Snowbirding Recap 2023

We are back home in Minnesota now after three months of snowbirding in our Fifth Wheel Trailer at Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort. This winter in Arizona was colder, wetter and windier than recent years. Most days high temperatures were in the 60’s, with only a handful of days above 75 degrees. The cooler weather was fine for hiking and bike riding, but not for the pool. Wayne played golf whether it was cool or warm, as long as it was dry.

Our first time here in February 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown, we rented a Park Model home for one month. That time we brought everything we needed except for food. I did not feel comfortable venturing out much on my own. The second year we rented for two months, but it was the height of the pandemic in 2021, so we kept to ourselves, avoiding stores and restaurants. Our third winter in Arizona, 2022, was the first in our new RV. That year we stayed for two months. This winter of 2023 we stayed in our RV for three months. It felt more like we were living there, rather than being on vacation. I got to know my way around the area, and felt more comfortable going out and about with the help of the GPS lady on my phone.

I worked on two weaving projects in Arizona this year (worsted weight hand towels, and cloth napkins). There is not a good set up for warping the loom in the RV, so I had to use a common room in the resort community building. After the warping part, while working on these projects in the RV, I had to keep shuffling the loom and box all around. I brought yarn for a third project that I did not use, because I would have felt rushed trying to finish it before we had to leave. I completed a couple of small knitting projects, and a larger knitting project that I worked on most of the time we were in AZ. I will be posting about them later. Maybe I will bring more knitting projects next year instead of the loom, since they do not take up as much room and are more portable.

With the cooler, wetter, weather this year it was more green and there were many wild flowers on the hiking trails and everywhere including highway ditches. I saw my first rattlesnake right next to a hiking trail. Someone coming the other way on the trail gave us a heads up about the snake, so we were watching for it. The snake was under a bush, but poked its head out, so we hung back and waited while it crossed the trail. After that I was a little apprehensive about going hiking!!

A rattlesnake crossed the trail right in front of us!
Our last hike before leaving Gold Canyon
Flowering cactus on a hiking trail

Last year we left Arizona a few days before our reservation ended because Wayne had tickets for the Master’s Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA. This year we stayed as long as we could. It was cooler than normal here, but at home in Minnesota the winter was ridiculous. The night of March 28 it got down to -16 Fahrenheit in Otter Tail County. That is normal for January, but not late March. There was a lot of snow at home including two snowstorms with blizzard conditions in April.

Meanwhile I have read that there was hardly any snow in New England. In the summer of 2020 we had 25 inches of rain and our lake was the highest it has ever been, with water lapping up over the top of the dock. Last year and the year before it was as low as it has been in recent years. Our daughter and her boyfriend were in Lake Tahoe in March. I had seen photos on social media of all the snow there, but was not sure if they were photoshopped or real. They were real. All over it is one extreme or another.

Our daughter’s boyfriend in an Airbnb rental at Lake Tahoe in March

Wayne did not want to go home to the wintery conditions, but we had some things going on there starting the second week of April. Following is a look at our street at the RV resort, with our site and RV in the lower right of the photo as we prepared to leave. You can see the Superstition Mountains where we do a lot of hiking in the background.

The view down our street in Gold Canyon
Getting ready to leave Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort

Our little dog, Lyla, was getting very anxious when she saw us packing up to go. I found a good solution, carrying her around in the doggy backpack I made for her a few years go. She was very content there.

Lyla was content riding around in her doggy backpack while we packed to go

Wayne checked lights and turn signals while I used the restroom in the community building one last time before we left at noon on April 1.

Ready to leave Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort

After leaving Gold Canyon we drove south instead of north, taking the long way home. It was the first time we had packed up the RV, driven three hours, and set it up again at a different RV park.

We arrived that afternoon at Butterfield RV Resort and Observatory in Benson, AZ, about 45 miles east of Tucson. This RV park was quite a bit smaller, but pleasant and attractive. After checking in, we found our RV site and Wayne managed to back in without too much trouble, avoiding a light post on one side and a picnic table on the other side. We started in on our detailed RV set up checklist of things to do when we get to a campsite, such as leveling the RV both side to side and front to back, disconnecting the truck, connecting the utilities, putting the slides out, etc. It is a slow process for us as we have only done this a few times and are worried about messing something up.

