Hill Hike and the Big Tent

January 19, Tuesday

With the initial burst of social activities and chores now behind, I find myself with a reasonable chunk of free time and no set plan. Some exploring is in order.

My backyard. That line of green is the wash

My backyard. That line of green is the wash

Behind camp, the dirt road ends in large wash which is the end of the line for RVers. ATVs however were made for this kind of driving. They can climb the steep bank on the other side of the wash and their trail makes a decent hiking path.

Up on higher ground again and looking back towards the Xscampment (as the Xscapers have christened our little area), it’s easy to see that we’re not as alone as it seems. Our camping area is on lower ground, so the interstate and other RVers are hidden from view by the slope of the land. It’s great to have that kind of privacy in a place like Quartzsite.


The ATV track parallels the hills (and mountains farther behind them) to the west of camp. As it’s already later in the afternoon, the sun makes getting photos of them hard. Maybe I can curve around behind the closer hills for better lighting, and just to see what’s there. It requires leaving the ATV track behind.


An interesting thing I’m learning about the desert, you don’t really need a trail. There’s so little brush and obstacles that you can pretty much just pick a direction and start walking. Just make sure you know how to get back!


Even back here, there are signs of humanity. A full-sized couch is tipped upside down on a bare patch of gravel. Judging by the fading and wear on the upholstery and the rusted state of the springs, it’s been here a while. One small wash is littered with spent cartridge shells, I do wish people would pick up after themselves. When you get away from the garbage though, the land looks remarkably untouched and wild. It’s so hot in the summer that I bet most of the year this area is untouched.

Much better lighting from this angle

Much better lighting from this angle

Compared to my last camp on the east side of town, there are more ocotillo here, and they’re fun to photograph. One of them has a few orange leaves on the ends, from what I’ve heard they’re really beautiful in spring when they bloom… the whole desert really. I’m hoping to still be boondocking around the southwest when spring comes.


Over the mountains the wispy clouds are congealing into a dark mass that is slowly creeping over the sun. It looks menacing, but there is no rain in them. If you look closely at the hills, you’ll see roads zig-zagging up some of them. There are a lot of abandoned mines around here and a lot of those roads end in mine shafts. I’ll have to check that out sometime.


I’ve found another ATV track, leading right up the nearest hill. I bet there’ll be a good view from up there.


To the south, the valley rolls on for miles. Two areas speckled with white denote habitation, whether it’s RVers or buildings is hard to say. The mountains far in the distance look quite jagged. I bet that range is tall enough to have a name.


To the north, I10 stretches from horizon to horizon and along it runs Dome Rock Road and prime boondocking territory.

Click for larger view

Click for larger view

To the west, a rounded peak dominates the skyline. I thought that would be Dome Rock, but am later told by folks at camp that they believe it’s called Sugarloaf. It does have at least one mine.


And down below, to the northeast, lies the Xscampment. It looks like we have 20 rigs right now, I’ve circled Cas and Bertha.


What a fun hike, and it only took about an hour of slow meandering to do! A couple hours later on a short evening hike with other Xscapers, the sky turns pink and those clouds that came in make a magnificent canvas for another great desert sunset.


January 20, Wednesday

A trip to Quartzsite would hardly be complete without a visit to the Big Tent. Open from the 16th to the 24th this year, the big tent show is housed, yes, in a very large tent. Inside are hundreds of vendor booths selling just about any RV related gear or gadget you could think of alongside more traditional fair-type knick-knacks and products.


To get to the big tent, one must traverse a gamut of RVs lined up around the tent, there are no fewer than 12 entrances and most have concession stands outside. It’s quite a maze. Luckily, porta potties are also in abundance.


I’m tempted by a leather purse for $15 with a long strap that goes over the shoulder, but I’m not sure it’d be big enough to hold my Kindle, so I don’t make the purchase. I actually don’t spend a dime in the big tent, but I do spend $12 on products at the booths outside the big tent. $1 for a new soup ladle (mine got lost somehow), $1 for a package of eight black tank liquifyer/deodorizers, and $10 for three tubes of the Pro-Flex RV caulk I love so much. To compare, one tube of Pro-Flex costs $16 at Camping World.


In the evening, I spend an hour and a half beating myself up with bags on the end of strings. Cherie is giving a lesson on poi spinning and I’m always up for learning new things. I have a lot of fun, but lets just say it’ll be a while before it’d be safe for me to try it with fire.

For being theoretically out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do, my days are surprising full and rich.

