Whitewater Draw

With the Christmas season over and our holiday company returned home, it was time for a Roamer trip. I signed us up for an Arizona Antelope Foundation (AAF) volunteer project near Ajo in southern AZ. It was in a remote area, which made the trip even more enticing.

Pronghorn, or the American antelope, are the fastest land animal in North America, but will not jump a fence like a deer. They will slide underneath, if possible. Otherwise, their range is bounded by the barbed-wire fencing through the west. Therefore, nearly all of the AAF projects are to replace miles of existing barbed-wire fencing with a smooth lower wire to increase the pronghorn range.

This particular project was a collaboration between AAF, AZ Game and Fish and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to fence in and protect a water tank (pond – when water is present) from wild burros and errant cows. They foul the water because they relieve themselves wherever they stand, which tends to be in the water on hot days. The wildlife in the area that depend on these tanks will not use them if fouled. The fence we erected had a lower smooth wire for the pronghorn to slide underneath and a smooth upper wire for mule deer to leap over. The middle two wires were barbed.

The AAF folks were great to work with and now we are AAF members looking forward to the next project, which will probably be lower wire replacement on an existing fence line.

From Ajo we headed east across Arizona to just south of Elfrida, AZ and the Whitewater Draw. The significance of this area is that is the wintering grounds for many Sand Hill Cranes. Thousands of cranes were there this year.

The other reason to go there was to test out our newest acquisition. After traveling for a few years now we finally broke down and bought a nice camera, the Nikon Coolpix P900. Still a point and shoot, but much better than our phone cameras.

The Sand Hill Crane is a four-foot bird that spends the night at the draw, and feeds in the nearby farm fields all day.

They leave in huge flock with a great noise just before dawn and return in the afternoon just before sunset.

It’s a remote area, but there are a few camp spots there. We luckily got the last one upon our arrival.

The moon was nearly full while we were there. Our new camera does a great job capturing the moon. The zoom is so great that the toughest part is holding it still enough during the finger push to capture the shot.

Pam is the birder of our family. She would point them out and I tried to get a picture. This was a male Vermilion Flycatcher. Slowly we’re learning how to capture the entire bird, not most of it, with a crisp focus.

These two are a male and female Pyrrhuloxia.

This is a Northern Shrike with its striking pattern.

In the water, there was a Northern Shoveler. This was one of the few photos I could get with it not foraging for food in the water with its but in the air.

I was able to catch this Northern Pintail during the end of a nice morning bath.

This American Wigeon couple was enjoying a meal along the shore banks.

This Killdeer was taking a moment to reflect – lol.

And of course, to keep all these birds in line, there were a few birds of prey, like this hawk.

This juvenile Cooper’s hawk had a future meal in the brush in his sights.

As the sun set, the Great Horned Owl began his nightly hunt.

Stay tuned as we learn how to use this camera. Hopefully our blog photos will improve.

The night before we headed home, we shared dinner with Ward, a fellow traveler there to see the birds. He suggested we stop at the Amerind Foundation Museum near Dragoon, AZ. The museum is hidden in the beautiful Dragoon foothills, and was once a horse ranch before becoming a museum. It’s definitely worth the stop if you are in the area.

We took the back way home from southern AZ. North Cascabel Road runs from Benson to Mammoth along the San Pedro River on the eastern side of the Mt. Lemmon.

It was a pretty drive with a lot of huge, impressive saguaros to see along the way.

There was even an amazing field of cholla cactus that I’m glad we didn’t have to walk through.

The road meets up with Hwy 77 into Superior and from there we took US60 home. The dirt road sections in Cochise and Pinal Counties were well maintained and enjoyable to drive on through the towns and ranches along the way. However, the short section of road crossing into Pima County was horrible and obviously not maintained. The nine-mile extreme washboard road section was the only negative aspect of the drive home. I wonder if the Roamer comes with a road grader option?


While the blog posts have been about our adventures on the road in the Roamer, the desire to travel after retirement was fueled by our great family vacations even when we were both working and the kids were in school. Even now we still get together as a family for an adventure once a year.

We had company coming in for the Christmas holiday so the four of us took off for the big Island of Hawaii earlier in December. The boys had never been there, and Pam and I had not been there since our honeymoon nearly 33 years ago.
If you go to the big Island you have to see Volcano National Park, so we found a VRBO in Volcano, HI to rent for the week. The place was just outside of the park and about 4,000 feet in altitude. It does snow on the Island since Mauna Kea reaches up to 13,800 feet at its peak.

It didn’t snow on us, but it was cold at night and the wood burning stove was a necessity.

Volcano National Park is a pretty cool place if you like beautiful volcanic landscapes. This is one of the huge calderas located in the park. The floor of the caldera, where we hiked across, was once lava that took sixteen years to cool enough to cross.

Thurston Lave tube is a volcanic cave where the outer lava cooled and the inner lava flowed away, leaving the 10 foot diameter tube that you can hike through.

Outside the tube and around the caldera is lush vegetation.

One of the calderas is still active and at night you can watch the lava explode inside the center. Because the ground near the lip is very unstable, you have to enjoy this from some distance. One Ranger told us of a time in the past when you could go out the edge and luckily a group of visitors were pulled back just before a 20 acre chunk of earth fell into the molten caldera.

The lava finds its way from the active calderas to the ocean, reshaping the island and creating new landscape.

