Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Organ Pipe National Monument and the Senoran Desert

Sorry, this is going to be a long post since I haven't had internet access on the laptop.  The wifi here at the Mesa RV Resort is nothing short of useless.  So here is what we've been up to.

Since I finished up so quickly at the Tucson Gem Show, we had lots of time to do some site seeing.  We thought we would go south east and check out the Organ Cactus National Monument.  On the way there we stopped at a county park - somethin, somethin Mountain Park where we ate our picnic lunch and enjoyed the scenery. We continued the drive through the Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation, past Kitt Peak Observatory, and we STILL weren't there.

That's the observatory, way up on top
 As it got dark, the mountains were so pretty

 At one point we got stopped by a random border patrol checkpoint since we were within about 20 miles or so of the border with Mexico.  It was getting dark so we decided to find a cheap motel and go to the park in the morning.  There were no places to stay on the Indian Reservation, so we went to a town called Ajo (Ah-Ho).  Truly in the middle of no where.  It used to be a thriving copper mining community, but now its just a tiny town in the middle of the desert. 

We found a motel with cute little cabins and a Pizza Hut open.  By cute cabins, I mean they were about the size of a toolshed, and the bed uncomfortable.  We didn't get much sleep.

This was outside one of the cabins...boys and their toys!

 The next morning we headed to the National Park.  It is right on the Mexico border, so we were stopped 2 more times by the border patrol.  The first time I thought it was kind of cool, but they were pretty rude and not very efficient. There is a truck cap on the truck with lots of containers and a tarp covering the tool box, they didn't even look in there.  I asked if I was allowed to take a picture and one of the officers crossed his arms and said "It's a free country".  Smart ass.  I took a picture as we were pulling out that I was going to put on facebook but it came out too blurry.

 A cactus wren...ouch
 some kind of western flicker
 some of the cactus were hilarious...
 these two look like one is giving the other a hug!
 a kestrel
 what strange bird is this?
 taking a short hike

 old eagle eyes can sure spot the wildlife!
 An organ pipe cactus, the namesake of this national park

 we saw some gamble quail
 Some burro that we think are wild
 a deformity on a cactus called a "crest" - I thought it was pretty
 that is the controversial fence along the border between the US and Mexico
in the background going up that hill

So anyway, we oohed and ahhhed our way into the national park.  The mountains were beautiful, the cactus and variety of plants were interesting.  We were advised by some other tourists (the lady that took our picture at the sign) to be sure and take the 21 mile loop drive.  So we did.  The problem, however, is that those 21 miles weren't on paved road, but a rocky, rutted dirt road!  Each turn and climb brought beautiful views, and we saw a coyote, some quail and other birds, but by the end, all that jostling around had me about in tears.  Even Noel's back was hurting. 

We stopped at the visitors center, and we had a taste of candy made from the saguaro cactus fruit.  Yummy!  The Sonoran Desert is just a fascinating place with both fascinating biological, geological and anthropological significance.  It's hard not to think of the desert as just some dry, over-baked hostile landscape, but the Sonoran Desert is full of incredible wildlife and plant species that have adapted to the conditions in magnificent ways!  It really is much more beautiful than I imagined it to be, and the sunsets here, even from the campground are stunning.  I guess its the dust and the drifting pollution from California that make the sunsets here so colorful, but since this is all new to me, I'm enjoying them immensely!

 I'm not using any filters to edit these pictures - the sky really is this color!

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