Part of the joy of traveling is town stops. I love hanging out in local libraries, coffee shops and eateries. I enjoy chatting with strangers especially fellow travelers. When places are closed, towns are on lock down, or strangers eye you as one potentially carrying the germ, it’s just not fun. Should I get sick I was three long hours from Tucson, and my California-based insurance was only good for emergencies out of state. When California was ordered to STAY HOME, I was worried about borders closing. All signs said, it was time to face reality. This spring jaunt is over!
I found out later the first COVID-19 case in Cochise County was on 3/20/20, the day I departed. As you can see it’s been growing ever since. My home base of Shasta County is still only declaring 3 cases but since testing is not being done, I don’t have much confidence in this number.
I’d only seen one javelina this visit, at the library of all places. It was on a mission to find treats and not interested in a portrait. Lucky for me on my way to town, after my last night of dispersed camping, I came upon several foraging along the road.
Not nearly as cute as the babies Joan and I saw at the Cave Creek Ranch during our December 2017 visit.
I drove Forest Service Road 42 from Portal to near Chiricahua National Monument. There were plenty of opportunities to stop for short hikes leading to potential views. This tree graveyard is a harsh reminder of the 2011 Horseshoe 2 fire. The large swatch of yellow on the valley floor is mustard while the orange is poppies. Many of the high elevation trails are accessible from this road. I look forward to a future visit where I can continue to mark up my map.
My plan was to take a slightly longer way home avoiding major traffic and larger towns. So after filling my tank in Willcox it was back up 191 toward Safford where there is some BLM land available for dispersed camping. The poppies were still blooming and I found a few white ones that had opened. With a light wind, they made for a challenging photo session.
I stopped several times trying to capture great views of this peak near Flagstaff, either San Francisco or Humphreys. I finally gave up and accepted this as an adequate memory. This section of the Arizona Trail is still on my list.
I caught some amazing light and a rainbow over Las Vegas, but it’ll have to live in my mind since dashboard photography wouldn’t have done it justice. This was my maiden voyage on 95 through Nevada. The beauty exceeded all expectations. Since I was traveling on a day of precipitation I wasn’t surprised to find snow on a few of the passes.
As I stared at the lake and realized how many hours I’d been driving, I wondered about camping opportunities. Sure enough this is a free BLM campground. Although it was only about 3pm, I was ready for some exercise.
I made great time through the snow flurries and was happy to complete my shopping chores by late afternoon. My goal was to get everything I needed to quarantine for 2-3 weeks. After all those stops at gas stations and public restrooms, I felt very germy. There’s only so much you can do with gel and wipes. It’s just not the same as soap and water, plus so easy to recontaminate everything as you touch the steering wheel, gear shifter, keys, phone, etc.
I heard from my new friends who were camped at the USFS campground near Portal. They were booted a day or two after I departed. More states were issuing closures and stay at home orders. I was confident in my decision to return home.
Cutting my trip short at 25 days and wasting nearly 2,000 miles of time and gas are not my idea of fun. I was prepared to be gone through October. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and realize you can either be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. I choose the latter.
To all my readers, please stay safe and sane. It’s time we prioritize ourselves, our families, neighbors and friends. Hopefully this pandemic will end sooner than later and we can salvage our summer plans. If nothing else this situation should remind everyone tomorrow is not guaranteed. Live without regrets. Stop procrastinating. Sending virtual hugs! Know I’m doing my part by staying at or near home.
- March 21-24, 2020