There are two types of lava, A’a and Pahoehoe. A’a is the rock mound type of lava. It moves as a wall of rocks, creeping along it set path. Pahoehoe is the more liquid flowing rock that looks very much like the top of brownies when it stops and cools. Lava was not flowing into the ocean when we were there, but there is a constant battle between lava and the ocean as the island tries to grow.

We didn’t expect to find petroglyphs in the lava, but we came across these in the park left by some ancient Hawaiians.

Hilo was the closest city to where we were staying. We toured the city one day and its beautiful parks.

And of course there was a waterfall too.

We drove up Mauna Kea as far as our rental car agreement allowed, about 9,000 of the 13,800 climb – lol. The last few miles require four wheel drive to get up and great brakes to descend safely. The panoramic view out over the island was nice from up there.

We also visited Waipi’o Valley on the northeast side of the island. You can see the Maui on the horizon from this point. We hiked the 25% grade road down to the beach and back up. Tough hike but the beach was nice and we had lunch there for an enjoyable afternoon.

On the southern side of the Island, we hiked out to the Papakolea Green Sand Beach. There was some serious erosion where folks have been driving out to the beach. You needed a vehicle with some ground clearance which our rental car did not have. The Roamer would not have fit these roads.

The two mile hike made swimming at the green sand beach that much more refreshing. We caught a return ride in the back of a local’s pickup truck.

At the southern most point of the US, and Hawaii, is a 20-foot cliff to the deep blue ocean. There was also a tidal blow hole that Tom and Taylor swam into, mostly carried by the wave currents. One lady there looked down, saw them in the hole and asked, “Where is your Mom?”. Pam answered, “I’m right here – and they’re fine”.

We also visited Lava Tree State Monument. This is where lava had flowed through a forest, wrapped around the trees, cooled and then the tree burnt leaving a hollow vertical column of lava.

One day we drove to the southeastern side of the island, rented bikes for the three mile ride to the end of the road and hike across a lava field to an active lava flow.

After about a mile into the hike the ground was getting noticeably hotter. When we looked down in the cracks in the rocks it became obvious why it was warmer.

Pam turned around at this point, but the boys and I continued until we got right next to the above ground flowing lava coming down the hill and making its way to the ocean.

On the western side of the island is the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. This place was the royal grounds for the ancient Hawaiian families and also the place of refuge. Nearly all crimes had a death penalty, but if you made it to the place of refuge before you were caught then you were spared. You lived with the priest there until he said you were absolved, and could then rejoin the outside world.

Further up the west coast of the island we stopped at a beach Kaloko-Honokohua National Historical Park. We shared the beach there with some sea turtles basking in the afternoon sun.

This was another great trip with the boys.


Even after our Roamer service was completed in Colorado the rig just didn’t have the same performance as before. So we took it back to the Ford dealer in the valley after we arrived home. I had a good chat with the mechanic, changed out a couple parts, got a data logger attached to capture any engine events and we took off north to see if it was finally fixed.

Our first stop was Orme to discuss our next rebuild project.

One of the larger ranch homes was vacant and in need of a serious upgrade. As one of the few three bedroom, two bathroom houses, it really needs to be brought back to life and should be a good project. It needs nearly everything: windows, doors, cabinets, counters, and new bathrooms… so it will keep us busy. We took dimensions and discussed what would be needed to make this place a beautiful home again.

Because the issues with the truck were related to high altitude and cold conditions we continued to climb up to Flagstaff and headed to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. If you are not familiar with the area, Flagstaff was once a huge volcano field, where some of the more eye-catching buildings in town are made from volcanic rock. Sunset Crater, northeast of Flagstaff, has many of the cinder cones from past volcanoes and beautiful lava fields to hike through.

The cinder cones and lava fields line up with the San Francisco Peaks. It too was once a huge volcano that blew ages ago. Humphreys Peak, the tallest, tops at 12,633 feet. You can see from the mountain shape how big the original volcano must have been before it erupted, possibly rivaling Denali in height.

Just north of Sunset Crater is Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki is a collection of ancient Pueblo communities that existed on the land just north of Flagstaff. It is located at the southern border of the Navajo Nation that encompasses the north-east quarter of the state of Arizona, and some of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

The excavated remains of the ancient communities include the buildings, gathering places and even game courts.

The stone construction is very impressive, where some of these dwellings are built on rock ledges overlooking canyons.

We’ve camped at the campground in Sunset Crater before, but it was closed this time of year. We have also dispersed camped just south of here near Walnut Canyon, but we wanted a new place. There is dispersed camping on the west side of Hyw 89 across from Sunset Crater, but this is typically a crowded area due to its popularity. We ended up finding a new place near Wupatki on Forest Service (or maybe Babbitt ranch) land in the cinder fields off the park road before you reach Hwy 89. It was a great place to watch the full moon rise and light up the evening skies. We’ll definitely use this new place again.

The next morning we continued our exploration of the Wupatki ruins. The colors of the ruins and the morning sky were just stunning.

The sky always seems a little bluer when you’re above 7,000 feet. Then again it could be my mind playing tricks due to the lack of oxygen – lol.

Our sticker collection has now covered the entire inside of the lid and is two or three layers deep in some areas. …but more are needed. It will be done when we run out of new places to visit.

The Roamer passed the checkout test and is ready for extended travels again. We also just received a letter from Ford that extended the warranty of the items replaced. We will get a refund for the most recent work since it was already changed out on our truck. Nice.