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Coming Home: I Move to Ehrenberg

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Mt Humphrey got plenty of snow and it's cold enough for it to not melt. Time to go!!!

Mt Humphrey got plenty of snow and it’s cold enough for it to not melt. Time to go!!! I’ll miss this camp, it’s been one of my favorites!

This may sound strange coming from someone who grew up and lived all his life in Alaska, but going back to the desert for the winter feels so natural and right, that I think of it as coming home. There is just something about the haunting beauty of the desert that grabs me and changes me. Once a person has allowed it’s stark grandeur and vastness into their heart,  it will forever compel them to return. Being able to turn in a 360 degree circle and see far off to great distance reveals the immensity of life and my smallness in it. Knowing who I am and where I fit is comforting to me in some strange way I can’t explain.
I still love the mountains and forest and need them in my life every summer, but the desert is my winter home now and I hope it always will be. Of course, come springtime I will feel exactly the same way when I leave here and return to the mountains and my summer home! In this way, I’m always home wherever I go and in whatever season! What a wonderful way to live!
I took this picture of the light of Blythe from the front door of my trailer at my new home in Ehrenberg. It was a beautiful sunset and a perfect 70 degrees. I love my life!

I took this picture of the lights of Blythe, CA  standing in  the front door of my trailer tonight at my new home in Ehrenberg. It was a beautiful sunset and a perfect 70 degrees. I love my life!

Ultimately it’s the weather that determines where I live and that was very true this year. Arizona has been in the grip of very mild and warm weather now for over a year and so I was able to stay in the forest for much longer than usual. I’ve been spending my falls in Flagstaff and usually sometime in mid-October it either gets too cold or it snows which drives me down to a lower elevation. But this year it stayed very pleasant and mild through all of October, and I had such a wonderful camp that I couldn’t bear to leave it’s Forest/Meadow beauty. Then November got here and reality slapped me in the face!!
At 7300 feet, winter might delay but it is still coming and so last weekend we got hit by a storm that brought a small amount of snow to camp and overnight temperatures into the low 20’s with daytime highs in the mid 40’s. I’m equipped for cold weather so I stayed comfortable but  it isn’t a pleasant way for me to live for long so I knew it was time to go. The problem is that as soon as the storm passed the temperatures starting going right back up into a comfortable level and my home was pleasant again. I prefer cool to hot and so I was tempted to dawdle in leaving there.
Coyotes are never interested in a fair fight, all they care about is an easy meal and survival so bigger dogs are usually safe. Cody is a smaller dog and no match for three coyotes. I took this picture from the web.

Coyotes are never interested in a fair fight, all they care about is an easy meal and survival so bigger dogs are usually safe. Cody is a smaller dog and no match for three coyotes. I took this picture from the web.

Then something else happened to totally change my mind and make leaving right away an urgent necessity.
Cody and I were out for our morning walk when he started barking at something in the woods. That’s very unusual because normally if it’s something he can chase he doesn’t bark, he just takes off running after it. So I stopped and started to look for what was upsetting him. Right away I spotted a big, beautiful coyote not far from him at all, maybe 35 yards away.  This was the first time we had seen a coyote together so I was grateful that he didn’t chase it. Homer never once hesitated to chase coyotes, in fact I bet there were over a dozen times when we were out for a walk when he spotted a coyote and took off chasing it; and on several occasions he chased a pair of coyotes. But he was a much bigger dog than Cody (literally twice as big; 80 pounds to Cody’s 40) and just as fast or faster. So I never feared too much for his safety. No coyote would take him on one-to-one and he could outrun a pair.
Cody keeping his eyes out for stray coyotes!

Cody keeping his eyes out for stray coyotes!

