop-offs at the white line at the side of the lane. It has steep grades, uncomfortably narrow lanes and is generally uninviting ... the white knuckle kind, where you dread meeting any on-coming traffic, especially on blind curves. How do we know this? We drove up to the first campground one time when we had our small motorhome and decided at that time that we did not want to go any further.

Once over the fairly low pass, we came to a large, flat plains-like area on the other side of the mountains and eventually ended up in Bonita, AZ. At Bonita, 266 turned south toward Willcox, and we found ourselves on a country road traveling through miles of farm land that we didn’t even know existed. We passed several industrial corporate-looking farms with rows of huge green houses behind high chain-link fences, presumably filled with tomatoes and other produce crops. One filled at least a square mile area and felt just a tad otherworldly and a bit eerie … like what are they growing in there?? It was probably because it was a totally unexpected sight, little sign of human activity that we could see, and obviously not your run-of-the-mill small farming enterprise. We had no idea this agricultural area even existed. You sure wouldn’t know it by the view from I-10. All you see is high desert.

Eventually, after several turns taking us back east and further south, we eventually ended up at Willcox, AZ and I-10 … and we were on our normal route home again. We can’t say it’s a route we’d take again … and certainly not to save time — it actually took us longer to get to Willcox — but it was a decent two-lane road and definitely an interesting change of scenery and sights from the drive south on 191 south from Safford to I-10. It just goes to show you what you might discover if you get off the main thoroughfares in Arizona.

We arrived home in Tucson after an uneventful drive, and got the Bambi unpacked into its Bambi Port until the next trip. Home again, home again!

Enjoy the pictures from this short Holiday weekend below. You can access previous trips by clicking the “Return to 2011 Trips List” button below or the button at the end of the picture section. See you next time … which will be our Holiday Trip, wrapping up 2011!

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