Secondary Roads

My life on the road, exploring and adventuring. So many places to go; so many sights to see; so many things to do; so many experiences to share. The world is my bucket and the list is endless!


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I’d Wait Until July

So now, the real reason I came to Flagstaff, AZ.

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Across the Snowbowl and into the forest

NOOOOOO, not to ski.  To hike up Humphreys Peak.  If you’ve checked out my Bucket Lists tab, you’ll see I’m try to bag the highest point in every state.  So here’s Arizona, Humphreys Peak, topping off at 12,633 ft.

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Low on the slopes, a few snow patches

The first thing I did after getting setup at the Flagstaff KOA is run over to the Flagstaff Ranger Station to get info on getting to the summit.  As you can see, there’s still snow up there so I wanted to be sure the trail was passable, maybe get a map, etc.  First off, the ranger told me that I should wait until Wednesday for the best weather.  She was spot on with that.  It was a perfect day with nearly no wind, bright sunny skies and temps that would eventually reach into the high 60’s at the trailhead.  Summit forecast was 48º (9º C) and 25 knots of wind…. not bad at all.

 

She also told me there were still patches of snow obscuring the trail and I’d likely need “micro spikes” as it was well compacted and could be icy in spots.  I don’t have “micro spikes” but I do have Yak Trax, which are metal coils around a rubber frame which you slip on to the soles of your shoes for traction on ice and snow.  Good to go!

It’s 4.8 miles each way, starting from the Snowbowl at 9200 ft elevation and I got started right around 10 a.m.  I was figuring about 4-5 hours.  After cutting across the ski slope the trail enters the forest and up you go.  Not terribly steep though.   A nice way to get the legs warmed up.  For the first mile there were a few minor snowy patches, a few yards across and well compacted, just like the ranger mentioned.  It was warm enough that the snow was just a bit soft.  Plenty of grip with my hiking shoes alone so I was not wearing my Yak Trax.

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Soon after the first switchback, about a mile and a half in, the snow became much more prevalent and soon the trail was far more

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Sometimes the trail was pretty narrow

snow than bare trail, and getting deeper.  Now I was walking over snow that was 3-4 ft deep.  Still compacted where it had been walked on, but a slight step to either side would often mean sinking in up to my knee.  Not too much further up the trail I passed two young adults trying to make their way up in slick bottomed tennis shoes.  Yeah, good luck with that.

 

By mile 3 there was no such thing as bare trail.  It was all snow, at times atop drifts several feet deep.  More than once I sank in up to my hip.  I met a couple on their way down and asked if they’d made it to the top.  They said no, that the trail just continued to get more slushy and worse farther on.  I stopped here and slipped on my Yak Trax.  I was still doing OK in just my shoes, but it was a good spot and I needed a little break and some food.  Air is thin at 11,000 ft.

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Mt Weatherford and the Arizona Snowbowl ski slopes

And THEN the adventure began.  About 2/3 of the way up the trail crosses a scree field.  The scree field, because there are no trees, was devoid of snow.  It also happened to be devoid of a trail.  But surely I will find the trail on the other side, if for no other reason than because I have my Garmin GPS which will show me the trail.  It’s maybe 100 yards across, and across I went, gingerly.  Upon reaching the other side……nothing!  A few footprints heading off here and there.  Nothing like the well tramped upon “trail” leading up to this point.  Some went up the ridiculously steep mountain side, some went down.  In essence I spent the next 30 minutes struggling through snow several feet deep on a 45 degree slope, to find ways up, comparing my position to where my GPS said the trail was.  Any time I got there, there was NOTHING resembling a trail.  Eventually I ended up back at the scree field higher up than when I’d crossed when I met a couple making their way down diagonally across the slope/scree field.  They just told me to follow their tracks up as it would be a much easier way to the saddle above where the trail eventually leads.  Thus I was able to make it to Doyle Saddle.

 

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View from Doyle Saddle to the summit

Doyle Saddle is above the tree line and from there the trail heads pretty much straight along the ridge line to the summit.  There are, however three false summits along the way, which I did not realize at the time.  Oh and the wind up here was blowing at least 25 knots steady.  I’d say more like 30-35.

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The “Trail”?????