Fortunately, Cody knows he’s smaller so when he saw the coyote, he stayed with me and just barked.
It’s a very good thing because as soon as that coyote turned to get away from me I noticed that there were two others behind him and they appeared to be waiting for the first one to draw Cody out. That put some real fear in me! The first coyote was the bait to draw him out so they could all attack, kill and eat him. Had I not been there, it probably would have worked. Even if Cody had turned and run it was so far from camp they would probably would have got him before he would have made it back to safety.
I kept a close eye on him for the rest of the walk but as we were nearing our camp I noticed the coyotes off on the edge of the forest; they had trailed us back to camp! That sent a shiver down my spine because they were waiting for him just out of my sight. One was literally standing in the shadow of a tree watching us and the only reason I saw him was because he was silhouetted against the bright, yellow grass behind him. I stopped and starred at him and he never moved, we just starred at each other. Finally, he moved off very slowly.
Such intensity...and those eyes!

Such intensity…and those eyes! 

Just a few days before I had met a nice couple who were full-timing in their truck and trailer and they had told me that  the night they got to their camp (which was less than 1/4 mile from where we saw the coyotes) their cat had disappeared. When I saw those coyotes, there was no doubt in my mind where that cat had gone.
Cody’s in the habit of chasing off after anything near camp that moves, even birds, so there was no doubt that eventually, if they were patient, they could catch him away from camp and my safety and he would end up in the some place as that cat. We had to move right away!!!
The next morning I broke camp and we left for Ehrenberg. I was so concerned about the coyotes we didn’t even go for a walk in the morning . That’s very unusual because I want him to be well-walked before we head out for a long drive. Instead I drove as far as the desert and stopped for a walk where I could keep an eye on him.
On the road to Ehrenberg from Flagstaff. Normally jusy carries the bike on the back of her van, but since she is  working at Amazon I had to carry it on the front of my van. Boy am I glad I bought a 1 ton van so it can handle this weight. Judy is doing extremely well at Amazon. Better than I would have been doing!

On the road to Ehrenberg from Flagstaff. Normally Judy carries the bike on the back of her van, but since she is working at Amazon I had to carry it on the front of my van. Boy am I glad I bought a 1 ton van so it can handle this weight. Judy is doing extremely well at Amazon. Better than I would have been doing!

Now that we’re in the wide-open space of our Ehrenberg camp, I have very little fear for his safety. If there are coyotes lingering he can see or smell them before they become a grave threat and he’s demonstrated that he will stay close if they are around. Instead, he’ll just bark and let me know they are nearby. Then Mr. 357 magnum will have words with them! No I won’t shoot to kill, but coyotes are familiar with the whizzing of bullets nearby and they will head for friendlier territory and easier pickings! Problem solved!
This is Judy's and my camp from last year at Ehrenberg.

This is Judy’s and my camp from last year at Ehrenberg. Judy will be back in late December.

So I’m back to my Ehrenberg, AZ camp and you are all welcome to join me! There are 6 of us here now scattered across the desert. It’s a very big area so you can be as close or as far away as you want to be to other people. But we socialize together and we can see each others camp giving a real sense of security and safety. Having friends around is just a wonderful thing I treasure from the depth of my heart!
It’s free, has good shopping nearby and a good internet signal. Best of all, no Rangers; stay as long as you like! Just be sure to be here for Thanksgiving! Here are three maps to my camp.


  1. Tom

    Good dog!

    • Bob

      Tom. amen!

  2. Al Christensen

    The three amigos — Lesa, Lou and I — crossed from New Mexico into southeast Arizona this afternoon. We’re camped between Douglas and Bisbee and will be drifting your way. No schedule yet.

    • Bob

      See you’ll soon! By Thanksgiving though right!?

  3. Linda Sand

    Wish I could be there instead of here but getting healthy has become my number one priority this year so I’m parked on blacktop in a parking lot but I’m pleased to report the community here is as friendly and helpful as the van dwellers.

    • Bob

      Linda, nothing is more important than your health, so do whatever it needs to take care of it. We’ll see you whenever you get here.

  4. Jamo

    Well, I gotta’ say what with all the troubles in the world today that its so pleasant to hear from someone who’s so happy…

    • Bob

      Thanks Jamo, I really am happy! But best of all, I think anyone can follow in my footsteps and e just as happy. All you have to do is take that first step.

