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Catching you up on our EPIC RV Journey in the Southwest!

Wow - February will be over one one week (already)! Time seems to be warped in a strange way at camp. You wake up to greet the sun around 7am, and then look at your watch to discover two hours have passed. So you have breakfast, take the dogs on a long walk, and suddenly it’s time for a mid-day snack. The next time you look at your watch it’s late afternoon and time to start preparations for dinner. Our days literally fly by out here in the wide, wide world. It’s hard to believe that we’re already more than halfway through our 164-night adventure!

We’ve been on the move a lot in recent weeks, so in this blog post I’ll be catching you up on all of the places we’ve been and the beauty we’ve experienced during the last few weeks of our Epic Southwest RV journey. First, a map update showing where we’ve been since our last blog post for those following our journey closely:

Map Update of our RV Journey in the Phoenix area

Lots of stops, right? It’s not our ideal way to travel, but there’s a huge demand for campsites in this region, and we feel fortunate to have scored the sites we’ve been calling home.

Our weather has finally started to improve, so I was be able to work in clay for the first time since we embarked on our trip at our last stop. It was wonderful! While the weather has not been conduce to clay work, I’ve enjoyed delving into digital photography and have even played a bit with watercolor. But I have to say that it felt so, so good to touch clay again, and to take the first steps toward creating some of the pieces I’ve been envisioning on our trip.

Over four blissful days of clay play, I developed a blend for an Aztec Weave tessellation pattern I’ve been envisioning for another jewelry collection, as well as a series of blends for a mountain scape collection. I also experimented with a new technique for creating patterns in clay that I’ve been working out in my mind, which - if successful - will eventually become a series of beads and/or functional pottery pieces that depict some of the gorgeous skies we’ve witnessed here in the Southwest. I think I’ll be calling the series “Endless Skies.”

Internet connectivity has been an ongoing issue for us, which means it takes me even longer to create all the digital and packaging material for each collection. But I finally finished the first new release of an artisan jewelry collection! Who remembers this photo of the moonrise at Picacho Peak from way back in late December? This magical moment inspired my Moonrise Artisan Jewelry Collection, which just released on my website.

For this collection, I selected beads and jewelry pieces matching the tones of this magical moonrise, then photographed the pieces, designed packaging and social media content, and created listings on my website. You can see the collection on my website by clicking the button below. I’d love to know what you think of all the newly branded content, so be sure to let me know how successful you think it is.

We spent the past few days at our daughter’s where we met their new puppy, and had the pleasure of dog-sitting Clark and Martha (pictured in the background of the first photo below) while Faye and Zach took a short overnight trip to the nearby Titan Missile Museum. Meet our new grand puppy, Rosco! Isn’t she adorable?

Much as I love adorable puppy photos, it’s time to move on to some scenery pictures! We’ll pick up where we left off at Usery Mountain Regional Park, where the fauna was incredible. Since we were recovering from COVID, we didn’t get a chance to see many of the trails, but I spent a considerable amount of time outside the nature center where I used their Wifi to get some work done. While waiting on the WiFi, I enjoyed views of a beautiful desert garden, the chatter of birds at numerous bird feeders, and the babble of a nearby fountain.

So many birds and critters enjoyed the offerings of the Nature Center staff, and it was a lovely place for me to fritter away time between uploads.

I learned about the Love Bird, small parrot-like birds from South Africa that were brought to this country as pets in the 70’s. Apparently, some were released into the wild, and now the only place in the US where you can find them ins the Phoenix area. They’re quite friendly and very entertaining! Aren’t they just beautiful?

Rosy Faced Lovebirds at Usery Mountain Regional Park Nature Center

I also walked to a nearby trail to photograph the sunset with my digital camera. I’m still trying to find that perfect view of a saguaro silhouetted against the stunning sunset, while at the same time trying to remind myself of the fact that the colors of the sunsets are the real stars here, no matter what’s in the foreground. You just can’t imagine what these skies look like in person!