The temperature itself was not cold and in the few places where there was respite from the wind I was very comfortable in my long-sleeve base layer, short sleeve tech shirt and light fleece sweatshirt. In the wind it was a bit chilly, especially when I would stumble or slip and my hands would end up wet from the snow.  Once they dried, working them using my hiking poles kept them warm enough I didn’t need my gloves.  Of course I was working pretty hard.

 

From the saddle the trail slips off the west side of the ridge where the snow again got very deep, and the trail physically difficult to follow.  It goes through two sections that are really steep.  I was pretty fatigued by this point and a little frustrated.  When I came to the first false summit I thought I was almost home free.  One more stretch to go and I’d have made it.  When I got very near to that peak I could see the rest of the way up.  No only was this not the summit, the next peak was not the summit either.

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Mt Weatherford again, and other lesser peaks

It was soul crushing.  I nearly gave up, partly from frustration but mostly because I thought I was under a time constraint.  I could have sworn I’d seen a sign in the parking lot that said the gates would be locked at 4 pm.  Turns out I was wrong about that but at the time I wasn’t sure, if I continued,  I’d be back down by 4 pm.  Then again, there was no way in hell I wanted to have to come back and climb this mountain again.  I waived for a moment or two, then got mad and took a few steps further up the mountain.  And a few more.  Then I saw some other hikers up near the actual summit and my spirits shot up.  I wasn’t the only one struggling up here and even if there was a time limit I knew I could summit and catch them on the way down so I wouldn’t be alone.

 

U6%PpRMgTD2qrPbcK2F3mQNow it wasn’t even a question and on I pressed.  There were two other people on the summit as I FINALLY started up the last climb.  One came by me on his way down before I got there, but the other was still up there when I arrived.  I was fatigued, out of breath, my quads and hamstrings achy but was so glad I continued and made it to the top.  Not that I wanted to spend much time there.  The wind was howling and an overcast layer had moved in.  Not really a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the view.  A few quick photos, thanks to my co-climber, and I was on my way down.

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Don’t be fooled, I’m exhausted

I’d caught the previous four hikers by the time I was back down at Doyle Saddle.  I briefly attempted to follow the actual trail down from the saddle but quickly found that not really an option and ended up trailblazing a bit to the upper part of the scree field where I’d met the couple earlier.  Then it was more making it up as I went along, trying to get

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Heading back down.  Look real close and you can see the guy on the ridge line ahead of me.

back to the where the trail was supposed to cross the original part of that scree field.  Look!  Look at this picture below.  You can clearly see a trail across.  Even according to my GPS I was very near where I’d crossed on my way up….. but, THERE WAS NO TRAIL.   One last check of my GPS and I headed across figuring I’d find my way back to the trail on the other side.  I put my GPS back in the side pocket of my pack.  What I DID NOT DO WAS ZIPPER THAT POCKET!!!!!!   That scree field isn’t completely stable and several times I lost balance, leaning or partially falling over.  Somewhere, on one of those, and unbeknownst to me, my $600 Garmin GPS made its bid for freedom.  I only discovered this when I got all the way across and reached to that pocket to find it was gone.

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GRRRRRRR!!!!!  But it’s my own damn fault

I turned back toward the scree field.  No Way!  No way I would be able to retrace my steps.  Even if I did, the GPS very likely tumbled from where I was and probably fell between rocks or boulders.  No Way I was going to find it.  Worse, yet, how the hell am I going to find the trail?????  It’s not here where I came across and I have no idea if I’m above it or below it.   Hmmm…….this is bad.

But wait……I have my phone……and…….YES!!!!!  There’s signal.  Google Maps saves the day….and My Ass!  It showed the trail was just a little ways below.  THANKFULLY.  I wasn’t in any condition to go trailblazing back UP that hillside again.  Sure enough the trail was there, about 75 yds down hill.  Now before you go getting all verklempt, the fact is that 1) I could have just worked my way up and down the slope till I found the trail; 2) I could see the ski slopes and though much further down the mountain, I could have made my way down to them and followed them all the way back to the Snowbowl and 3) I knew there were others coming down behind me and I could have waited for them to come down and hopefully see them cross the scree field.  But I was certainly happy to have had the phone option to get me to the right place.  Always, ALWAYS adventure with a map……or two.

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My Yak Trax didn’t fare so well.

