The Coronado Forest & Tumacácori

Living in a van in the middle of nowhere, with all the doors open and accordion music wafting in. Living the life.

February 5 – February 8, 2017.

For me going down is far scarier than going up. This is especially true when hiking up a steep rock face, but also when I am securely strapped into a tall rolling metal box, even though I am sure the peril is equal going either way on wheels. This is why I decided to walk. We had gotten up the hill just fine, but I didn’t feel so sure about going down.

We were boondocking in the Coronado National Forest. This was the first campsite we had found all on our own. I had wanted to camp close to Tumacácori, the next National Monument we intended to visit, but couldn’t find any sites using my usual sources, or So, while in Tucson I used some of the tips I picked up at the boondocking seminar at The Rubber Tramp Rendevous and downloaded a few Motorized Vehicle Use Maps from a National Forest website.

These maps show the details of the roads and of the boundary of the forest. They also indicate where roadside camping is allowed. Wonderful! There was a spot near Tumacácori. Only problem was we didn’t know anything about it before we got there.

The road going to the site was steep, rocky, and rutted. We parked at the bottom of the hill and Greg walked up to survey it. Very rarely do we turn around, and I am not sure why we didn’t then, but with white knuckles and gritted teeth we made it up the hill. We didn’t go far – the road got worse – and found an adequately slightly off level place to park. It was stunning.

The plan was to hang out for a few days. The pace we had been keeping was just too much. We needed rest and we needed some time to catch up on the blog, which was only running a month and a half behind at the time.

It was warm. We opened all our doors and took in the scenery. Greg played his accordion. We went on a few long walks. We had a little internet, but no phone service. It was the vacation away from the adventure, like being on a little retreat.

Our site. We could see mountains in almost every direction we looked.
We were close to civilization, but sill very alone.
Greg works on some blog posts.
Lots of government land like this nationalforest is multi-use. One of the uses is grazing cows. In the early morning we would see cows out in this field. By the time we got up they would be working their way up the mountain. One night it sounded like something hit the Ballena Blanca. A cow? We hoped they hadn’t taking up van tipping.
We were camped along a long dirt and rock road that led up and down into these mountains. A few times cars drove by, but we walked a long way down the road and never saw another person camped. Maybe they were checking on the cows.
Textures, colors, and peacefulness.
Jack rabbits!
Ballena Blanca alone in the landscape.
Leaving the campsite on our way to Tumacácori, Greg drives over a hump with almost no clearance at all.
Mission at Tumacácori. The Franciscans were never able to complete the church building. The unfinished bell tower was originally supposed to be a barrel vault. The church was to be shaped like a cross. Funds for these efforts dried up.
Inside the church.
Inside the church facing back toward the entrance. Choir loft was over the doors.
Frescoed barrel vault over the altar.
View of the church’s bell tower and barrel vault through the roof of a nearby building.
Unusual cylindrical building for a mission.
Inside this storage building stairs run up between some sturdy beams. They must have stored some heavy stuff up there.
The mission was located near the Santa Cruz River. The Anza trail runs along here. In 1775-6 Juan Butista de Anza led 240 people (families) up this river and along the Gila River to San Francisco to settle there.

**** All pics are click to enlarge

**** And BTW — if you want to keep more current with where we are and what we are doing, check our Instagram page at or click one of the Instagram pics in the sidebar of the blog.

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