Sunset at Usery Regional Park in Arizona

We were feeling much better by the time we arrived at White Tank Mountain, another Maricopa County regional park. We had a handful of beautiful days and were eager to explore some of the trails with the pups. Our favorite hike was the Waterfall Canyon Trail, which led us past petroglyphs to a hole in the canyon where water flows after heavy rains.

Waterfall Canyon at White Tank Mountain Regional Park in Arizona

There was a light rain the day before our hike, so there was water in the pool (seen above) but not enough to produce a waterfall. Still, the entire hike was gorgeous, so that really didn’t matter.

Here are a few more photos from our hikes at White Tank Mountain Regional Park.

The warmer weather and gorgeous skies provided me with several opportunities to photograph a stately saguaro cactus right behind our sight at sunset. I managed to capture the moon one evening as well.

Our next stop was a brief return to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, and we made excellent use of our four predominantly fair weather days there. I finished up some product photography for the release of my Coyote Sundial Collection, coming soon to my website. Here’s the coyote at that magical moment when the sun setting behind me painted the edge of the Superstition Mountains red. I love how the rusted steel of the coyote mimicked the colors of the mountains at this moment. There must be more iron than gold in the hills. If the Lost Dutchman knew that, he may not be lost!

Coyote Sundial at Lost Dutchman State Park, Mesa, Arizona

We took a hike up to the Green Boulder, which sits high above the campground. The views were phenomenal!

On the evening before we left, I took my DSLR out for a walk and captured several images I was quite pleased with.

I tried capturing my new friend, the coyote, as the full moon rose behind him. This wasn’t quite so successful, but it sure was fun to play!

Coyote Sundial under the full moon at Lost Dutchman State Park, AZ

Then, on the morning we left, the mist rolled in to float around the crevices of the iconic Superstition Mountains, forming the illusion of a waterfall; several minutes later, the mist shifted and created a halo effect. This has to be one of my favorite visual memories of our journey to date. Isn’t Mother Nature magnificent?

Waterfall Mist on Superstition Mountains, Tonto National Forest, AZ

Halo Mist on Superstition Mountains, Tonto National Forest, AZ

We travelled a short distance from Lost Dutchman along a very winding stretch of the Apache Trail Highway to Tortilla Flat Campground in the Tonto National Forest. What a breathtakingly beautiful ride, in both directions!

I admit to being a bit anxious on this ride, having been warned about the windy switchbacks through the canyons, but Steve was as cool as a cucumber as he navigated Irving through the twists and turns. (Check out the view on his left!)

Apache Trail Scenery en route to Tortilla Flat, AZ

Tortilla Flat Campground was a quick visit, during which we were able to enjoy our first date sans pups when we took a short walk down to the “town” of Tortilla Flat. Although the town has a population of only 6, it’s a destination unto itself. The authentic stagecoach stop is comprised of a restaurant and saloon, a mercantile (aka gift shop), an open air bar with live music on weekends, an operational post office and a country store (aka another gift shop).

The country store sold ice cream and fudge, so we celebrated our date with one of each! I tried the prickly pear gelato with a plain vanilla scoop, because I had no idea what to pair it with an didn’t want to miss out on ice cream if I didn’t like it at all. The prickly pear gelato tasted a bit like watermelon; it’s probably not something I’d buy again, but I’m glad I tried it.

Prickly Pear Gelato at Tortilla Flat, AZ

Here’s a photo from the campground with one of many prickly pear cactus plants front and center. I wouldn’t want to be the person who has to extract the nectar from these plants for the prickly pear ice cream!

Prickly Pear Cactus at Tortilla Flat Campground, AZ

Today, the walls of the general store and restaurant at Tortilla Flat are covered in layers of $1 bills signed by visitors. On weekends, the boardwalk in front of the old buildings is teaming with tourists who enjoy the drive to “town” as well as the live music and the reportedly excellent food at the one and only “local” restaurant. We parked Irving in front of the mercantile as we left the campground so I could get a picture without all the crowds of tourists that converged here on the weekend.

