While we loved the beauty of KOFA National Wildlife Refuge, we didn’t like the cold weather so we headed back to sunny, warm Yuma. After just one night in dry camp we lucked into a spot we could stay in long-term and ended up staying four weeks. Combined with the 9 days we spent here before going to Quartzite, it is our longest stay anywhere since we left Washington. We hadn’t really planned it that way, but when we looked at the weather other places it was hard to leave the sunshine (plus there was the incentive of half-off our fourth week).
We found the living pretty easy at KOFA SKP Ko-op in Yuma. We didn’t need to monitor our power and water—our solar panels were making more electricity than we could use, we had water hook-ups, and there was cheap propane on site. With a laundry room nearby we could put in a few loads and walk back to the trailer to enjoy the sun while they washed. I could grocery shop whenever we needed something and we could order from Amazon. Soon we settled into lazy mornings lingering over coffee and tea watching the Today Show and sunny days spent reading, surfing the web, or watching the acrobatics of the hummingbirds at our neighbor’s feeder and the installation of their park model (what a process!). Chuck puttered around the trailer doing maintenance and cleaning. When it hit 80 degrees we couldn’t believe we were swimming in an outdoor pool in February.
The longer we stayed the more we found to do in Yuma. We visited the Arizona Marketplace, one of Yuma’s famous flea markets. As we walked through the booths catering to the huge population of RVers, we thought this is what we expected at Quartzite. One even had every kind of screw and plug and part you could ever need to fix anything in your trailer.
We went back to the historic downtown for the Yuma Date Festival. We walked through the small fair twice, bought a bag of organic dates 🙂 and walked up the block to the local coffee shop for a latte and tea. Not much of a festival by Seattle standards, but we’re not complaining when you can be outside in the sunshine in January.
We rode the bike path along the Colorado River and found nice parks at either end of the 3 mile trail with interesting signage about the history of Yuma and an old locomotive in Gateway Park. We also rode the the longer canal path, but it’s not too scenic unless you like peering into people’s backyards.
Of course being in one spot we discovered a few good local places. We ended up having dinner twice at the Prison Hill Brewery on Main Street. The Peanut Patch is a little store full of all kinds of nuts and dried fruits, both plain and chocolate covered (try the unsweetened pineapple!), ice cream, candies, souvenirs and some delectable fudge. We needed Valentine’s chocolate and the Almond Joy and Alaskan fudge did not disappoint! We had to make a return visit there too. 🙂 I also found some lovely soap at Bare Naked Soap Company.
Chuck finally convinced me to order a small solar oven called the GoSun Sport and we had fun testing it out. I miss baking, but hate to turn on the propane oven because it takes 20 minutes to preheat and warms up the inside of the trailer. This seemed like a good alternative. Once we figured out how to aim the oven correctly things got cooking. After 20 minutes our test hot dogs were bursting open. Next I lined up silicone muffin cups in the tray and filled them with batter. It’s a little tricky because you don’t really know what temperature you’re cooking at (it varies with the intensity of the sun) and thus how long it will take, but after 45 minutes we had perfectly baked hot muffins. Amazing that using only the sun you can get such good results. I’ll definitely be experimenting some more. I also tried out a recipe for chocolate lava cake in the crockpot. It was yummy! I’ll include my recipe at the bottom.
Looking for hiking in the area, I found little that was close. The most popular, a very steep hike up a service road to Telegraph Pass, seemed not very scenic unless the wildflowers were in bloom but another blogger (wheelingit.us/2013/01/20/back-in-time-to-the-heydey-of-gold-hedgestumco-ghost-town) talked about an old mining town that looked interesting (see her post for the full history of the area). Driving west from Yuma fields quickly gave way to arid desert landscape and in the distance the Imperial Sand Dunes. Taking Ogilby Road north we found the Tumco mine site at the base of the chocolate colored Muchacho Mountains.
Unfortunately, as we are finding is usually the case, the interpretive guides for the trail were long gone but there is a sign about the history of the town and it was interesting to walk among the ruins.
Afterwards we drove across the road to Gold Rock Ranch, a really old RV park that has a sort of makeshift historical museum in it’s old dusty registration building and many artifacts from the mine displayed on the grounds. We couldn’t believe anyone would pay $40/night to stay there. It was really creepy, so we skedaddled out of there.
Back across the road we explored the different boondocking options, peered through the fence at the still operating American Girl Mine, and even found a few geoglyphs. It was an interesting area that should definitely be on your list if you’re in Yuma.
So even though Yuma didn’t seem like much at first, as we spent more time there it really grew on us. If you can get past the fact that it’s dusty, especially when the wind blows across the sandy desert soil, and you regularly hear jets and helicopters from the Marine Core Air Station, the reasonable rates, cheap produce, things to do and abundant sunshine make it a hard place to beat for waiting out the winter weather.
Crock-Pot Chocolate Lava Cake
This makes a cake with a layer of fudgy sauce on the bottom. It’s rich so you can serve 3-4, especially if you top it off with vanilla ice cream! Recipe is for a 1 quart crock-pot. Double it if you have a 3 or 4 quart one.
Mix these together in a bowl:
Put 2 T cornstarch in a 1/2 cup measure. Fill the rest of the way with brown rice flour. (If you’re not gluten free just use 1/2 c of regular flour.)
2 T coconut sugar (can sub white or brown sugar)
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 t baking powder
Add and stir just until moistened:
1/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 T oil
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Pour into greased slow cooker.
In a heat proof bowl or cup combine 3/8 c. sugar and 1 T cocoa powder. Mix with 3/4 cup boiling water and slowly pour over batter in slow cooker. DO NOT STIR.
Put lid on cooker and turn on high for 1.5 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove lid and let cool a bit before scooping into bowls and topping with ice cream.