Home sweet desert

Home sweet desert

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Gumo on January 25, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Becky, I’m on the verge of ordering from your Amazon link the 100 watt folding solar panel that you got earlier, but wanted to know your opinion of it after you had a chance to test it out at Quartzite. Any thoughts about it? Thanks.

    • Becky on January 26, 2016 at 8:56 pm

      In the 18 days I’ve been using it at Quartzsite I’ve loved it Gumo! I’ve never run out of power, but a couple things:

      1. I use very little battery, my LED lights, my water pump to flush the toilet (I shower elsewhere), and charging my phone twice a day and my laptop once a day. 100 watts is proving to be enough for me, but I think I’m more frugal with power than most people.

      2. As I don’t have a comprehensive battery monitoring system, I can’t be sure that I’m not dropping my battery below 50% and shortening it’s life. My current battery is in poor shape and technically needed replacement before I even got out here so that doesn’t worry me, but a well taken care of battery will last 5-8 years, and a poorly maintained one might not even last a year so it bears considering.

      Those things said, the kit performs really well. It’s easy to maneuver around, stores nicely in the Casita when not in use, and seems to do a good job.

  2. Kit Frost on January 24, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    hi becky, I was camped 5 miles south on 95 to the west. I was with a group called RVwomen, what a terrific time. after 10 days I moved my rig to Usery Mountain Park, and the landscape there, the saguaro, ocotillo and cholla are huge. If you’re ever passing through the 4 corners, look me up.
    Kit Frost recently posted..Zion National ParkMy Profile

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Sounds like fun Kit! One thing that can’t be argued about Quartzsite is there are so many people that go camping out here that it’s almost a sure bet that a person can find others with similar interests to meet up with and have a great time. Hopefully in the future we’ll get a chance to meet up.

  3. Jan on January 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Hope you don’t mind but I used your name yesterday when I joined Escapees. Tried to send you a message to let ya know I was going to be there but couldn’t get it to send. Hopefully another day we get to meet or if you get back to the Phoenix area let me know.

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      It’s too bad we missed each other Jan but yes, I’m sure there will be more opportunities. 🙂 I am heading to Phoenix to get my fridge taken care of, but I don’t know how much time I’ll have in the area or even what day I’ll be there for the repairs as I’m still waiting on the call.

      It doesn’t bother me that you used my name.

  4. Pamela b on January 24, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Hi, Becky – happy for you having some free time in the desert. That photo of the sunset is so beautiful! Nice job.
    I hope to be full time in my Casita in August. Waiting out my lease. I will need to buy a new camera, as one of my grandchildren stuck my memory card in some soft wax. I wiped it off and put it in my camera. Well, it no longer reads memory cards. So, only has internal memory and only has room for 30 – 40 photos.
    Do you feel the need for boots while walking in the desert, or are hiking shoes good enough?
    I always enjoy your blog, Becky. Happy trails and thank you for sharing all your adventures with Cas and Berths.
    Pamela in Houston.

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      August, not too much longer to go Pamela! you must be very excited.

      Sorry to hear about your camera. I just use my smartphone to take pictures, saves on money and space (and fits easily in my pocket). Only bad thing about a smartphone for a camera is they don’t have much if any zoom so I can’t do wildlife photos really, but that doesn’t bother me. There are a lot of good cameras out there though (I worked in the camera department at Best Buy for a time before hitting the road), so I’m sure you’ll find something perfect for your needs.

      I don’t own boots at all and wear my tennis shoes for everything I do, but I know others who say true hiking shoes/boots are a must. it just comes down to your needs and comfort I guess. I’d say hold off on buying them until you actually get out to the desert and see if you need them or not.

      Thanks for reading Pamela, take care.

  5. Ernesto Quintero on January 24, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Becky here’s tip if your camera/smartphone SW allows it. Please don’t take this is in a mansplaining way, I’m a photography geek, sorry if you are aware and/or do this already.

    Set up to also record images in HDR, high dynamic range, mode, that way the images with extreme light/dark areas even out for a more pleasant look. By that I mean the lights will not be as blown out and the darks won’t be as black, yes it might create two version of each image while the mode is active and use more memory. Later on view them in a controlled environment, flip between the two version and select one and delete the other. I do this with my iPhone, my thinking is let the camera’s SW do it’s thing and then I don’t have to spend anytime afterwards making adjustments, some people call it sooc, straight out of camera. Most laptop base imaging SW do have an auto-correct feature that save time and frustration in adjusting the images just right. My tip is about making a faster workflow when there are a huge number of images to go through. BTW you have a great eye in composing a scene. Be safe. Ernesto

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks for the tip Ernesto. I don’t have enough memory free on my phone to do this anymore, I use Photoshop to do some adjusting of brightness/contrast when necessary, but it could help other readers having this same problem!