Once back on the trail the rest of my hike was merely putting up with the fatigue and exertion of getting back down.  Once back in the forest, the temperature was quite warm and the snow had significantly softened.  My Yak Trax were pretty well destroyed by now, having traversed large stretches of volcanic rocks.  Really, they are meant for recreational walking or running, only on snow or soft ice.  Rocks, not so much.  Even though I kept what was left of them strapped to my shoes, the slushy snow meant a lot of slipping and many more sinkings, often to my hip.  At this point it was just as exhausting and frustrating as going up.

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Some nasty wind burn

I don’t remember being more glad to finish a hike.  I also don’t remember being more glad that I’d not given up on a hike.  It certainly left me with some great memories……and one pretty wicked case of wind burn.   I’m rather certain the snow made this hike exponentially more difficult.  That’s not to say it would ever be easy, but knowing what I know now………I’d wait until July!


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From Deep Time To Merely Really Old

I’ve left Prescott, AZ behind for even higher ground in Flagstaff, AZ.  It’s only about 100 fullsizeoutput_18femiles north but is 1500 ft higher, at 7000 ft.  Just north of Flagstaff, and even higher in elevation at well over 8000 ft is Sunset Crater National Monument.  Most people think of desert when they think of Arizona, but no sign of desert sands or cacti here.  It’s all volcanic and high pine forests.  In fact this area sits amongst a field of over 600, now extinct volcanos and Sunset Crater is by far the youngest, having erupted and formed around the time of the Norman Conquest.  That’s 1066 (Battle of Hastings; William The Conquerer and all that….) for those lacking in historical timelines.

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Nice view of Sunset Crater from the Lenox Crater Trail

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Across Lenox Crater to view the San Francisco Peaks

The Lenox Crater and Lava Flow Trails are beautiful little mini hikes, about a mile each with some really neat access to the volcanic remains and a few stunning views.  The San Francisco Peaks, including Mt Weatherford and Mt Humphrey’s, Arizona’s highest point, lie a bit to the southwest, on the outskirts of Flagstaff.  They are the “old” volcanos of the field.  MUCH older than Sunset.

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Across the lava flow.  Mt Humphreys towering in the distance.

You’re not permitted on the cone itself nor into the crater.  The Lenox Trail is the only one where you ascend up a cone to see the inside of what’s left of the crater.

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The lava river which flowed from the Sunset eruption 1000 years ago.  Sunset Crater is the backdrop.

You can see the weather was quite fickle.  Sunny one minute, cloudy the next.  Even some rain showers passing through the area.  Well, rain sprinkles anyway, though it did rain quite heavily back down in Flagstaff.

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fullsizeoutput_18efContinuing along the park loop road you begin to descend.  Then you descend and descend, and descend some more and suddenly…….. oh look, desert.  And you find yourself in Wupatki National Monument.   Once again, I shan’t bring up the whole “naming” thing which us white folk just can’t seem to get right.  Apparently it’s a trend with us and Native American culture.  I guess we’ll just have to go with it.

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Wukoki Pueblo

What’s rather amazing is that this picks up in time where we left off 3000 ft above on the volcanic plain.  While there were Native inhabitants in this area and indeed on the high ground above, the cultural remains throughout this monument date to a period not long after the Sunset eruption.

 

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Wukoki Pueblo, built on and into the rock

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There are dozens of ruins and sites throughout this valley.  From approximately 1100 to 1200 this was a vibrant, thriving community of thousands.  The valley, not this particular pueblo.  Just a couple of miles from here is the queen jewel, known now as Wupatki Pueblo.

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Wupatki Pueblo site, including community room (the circle) and ball court farther below

So much is left unknown about the cultures and daily lives of those who came here, built these fabulous structures and communities and after comparatively short time left, also for reasons unknown.

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The ball court.  Partially restored and rebuilt by NPS.

These people were very clearly skilled stoneworkers and engineers.  They took seasonal natural light, prevailing winds, lines of sight and many other crucial factors in to consideration in the layout and construction of these “towns.”

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Built right in to the surrounding rock and cliff face

While Wupatki appears the communal and cultural center of the area, there are pueblos of varying size all over the valley.  Continue along the loop road and you pass by several more sights….

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Box Canyon dwellings

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Nice mountain view

It was a fascinating day!

Tomorrow……… Mt Humphrey’s!


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What’s In A Name?

Apparently, in this case, a bunch of Bullshit.

