Turning Down the Thermostat

Sunset at Agua Fria National Monument.

April 27 – May 5, 2020.

It was hot in Ajo. Really, really hot. Pushing 100 hot. The giant saguaro cacti were loving it. The intensity of the sun beating down on their recently sprouted green nubs growing out of their spiky extremities was causing them to burst out into amazing white blooms. We, on the other hand, were wilting by 7:30 in the morning. We were running our little 18 volt Ryobi fan day and night. Morning walks were very short and no longer fun anymore.

So what does a nomad living in a van do when they can’t stand the heat anymore? Head north and even more importantly, look for higher ground. We were at 1100 feet in Ajo. For each 1000 feet of elevation gain, the temperature decreases 5 degrees. If we could get to 5000 feet, we’d be 20 degrees cooler.

So we left the Ajo area, stopping first in Phoenix where, as you may remember, from last month’s expense report, we spent many very hot hours at Walmart searching for a solution to our broken stove. Since we hadn’t had a good internet connection in Ajo (which meant I wasn’t able to really plan where we would land next) we decided to head to a place we were already familiar with, Agua Fria National Monument. We had stayed at Agua Fria back in February after our visit to the Buffalo Soldiers Festival, back when possibilities stretched out for us in every direction, and before the world got so small with COVID-19. Agua Fria is only 3600 feet, but we’d be a little cooler while we figured out our next step.

At our first campsite at Agua Fria, our internet connection was as equally as poor as it had been in Ajo. It was in a bit of a valley. But after two nights we moved much farther into the monument taking a winding dirt road to the top of a canyon to see some Native American ruins. Not far from the ruins we found a better campsite and a much better internet connection.

Not only were we looking for a cooler location, but we also had a few more broken things to contend with. My hiking boots were threatening to completely fall apart and a part on our rooftop fan vent was damaged, making it impossible to open the vent. We needed to find a city where we could get deliveries and camp close by. We were not far from Prescott, so I started looking there.

First I found that there was a sporting goods store open in Prescott that carried the hiking boots I had already had my eye on before all the stores closed down in Tucson. That sporting goods stores were open was surprising, but I wasn’t going to complain since I really wanted to try on the boots before I bought them. Actually, once we got to Prescott we found that most everything was open. If we had needed to get hobby supplies, or some fancy home goods to spruce up the van, we would have been in luck. I also determined that Prescott had an Amazon locker where we could have our replacement part for the vent fan sent to. Next, I just needed to figure out where we could stay while we waited for our Amazon delivery.

The Prescott National Forest borders the city of Prescott so one of the first things I did was look at the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) for the forest. I had already downloaded this map into an app called Avenza. Avenza is an offline mapping app that uses geospatial PDFs. The MVUM would show me where the dispersed (free) camping was allowed in the forest. I didn’t see much near the town so next, I went to my go-to camping app, iOverlander. I found a few free camping locations near town, but I wanted to know if there was more so I went to the website for the Prescott National Forest. There I learned that although all the paid campsites in the forest were closed, there were 11 free designated dispersed camping areas with numbered sites just like where we had stayed in Madera Canyon. I downloaded a map of the sites. Back on Avenza I looked for more maps of the area and found a map of hiking trails for the city of Prescott and the forest.

We were all set! A free, much cooler, place to camp at 5600 feet, a map of hiking trails, and a city that didn’t seem to realize that there was a pandemic going on where we could buy things.

* WARNING – I realize that some people have a fear of snakes so I have decided to separate the snakes out at the bottom of the post. Don’t scroll past the sunset if you don’t want to see the snakes.

Agua Fria National Monument

Canyon Towhee.
Blackfoot Daisy.
Threadleaf Groundsel.
View from our campsite near the ruins.
View on top of the canyon.
Ruins of “the fort” at the edge of the canyon.
Antelope Horns.
View of the canyon looking east.
View of the canyon looking west.