  6. Chuck on January 24, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Becky just love your site , find myself looking each week for your new one. Not a RVer yet but soon, I’am a 67yr widower from Texas Have a question you say the Large wash is the end of the line for RVers , is that a boundry line or just as far as you can drive a RV? Again thanks for
    all your information , I found your site while reading your friends site- Bob cheap RV living. A very special Guy an lots of info for us beginners.

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying IO Chuck, thanks for reading.

      It’s not a boundary line, but the banks to the wash are steep and rugged enough that nothing longer than 20 feet without high clearance and good tires could handle it.

      Yep Bob’s a neat guy, it was a pleasure to present with him at the RTR.

      For any RV newbies visiting my blog (maybe you’ve already seen this Chuck but I’m posting to help others who may read the comments as well), I’ve got numerous helpful how-to articles listed all in one place under the “useful stuff” tab at the top of the blog: https://interstellarorchard.com/useful-stuff/

  7. Gary Wood on January 24, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Nice photo’s, it’s so quiet in the dessert if you’re away from the crowd. Sometimes spooky 😉 Glad you are enjoying the boondocking.
    Gary Wood recently posted..Plumbing Rats Nest UntangledMy Profile

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      So far so good Gary! Here it’s not spooky quiet, there are too many people around for that even if our lower elevation cuts out some of the noise. I’ll be trying some of the more private boondocking soon enough and we’ll see how I do with true quiet, haha.

  8. Bill on January 24, 2016 at 7:42 am

    I love your pictures and I’m sure we’ll see more when the desert flowers are in full bloom. The desert kinda grows on you doesn’t it?

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      It seems like people I talk to either love the desert or hate it, few are indifferent. I happen to be in the earlier camp, although I think when things start to heat up in a couple months I’ll be ready to escape north to cooler climes. 😉

  9. roy vannoy on January 24, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Thanks for the views really enjoy your Blog.

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      You’re welcome Roy, thanks for reading.

  10. Ed Brownfield on January 24, 2016 at 6:08 am

    We are flying back to AZ next week, right now we’re stuck in two feet of snow in central VA. What is going on with the clouds in AZ, that’s unusual! I’m looking forward to getting back to the magnificent sunsets and stars in the clear night sky. With the unusual amount of rain this year in AZ, the desert will be beautiful in about six weeks when it blooms! Enjoy your time in AZ, it’s a special place!

    • Becky on January 24, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      I heard about that blizzard out east and was thinking of all of you readers who are out that way, hoping things are okay.

      Hope you have a good flight and in the meantime, at least the snow is a temporary condition for you Ed huh? The sunsets in general have been quite spectacular out here, luckily it hasn’t rained since I arrived on the 8th and I’m quite okay with that!

  11. Furry Gnome on January 22, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Quartzite seems like such an interesting place, good or bad! Gorgeous sunset too!

    • Becky on January 23, 2016 at 9:39 am

      For the middle of the desert, there sure is a lot going on Gnome. And yeah, those sunsets are really something!

  12. Ron on January 22, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Great post. Don’t get lost in the desert & watch out for snake’s.

    • Becky on January 23, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Glad you enjoyed this Ron. I shouldn’t get too lost in the desert as long as my phone has battery and I can get a good enough signal to open GPS, haha.

  13. Teri Live Oak Fl on January 22, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Did you find a job for this year?

    • Becky on January 23, 2016 at 9:31 am

      I certainly could have Teri but I’m waiting a while yet, normally I job search in February.

  14. Bonnie on January 22, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Being picky, I didn’t think there were “hundreds” of vendorswhen we were there Saturday; maybe 50 or so in the big tent and a lot of them aren’t selling anything they are promoting things, like campgrounds or resorts. I’ve gone several years and it seems the variety of vendors has dwindled, I’m guessing because you can get most anything via the internet.

    • Becky on January 23, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Bonnie, I have a copy of the big tent program and there are 280 numbered stalls. the larger vendors had double booths so there weren’t 280 vendors, but more than 200 yes. 🙂

      I can’t speak for the variety or how it’s changed since this was my first visit, but I found it impressive, even though it wasn’t really my scene.

  15. Marilyn, Dania Beach, FL on January 22, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    What an interesting post you presented this time.

    I hope the spring flowers bloom before you have to leave.

    Marilyn in Dania Beach, FL

    • Becky on January 23, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Down in Texas last winter the flowers started blooming in March before I left, if Arizona follows the same sort of time table I should still be around when it starts. Would be really neat to see!

      Thanks for following along, glad you enjoyed this.

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