Hiking w/Tweezers

_bds8314Well here we are, about 10 miles west of downtown Tucson on a mid-size commercial RV Park at the backside of the western extension of the Saguaro National Park. I selected this location based on ratings, pricing and, last but not least, access to hiking trails. As always, I inspected the area around the campground with the help of Google Earth. The bird eye view provided by Google Earth showed a lot of open space and plenty of trails starting right at the campground. What I didn’t see was the significant presence of Silver Cholla, a nasty little cactus species that is simply incompatible with dog paws. Silver Cholla sheds off _dsc4917little thorny buds that litter the ground and attach themselves to everything walking by. After a few hikes we gave up on these trails due to the frequent stops required to remove Chollas from a wide variety of doggy body parts. The tweezers became the most important piece of hiking equipment.

So, the search was on for Cholla free spaces. Whoever said, “the harder you work, the luckier you get” was right. As a reward for the search effort I found the marvelous Brown Mountain Trail about 8 miles from our home. The Brown Mountain Trail offers a very enjoyable 5 miles loop up a mountain, along a ridge, down a mountain and back through some very luscious desert vegetation essentially free of, you guessed it, Cholla.


The Catalina Mountains on the east side of town are a large playground for excellent hiking above the desert floor. The highest elevations of these mountains reach over 9000 ft and are covered with trees and leafy shrubs. Above 5000 ft there are no prickly plants.


Per the 2010 census Tucson’s population is 520,000. The larger Tucson area is home to 1 million people. However, I find the city of Tucson not very appealing. The urban area is very spread out and confined only by the mountain ranges framing the valley. There is no west-east highway connection crossing the city. I can only assume that the city planners must have been asleep for quite some time. Driving from the western suburbs to the eastern suburbs is an exercise in stop-and-go that takes forever.

The campground where we are located is populated by snowbirds. Per Wikipedia, snowbirds are folks that travel from colder climates of the northern United States and Canada and migrate southward in winter to warmer locales. People here are settled down for 3 to 6 months and there is quite frankly not a lot of dynamic. While this place is nice and clean and quiet, I feel like zombies surround us.

We plan to spend more time hiking in the Catalina Mountains and visit the eastern and western extensions of the Saguaro National Park. Stay tuned.

No matter where you go, there you are.

Albert Hammond in 1972 released his song “It never rains in southern California”

Seems it never rains in southern California, seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before, it never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya? It pours, man, it pours

He was right. It poured. The 150 miles drive from San Diego to Slab City exposed us to some solid southern California rain. Once in Slab City, I ended up driving the motorhome in an act of utter stupidity into lose gravel where we got stuck. No surprise, any attempt to find a towing service on New Years Eve or New Year failed. Our initial plan was to leave on New Year. Unable to move there was nothing else to do than settle down and explored what Slab City had to offer.

Well, there is Salvation Mountain, the legendary artwork created by Leonard Knight. Knight died in 2014 at the age of 83 and his creation is now being managed by the Salvation Mountain Inc. charity foundation. Given that the mountain is made from adobe, straw, branches, plywood, pallets and large amounts of paint it will be difficult to maintain Leonhard’s legacy for an extended period of time. My recommendation for everybody who wants to see it is to go there soon.


Slab City is frequently called the “last free place in America”. Established on the grounds of the WWII military base Camp Dunlap, the place is named after the remaining concrete slabs from the former military installation. Slab City is not incorporated into any community. As such it offers no utilities, no electricity, no water, no sewage, no garbage management and certainly nothing above these non-existent basic services. There are no streetlights, no traffic signs, no post services, no established roads. All in all, the place has a “Mad Max” feel to it. An interesting mixture of people ranging from young to old hang around and things appeared to be friendly while we where there.


We walked Slab City with our dogs off leash without any problems and were able to identify distinct neighborhoods. There are places where people have worked diligently for some time and established off-grid living arrangements. On the other hand there are squatters living in tents and cart box houses.

Slab City offers a hostel, a library, an internet café, a Christian church service and “The Range”, a community stage for regular live performances on Saturday evenings. There is an irrigation canal running on the backside of the community, which, I assume, is being used as a water supply source. In addition there is supposedly also a community shower fed by an artesian spring.

Prior to traveling to Slab City folks told me about the blight in the community. While it is true that there are places where garbage has piled up. I have to say that I know places within the city of Oakland where there are equal amounts of garbage littering the streets.


On Monday Jan. 2, 2017 Jim and his magic towing truck appeared at our site. Approximately 15 minutes later we were again free to move about the country. Thanks Jim.

We used the remainder of the day to continue our trip and traveled to Yuma, AZ. On Tuesday Jan. 3, 2017 we continued our trip to Tucson, AZ. Our plan is to stay in Tucson for one month. Stay tuned.