After flying back from Cancun to Phoenix, it was neat to be home as soon as we got to the parking lot of the airport. We had left our Quest Overland insulated window covers installed, the heating thermostat set to our usual 68F, and the MaxxAir roof fan set to automatically open and turn on at temperatures over 78F. We left the Xantrex Freedom X 3kW inverter off since we wouldn't be using any AC power while we were away. The fridge remained on although it was mostly empty save for a few items like condiments and whatnot that would last. The only other thing that was on was the fan venting the toilet I believe. All those items run on DC power. When we returned, the batteries were sitting at 13.0V, and there was no evidence of our chocolates having melted in the dining room. So, it didn't get super hot inside and there was tons of battery capacity left, probably enough for a few weeks at least. We power our house side electronics in our van with 510Ah of lithium batteries from Renogy.
We weren't actually truly home until we picked up the dog, though. He was ecstatic, Of course. We were pretty much out of water from our last shower before flying to Mexico, we were super low on groceries and dog food, and we had a mountain of dirty laundry. So we went to Walmart to get a couple bottles of water so we could at least have some to drink and brush our teeth. And we got some breakfast for Loki. Then we drove back to the middle of the desert in Wickenburg for free camping. We really like that spot. It's "free", but you have to purchase a permit which allows you to camp on state trust land for up to two weeks per year. It's on the honor system, so we make a note of which dates we use it.
When we woke up, we skipped showering and cooking since we wouldn't be able to wash dishes. Mandy drove us back to Prescott where we filled and emptied our water tanks at Affinity RV. We had reserved a spot starting Monday at White Spar Campground again, but we decided to head there Sunday, for simplicity. We got some groceries on the way to stock back up. When we arrived, Mandy made us some delicious burgers. After we ate, we set out on a hike and we FINALLY made it all the way to Goldwater Lake. It only took a few tries, perhaps the key to motivating Loki was that we were both there with him.
Since we had initially only reserved a site for Monday through Thursday of this week, we weren't able to go to that site a day early; it was occupied. No big deal, we just took the one next door for a night and planned to move over once it was vacated. We noted when we arrived Sunday, though, that the site was kind of a mess. There was trash on the ground and the tent was partially caved in, and the door appeared open. We thought that kind of odd.
I dropped Mandy off for work Monday morning and Loki and I went back to our Sunday site to finish and post our YouTube video a day late (we usually like to post on Sundays). We had the site until 11, so I was within limits for a time. Eventually, checkout passed, and there had been no change at the site we had reserved for the week. Not long after, the campground host came by and knocked on the van. I explained the situation and why we were in a site we hadn't paid for. She said if the equipment had truly been abandoned that it has to remain untouched for two weeks. We would play it by the ear, but we were okay to stay put unless someone showed up who had paid for that site, in which case the host would relocate us. Sounds totally reasonable.
So, eventually we had to go get Mandy at the end of her shift. All we'd really done was some laptop work, laying and reading, and a couple short hikes around the campground. Nothing too exciting. We went straight to the laundromat after work. Mandy handled the laundry, and I set to work making chicken tikka masala and rice. The tag team approach works really well for us. She got to eat while the dryer was running. The chicken was wicked good, but full disclosure, I used a sauce from a jar. It's not feasible to make sauces from scratch in a van; it requires storing way too many ingredients. She folded everything in the laundromat while I cleaned up the kitchen. Tag team.
We went back to the campground. "Our" site was still a mess. No surprise there. We went to the host site around 7:30 and knocked. Their dogs went crazy, but after five full minutes, no one came out. Mandy noted that the golf cart was not there. So, she drove us all around the campground to try and track down the host. No luck. But we did get to see our first javelina. It was in the road illuminated by the headlights and Loki was A N G R Y. He immediately started barking, which he almost never does, and trying to get out to go see it. It scurried off into the woods and he calmed down.
So, we decided to just take the site next door again. We parked and I put the window covers in while Mandy walked Loki to the dumpster to throw away our trash. She was back almost immediately, as someone had arrived who had paid for the site and we had to move. Again. Unclear where to go because the host was MIA, we just parked in the abandoned gear site. The one we had paid for. The newcomers walked over shortly thereafter, and Mandy explained the whole situation to them as they were rightly confused on arrival. They were nice, and we weren't mad. We actually got lucky that they hadn't shown up right after we got in bed, you know? Just an overall weird situation. We went to bed and hoped we wouldn't hear any knocking in the night. We didn't.
After we dropped off Mandy on Tuesday morning, Loki and I hit up Petco to get him a few things, but mainly his after-dinner toothbrush sticks. He's got pretty clean teeth for his age. Other than the one he had to have removed (he cracked it in half eating a bone!!), they're in really great shape. Then, we came back to the site and walked around a bit. I picked up the garbage that was left on the ground by the previous occupants, put it into a torn cardboard box that was also left, and stuffed it into the tent door. I didn't want it to blow away, but if it belongs to someone out there, I don't want it to seem like I stole it.
