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.
Before beginning my 4-day, 2,000-mile drive home, I took a slight detour through Portal where I found a little happiness in poppies and minions.
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.
The next morning I retraced my path to Peridot on Highway 70 where I’d found some great floral displays a couple of weeks previous. To my delight the blooms had changed and now included more lupine.
I took a slight detour the this Roosevelt Lake overlook along Highway 188. The area holds special memories from my hike on the Arizona Trail.
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.
As the afternoon progressed it was time to start looking at dispersed camping options. I checked out this one but decided I best skip this muck.
I found a much better option near Kingman.
Shortly after crossing into Nevada the next morning, I found this viewpoint with great lighting over Lake Mead.
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.
I stopped at Walker Lake to photograph these Big Horn Sheep.
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.
It was a great place to explore while easily practicing social distancing. There were a few other campers but no one else wandering the shoreline.
The fresh coat of snow on Mount Grant made it a standout.
With more stormy weather in the forecast including snow I was hopeful I could make it through Lassen before the snow started piling up. I had about four hours and 300 miles.
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.
Sure enough chain controls were in place the next morning. I was grateful for my timing.
I felt the stress release as I transitioned from traveling to being safe at home. It was time to clean up the mess.
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.
The view from my front window isn’t anything exciting. I know I’ll feel like I’m in jail.
On a positive note, I have green space within walking distance. Spring is in the air, something I haven’t experienced at home since I started traveling 5-6 years ago.
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.