  5. Kayle

    What a beautiful dog your Cody is! I know what you mean about allowing the Southwest to grow into you…my favorite is New Mexico. Is Judy doing ok working at Amazon? I worry that my aching bones couldn’t take it. Best to you both…

    • Bob

      Kayle, yes, Judy is doing extremely well! Like you, Judy was very afraid that she wouldn’t be up to the hard work. Although Amazon is very reasonable and understanding with it’s Camperforce workers, the bottom line is you are on your feet and moving 10 hours a day in a huge warehouse. When your in your 60s (many are in their 70s and some into their 80s!) that’s hard to do.
      But Judy has been a country girl all her life and she has a work ethic that I knew would get her through; and it has!!!
      The first week was as hard as she expected but then she started to adjust and learn the ins-and-outs and her body adapted to working again and now she is doing just fine! She comes home very tired every night but it is no longer misery. In fact she even accepted an extra day of work this week so she is working 50 hours. Eventually the overtime becomes mandatory, but now it’s optional and she was doing so well she was up for it.
      I honestly believe she is doing better than I would be doing if I was there.
      Because Amazon is so supportive of it’s older workers, anyone with a work ethic and decent health can do it.

      • judy

        Small correction, I’m working night shift…6m pm til 4:30 am. It’s amazing to me that not only have I adapted to the work but also to working the graveyard shift. I’m actually glad that I am because day shift people go to work when it’s still dark in the mornings and get off work after it’s dark in the evening. I can be up for part of the afternoon and enjoy the sunshine. On my way to work, the sun is setting & I get to enjoy that as well.

        • Bob

          You’re the best Judy!

  6. Peggy

    What a scary story! Coyotes are something I worry about when I’m walking my two dogs. A few days ago we were walking through the woods and just before coming out into a clearing we heard a coyote break out into its bone-chilling howls. Both dogs stood stock still. I often see coyotes close to our house too and many cats have vanished over the years.

    • Bob

      Peggy, no doubt they are are very real risk to be taken very seriously. Usually reasonable precautions are enough though.
      I love Codys size, but I do know he would be safer if he were a bigger dog.

  7. ccbreder

    Thanks for not shooting the coyotes. They are as important to me as the rattle snakes.

    • Bob

      ccbreder, philosophically I am reconciled with hunting, it’s written into our DNA to hunt and kill. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve become such a giant softie!! I can’t imagine killing as noble a creature as a coyote. If I had to, I would, but fortunately I’m not confronted with that situation. They’re easy to scare off. Now if I had a farm or chicken it would be a very different story, but I don’t.
      Like you, I have a lot of admiration for coyotes. We easily wiped out the wolves but no matter our best efforts not only have the coyotes out-witted us and survived, they are thriving and increasing their range. Amazing creatures!

  8. Jan Cook

    Love your writings and pictures. These give dreams, hopes, and meditations to those determined to change our path in life.

    • Bob

      Thank you Jan, that was a very nice thing to say. That really is my goal and I love to hear I am succeeeding!
      So I’ll be seeing you soon, right!?

  9. Jo

    Thanks for so eloquently sharing your thoughts on the desert. They echo my own. On my first visit I didn’t really get it, but my second time through it grabbed me and crept into my heart much like yours. We have been back many times since then and there is nowhere I’d rather be.
    So glad Cody is OK. Its something I worry about with NY tiny little dog. Fortunately we are not often out so much in the wilds as you, but even in Tucson where we are now I often hear them at night and once saw a pack go past our campground in the morning.
    Enjoy your winter stay in the desert.

    • Bob

      Thanks Jo! The smaller the dog is, the more important it is to keep a close on them. Dawn, dusk and night are the high risk times, if you keep them close then it shouldn’t be a problem.

