What a winter this has been. We have seen rain and snow in amounts that I think most of us never thought we'd never see again. My annual trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was not exempt from the wet winter weather. That said, the drive out there was absolutely without stress and one of the most relaxing in my experience of toting a trailer behind me. However, when I arrived a sign at the campsite said it was reserved for RVs 35 feet and longer- well - that sure wasn't me. Sigh. OK - let's go talk to the Rangers. They were very helpful and grateful that I didn't set up camp there - "it's in small print on the website - not your fault.". That was kind - if it's on the website at all I should have caught it. They gave me a new campsite and in the middle of the campground - next to the bathrooms but hey - it worked. That night I was reminded that in Southern Arizona every night is a show.
The next morning I woke up and noticed that the Tacoma key fob battery was low.
I'd recently gone through this on our trip to Hawaii last summer so I knew what to do...find a store that had one of those batteries that look like a coin and replace it. The nearest real town is Ajo which is 35 miles away. Jumped in the truck went to the little hardware store and found one of those batteries... remember when you just had a KEY? Oh, but I digress... the road back to Organ Pipe from Ajo is two lanes and a car and large truck were in front of me. The car pulled out and passed the truck and I looked to do the same but before I could do that - BAM - a rock came flying out of the truck and put a long crack in the windshield. I said a bad word. In fact- a flurry of bad words.
Called the insurance company. They said, "Drive to get it fixed now because it can spread".
"Oh, boy. Ok - where is the nearest place?"
"Well...hmmm...let me look. I guess it's a place called Casa Grande - about 110 miles".
I could only laugh. I drove the 110 miles. On the drive, well, goodness, it spread.
When I arrived I was met immediately by a tech and he told me that the windshield was not repairable - I needed a replacement and that would take a week.
Thus began my annual trip to Organ Pipe.
I returned to my campsite and then got the news that my father in law - 96 years young - was very ill and that I might be needed at home.
That put things like broken windshields in perspective.
I stayed and waited to hear if I needed to rush home - for now- he was OK. I got out my hiking shoes the next morning. The weather was cold but just fine for walking.
I've been hiking in the desert for over 50 years. In that time I have had relatively few mishaps. I have observed a few though, ie., people running into chollas and such and I always felt sorry for the victims. I thought - you know - these were rookie mistakes. Poor fools.
Well, look here.
I exacerbated the problem by attempting to knock off the cactus with my walking stick. It fell about 6 inches and buried itself into my shin. I limped back to the trailer and spent about 45 minutes yanking out spines. But what hurt the most? My pride of course...
Undeterred, I decided to walk out to the Victoria Mine the next day and it was one of the warmest and most beautiful days of the trip.
That evening I went a Ranger talk about my favorite oasis in all of the west - Quitobaquito Springs. They were sure selling an apparent "renovation" pretty hard. I decided to drive out the next day and what I saw horrified me...beyond my ability to express...If you have been following this blog for any length of time you've seen my many photos of Quitobaquito - like this one from 2019.
Here is last January
I'm still sick about it. This is, after all, a sacred spot to the Tohono O'odham nation and many of us American southwest lovers. In the last few years we were horrified that it could be damaged by its proximity to the former president's absurd and useless border wall but this is self inflicted damage by the National Park Service and their biologists. During the talk the previous night the ranger did acknowledge, "the water isn't coming back as quickly as we'd hoped".
Look, I am certainly not a biologist but I am a passionate lover of all things wild and of this particular place - I am not convinced this "upgrade was necessary" and, if it was, why it could not have been accomplished incrementally. I know I only have a few more years to enjoy Quitobaquito but I hope my grandchildren can enjoy it as their old Grandpa did... I am trying to remain optimistic and trusting of the NPS despite what my eyes saw...regardless, I know to will take awhile for it to recover...
In the meantime my friends who were supposed to join me were texting that they couldn't join due to the cold and rainy weather. I understood but it was still disappointing and added to my unusual gloom.
The rains did indeed return and it was time for me get up early and drive the 110 miles to the windshield repair shop. It was a harrowing trip. The roads were overflowing with water and the truck, in the darkness, lost grip a few times. I slowed down and got to the repair shop right on time at 8:00 AM. I was met by the manager who said, "Bad news sir. Your windshield isn't here. Can we re-schedule?".
"Uh, no. I have just driven 110 miles to get here so that isn't a good option. Couldn't you have called and let me know?".
"Just found out myself sir. If you want to wait the best case scenario is 1:00 PM".
I had to wait of course. I decided, while waiting, that maybe I should just go ahead and head home. My father in-law was improving but still not well and more rain and cold weather was on the way and my friends weren't coming. I left early the next day.
I've been coming to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument since 1993. This was not the most trouble free trip but, I'll tell you what, the worst day in Organ Pipe is better than most days anywhere else. I shall return next year but a bit later in the year. I can't wait.
See ya next year Organ Pipe!
I write about it all the time and you know, if you've been following this blog for awhile, that I am a regular at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I hope you have a place that fills your heart the way Organ Pipe fills mine.
I'm not going to bore you with too much narration on this post - if you haven't been to Southwestern Arizona and you're ever interested in going let's talk... It was nice to go when it was warmer and quieter this year in April. I was on the lookout for snakes and scorpions and the mythical Gila Monster...but, alas, I saw none...
Let's get on with the photos. With this post I'll do things a bit differently than previous posts - since I focused, to a large degree, on black and white images for this trip, we'll start there. These photos are from the first few days in Sonoran Desert heaven. The ruins at the bottom are from the Victoria Mine site.
The next series of photos are from the Ajo Mountain Drive and Puerto Blanco Road which includes photos of Bonita Well and Quitobaquito Springs as well as the trappings of the US Border Patrol. Perhaps, one day I'll devote an entire post to my interactions with the Border patrol since I'm often along the border in Arizona and New Mexico and see them regularly.
The next photos are from the Desert Walk near the Twin Peaks campground on my last day. The photo at the bottom - with the early morning sun on a saguaro - is my favorite B&W of the trip.
Let's move on to color. For those of us growing up around the Mojave the Sonoran Desert always surprises us with its color. This year- after all the rain - and going in April was marvelous.
There is an oasis out there called Quitobaquito Springs home to the Quitobaquito (Sonoyta) Pupfish. I cherish it. Here is an afternoon panorama and other images.
I've spent many hours on the bench in the photo above simply soaking in the beauty and history and solitude. No place on earth I'd rather be...
I hope you enjoyed coming along. Catch ya down the road...
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.