While we were working on setting up, I noticed another very large fifth wheel trailer arrive at the empty site next to us. The wife stood outside spotting while the husband backed right in easily. I am not sure how much time went by, but it seemed like about 10 minutes later I looked over again and they were sitting in lawn chairs drinking a beverage, seemingly all done with their setup process. WHAT?? We still had a long ways to go. It turned out they left first thing the next morning, so I think they did not do all the normal set up stuff.

At one point during set up I took Lyla for a short walk, leaving Wayne on his own. This turned out to be a mistake. When I got back I looked in the RV door to see water pouring over the side of the kitchen counter. I shouted to Wayne to turn the water off quickly, then he came around to survey the situation. We were able to mop up a lot of water on the floor and counter with beach towels. Apparently the faucet was in the ON position when Wayne connected the water and turned it on, and there was also a bowl in the sink covering up the drain. The sink filled up and the water started overflowing. I was not there to catch this situation before there was water all over. Lessons learned. It takes two people to do the setup. Make sure the faucet is in the off position before turning on the water. Lyla was stressing out, so I put her on the bed where she looked worried but finally settled down for a nap. I felt stressed out too, but I did not get a nap.

Lyla out of sorts during RV setup

After the setting up was complete, there seemed to be a problem with the electric power caused by the water running down the side of the kitchen counter. The electrical outlets all worked for charging phones, running the coffee maker, toaster and microwave, etc, but the LED lighting was dim, and worse, the refrigerator was not working.

Earlier in the day I had told Wayne that we should eat the leftovers we had with us for dinner, but by now it was 6:30 and our new plan was to go out to eat instead. After a nice meal at a nearby Mexican restaurant we went to a local ice cream place. Back at the RV we ended up putting food from the refrigerator in coolers with ice for the night. As long as we had water and could use the electrical outlets, I could deal with using coolers instead of the fridge for another three or four nights of RV use until we got back home. A few blocks away a train went by regularly but it was white noise to me. I actually slept fairly well, but Wayne tossed and turned all night thinking about what might have happened with the electricity, making an appointment for service when we got back home, how much this was going to cost to fix, etc.

Early the next morning while I was still half asleep in bed I heard sounds that sounded to me like train clanking noises. Later when I got up Wayne announced that whatever electrical problem had happened, everything was now working including the refrigerator! It was very mysterious. However that sound I heard earlier had actually been a large motor home crashing into a tree not too far away from us. Wayne thinks possibly they were leaving the RV park and the owner stepped out of the motorhome to check the lights or something while it was running. There was a slight incline, so the motorhome started rolling away down the street, stopping when the front driver side hit the tree. It was very lucky that the breakaway RV did not hit any other vehicles or people. A large tow truck came and got the rig pulled back onto the street and up onto a trailer.

A runaway motorhome crashed into a tree
Crashed motorhome on the trailer heading for repair

When we got back from an outing later that day, the refrigerator was not working again. Later we realized that the hot water heater was not working either. After witnessing the other RV being towed away, I did not want to complain about using coolers for keeping food cold and taking a shower in the community building for a couple of days.

We signed up for an evening session at the RV Park’s Observatory, but it ended up being cancelled due to the windy conditions. We had some fun daytime activities while in the Benson, AZ, area, including a day trip to the town of Bisbee near the Mexican border, a couple of hours in the old west town of Tombstone, a cave tour at Kartchner Caverns State Park, and hiking at Chiricahua National Monument. Both Bisbee and Tombstone have multiple blocks of original old west buildings that are on the National Historic Register.

Bisbee, Arizona

Tombstone is the location of the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight. It was pretty quiet the afternoon we were there.

Tombstone, Arizona

Kartchner Cavern State Park has a huge multi room cave discovered by two college students in 1974. They did not tell anyone else about it for several years for fear of it getting damaged. Eventually they told the owners of the land, James and Lois Kartchner, and working together they were able to make it into a state park with the support of The Nature Conservancy and Governor Bruce Babbitt, who was a Geologist. The cave was very carefully developed for public access while preserving it as much as possible in the original condition. I do not have any photos as that was not allowed during the cave tour.

Chiricahua National Monument is a cool area described as “a wonderland of rocks” with a scenic drive, camping, and hiking trails. We did a two hour hike through amazing scenery, barely finishing before it started getting dark out.

