Having escaped the Dragoon Mountains before the hard freeze, I ride out the next couple nights at an RV park in Tucson, AZ while visiting with friends who are work-camping in the area. While there, Bertha starts running rough and the check engine light comes on – prompting me to make an appointment with the shop my friends swear by. As my appointment isn’t until the 13th, I scout out nearby Snyder Hill BLM area, on the west end of town. Finding it adequate, I tow Cas out there the next morning.
Dec 8, Friday
Snyder Hill gets very mixed reviews on Free Campsites and Campendium. People love how close it is to Tucson, the strong phone signals, and the hill the site is named for. They’re less fond of the crowds, the trash, and the homeless that shelter there.
When I arrive, there are definitely people around, but it isn’t crowded and the vibe is fine. It’s a relatively small chunk of land, but the entire area is criss-crossed with roads and camp spots. The spot I picked out yesterday evening is closer to the corner of 86 and San Joaquin Rd, so I get some noise from traffic and construction on 86, but it grants me unimpeded access to the hill, which is nice indeed. It’s also relatively trash-free, I go out with a bag to collect what little there is shortly after arriving.
After setting up camp, I take a walk up Snyder Hill and happily explore several little alcoves as the sun slides towards the horizon. I even discover two sinkhole-like features, one of which opens into a small cave. It may not be a big hill, but the rocks are neat and I enjoy the little adventures as much as the big ones.
Four-wheeler tracks wrap around the base of the hill, but what I assume to be a path up to the top turns out to be a false trail. Oh well, I’ll make it to the top another day! I do get this view of 86 stretching east towards town, the construction is visible along it.
Today is too overcast for my solar to be able to keep up with my electricity needs for work, and I have to quit early. Oh darn, guess I’m just going to have to take a walk instead.
I snap the following picture as I head towards the hill again. Cas is visible to the right of the road closest to the foreground. Here you can see that there are quite a few people camping here, but the ground starts sloping up just past my site, so I won’t get neighbors out my back window.
I get back on the four-wheeler track. On the back (east) side of the hill, a few ocotillo reach skeletal limbs to the sky. They look beautiful with their leaves and flowers, but it’ll be some time yet before that happens. The landscape is far from bare though, the grass and scrub trees from the Dragoons are absent here, but the creosote bushes grow tall, and palo verde trees cover the hillside.
Arizona skies are dramatic. This evening there aren’t any amazing colors, but the clouds are nice.
This time, I find the track that leads to the top. The light is already starting to fade, but I get a few pictures of the BLM area as best I can. Here’s the view looking west, do you see Cas?:
And here’s to the north:
And the east:
And wouldn’t you know it, from the top I can easily see a trail going down the south slope of the hill, that I completely missed the other day. I chuckle to myself as I take the ‘shortcut’ home.
Dec 13, Wednesday
I’ve avoided driving Bertha since I arrive at Snyder Hill, but today’s appointment day. I leave camp around 8:30 am. Bertha is still running rough, but no worse than when the problems started.
The shop, Sooters Auto Service, is located downtown. I didn’t think much of it when I made my appointment, but having dropped off the truck for the day, I find there’s a lot within walking distance, which is nice.
I end up eating a late breakfast/early lunch at Cafe Passe on 4th Avenue. The outdoor seating area in back is darling and the breakfast sandwich is great.
I get Bertha back around 3 pm. An O2 sensor had fried (something about the exhaust manifold, the wiring was toast) and it took out a fuse with it. It would have been pretty quick to fix, but the O2 sensor had to be shipped in, and the wrong one was sent first.
But all is well now, and Bertha is running great again. I’m happy that it was simple and pretty cheap. As if reflecting my mood, the sunset tonight shows off with a bit of color.
Up next: Hiking Brown Mountain
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Thanks Patreon supporters! December wallpapers and the second Behind the Scenes for the month are going up today, so keep an eye out.