This is What We Love

At night, it’s pitch black, and there is absolutely no sound, except for our own quiet movements.  During the daytime hours, there’s an occasional Park Service vehicle that putts past, or the shuffling sounds of footsteps on the gravely roadbed, as other campers wander past.  Other than that?  Magnificent silence. 20150106_173604 The Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe National Monument inspires grandiose thoughts (of which this blog is a notable exception).  We’re in the No Generator section, and there’s not another camper within shouting distance.  Oh yeah, we are loving this spot!

This is an enormous Organ Pipe Cactus.  (on site 22, if you care about such things)20150107_171129Here’s another one, out in the Sonoran Desert.  We are in the northernmost range where Organ Pipes grow.  There aren’t as many as we expect – there are lots more Saguaros here.  Many of the Organ Pipes look like they don’t have many years left.20150107_122848Earlier this year, I posted several photos of crested Saguaro cacti, those which had a genetic twist, or defect that cause a wondrous crest to appear.  That same trait appears in the Organ Pipe. We saw a spectacular example on our bike ride this afternoon.20150108_140348And yet another, in its final days upright.20150108_161941So, here we are, plopped out in the middle of the desert, just six miles north of the Border.  There are very few other campers here.  There are a few services – we have flush toilets nearby, and three solar showers (more about that later) in this 207 space campground.  It’s immaculate.  The Rangers and Volunteers couldn’t be any nicer, or more helpful.  Many of the campers seems to be like us – on the small side – lots of Casitas, Aliners, one T@B, and a few popups.  There are about five tents.  It’s awesome.20150108_17415520150108_174140A hike seems to be in order for our first full day here.  There are several trails, but some of them require driving to a trailhead.  After a long day in the Firetruck the day before, it doesn’t take much discussion for us to decide to hike to the Victoria Mine, an abandoned silver mine.  Beyond that lies the Lost Cabin Mine.  Our round trip will be 7.8 miles, about right – a decent hike, but nothing that we will (probably) regret undertaking.

It’s an perfect day for a stroll.  The desert stretches out ahead or us, and the Trail points us toward the hills where the mines were located.  In the distance, the hills we see are located in Mexico.  Both mines have a few deteriorating structures to examine, testament to the care with which they were constructed.  20150107_132817There’s a huge wheel left behind at the Victoria Mine site.20150107_134502We have lunch in the one spot of shade we can find at the Victoria Mine.  It’s difficult for me to imagine the isolation of these sites.  They are remote now, but 150 years ago?20150107_133152Near the Lost Cabin Mine is a most curious rock.  I want to haul it home!20150107_123802Eight miles turns out to be about our limit.  We return to camp exhausted, and in a big hurry to ditch our boots.  Sadly, Jezzy has been waiting for us to return, and needs a walk of her own (my turn).  I logged nearly 11 miles on foot today!20150107_144925In our absence, the campground Ravens have decided that our site is the one to ravage.  They’ve knocked the grease tray off our grill and pecked (licked?) it clean.  Jezzy’s gnawing bone has also been worked over.  These guys are bold!  They could care less that we are standing nearby – our menacing postures don’t scare them.20150108_103811Day 2 means Bike Ride!  The Ajo Mountain Drive is calling our name.  It’s a 21 mile, rutted, scenic gravel road up and around Ajo Mountain.  Turns out to be a fantastic, but leg-crushing, ride. We huffed and puffed our way through the first eight, generally uphill miles, then found a bit of relief – about the same time it started to rain in earnest.  What a mixed bag that was!  The aroma of creosote, from the thousands of nearby bushes, fills the air.  The desert here, the greenest I’ve ever experienced, intensified into a lush, verdant hue. Seemed like it was instantaneous.  I can’t believe this is the same brown Sonoran Desert we see around Tucson.20150108_144030 I’m so sorry that my camera couldn’t adequately capture the spectacular color.  We stopped numerous times just to marvel at the magnificent landscape.20150108_144409We were both happy to see the highway at the end of the Trail – it was a jarring ride, with lots of loose gravel and big stones to keep us on our toes. We’re not in great shape for this kind of riding (although I have logged an astonishing 55K steps in two days on my Vivofit.  I figured out a way to get a bit of credit for cycling!)