Rock formations at Chiricahua National Monument
Scene while hiking at Chiricahua National Monument

After four nights at Butterfield RV Resort we closed up the RV and began the drive home, with plans to stay in hotels for three nights until we got back to Minnesota. There was one more adventure on the agenda. After leaving Benson we drove east through the rest of Arizona and into New Mexico, arriving at White Sands National Park in the late afternoon. The visitor center was closed for the day, but we headed out on the eight mile scenic drive. It looked like Otter Tail County, MN, in the winter but instead of snow the landscape is composed of pure white sand. We got out of the car a few times and took photos. We stayed in a hotel in nearby that night.

Wayne at White Sands National Park, with our truck and RV in the background
The sun going down at White Sands National Park

We have a security camera at our house to keep an eye on things while we are gone. The main thing Wayne watches is how much snow is in the driveway. Following is the view a few days before we arrived home. Wayne put a call in to the snowplow guy so we could at least get a path to the garage.

Our driveway in Minnesota on April 5

There were two more nights in hotels before we arrived in Fargo, ND, to drop off the RV for repair. After stopping in Fergus Falls, MN, to get a few groceries we arrived at our home by dinnertime on Saturday, April 8.

The amount of snow was very discouraging, but at least were were welcomed home with a pretty sunset.

The weather warmed up quickly after we got home. A lot of snow has melted now leaving our driveway wet and muddy. We had to drive to Minneapolis for a couple of days where the high today was an unusually warm 86 degrees. It never got that warm the whole time we were in Arizona!!

Published by Meg Hanson

Hello. I am a recently retired empty nester. My husband and I moved to Jewett Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, after living most of our lives in the Minneapolis area. I have no trouble keeping busy with knitting and spinning of wool, selling yarn and handmade goods, reading, walking, watching movies, surfing on the internet, traveling, doing bookkeeping for our family cabin, and spending time with family.

12 thoughts on “Snowbirding Recap 2023

  1. Your trip home sounds like a real adventure. We have had our camper for six years, and it still takes both of us to set up and break down – and it’s not a 5th wheel! We missed the wildflowers in Arizona by about three weeks, but we went to Chiricahua and Bisbee too. Such a beautiful park! Hopefully you will see spring weather soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are so many amazing places and things to see in the southwest! I am not sure if the fifth wheel is any harder to set up, but I think whatever kind of RV you have it is good to do the set up and take down together.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting recap! And what a calamity of errors at the RV park in Benson! First the water, the electric and a runaway RV! Oh my! I hope someday to see Chiricahua as it looks so unique! The best thing is you are home safe and sound. Hopefully, the RV repair won’t cost too much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad to be home. I think you can use your trailer at Chiricahua. There are so many cool things to see in the southwest. I highly recommend the cave tour also. Very fascinating. Have fun with your summer 2023 camping trips!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing! I’ve never vacationed in an RV, but I feel as if I now have a good idea of what it is like, and I can sure see the attraction. Even though things go wrong (just like they do with cars), it seems like a fun and independent way to take a long-term vacation. My brother-in-law and his wife have spent that last few Winters in Arizona, but they rent a mobile home from January through March. They love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes many people rent. Or at the place where we stay they want you to buy a park model small 400 sq ft home. We stayed in one of those thr first 2 years (rented) and it was perfect for the purpose. It is so nice to go outside without worrying about slipping on ice and snow.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There is always something new to explore where ever you are! Now I am glad to be home and looking forward to starting some new projects after I get things under control. Thanks for reading!


  4. We’ve pretty much got the setup and tear down on our (much smaller than yours) travel trailer down to a fine art. We still have a checklist though! My husband is paranoid about the water and always makes sure I’m inside to keep an eye on both the kitchen and bathroom sinks when he hooks the water up. Of course, we did have the kitchen sink fall out during one of our trips a couple of months ago.🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope we get to a point where we feel comfortable. You can bet I will be watching the 2 sinks while Wayne turns on the water in the future!! I can’t believe your sink fell out. I hope it was more funny than a big problem. These things do make for good stories later!!


  6. Hi Meg – we also have a detailed checklist. It is a life saver after we have been staying in one place for two months. When we are just staying overnight, we don’t unhitch, making setup easier and leaving faster. Going slow and making sure you’ve got everything is the way to go!


  7. When you leave your 5th wheel attached for a 1 night stay do you level it, and put the legs and stabilizer jacks down? Do you put the slides out? We have two slides in the living room/ kitchen, so when they are closed we cannot use the kitchen. I can barely squeeze in if we have to get something, but it is not usable. We have a third slide that goes across the bathroom and bedroom, adding closet space. If that is closed we can still access the bedroom and bathroom.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: