My spirits are high as the crew and I merge onto the Joshua Tree Scenic Parkway.
I feel well prepared for finding a new camp on Bureau of Land Management land. Yesterday I called the BLM office. A young man politely answered my questions about boondock areas and the Burro Creek Recreation Area.
“From Wickenburg to Nothing, it’s all state land. But you can camp anywhere from Nothing to Wickieup. It’s BLM on both sides of the highway.” He also tells me Burro Creek Rec Area is $14 a day. My senior pass reduces it to $7.
Spike leaves the bench seat to come up to the passenger seat.
He’s excited, too, about a new adventure. He has his intense, terrier focus on the road ahead. The little guy loves this life. However, the motion of the PTV makes him too sleepy to do his copilot job. Soon he’s snoozing. Oh Spikey, you’re still the best copilot in the world.
No news is good news when it comes to Bridget on the road.
She’s learned that whining serves no purpose on the open road. That’s a good thing because the traffic on this stretch of two-lane road is fast and pressured. I like to keep my speed down to 55-60 mph on highways. I’d better step it up to 65 mph, otherwise someone is going to get killed. That last car cut it awfully close to oncoming traffic.
I spot my first Joshua Tree!
What a weird looking plant. Actually they’re pretty when standing alone. When there are hundreds of them on both sides of the highway, branches lifted heavenward, sticking out this way and that, they look like a mass round-up of guilty trees. Yes, a forest of Joshua Trees looks very . . . weird, but delightfully so. I want to capture it all in a photo but it’s too dangerous to stop on the shoulder.
The landscape keeps changing – gradual slopes, jagged mountains, volcanic formations, mesa, open desert, and those crazy-looking trees!
Where in the world is Nothing?
Oh, there it is! I drive into the parking area under a dilapidated sign announcing this is Nothing. The crew needs a break. I walk them over to a cattle guard and notice the familiar BLM post and a sign about the primitive road. Oh, so this is a boondock road. I look up at the pile of boulders. This area has lots of boulders. Nope, not for us. Boulders mean snakes.
The highway improves as we continue in our northwesterly direction.
A long stretch of road with regularly-spaced passing lanes turns into a four-lane divided highway. Up, up, up we go on a 6% grade through a cut in a mountain. I allow the PTV to slow on the climb. We’re at 45 mph by the time we reach the crest. Now we can glide smoothly down the 6% grade without having to manually downshift or jam the brakes. Just a few taps keeps us at a comfortable, downhill speed. Thank you, brake controller. I love you!
I see a sign: ¼ mile to Burro Creek Recreation Area
The highway bridge spans a river gorge. Workmen and cones are all around. I look for another sign until I realize I must have passed it. Oh well, we’ll keep going to Wickieup and get propane and gas up. I note that the BLM land along the highway, although stretching away for miles, is too exposed and there’s no obvious access.
The first sign of Wikieup is a Shell station selling gas for $4.29 a gallon!
There has to be something better. Up the road is the Wickieup Trading Post. Not only is the gas $3.99, there’s an interesting gift shop next to a restaurant. A replica of a Native American sits in the foyer. I ask a pleasant-looking shopper in the gift shop if she’s been to Burro Creek. “Sure. We’re camped there,” she responds. She describes how nice it is and confirms that I did indeed pass it about ten miles back.
The Trading Post doesn’t sell propane, so we continue on.
No propane signs. What is going on? I look the full length of the town, which isn’t much. I turn around and go back to the Shell station. No propane. But the guy behind the counter is friendly and says, “Go back up to Hidden Oasis RV Park. They’ve got some and it’s cheap.”
I drive us back to Hidden Oasis, the BLT tagging obediently behind us.
A man is building a cactus garden alongside a large building. His name is David. He leads me through the park on his quad. While pumping the propane, he asks where I’m going to camp. I tell him Burro Creek. We talk some more. “You like to boondock? I know a place right here.”
“You do?” My ears perk up. I like information from locals. It’s usually the best.
“Yeah, go back about a quarter-mile. Turn right onto Chicken Springs Road. There’s a bunch of side roads up there where you can camp.” He points to a mountain behind us. “You can even cross that mountain and camp on the other side.”
“Gee, it’s awfully nice of you to tell me this, being the owner of an RV park and all.”
“Well, you obviously aren’t going to camp here,” he explains cheerfully.
David tells me I can pay his wife up at the café.
The place is brand new and immaculate. I look around. No customers. Gee, it’s lunchtime. Brenda greets me warmly. She and David are obviously working hard to make this place a success. I order a sub and a Pepsi. We chat while I pay for the propane and she prepares the sandwich. I compliment her on her restaurant, and she smiles. “We’ve only been open two and a half weeks. The locals come in but people on the highway drive right by.” The poor girl is worried sick about her restaurant. ”I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, look what brought me in. I couldn’t find any propane at all in this town until the guy down at the Shell told me to come here.”
“Oh, that’s Nate. He helps us whenever he can.”
“Maybe if you put a sign out, Propane Sold Here, people will stop for it and end up buying a sandwich, maybe park here, too.”
Brenda is rightfully proud of her place.
“You can stay at our RV park for $20 a night. We’ve got Wi-Fi, a cactus garden, a fountain, and . . . did you see the pond we’re building in back with paths, and bridges and gold fish. . ?”
The place is beautiful, log chairs on the porch, flowers at your feet.
“Come on. I’ll show you our laundromat. You can come by and use it, even if you’re not at our park.” The appliances are brand new, sitting shiny and unused in a new laundry room.
“How much to stay here for a month?” I ask. “I want to tell people on my blog about what you have here.”
She tells me $200 a month plus electric. If I ever want to rent a place to park for a month, I’d want it to be here. These people are a pleasure to be around. God bless them. (For more information and photos: www.hiddenoasisrv.com)
Up Chicken Springs Road we spot our first snake.
Yep, lying right in the middle of the dirt road taking a sun bath. About three feet or more. Well, well, well. I take a photo out the window of the PTV. This is good. This picture will stick in my head and remind me to be careful. Snake season has officially begun for rvsue and her canine crew!
We continue on, passing up some side roads for being too low in the valley.
We need to be higher up. Signs appear. “Mountain grade ahead. No shoulders.” Uh-oh, not going up there. Fortunately there’s a place to turn around, although a high ridge of dirt has to be crossed. This is the better choice. I’m going for it. At least we won’t be scraped by rocks. I wince as I hear the PTV’s bottom scraping the dirt. The BLT wiggles over the ridge without scraping. Off we go back down the road, take the first left, and go past a tiny church. The road becomes narrower with rocks in it. Good, it’s going higher.
Right when I’m about to give up, I see it.
I get out and walk up to evaluate it. Yes, this will work just fine. It’s a tough maneuver to park on it, actually the toughest I’ve experienced so far on the road. If all six wheels were mounted sideways, it would be a piece of cake. After about twenty crisscross movements, back and forth, the Best Little Trailer is situated where I want it . . . with the door facing the mountains and the afternoon sun at our backs.
The crew and I stand in amazement.
I look out over the green valley below. This is Camp Wikieup . . . We’re home!