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Even “Hopi House” would be a better name

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Major remaining dwelling housed 25-35 people

While this amazing cultural site was inhabited between 1300 and 1400-ish, the Europeans who “named” it, in the 1860’s, mistakenly believed it to have been built by the Aztecs of Mexico and so named it after their most famous of leaders, Emperor Montezuma II.  Montezuma, however, was not even born until long after this site was mysteriously abandoned by the Sinagua peoples who lived here and was never here, nor likely even knew of its existence.  But hey, let’s be sure not to change the name.

ANYWAY!!!!  Several native peoples trace or

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Why does it look like I’m photo-bombing my own photo?

claim ancestral origins or existence to this site and area including Yavapai, Hopi, Mogollon, Sinagua and others I’m sure. It’s estimated that at its height, the Verde Valley in this vicinity had more than 40 “villages” and more than 7000 native inhabitants.  It was a major center of trade, farming and cultural exchange.  There are remains and ruins of these sites all over the area.

A bit further along the cliff face there was another similar structure which apparently collapsed, known as “Castle A.”

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Remains of Castle A

The site sits right along the banks of Wet Beaver Creek.  Why wouldn’t you pick this place to build your condo?  Why they eventually abandoned this area and migrated further north remains a mystery, though theories abound.

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Wet Beaver Creek

Just a few miles away is another, related site called Montezuma’s Well.  I’ll let my previous diatribe concerning naming suffice for this as well. (Heh, heh, see what I did there?)

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Montezuma’s Well

This is a natural spring welling up from deep underground  and was apparently a significant sacred and spiritual site as well as an ever-present source of water.

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Note the cliff dwellings on the upper left.  Oh, and the rain coming as well!

This is something of a geologic phenomenon as, not only are experts not exactly sure the the source of the upwelling, but because of some unique characteristics there are critters in the “well” which exist no other place on earth.  I was going to try and explain some of this, but their signs do it nicely….fullsizeoutput_18e4

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The well outlets at one end, traveling back down through faults in the surrounding rock, reportedly a 10 minute journey, to release into Wet Beaver Creek.

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Outlet, about 60 feet below the level of the well and feeding in to Wet Beaver Creek

Perhaps more amazingly, the natives living here dug a canal to irrigate their crops.  The area here at the outlet has been stabilized some by the National Park Service to support the path, but this canal may have stretched as far as 7 miles, supplying several separate communities.

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The Canal

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Ancient irrigation ditch

Over time, while in use by the natives, the canal essentially strengthened itself.  The water is filled with calcium and sediment, forming a sort of “concrete” along the canal sides.  Further downstream, dry feeder canals still exist where they drew off water for the fields of crops.

Water analysis has also found high levels of arsenic in the water.  Could explain why the inhabitants eventually abandoned this area.  At least the ones utilizing the well for water.  That couldn’t have been good for long life expectancy.

 

 

 

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Remains of civilizations lost

 


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Circum-Watson

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Lake

The Granite Dells are such a cool place!  I took a little hike, which kinda turned in to a medium hike, to check out the newest section of trails in this part of Prescott, Arizona.  Last year the city bought up this property and have opened several miles of hiking/mountain biking trails, known as the Storm Trails as it used to be part of the former Storm Ranch.  There’s something for every kind of rider here as the trails I hiked ranged anywhere from fairly easy level to definitely “expert” and I was only on a small fraction of them.

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Watson Lake and The Dells…. from space

Pretty awesome that Point Of Rocks Campground, where I’m staying, has a convenient connector trail right to the trail system.  Forget about those first two miles.  While they are technically “open” to bikes, as are the vast majority of trails anywhere in and around

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Over looking Watson Lake, along the Storm Trails, with Granite Mtn in the background

Prescott, that section is NOT rideable.  The section east (that’s to the right for those of you

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The cacti are bloomin’

directionally challenged) of the lake, where the route is all squiggly, are the Storm Trails.  I pretty much stuck to the perimeter trails, but the entire interior is chock full of other options.

That straight road-looking line on the east side of the lake is the Peavine Trail.  It’s an old  railroad now converted to rail trail with access points to many of the trail systems.  It’s a beautiful, flat trail great for an easy ride, walk or run, stretching about 10 miles up to Chino Valley or meeting up with the Iron King Trail which heads another 5 miles east to Prescott Valley.

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Watson Dam

Watson Lake, by the way, is manmade, as is the nearby Willow Lake.  My wanderings took me down past Watson Dam, constructed in the 1930’s, at the north end of the lake.  It’s lush and green and tranquil below the dam.  Well, it’s tranquil all around the lake, but especially down here.