We took out some beef I had marinated the night before. Yes, of course Loki "helped" at this part. I laid everything out in our oven, set it to dehydrate for 5 hours, and waited for jerky. This is where all that battery power really comes in handy. I mostly read while the oven was on. I didn't want to wander too far, because I assume the van will burst into flames the moment the oven is left unattended. Of course, everything was fine, but you know. That killed most of the day until we had to pick up Mandy from work.
From there, we headed over to Thumb Butte. Finally. It's like the most popular landmark in Prescott, I think. It's definitely the most scenic hike around. The views, not just of the town, but all the way to Flagstaff, are awesome. The hike was not terrible, although it looks daunting from the start. It took us just over an hour. When we got back to the campsite, there was still a busted tent pitched on it. We weren't starving, so Mandy made some ramen, and we had a few cheese and crackers and meat-banana. That's what we call salame/pepperoni/etc. We cleaned a bit and then went to bed.
We got up and took a brisk walk through a short trail around the campground before heading to work. We dropped off Mandy and then checked the mail. Then we went back to the campsite. I packed a bag with some jerky, trail mix, water, and dog treats, and we set off. I was determined to complete the loop around Goldwater Lake. It was slightly chilly but forecast to be mid-50s and sunny. So, I started off with gloves and a hat, but they didn't last long. No jacket.
We took periodic breaks about each half hour. Just after our first stop, though, there was an intersection with no sign. Since I'd technically seen the lake on a previous trip by a different route, I took the way that seemed to head in that direction. There was another junction a few minutes later. Again, no sign. I took my best guess. Another 20 minutes or so, and we were on a trail we've hiked a few times with Mandy. Familiar ground. Normally, we hike to the summit of this trail, then turn back. I decided to see where it went. I followed it to the end.
Before the end, it cut through a beautiful meadow. I didn't think to get a picture, but I should have. I was just zoned out. Sorry. It came out onto pavement by a bible camp. Lots of people screaming in the middle of the woods was a weird vibe. It sounded cheerful, though, at least. By this point, we'd completely overshot the lake according to my GPS, without having actually seen it. There was a neighborhood nearby that I thought might have lake access so we walked through there. No luck. I figured it best to turn back as it had been a couple hours and we still had close to that ahead of us, and Loki was getting kinda droopy.
When we got back, I noticed the previous occupant's tent was bundled into a pile at the front of the site. Dog and I both flopped into bed for a while until we had to get Mandy from work. While we laid there, I noticed at least 3 deer snacking in the woods nearby our site. Maybe 10 feet from the van. That was neat. I took a picture but their camouflage is so good it's wicked hard to see them.
We picked up Mandy and came back to the site again to make dinner. New potatoes, Brussels sprouts with caramelized onion, and a big ol' steak. The steak was good, but I felt like the vegetables weren't my best work. As we were cleaning up, I noticed water in the shower drain, a couple inches below the floor level. We took an emergency run to dump the grey water tank. It seems we can get about 4 full days of water in the tank. Full days meaning we both shower each day. What's great is that with the addition of the check valve we recently installed, the water doesn't run out onto the floor anymore, even if the tank is full. We topped up the fresh water too, while we were there, since no one else was waiting. While the tanks were filling, Mandy whipped up a fresh batch of granola which made the van smell amazing. Since we were taking our time at the water station, by the time we got back to our site it was about 9:30pm so we went straight to bed.
Friday morning we took a hike. After failing yesterday, I was DETERMINED to do the loop around Goldwater Lake. We set out in slightly chilly weather but walked into warmth over an hour or so. We found the way to Lower Goldwater Lake, which was easy because we've been there, then we followed the shoreline trail. Eventually, that took us to the upper lake. I know we're really close to civilization, but for some reason these trails seem really remote. It's quite nice.
We wound around the far side of Upper Goldwater Lake and through the picnic area. The trail gets pretty vague in certain spots, but we managed. When we got to the opposite side of the dam, we hit a roadblock. There's construction ongoing and the road and trail are both closed. I believe they're cutting in a road or installing a parking lot. Perhaps both. We turned around and began the journey back. We took a shot in the dark trying a new trail that I was pretty certain linked to the most direct route back. My legs and feet were getting tired! Luckily, I was right, and we got back to the campground about 4 hours after we'd set out. Just in time for checkout, I think. Or perhaps too late. But we had no issues.
We hopped in the van and drove off to accomplish some chores. Empty the pee jug. Check. Dump the trash bag. Check. Empty the grey water. Check. Check the fresh water. Full enough. Get groceries. Check. Get Mandy. Check.
And we were off for the weekend!
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.