Camping at Santa Rosa Lake State Park

 

As we headed towards New Mexico, we had no idea how many miles we would make in a day. We like being free to stop and see things that catch our eye, so we rarely make campground reservations ahead of time. We crossed Texas and into New Mexico with no plan other than “We’ll stop at a state park somewhere for the night.” Our first thought was Ute Lake State Park, but once we looked at how far it was off our route we decided to head further west to Santa Rosa Lake State Park.  First our GPS had tried to take us down a narrow, dirt, county road. We stopped and looked at the map, and saw that the road  did go toward the lake itself, but not necessarily toward  the state park on the lakeshore. We pulled up the satellite view of the region, and couldn’t see any obvious  roads to get over to the park from the county road, so we decided to turn around and go back to the paved road. The Google maps directions to the park were much better than the GPS tried to send us down! then, the first set of gates we passed through said Santa Rosa Lake, but read Corps of Engineers, not State Park. We realized that a Corps of Engineers campground would do just as well, so long as they were actually open, so we kept going.  We drove down winding roads past administration buildings, and the visitor center and an observation point. Finally we started seeing signs for the campground, and when we got there it turns out it was the state park!

 

We arrived well after dark, which is not at all unusual for us for an overnight stop on a travel day. The campground was not full, but neither was it empty, probably because we happen to be there on a Friday night. It was, however, quiet, both during the night and the next morning. we awoke early because of the time change, but didn’t get on the road very early. We took the morning to take care of some housekeeping, take showers, and do some lessons. Then we hit the road right after lunch. We would definitely stop here again when traveling along I-40!

If You Go to Santa Rosa Lake State Park

Rates for a campsite with an electric hook-up were $14 per night. A self pay station is available at the entrance to the campground. There’s a bathhouse with flush toilets and showers, although in the words of my children, the showers were “temperamental,” fluctuating between hotter and colder. The men’s and women’s bath houses were clean and each had  2 shower stalls, and 2-4 toilets. 

Each campsite features a barbecue grill and a picnic table, some with shade ramadas.  There were both pull-through and back-in sites. My children especially enjoyed the small play area adjacent to the bathhouse. The ones who were waiting to take a shower were able to blow off some steam in the meantime.

 

Eating healthy while traveling

My family have long been fans of spaghetti squash as a replacement for white pasta. We made some for our friends the little zebra dragons, who made a funvideo of their taste test.

However, it’s hard for us to cook spaghetti squash in the RV. We don’t have an oven, only a two burner range. As much as we like spaghetti squash, we had to look for other vegetable-based pasta replacements. I often see zucchini “noodles” and butternut squash “noodles” in the refrigerated produce section of the grocery stores. These products look great, except for the price tag. Customers pay more for convenience, and in this case, you pay a lot for the convenience of not having to turn a vegetable into thin strips. So for a while, I cut a zucchini into strips by hand with a knife for me, while making my children eat regular pasta. Yes, my children prefer spaghetti squash to “regular” spaghetti! I have weird kids who like their veggies.

Then, one day, my husband was browsing the clearance section at the grocery store when he found a small spiralizer on clearance for $0.75. this little device is shaped like a cone, and and as you place the zucchini inside the cone and turn it, like sharpening a pencil with a hand sharpener, it creates long thin noodles of zucchini, or “zoodles.” I haven’t tried it with any other vegetables yet. The vegetable would have to be cut into a shape that would fit inside the cone.

Making zoodles with meat sauce

The zoodles cook quickly in a skillet, with a little bit of oil or butter.

This is much easier than boiling a pot of water to cook a traditional pasta, especially when boondocking in the desert, where water conservation is a must. The zoodles could be topped with almost anything. They would be yummy with some butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. They could be topped with an alfredo sauce and a protein such as chicken breast. This time however I chose to serve them with a tomato-based meat sauce.

Once the zoodles were cooked, I removed them from the skillet to a plate. That I was able to use the same skillet to brown ground beef. I added diced onion, bell pepper, and mmushrooms. Once the meat was browned, and the vegetables were soft, I added jarred spaghetti sauce. I could have used plain tomato sauce instead and seasoned it myself.

 

The zoodles had cooled a little, but once I poured the piping hot sauce over them it was all good!

 

The first time we visited Arizona, we wanted to visit a friend in Apache Junction, just outside of Phoenix. We  decided to camp at Lost Dutchman State Park.  We didn’t have a reservation, but sites were available. The sites were not large, but adequate, and were very clean and attractive.The best part was the view of the Superstitions, right from our campsite.  The movement of the sun throughout the day means the view is ever-changing as the light plays across the rugged rock faces.

 

Lovely view of the Superstition Mountains

The showers were especially convenient at this park.  Rather than having showers inside each restroom, a couple of showers were located on the back side of the bathroom building. Each consisted of a individual shower and changing area, behind a secure locking door. This arrangement allows couples to shower together, mothers to supervise their sons,  and aides or caregivers to assist disabled visitors easily.  The water was hot  and there was plenty of parking (which was nice since our campsite was not close to the bathhouse!)

Each campsite has a fire ring with a cooking grate and a picnic table.  We really enjoyed being able to sit outside and enjoy the views while we studied !

What a great classroom!

Visiting Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park is open year-round. Camping rates are  $15 – $20/night for a non-electric site and  $25 – $30/night for sites with electric and water hookups. There are 138 campsites, 68 of which have hookups. A dump station is also available.  For park visitors who are not camping, there is a day-use entry fee of $7/vehicle. ($3 for a bicycle)

Lost Dutchman State Park has several hiking trails. Descriptions can be found on the park website. There are also hiking trails outside the state park.

The park hosts a variety of events for visitors as well. These range from guided nature hikes and birding events, to musical performances or stargazing events. Curly particularly enjoyed participating in a birding walk while we were visiting.

Groceries and supplies are widely available in Apache Junction. For bargains on produce, we go to Superstition Ranch Market.  This produce store features a wide selection of fruits and vegetables at bargain prices. There are also traditional supermarkets, restaurants,  a Planet Fitness, Wal-Mart, home improvement stores, and auto parts stores. There are public parks with playgrounds. There is also a museum, the Superstition Mountain Museum, and a tourist attraction called  Goldfield Ghost Town, neither of which we visited.

Although now we boondock in the Tonto National Forest when we visit Apache Junction, if you want a hookups and a bathhouse, Lost Dutchman State Park is a beautiful setting.

The Flandreau Science Center & Planetarium is located on the University of Arizona campus. Flandrau offers hands-on science exhibits, a planetarium, and on the lower level,  the University of Arizona Mineral Museum. We visited because we got free admission with our WNC Nature Center membership, as part of the ASTC Travel Passport program.  We enjoyed the hands-on activities, but found the museum to be small. Had we paid regular admission prices, we would have been disappointed.

The Mineral Museum in the basement had a great selection of mineral specimens and some spectacular fossils. 

 

If You Visit

Flandreau Science Center & Planetarium is open Monday-Thursday from 9 AM to 5  PM, Fridays from 9 AM to 10 PM , Saturdays from 10 AM to 10 PM, and Sundays from 12 PM to 5 PM. 

Regular admission is $12 for kids aged 4-17 and $16 for adults. (Kids 3 and under are free.)

For directions and parking, see the website.