This has been a fantastic camp.  Lightly used, unspoiled, full of history and natural beauty.  Our first night here, John spied the Lovejoy Comet – we had a HUGE dark sky full of stars.  Amazing.  The Ranger program on Day 2  related stories of the constellations – Greek, Roman, and Native American.  Sadly, it was an overcast night, and we were forced to imagine the constellations, instead of viewing them from the impressive amphitheater at the campground.  Kudos to the staff here – they work hard to promote Organ Pipe National Monument, which appears to have modest traffic.

Speaking of overcast…. a solar shower requires sunshine to heat the water.  While we were happy to hike and bike in an overcast sky, it meant a cool shower on Day 2, and a really cold shower on Day 3!  Combine Day 3’s water temperature with a amp towel that was left hanging outside in the rain while we were cycling…, wipe that image from your mind – bad, BAD visual!  This would have been a good time to use the Fireball’s shower, for sure.  If I had known how cold the water would actually be…..We only have towel each – it’s a SMALL camper!  There are pluses and minuses.

On Friday, we will head to another brand new destination for us.  We are in desperate need of ice (having no refrigeration), and a laundromat would not be an unwelcome sight.  We know ice is in our path, but laundry facilities are probably not in sight for a few days.  Be happy that you don’t have to camp next to us for the next few days!  (We’re betting nobody else will be near us, either!)




20 thoughts on “This is What We Love

  1. You two are amazing in the way you seem to be able to get more than your money’s worth out of every camping experience and for the way that you are able to pass it on to those of us enjoying your trip from afar.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post hits all the reasons that I love to camp out away from it all, the peace and quiet, the wonder of a starry night, and the natural beauty of the world around us if we take the time to see it. You obviously have!


  3. The stars must be absolutely breath..taking. I was through that area when I was 16…still vivid memories. Jezzy’s bone?!!! Bad raven!!!!


    • Jezzy is willing to share, but she sure is giving that bone a wary eye now. Much be all sorts of interesting scents there! This is a gorgeous area – we are already planning our next trip. There’s lots of good hiking being left unhiked!


  4. Wonderful post, as always, Campshaws!!! Love those photos (especially the discarded hiking boots!) The cacti are spectacular and Fireball looks very happy nestled between them in the sunset! Did you ever get your fridge situation settled?

    Looking forward to the next Campshaw adventure.


    • Thanks, Susan. One of the best parts of a hike is always taking your boots off.

      No resolution on fridge yet. We will order one when we get to Green Valley next month. Nobody stocks them, and we’ve got no shipping address for now. So, we’re using our fridge as an icebox….keeping ice in a plastic container in the freezer compartment. We always carry a big cooler as well. Bad thing is that we are miles away from an ice source here…..that’s the reason why we’re moving on today. Load up with ice, and boondock for the next three days!


  5. Great pictures and commentary – as always! (It was pretty silent last night back in ol’ GR with the foot of snow that got dumped on us.)


  6. Hi Judy,
    Once again you’ve captured the spirit and essence of the environment in your narrative quite nicely. I too love the desert and spent years wandering about it many years ago in my early twenties. There’s something metaphysical and meditative about walking in the desert. I never went hiking but I could walk for 6 miles or so before realizing it. I’ll add this to our list of places we haven’t been to yet :-) Looking forward to your next installment.


      • Hi Judy,
        We’re so looking forward to spending our first night in The Heart of Gold next week down in Florida. As it is, we have firm plans this year to spend more nights in him than we will at home so I just have to be a bit more patient :-) Boy, I’ll bet you’re glad you aren’t home in Michigan right now :-)


      • We are indeed happy to be missing the snow and cold at home, although I was disappointed that we didn’t get snow in December while we were there.

        The longer you camp, the better it gets. We’re hoping to beat last year’s 179 nights in the Fireball, too. I love our home and community in Michigan, but am happy to be out exploring for the time being.

        Enjoy Florida.


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