When Things Don’t Go Your Way: Willcox, AZ and the Chiricahua National Monument

After our cool stay at City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico, we were off to a new state! We were so excited to get to Arizona. I’d had a good feeling about Arizona for a long time, and we had a lot we wanted to see there (in fact, we’re currently still in Arizona! We did take a small detour to CA, but we are back in AZ now).

I was so excited to cross into AZ! I took this picture from Trudy as we drove past.

We made a stop in Willcox, AZ – right off Interstate 40 – to go see the Chiricahua National Monument. Our full-time RVing friends Arwen and Tom told us it the best thing they saw in Arizona, and their opinion held a lot of weight with us. Plus it was a good “in between” stop since Tuscon (our intended destination) was a long drive from City of Rocks. So, perfect. We’ll spend a couple days in Williams, go check out Chiricahua, and be on our way to Tuscon!

It all sounded good on paper, but as life goes, not everything works out the way you want it to. I’ve been very honest on this blog so far, and that is not going to stop! I considered glossing over this bad couple of days and just writing about Tuscon, but I think it’s important to also talk about things that aren’t fun and cool, but are still very much a part of our adventure.

We earned our AZ sticker in Willcox

Willcox KOA

Willcox KOA. Our home for 2 days. I mentioned in this post how places like a KOA are a last resort for us. However, there is nothing in Willcox, which is a very small town just off the interstate that offers some truck stops and fast food and that’s about it. There weren’t many options for camping, so we just went with what had the best reviews.

Tim showing off one of the only forms of entertainment in Willcox – tumbleweeds

The Willcox KOA was literally a gravel parking lot. You can see the gravel in the photo above – the entire place was loose gravel. It is also right on the interstate, which is good for ease of getting off and on the road, but the road noise was insane. I-40 is a very, very busy road – all day and all night. The road noise was so bad at all hours that I had to use my white noise machine to drown it out at night, or there would have been no way I would have slept.

Trudy at the Willcox KOA. Can you see the Semi on I-40 in the background?

We did have full hookups at the KOA, but on our second day, one of the staff members came around and disconnected everyone’s water at night, to avoid any freezing/bursting in the water lines. The problem was, he was a bit too rough with ours, and broke the water connection entirely, leaving water gushing out from the ground – by the time we noticed this in the morning, Trudy was sitting in a huge puddle. We couldn’t even step out of our door without stepping in water. Not to mention the connection was broken, so we couldn’t get any water in our RV. So although the staff were apologetic, there was no offer of a refund of any sort. So we paid $45 a night (expensive, IMO) for full hookups that didn’t even end up being full hookups.

Picture of the flood under Trudy at the Willcox KOA

I think this KOA is having a lot of growing pains as they are expanding and under construction. They did try – so for that reason, I can’t hate on them completely. But I’d also think twice before staying there again. I did have quite a laundry debacle here, though. I did a ton of laundry in their laundry room, but the dryers hardly worked! I ended up spending $5 a load just to dry the clothes (usually this should cost about $1.50), and they still weren’t dry. Laundry usually takes me about 2-3 hours so I had started at 5pm thinking I’d be done in time to put Calla to bed, but because the dryers didn’t dry, it was 10pm and my clothes were still wet. I complained to the office and they told me that they’ve had a lot of trouble with their dryers, and gave me $10 of my money back. But I shouldn’t have to spend $40 to do 4 loads of laundry, nor should I have to spend 5 hours doing it! I ended up hanging up some of the clothes in Trudy to fully dry. That was the worst laundry experience I’ve had thus far on the road!

Playing on the sad bit of playground equipment at the KOA. At least they had something!

 

Weather

We didn’t get quite the warm weather welcome to Arizona that I had anticipated in my head. Instead, what do we get? SNOW. It rained and snowed for the entire two days that we were in Willcox. It was also super windy. Where was the sun and cacti? Don’t worry, I got plenty of those later, but in the moment, I was a bit disappointed.

Bad weather is hard in an RV. If we didn’t have a child, we could just hunker down and read and watch TV. But Calla isn’t really cool with that, and she needs to expend some energy! Luckily, puddles are an excellent form of entertainment for her, and due to the gravel and all the rain, we had plenty of those. We bundled her up and she jumped in a lot of puddles those 2 days!

Puddles…puddles everywhere

 

Chiricahua National Monument

Despite the bad weather and “meh” experience at the KOA, we were excited to go see the Chiricahua National Monument. It’s a solid hour from Willcox, into the middle of nowhere (zero cell coverage, so beware). We had seen all of the pictures of all of the balancing rocks online, and we couldn’t wait to see them with our own two eyes (or should I say six eyes?).

One thing we noticed as we drove to Chiricahua is that the weather was rapidly declining. The temperature kept dropping, and the breaks of sun became scarce. In going up to the national monument, you climb 3,000 feet or more – this was our first lesson in the vast elevation changes in Arizona and how they impact the weather.

It was snowing – big, fat flakes of snow – when we got to Chiricahua. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful – huge pine trees, amazing rock formations, rivers flowing over large rocks. But we quickly realized the clouds were going to hamper the views of what Chiricahua is all about – the balancing rocks.

This is supposed to be one of the best views of the balancing rocks. You can see how good our view was!

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. We drove all this way, paid $90 for 2 nights at a gravel parking lot, and we weren’t even able to see what we came for! We decided to head out on foot and see if we could see anything that way. Well, that lasted a hot second. We made it maybe 5 minutes on the hiking trail before we realized that it just wasn’t going to work out to go as a family. Calla was miserable (she hates the cold) and her tantrum was ruining any accord we had with nature, anyway.

Photo evidence of Calla’s misery in the cold

We decided that the best we could do would be for one of us to stay in the car with Calla (yay, heat) and the other could go hike for a little bit, then we’d switch.

Snacks in a warm car. She suddenly got much happier.

We each hiked for about a half an hour in the snow, and we did enjoy the scenery. I can only imagine how beautiful it is when the clouds are lifted and you can actually see. Here are some pictures:

It felt like a lot of things went wrong during our visit to Willcox and Chiricahua. Someday we’d like to go back and check out the monument on a clear day. I think if the weather was better and we actually got to explore Chiricahua, we’d consider our stay in Willcox 100% worth it. Things just didn’t line up for us this time, and that’s life!

 

Date Visited: February 2018

2 Comments

  1. Another great article. Reminds us we can’t always expect things to go right! By the way, that’s the I-10, not the I-40. There is a museum in town worth seeing. There you can learn about the train robbery that took place 3 miles from town. The bandits stacked bags of silver dollars against the safe to pack the dynamite in place but they used to many sticks – blew the car to smitherines and scattered silver dollars all over the desert which are occasionally still being found with metal detectors. I tried my luck but didn’t find any, but there is always next time!

    1. Hey Mark! Oops you’re right, I-10! gets hard to keep it all straight! Whoa, that sounds like a fun little adventure, especially if you could find some silver dollars!

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