  10. anni

    Looks good, Bob! I think me and my two little dogs will be heading down your way in a couple weeks, I hope the coyotes keep their distance! Planning to be there for thanksgiving! Don’t worry about turkey for me though, but I love me my veggies! Please advise if I should bring something to share, but I’m sure I’ll have time to get to Blythe beforehand. Thanks so much for the open invitation! So excited!
    Anni and the little greyhounds

    • Bob

      Anni, as of now Steve and Bryce want to do all the work and provide everything, so no need to bring anything.
      We are letting people bring deserts though, so you can bring one of those, but don’t feel any pressure.
      See you soon!

      • anni

        Ok! Thanks, Bob. Loving your writing too, you make it sound so beautiful and inviting. You’re giving a lot of people inspiration!

  11. Calvin R

    Bob, you are right about the call of the desert. In my case I had wanted to see the Southwestern desert since childhood, for no obvious reason. The first time I went to Arizona, it was almost a drive-through visit, and I felt that call all the same. My second visit was a couple of months in Tucson that made that call deeper. The third visit is in the future. I feel the beauty and wonder of mountains, too, but not with the strength I want to return to the desert.
    I am very glad Cody has the sense not to chase coyotes. I’m not sure that could be trained in, and it’s important.
    Your camp looks more practical than what I’ve seen of Quartzsite, and that counts. It will also be less crowded, I imagine.

    • Robert Long

      Hi Bob, so sad I will not be seeing you this year. I found that American Clipper I purchased was far to big for my personel comfort. A wonderful home I passed on to to a nice fellow who needed a space for his son out of the house,ha ha he was delighted to have it. Glad to hear you watch the young pup and care enough to move even when the weather says stay a while longer, I know that feeling well as it is a safty net I have had all my life. May be next year I am about to go out a buy a big van an start to piecw it into a travel bus for me an my 4 legged friend. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving you and the Mrs.and all your wonderful friends. Your friend in spirit Robert (aka Lazarus Long)

      • Bob

        Robert, there’s always next year! Start planning now!

    • Bob

      Calvin, we have such a large area here that we can be as close or as far away from each other as we want. So far we are spread out pretty good but as more come we will get closer together.
      Wish you could be here! One of the days!

  12. Ellen

    I’ll be there sometime in the next week!

    • Bob

      Great, see you then!

  13. John Dough

    I live about 2600 miles from AZ on the East Coast.
    I’d need about a 2 or 3 week vacation to drive my van out there and back for it to be worthwhile.
    I could fly and rent a van as you’ve suggested in a prior post.
    For now I just dream of the freedom.
    I’ll do some van camping vacations to get some experience.

    • Bob

      John, that’s a long ways from home and lots of money spent. I can certainly understand needing to wait. In a few a years when you’re ready, we’ll still be here.

  14. Gloria Brooks

    Sweet! I’ll be buzzing over your way as soon as my packages come, hopefully this week, in Quartzsite. I’ve been in Q now for two weeks getting my solar (and Verizon service) back in order. Can’t wait to see you!

    • Bob

      Gloria, I’m parked exactly where I was last year and there is still plenty of room around here. See you soon!

      • Al Christensen

        They say you can’t step in the same river twice. I think the same applies to the desert. You exact spot from last year (or bits of it) has probably blown to the next county. 😉

        • Bob

          Al, no doubt about that! One thing that is permanent in the desert is the wind and blowing sand.

  15. LaVonne Ellis

    Bob, why do you think Cody will be any safer from coyotes in the desert than in Flagstaff? Are there fewer of them?

  16. Jessy

    Bob, your mountain camp looked wonderful! I deal with coyotes all the time, I have 11 acres in Tn and they haunt me. They got a beautiful little beagle puppy, he got loose and before I could get him, they did. On better topic, thank you for the solar help, I’m starting installation today. Have a wonderful November!

    • Bob

      Glad to help Jessy. Yeah, coyotes are a big issue in lots of the country. You’ve gotta admire the little buggers! No mater what we did to them they just outlast us.

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