After parting with the masses at Grand Canyon we moved on south to Lost Dutchman State Park, a place I had enjoyed once before. The campground sits at the base of Superstition Mountain, about 40 miles east of downtown Phoenix, and it’s well maintained and operated.
My first visit was under a cold blanket of clouds and rain, so my hiking was kept to a minimum, and solo mountain climbs weren’t in the cards. This time around, in addition to some of the easier trails surrounding the campground, John and I decided to tackle the mountain itself. This is NOT a big mountain, as mountains go… especially to us northwesterners, but it still has its challenges.
We set out around 10am to hike up Siphon Draw (relatively moderate) and continue up the very steep scramble to Flatiron Summit (definitely NOT moderate). All totaled it’s a 5.8 mile round trip climb up rugged terrain with an elevation gain of 2881 feet. Tough but rewarding once we reached the top.
Coming back down steep, rocky trails is always harder for me… especially when I’m loaded down with gear, climbing over boulders, and sliding down loose flaky shale.
It’s a good 4-5 hour climb, up and back… more if you take time to enjoy the views and some refreshments at the top, as we did. On our way back down, and already well into Siphon Draw, we were amazed to see several solo hikers and small groups (some completely ill-prepared) heading up the trail… with sundown not too far off. Knowing the steep scramble they were facing, we managed to convince a few to turn around, and come back another day when they could start the climb much earlier. Two women we passed were hoofing it to the top to camp out for the night, hopefully well away from the edge. (You go girls!)
We made it to the end of the trail with just enough light, and had to hoof it through the campground to our motorhome in the dark.
After Superstition Mountain we headed west to Lake Havasu. I had camped here before, at an RV park right on the lake, amongst a group of annual migratory snowbirders. This time we camped at Lake Havasu State Park, which is also right on the lake. Interestingly I did not enjoy this stay nearly as much as my first. There’s a combination of reasons for that. It was colder this time for one, so meeting fellow campers was rare. For me, that’s half the fun.
The RV park I stayed at before is packed with rigs of all types, most of which are there for the winter season. Most of those have an annual reservation in the same sites they have occupied for years, or at least in the same area, and they all know each other. I happened to snag a site amongst them directly across from the beach (and their tiki/party hut) for a few days in early spring of 2014. These folks were active and friendly, and welcomed me into their flock (pun intended… snow birds ?) fairly quickly. (State Parks have a 14 day limit on stays so your neighbors are constantly changing.)
I will say this though… the State Park sites are far more spacious, and at this park in particular the staff was as friendly and accommodating as can be.
And lastly… we had one kayak between the two of us. Last time I took a solo journey 23 miles down Topok Gorge (Colorado River) and across the lake to my campsite. This time… the wind blew hard enough to drown out the sound of boat traffic at times. John braved the cold on the kayak almost daily. I went out twice.
My favorite part of our stay this time around was the adorable quail that frequented our campsite. They are just plain cute!
Alamo Lake State Park was our next stop. This is a fairly remote location, darn near two hours north of Hwy 60… a somewhat remote part of Hwy 60. Although not much more than a stones throw (as the crow flies), it’s roughly a 4 hour drive from Lake Havasu City, and about the same from Phoenix.
Although the cold weather (by Arizona standards) followed us, I really liked this place. It’s a vast bit of desert beauty, AND there’s a QUIET lake to Kayak on. As soon as we got situated in our campsite, we set out to walk a trail down to the lake (which was very low at the time). Along the way we came across some animal droppings, better known as scat in nature, that didn’t fit the norm in our desert experience. We see scat fairly frequently while hiking and can’t help but try to identify it. Coyote? Owl? Bear? Elk? Kangaroo Rat? This one was different… more like a cross between cow and horse poo, but smaller. “Wild Burro?” I said, but we knew nothing of burro in the area. That is until we went into the office/store. There were indeed wild burrow in the area, and they are protected within the park. There’s a debate as to whether they were left behind by prospectors and Spaniards.
I’d never seen wild burro, let alone photograph them, so I was on the lookout, with camera in hand everywhere we went. (Kinda the norm for me. ?) They somehow evaded us day after day, even when we searched for them when and where they would most likely be. (Near dawn down by the water… or in a grove of trees in a draw on another campground lloop… ) No luck.
One day we took Zippy (tow car) off road to a canyon one of the rangers told us about (watching all along the way of course) and did a hike up to the top of a ridge. Even from that vista there were none to be seen.
[Funny story… We stopped to get gas along the way at this very remote and dusty little desert campground/bar/grill and the one lone gas pump for miles around. While picking up a case of beer for our campground neighbors while John was pumping gas, I was amused by a young girl (obviously the manager/bartender’s daughter) who was begging for something to do… wait tables, help behind the bar… Her Mom set her off, let out a chuckle and told me the last job she gave her was to stay by the gas pump and when someone got gas she was to write down the amount and bring the slip to the bar. Every time she came in and handed her Mom the slip, the price was the same… $4.35… which was the hand written price per gallon attached to the pump. ????]
So we’re on our way back from that excursion… just cruising along the state park road, heavy in conversation about something, and suddenly I’m saying, “Honey… Honey! Burros!!” They were standing in the road right in front of us. Wild Burros! I jumped out before John came to a complete stop. Soon John, and two of our camp neighbors were standing beside me. The burros were curious, but shy enough to trot along fairly quickly.
At Alamo Lake we took turns setting out on my kayak. We had to drive it down to the ramp each day and launch it. I’d go out for an hour or two, and John would meet me at the ramp and set out himself. At a designated time I’d meet him at the ramp, load ‘er up, and drive back to the campsite. I always enjoy the peacefulness of my solo time on the water, especially if there’s wildlife and water fowl to sneak up on, but I think a second kayak may be in order next time we set out. This is something we never get to do together.
The view from our campsite, and hiking paths was great…
As were the birds that frequented our campsite…
We spent most of our evenings getting to know our neighbors and their friends over their campfire. Meeting new people along the way is one of the best things about this form of travel. Especially in state and national parks… there’s just so much common interest to share.
It was these very neighbors who inspired me to cancel my next reservation and camp instead at Cave Creek Regional Park, just north of Phoenix. That park, and Elissa’s Christmas visit while we were there, is up next! Great hikes, great vistas, and one creep-crawly thing! ?
Don’t miss that! If you haven’t, you can sign up for email notifications so you never miss one of my very sporadic and infrequent posts. Even if you’re only looking at the “pretty pictures” it’s good to have my friends along for the adventure!