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Campsite Photo Trip - 2013

The Big Year

Greg journeys on, from the Mexican border to Colorado...

Bird Watchers. Love 'em or leave 'em, it is a popular pastime. A few years back a movie came out called "The Big Year". It starred Steve Martin and Jack Black among others. Amongst Birders, a Big Year is the ultimate goal. Like winning the Masters or dating Selma Hayek.

From January 1st to December 31st individual Birders attempt to spot as many species as they can in the continental United States. The movie was based on a true story and the record is over 800 bird species as far as I remember.

What has this got to do with camping you ask? Simple. The first scenes take place at Patagonia Lake State Park in Arizona where I spent three nights after leaving Lost Dutchman. And after a night at my Dad's in Tucson.


The campground is way south in Arizona, 12 miles north of Nogales, Mexico and about 70 miles south of Tucson. It is over 3000 feet in elevation and during my stay in late March the weather was perfect. Reservations are highly recommended.

I set up camp and watched the campground fill up.

Patagonia-Campsite Patagonia-Crowd

This was the Wednesday before Good Friday and the crowd was mixed between Birders, Boaters, Fisherman, and families that wanted to picnic and splash in the lake.

I really enjoyed my stay here and took a lot of photos. Bear with me as I walk you around the campground. I headed in a counterclockwise circle.

First up was the beach.


Followed by the Beach Group Ramada and the first boat ramp.

Patagonia-Beach-Group-Ramada Patagonia-Boat-Ramp-1

I passed by the Visitor Center a walked over a neat (and relatively high) bridge.

Patagonia-Visitor-Center Patagonia-Pedestrian-Bridge

It's about 50 feet high at the apex and you are not allowed to jump off. No worries. I was not planning on doing that.

Next came the Point Group Ramada and the day use area. Both the Ramada's can be reserved.

Patagonia-Point-Group-Ramada Patagonia-Day-Use-Area

Finishing up the loop back to the campground I walked by the marina (see the bridge in the background) where you can rent all types of boats and the second boat ramp.

Patagonia-Marina Patagonia-Boat-Ramp-2

Back at the camp there is the Lakeside Market and a helpful map.

Patagonia-Lakeside-Market Patagonia-Map

This campground has everything you could ask for, including free showers and water and electrical hookups. Check it out. You won't be disappointed. Unlike some of the people who met their end a long time ago where I stopped to visit on my way to Roper Lake State Park.


Yeah, that place.


They say it is the most famous ground in the State of Arizona. I have proof.


Note to self. Don't nickname next girlfriend Big Nose Selma. Didn't work out well for Doc Holliday.

They have the main street closed off so you can walk down the middle of it asking strangers to "Draw!"

Tombstone-5 Tombstone-9

It was kinda weird walking this street with all of it's history.


I didn't open it. There is also grub and whiskey if you need some.

Tombstone-3 Tombstone-11

And even a quick way out of town.


A visit to the famous Court House is a must see. Full of cool stuff.


It's a State Historical Landmark. Then there was this sign. Not quite sure what is going on here. But it sounds intriguing.


Alrighty, onward to Roper Lake.


Set up camp and watched the sunset on Saturday night.


While Patagonia Lake has over 100 campsites, not including a dozen boat-in ones, Roper has about 60 and also has some cabins, like this one.


Not too shabby!

Easter Sunday I walked the campground. I also took this photo of Mt. Graham which will have relevance soon.


That evening I gave some neighbors a bunch of firewood and they returned later with my Easter dinner. How nice is that.


Macaroni salad, mashed potatoes (all covered in gravy), refried beans, carnitas and some toasted bread. Delicious!!!

I took a sunrise photo Monday morning before I left.


Monday was also April 1, aka April Fool's Day and I definitely hit that head on.

I was heading to Chaco Culture National Historic Monument about 400 miles away in New Mexico. I had wanted to stay at Lyman Lake State Park in Arizona, about half way there, but that was closed due to budget cuts.

I always compare the GPS routing with a paper map, and it seemed the GPS had me going quite a few miles farther. So I stayed on the 191 and headed North.

Everything was going smoothly until I reached the mountains. It took me 4 hours to cover 80 miles. Here is another picture of Mt. Graham.


That is it in the distance and those are the mountains I drove over in second gear the whole way on a narrow winding road, like this.


At over 9200 feet there was even some snow.

Driving-191-2 191-Snow

I entered New Mexico on the 191 and found the road to Chaco Culture. It was dirt, with a sign that said the 20 mile unimproved road might be impassable. That was not going to work for me pulling a trailer.

My next planned stop was at Navajo Lake State Park in Colorado. 180 miles away. There were no campgrounds in between. So I kept going.


I had been driving for 12 hours already and was starting to lose daylight.

191-Sunset 191-Sundown

I lost it close to the campground. I pulled in at 8:30 pm.


I am a life long tent camper, but there is something to be said for RV's and trailers. Having a ready made bed with no set up required was nice.

I woke up at dawn in the deserted campground needing to use the restroom. Badly. They were all locked until April 15th, even the vault toilets. The nearest town was Pagosa Springs 30 miles east on CO 160 so I left without taking any photos. I had to.

Made it, gassed up, and crossed Wolf Creek Pass, all 10,000+ feet of it.


There was some snow at the top but none on the road. The tunnel was a little icy, however.

Wolf-Creek-Pass-2 Wolf-Creek-Pass-3

I took a refreshing dip in a stream before I arrived at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

River-Snow Great-Sand-Dunes-Sign

The weather was perfect. 70 degrees and sunny. I checked out the Visitor Center and set up camp.

Great-Sand-Dunes-Visitor-Center Great-Sand-Dunes_001

There are 88 campsites in the park, 44 are reservable. Plus three group sites, also reservable. There is only one spot capable of handling any rig larger than 30 feet and that is site 1, pictured above. I was going to walk the campground on Wednesday but decided to do it right away. I am glad I did.

Below is site 67, one of my favorites, and a photo of the dunes. They are the largest in the country. Some reach over 500 feet.

Great-Sand-Dunes_067 Great-Sand-Dunes-2

The little black specks are people hiking the dunes.


Then the wind started howling and the temperature dropped 30 degrees.

People were struggling to make it back safely. You can see the sand flying.


Yeah. Wednesday morning, today as I write this, brought some snow.


The dunes looked a little different.


I stopped by San Luis State Park on my way out to take some photos.


The Park is only 20 minutes west of the dunes and offers electrical hookups and can accommodate any size rig. Check out the photo below. The mountains in the distance abut the Great Sand Dunes. Yes, it was snowing lightly on me as I was packing up.


This is another area to add to your bucket list. A must see. You can rent sandboards to surf the dunes, hike to lakes and waterfalls, go off-roading, or just roll in the sand.

This blog post encompasses exactly one week in my trip. From close to the Mexican Border to snowy Colorado. There is a lot more ahead. I am just getting started. Stay tuned!

Regards, Park Ranger


Great Photos especially like the one of the Dunes with Snow!

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