 

 

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Easter Island Trail…… you can see why.

I hadn’t really intended to walk all the way around the lake when I set out.  It just sort of worked out that way.  By the time I made my way back to the Peavine Trail it was just as far to go back the way I came, and this way I made it a loop.  I always prefer the Loop.  When in doubt, make it a loop.

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Ebony & Ivory

 


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That’s No Baby Rattle….Baby

I wanted to hike up Granite Mountain today.  I drove the 30 minutes out there only to find I’d forgotten my wallet.  ONCE AGAIN, HEAD UP MY ASS!!!  I couldn’t pay the day use fee.  I turned around and came home.  Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass having a conscience.

Instead I hopped on my mountain bike for a what was supposed to be an easy spin along the Peavine and Iron King Trails, both converted rail trails.  Iron King takes you out towards Prescott Valley, passing by Glassford Hill and reminding me I wanted to ride up it.  So much for an easy spin day.Screenshot 2019-04-26 16.48.34

Glassford Hill is actually an extinct volcano and pretty tough climb, especially once you get to the switchbacks.  Mostly double digit % grades.  I’m still acclimatizing to the elevation here so it was all about keeping my heart from bursting out my nose.  It came close at one point.

During the 1880’s & 1890’s, when this was still the “Frontier,” Colonel Glassford, for whom the hill was renamed from Bald Mountain, set up a Heliograph station at the summit.  A Heliograph is a mirror system reflecting sunlight which you can control to send morse code messages.  It’s visible from many, many miles away.

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A mockup of a Heliograph

In the 1890’s they sent a message over 800 miles (several relays, obviously) in 4.5 hours and only lost one word. Hopefully the one lost word wasn’t, “HELP!”

On the way back I was thrilled to learn that even with my head not always at its sharpest, my instincts are still intact.  I heard the rattle; two separate short rattles.  Before I could even process what it was I somehow knew, without seeing it, that I’d just pissed off a rattlesnake.  I was several yards past it when all that occurred to me.  I’ve, of course, seen rattlesnakes plenty of times, but I’ve never been rattled at.  No, this was NOT the moment when my heart nearly burst out a nostril, but it wasn’t far behind that.

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I’m not as close as this looks

Once I went back to check him out I realized I rode past within 3 feet.  He’s just at the very edge of the trail and very tough to see in the shadows like this.  Especially riding by at 15 mph.

I’m very happy I did not get struck.  I left him in peace.


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Prescott & The Trek

Just when I thought I was all caught up, it occurred to me that I haven’t posted an RV Trek update in quite a while.  Here’s what April 2019 has looked like.  I was in Las Vegas on the first and now I’m in Prescott. Only halfway through the month, but I won’t be moving again till May.

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RV Trek for April 2019

And just to review, here’s 2019 to date.  Seems like forever ago that I was in Tucson.

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RV Trek 2019

Just a reminder you can find my latest RV Trek maps through the tab at the top of my homepage.  That is, when I remember to keep it updated.  It’s a tough life out here.

“Now for something completely different…”

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BEFORE

If you ask the Google how to clean a microwave you will invariably get a google’s worth of suggestions and directions using vinegar and water.  Microwaving vinegar and water. It’s supposed to soften up all that gunk and make it an easy wipe up.  Here’s my “before” oven.  And to be clear, it is a Convection/Microwave in which I very often convect.  While I am pretty good about wiping down after microwaving, I never seem to remember after real cooking, so it’s, well, what you might expect after 15 months of convecting.  No auto clean on this baby.  Into my pyrex measuring cup went equal parts vinegar and water.  Per the Google, I zapped it for 5 minutes.  I guess I should have

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AFTER

 been observing since after 5 minutes 3/4 of it had ended up splattered out and sitting in the rotating plate.  And the gunk, just as stuck on as before.  Attempt #2 involved a larger pyrex bowl which managed to contain all the liquid…..but do nothing to soften up the gunk.  Finally, after another 5 minutes….

Yeah, not a damn bit of difference!  🤬

 

I’m staying at Point of Rocks RV Campground in Prescott.  While I can’t see it from the campground itself, we are right next to Watson Lake in an area known as The Granite Dells.  It’s self explanatory.

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Watson Lake and The Granite Dells