December 25, 2020 – February 6, 2021.
We didn’t have much of a plan for this winter. After doing lots of planning during 2020 I was more than ready to not think too much about where to go next. We did have to make some plans to visit the dentist but other than that our biggest plan was to figure out how to keep warm.
Just like a house, there are many different ways not to freeze to death in a van. You can put on more clothes and pile extra blankets on the bed at night. Friends of ours have a diesel heater in their van with a thermostat. It keeps their rig warm and toasty day and night. We use a propane heater. In order that we don’t asphyxiate ourselves, we only run it while we are awake just after we get up and if it is really cold before we get in bed. But there is one way we can keep warm in a van that you can’t do in a house, drive your entire home south to warmer climates.
Florida is a good choice for keeping warm if you are in that part of the world and either have friends with driveways you can camp in or money. There isn’t much free camping in the warmest parts of the state and daily camping fees add up quickly. I always thought Texas was a good option but after their debilitating snowstorm this year I’m rethinking that. We spent one winter in Mexico which is an excellent option for staying warm. Friends of ours did just that this winter but our journey got detoured before we could join them. And of course, there is where we spend a good deal of our time, the southwest.
Now not every place in the southwest is warm during the winter. I mean it snowed in Tucson this year! Keeping warm during the cold months in the southwest is a matter of finding spots at low elevation. Every 1000 feet you go down or up you gain or lose 5° of temperature.
So this is what we did from the end of December until we switched gears at the end of February, we wandered around, not doing anything all that exciting while we tried to stay warm – and as always looked for birds. Here are a few of the spots we stayed.
Ajo Desert, elevation @1700 feet
We came to the Ajo desert to celebrate Christmas with our friends. It is beautiful here. It was pleasant during the days. We hiked and looked for birds (didn’t find many), had campfires with our friends, and took a trip to Organ Pipe NM and the Border Wall.
Five Palms Hot Springs, elevation @20 feet
We ended up here for New Year’s Eve with our friends. The birding was much better here – perhaps due to there being water here. The weather was pleasant again but unfortunately not warm enough for any of our gang to soak in the Spring – although there was a short (perhaps alcohol-fueled) and chilly dip on New Year’s Eve by two members of our nomadic pod.
American Girl Mine Area, elevation @400 feet
We stayed here two different times. The first time was with our traveling friends while we were going back and forth to Mexico for dental visits. Then after we separated from our friends, we came back because of the good internet signal. This area is full of old small mining claims and one currently operating mine. There is not much vegetation and we didn’t have the stunning views out our door as we did in Ajo or the lure of a hot spring like Five Palms. And at first, it didn’t seem like it had many birds but on our second visit, we found quite a few perhaps because of recent rains.
Yuma, elevation @ 100 feet
Yuma oftentimes makes it on to lists of the warmest places in the country during the winter. Although we didn’t stay in Yuma, it was the closest city to many of the places we camped and we spent lots of time there shopping, doing laundry, picking up packages, and on occasion looking for birds.
This week I will be sharing this post on My Corner of the World, Travel Tuesday, Wild Bird Wednesday, Through My Lens, Weekend Coffee Share, and Sharon’s Souvenirs. Check out these links to see what other people are doing all over the world.
14 thoughts on “Keeping Warm”
Beautiful pictures as always. Thank you!
Thank you Denise! I always love hearing from you.
Good suggestions. I struggle with how my prehistoric people stayed warm in cold times (they didn’t have shelter or clothing). At first, I just had them stay in warm areas but humans like to wander and they ended up in cold. I have the curl against cliffs still warmed by the sun, sleep with friendly animals, and finally, in caves (thank goodness I found out we did, as far back as 1.8 mya).
Great topic to cover in your blog!
Thanks Jacqui. Such interesting options for your prehistoric people to keep warm. I guess they didn’t have fire? One way I forgot to mention is that some people have wood stoves in their rig. I imagine it keeps them toasty warm but I don’t think we would add one to our van.
I am curious if your love of birds is just a hobby or related to your work. My dad was a zoologist who worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Dad was passionate about birds. While I’ve always had an appreciation for nature, I’m afraid that I didn’t get the birding bug. We used to take cross-country trips, and it seemed like we were forever stopping at some wildlife refuge along the way. Along the way, he wore down my mom into becoming a birder. They had a motor home and would leave for two-three weeks at a time, in search of wildlife.
We came to California when Dad became a member of the Recovery Team for the Aleutian Canada Goose (now known as the Aleutian Cacking Goose), a subspecies of the Canada Goose. It is estimated that there were only 800 of these birds left in 1974, but through conservation efforts there are now approximately 200,000.
What an interesting occupation your dad had – and to be part of a team to conserve a endangered animal!
Greg and I picked up birding just this past year. I take lots of pictures and he wanted something to do while I was snapping away so he decided to take up birding. I then started taking pictures of birds becoming a birder too.
It is a little like a treasure hunt – finding birds. And taking pictures is like collecting them. I remember the first time we went on a birding talk – our guides could ID a bird from a distance or just how they looked flying in the sky. Now we can sometimes do the same.
It was a great hobby to take up during this last year since since it gave us something to do in more remote locations. And since museums and other things we usually like to do were closed.
Your photography is fantastic! And you’ve really got it down for bird pics. What kind of camera/lens setup are you using?
Thanks so much Bob! I’ve always been a lazy photographer but I’m learning a lot trying to get good bird pics.
I have a Sony Cyber-shot RX10 iv bridge camera. It has a 24 – 600 mm zoom lens.
Hello Duwan and Greg,
I bet Cabbagetown was practice for sleeping near train tracks. Your photos are fabulous! check out another C-town resident is out wandering in his van IG ryanvizzions – check him out he is photographing his experience. Maybe you will cross paths. His work is displayed at the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. Please continue sharing your photos – I can live vicariously through your posts.
Yes, I remember when we first moved into Cabbagetown hearing the CSX all the time + especially when they dropped those train cars but after a while it all faded into a reassuring background noise.
I’ll check ryanvizzions out and keep posting about our travels.
I know you’ll be out there doing it yourself some day!
Well, you – and we – did find a few interesting spots during the first part of winter. The days were doable, but we spent way too much time inside our tiny vans (if there weren’t campfires) to feel happy. Luckily, we were in great company! Baja is a wonderful alternative for future winters. We have no regrets of our decision and love it here. If the South America plan isn’t possible yet due to Covid, we would like to return next winter.
Winter is just hard. I’ve frooze in Key West during the winter before. And although I wish it had been a little warmer this winter we managed to not get snowed on (like they did in Texas and Tucson)! And, for me, hanging with good friends makes the weather more toleralbe.
I never thought about being cold in the southwest or Florida! I guess you really never know what the weather will bring.
You found some delightful little friends to photograph which, I’m sure, is a great consolation 🙂 Your little gnatcatcher looks like our native robins.
Your link is a welcome addition to My Corner of the World’ this week!
Thanks! I never really thought about it being cold in either of those places until I was actually in those places and was freezing!