A Blizzard at Picacho Peak State Park

The phenomenon that passes for winter in southern Arizona has ended, and that means it is prime camping season down here in the desert southwest.

This spring is expected to be particularly fine. A Pacific El Nino effect brought us storm after storm (amounting to a few inches of rain here), which is inspiring the colorful desert flowers to bloom with vigor.  Plus, the special funds that pay for state parks were raided by our state politicians so that two-thirds of the meager Arizona state park system will be closing this year.  So time is running out for everyone to visit the state parks.  After that, you can just keep driving on I-10 to California, if they have any parks left…

So, a  few weeks ago I extended an invitation to the Tin Can Tourists to join us at Picacho Peak State Park for this weekend.  Besides the flowers and the imminent doom of the parks, I wanted to climb the dizzying Picacho Peak one more time and hopefully bring Eleanor and Emma up too.  We also wanted to camp in the Caravel for the first time as a family since 2005.

Alas, reality stepped in, in the form of a virus.  Two weeks ago we went to a karate tournament, where Emma picked up two 3rd place medals and both she and I picked up a souvenir case of food poisoning (we think) and a cold virus.  We spent the next two days unpleasantly — I’ll spare you the details — and the following week going through what turned out to be a particularly tough cold.  A week later we were both entering the final grim stage of borderline sinusitis and then of course Eleanor got it and the routine started over again.   So we arrived at Picacho Peak yesterday afternoon with Eleanor in a fairly limp and weakened state, and me with a distinct lack of breath that made it clear I would not be leading a hike up the mountain.

dsc_5185.jpgWell, despite all that the park is looking fine.  There are little yellow flowers everywhere, as well as a blue flower that looks sort of like a cross between a bluebonnet or lupine.  I’m not strong on flower identification, but it’s all pretty, so who cares?  The bloom is definitely not at peak yet, and it would be well worth anyone’s time to come visit the park over the next couple of months.  By June, the flowers will be in decline and the park itself will be closed.

We have six rigs here: ourselves in the 17 foot 1968 Airstream Caravel; our friends Ken & Petey Faber in their latest project (a 1961 Airstream Bambi, 16 feet of cuteness); Betty in her kit-build teardrop; Craig in his 1969 Newell motorhome; Judy & Rick in their late 80’s Airstream Sovereign 23; and Mike & Rosemary in their late-model Airstream.  Some friends of Betty’s are also here in another teardrop trailer.


Nobody seems to be planning to hike to the summit.  We are the youngest in the crowd, and everyone else has an excuse involving knees, lungs, viruses, or a strong commitment to a sedentary lifestyle.  I think if I went today I would be quite alone.

So instead we brought two cans of Batter Blaster and a pair of griddles, and we will be making pancakes for all at 8:30.  After that, we shall let the day unfold as it will.  There is “nothing” to do here except hike, take pictures, socialize, explore the new visitor center, picnic, make campfires, paint (as Petey is doing in her Bambi in the photo at right), read trashy novels, take tours of each other’s trailers, nap, and make pancakes.  Oh, and there’s a Dairy Queen at the rest area a mile away …  can you say “Blizzard”?

So don’t feel badly for us.  Life is good in the desert these days, despite bacterial and virus infections, and we are all pleased to get to try out our baby trailer again. Although I have to admit it doesn’t seem all that small compared to the 16-foot Bambi next door, and the tiny teardrops parked just up the hill.   I’ll report further on life in 17 feet later this weekend.