Prescott National Forest

Hike through the woods. The first campsite we found when we arrived in the forest was the last one down a pretty rugged hill at the end of a road. Conveniently, though, it was located just a very short walk from a trail.
Eastern Bordered Plant Bug.
American Robin.
Pointleaf Manzanita tree.
Spotted Towhee.
We couldn’t ID this one.
One day we took the trail behind our campsite to this lake but by the time we got there, it was time to turn around. So the next day we drove to the lake and hiked around it.
Double-crested Cormorant.
Mallard and two Muscovy Ducks.
Mallard and Pekins.
The trail around the lake was paved at first but eventually got more rugged.
Garden Grape-hyacinth.
Cooper’s Hawk.
Plateau Fence Lizard.
Black-chinned Sparrow.
Dark-eyed Junco.
Greenleaf Manzanita.
Abert’s Squirrel.
Lesser Goldfinch.
Scrambled Eggs.
Western Bluebird.
Canyon Wren.
Dark-eyed Junco.
Mojave Kingcup Cactus.
Plateau Striped Whiptail.
Sunset in the Prescott National Forest.

Make Like a Snake, Man!

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake at Agua Fria National Monument. Ok, just so you know, we did not antagonize this snake. We were walking down the road when we saw two guys looking at this snake where they stopped their truck on the road. The guys both had their arms extended towards the snake taking pictures with their phones when I took this shot. I was wisely father away using my zoom.
Western Black-tailed Rattlesnake at Prescott National Forest.

13 thoughts on “Turning Down the Thermostat

    1. Thank you Jo. I guess the blog is more about the journey these days instead of the places we go. And even if the journey isn’t all that exciting lately, it seems there is always something interesting about it!

      1. The journey Is the cake and the destination Is the icing. I hope you guys enjoyed your dessert in the desert. Great pic of the diamondback! What kind of camera so you use?

        1. Thanks Kelvin! We are enjoying our dessert in the desert! We are in Sedona and it is absolutely gorgeous here.

          I use a Lumix Z-100. It is a nice compact camera with a good zoom and a 1inch sensor. It is getting the job done.

  1. I love reading your posts. I drove through Prescott, liked it except for the Internet. No problem with that? And if the duck is a mallard, I’ve seen him before. He’s spends many mornings on my pool.

    Beautiful pics, even the snakes.

    1. Thanks Jacqui! Internet wasn’t great in the forest but we didn’t have too much trouble in town – although mostly when we in town we parked the van in a Lowe’s parking lot and used their internet.

      Mallards seem to get around. I was amazed at how vibrant there colors are up close!

  2. As always, LOVE your pictures and all your comments. Curious which hiking boots/shoes you were wanting to get? BTW, the Muscovy that are with the Mallard, I wonder if they could be Indian Runner? A friend used to have some Muscovy and they always had a funny looking beak. He got rid of most of them and got some Indian Runners and these reminded me of those. When it comes to waterfowl I am really clueless. Stay cool and safe!!!

    1. Thanks for always leaving great comments Debbie!

      It sounds like you know a bit more about waterfowl than us. iNaturalist wanted to ID those ducks as Mallards but we didn’t really think they looked like Mallards so we chose their next suggestion which was Muscovy ducks. I looked up Indian Runners and they appear to have long necks. But, who knows, I’m always surprised at how different waterfowl look when they are doing different things.

      I will post a pic of my new boots in our next expense report but I got a pair of Danner Women’s Explorer 650. I wanted them because they were high tops and I was so tired of knocking rocks and other debris into my boots. Also, they don’t look like hiking boots so I can wear them around town.

  3. Amazing photos of the snakes. They look dangerous/poisonous… Remember that snake we all encountered on our walk near Albuquerque? I can’t believe that’s already been over a year ago now.

    I had no idea there was a flower called “scrambled eggs”. That’s hilarious!

    Prescott sounds like a comfortable place to be for a little while. Hope you’re staying cool enough and that your fan has been replaced. Still not warm enough here to sit outside.

    1. So much has happened in the last year. It is hard to believe we only met just a little over a year ago!

      We have been seeing lots of snakes. Maybe it is just the season. They tend to freeze when they see us – unless, of course, they are agitated like the Diamond Back was.

      I love the flower names. I bet they all have interesting stories behind their names.

      Prescott was very nice. I wish we had had more time and could have explored the town. The fan part is replaced. And we are quite comfortable in Sedona now.

      I hope the weather warms up for you soon.

    1. Thanks Brenda! Yes, the temperature is much better now. We are in Sedona, AZ and it is just about perfect here!

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