Tortilla Flat, AZ P

The road to Tortilla Flat is apparently a motorcyclist’s dream, although I have to say I was anxious enough in Irving and would have to close my eyes the whole way on a motorcycle! Even early in the morning on a Monday, there were a few bikers who had made the trek as we prepared to leave for our next stop.

Saloon at Tortilla Flat, AZ

We then moved on to McDowell Mountain, the third of four Maricopa County regional parks we stay at while visiting the Phoenix area. This park is huge, offering an almost 360 degree view of the mountains surrounding the campground. The sites are huge, and it’s super quiet. The view of the sun rising and setting over the mountains from our campsite was beautiful! Another of my projects in colored clay over the last few days was to build a series of blends that I hope will become a mountain scape pattern was inspired by the photo below.

And the photo above inspired one of my designs for the Endless Skies series of work. I’m excited to glaze fire my tests to see if my concept works, but that will have to wait until we get home.

We went on several hikes at McDowell Mountain, including one with our daughter, which was followed up with s’mores at the campfire.

As we continue to catch you up on our journey, we take you with us to Cave Creek, where there was a heavy rain just after we arrived followed by a beautiful double rainbow. We had just finished setting up when remnants of the first series of atmospheric rivers that flooded San Diego arrived. We sat in Irving and marveled at the quantity of rain falling from the sky when the sun suddenly brightened the Irving’s entire interior. I grabbed my phone and told Steve I was going out in search of a rainbow. Opening the door, I was surprised (and tickled every color of the rainbow) to see this beautiful specimen in our back yard of the week. The shadow you see in the foreground of the photo below is Irving’s, as I’m literally standing in the doorway taking this picture. What a welcome, right? I knew right then and there that I was going to love Cave Creek!

Double Rainbow at Cave Creek Regional Park, AZ

Faye came to visit us and treated us to a great visit to the nearby town of Cave Creek. The pups got some chill pills, our wonderful neighbors kept watch over them, and we enjoyed lunch at a great Mexican restaurant and a walking tour of some really unique thrift shops, art galleries and a makeshift old west town, where we just had to pose in front of the jail. (When we returned to the campground, we learned that Oakley enjoyed a walking tour of Irving’s dashboard in our absence. How she navigated around our Aerogardens remains a mystery to us!)

Sightseeing at Cave Creek, AZ

Sightseeing at Cave Creek, AZ

Beautiful scenery, endless gorgeous skies, and a super friendly vibe made this my favorite of the four regional campgrounds we stayed at in Maricopa County. I love the regional parks because they’re so spacious, but we are both looking forward to the heated bathrooms of state parks in the coming weeks! Here are a few of my favorite photos from our walks at Cave Creek.

From there, we headed back to Phoenix for the aforementioned adventures in dog sitting, and we are now en route to Sedona for two weeks in that region of the state before starting our leisurely trek home. It’s been great having you along for the ride! If you enjoy the blog, please leave us a comment below, and maybe even share it with someone else you think might like it. Thank you!

We’ll check in again in a few weeks as we make our way south again through Tuscon. I’m hoping to visit the Desert Museum there, and I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures to add to the gazillion photos I’m sure I’ll be taking in Sedona. Watch for them in the next blog post, probably in about four weeks.

Thanks for sharing our Epic Southwest RV Journey with us!

Happy Campers at Lost Dutchman State Park, AZ

Steve and Susan


Feb 23

Hi Sue and Steve! I just can't express the enjoyment and fascination I derive from your blogs. The photographs are so breathtaking and inspiring. I also love taking photographs (not even close to your perfection though) and would literally be on cloud 9. I also share your blogs with my brother Charlie and he enjoys them as well. Always anxious until the next one arrives. It's so great having such a talented family member.

Replying to

I’m so glad you and Charlie enjoy them! (Your comment comes up as “guest” but I’m assuming this is Sharon?) It’s a lot of work putting the blog together - especially with poor internet - so it’s rewarding for me to know that they’re out there in the world spreading inspiration!


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