Monday, February 23, 2015

Tucson to Tombstone

site at Desert Trails

 It was a pretty straight forward drive from Rusty’s, mostly on Interstate I-10, to Tucson. In the past we usually made Diamond J RV Park our regular place to park but it seems we've always had a hassle trying to get rates online and then trying to connect with anyone in the office (we see that since our visit that their web site has finally been updated to include rates). Since our stay in Tucson would be short and time was of the essence, we opted instead for Desert Trails RV Resort, a park we’d used in 2009. While Diamond J back-in sites would have given us more direct access to several thousand acres of public land, our trip to Tucson this time was mostly business and not so much for birding.

common yard birds at Desert Trails - Gambel's quail and Gila woodpecker
We seem to always have more than one iron in the fire and this winter season was no different.  We had been on a waiting list to rent a cabin near San Ramon, Costa Rica, about an hour's drive from San Jose. After waiting over a year and a half, we’d finally gotten word that a cabin had opened up and we agreed to take it for ten weeks. Since we were already going to be in Costa Rica in March with one of our birding tours, this would work out very nicely.
Our commitment at Kartchner was through the end of December. At the start of January we planned to store the RV and truck in Tucson and fly to Costa Rica. But then we realized that we had enough people on our Costa Rica waiting list for a possible second tour. After consulting with our long time friend and Costa Rica bird guide, Richard Garrigues, he amazingly managed to pull together an itinerary for a second trip. We put the word out and it didn’t long for a second trip to gel. We amended our cabin rental to be six weeks and spend the last four weeks of our ten week stay on tour birding. But what to do with the RV and truck? Hence our business in Tucson: find a  safe and convenient place to store the truck and RV.

Our first day at Desert Trails was consumed with grocery shopping, laundry, and putting together a list of possible RV storage sites. With our Costa Rica timeline now settled, we purchased our airline tickets to Costa Rica. By the next morning we started exploring possible storage sites.
We had three central concerns about storage. The first two were about security and cost. From what we had gathered the cost to store an RV and truck would run us anywhere from $300 to almost $800. The difference in cost was whether the storage site had covered storage and if it was paved or unpaved. One might ask, "what’s the big deal about being paved or not?". The answer - pack rats. The pack rat was our third concern.
Pack rats. Also called woodrats. Cute cuddly little creatures on the Nature Channel. Cute and cuddly they may be but when it comes to wreaking havoc on parked vehicles in the desert, they have few equals. Pack rats love to nest in man-made objects like vehicles and especially, nice cozy RV’s. It wouldn’t be so bad if all they wanted was a place to stay. The problem is that they love to chew things. Like truck, car, and RV wiring. They do this mainly to maintain sharp teeth...potentially thousands of dollars to keep their teeth honed. Not their money but ours.
Pack rats generally prefer unpaved lots over paved lots. Or so we were told. Paved storage lots cost a lot more money so one has to weigh the benefit/cost of using a paved versus unpaved storage facility. And since our RV is our home, we were very concerned about pack rats.
After spending a few days interviewing several storage lot managers, we settled on a lot near the Tucson airport. It was paved, the security seemed adequate, and it was conveniently located near the Tucson airport where we would be departing for Costa Rica.
A few logistical issues remained like the timing involved in moving the RV while still having a place to live but we’d sort that out when the time came. For now we had a game plan for RV storage which was one of our goals while in Tucson.

Saguaro NP and Nancy's home in Oro Valley
RV storage out of the way, we had a bit more time to relax. Carol needed a haircut and Tom needed to get to the Apple Store for computer updates. We spent time at Saguaro National Park. We had been invited to our friend Nancy’s house in Oro Valley for a cookout. Tucson is a very attractive cultural center and while were several other things in Tucson we wanted to do, we decided that most could wait until we were settled in at Kartchner Caverns which was only an hour away.

Phainopepla male (top) and female
We had originally planned to start at Kartchner on October 1. It was now September 17. The volunteer coordinator at Kartchner had extended an invitation to us to arrive sooner if we wished. Looking at our options and costs for RV parking while waiting for October to arrive, we opted for an early arrival. But first, a few days layover at Tombstone Territory RV Park near Sierra Vista.

view out our back window at Tombstone Territory and hummingbird drawn to our feeder
The morning of the 18th we departed Desert Trails RV and arrived at Tombstone Territory RV Resort where they had plenty of spaces available. On our way to the park we happened to notice several rain storms sweeping through the area, mainly to the east where Portal and Rodeo were located. In fact most of the time at Tombstone Territory, the skies in that direction were dark and menacing. Little did we know at the time but Cave Creek Canyon and the Portal area were being slammed with heavy downpours that made the earlier storms looks pretty tame. Even the San Pedro River, just down the road from Tombstone Territory, was running dangerously high.

thunderstorms all around
Now just twenty minutes from Kartchner, we were curious about the volunteer RV parking options.  There were two volunteer parking areas - the upper and lower “volunteer villages”. Earlier email communications with the park’s volunteer coordinator indicated that the ‘birder’ leaning volunteers preferred parking in the upper village. And after a quick look at what the upper village looked like, that’s where we decided we would park.
Now it was Saturday the 20th. Laundry and last minute grocery shopping in Sierra Vista. Early Sunday morning we joined the weekly EOP (Environmental Operations Park)
bird hike hoping to catch up with friend Erika Wilson who usually leads the hikes. We discovered that she and her husband Jim were off trying out their new camper. Little did we know that they were caught up in massive flooding in Cave Creek Canyon and were stuck for three days in the Sunny Flats campground as they waited for the flood damaged road to be cleared enough to allow them to leave. We had been watching local news about the flooding as well, reading personal accounts from some of the residents in Portal as to the devastation. Lucky for us we had managed our visit to Portal just before the the rains came.
On Monday, September 22, we packed up the RV for a very short pull to the upper volunteer village at Kartchner Caverns State Park, our home for the next three months.

hiking at the EOP
San Pedro river in a typical Sept; then this Sept.

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