Dusty Arizona

It feels great to be rolling along in the Fireball again, although we are already (after only a week) missing the creature comforts of a real shower, big bed, and room to stretch. Not to mention several choices of radio stations. Anyway….

After a one-night shakedown in Tucson to make sure water, electrical and other systemsare all working, we headed to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) for two nights of total solitude.wp-1488674925400.jpgThere were probably other campers hidden around the area, but we sure didn’t see any. Total darkness at night, and absolute silence, other than the gangs of coyotes which roam the area. It’s spectacular camping, as long as you can put up with having no water, no electricity, and burying your own poop in the desert.  We’re good with that.img_0474The huge network of gravel roads and two-track made it a certainty that we would haul out our bikes for a ride. With a rudimentary map, we set off in a northerly direction, having remembered that we rode south the last time we were here. The roads here are a mixture of big gravel, small crushed gravel, hard-packed sandy-rocky surface, and pure sand. What a workout! wp-1488674870538.jpgwp-1488675204323.jpgwp-1488674900022.jpgWe hit about 15 miles of two-track, then rode pavement back to camp. That probably was worse! Endless rollers on tired legs – we were knackered by the time we finally rolled back into camp. This is an absolutely spectacular spot to camp for those who like this kind of thing. I hope that we will always want to return.

One of the most beautiful campgrounds we have discovered is Organ Pipe National Monument, Twin Peaks Campground. Tucked near the Border in SW Arizona, this Park is a true gem. Not only do they have full Ranger talks five nights a week, they also have brief “Patio Talks” three times a day, where Rangers hold brief chats on animals, minerals, weather, and desert vegatation. Free shuttles are available to various hiking points. There’s an amazing staff participation. Hope this is a model for other Park Service areas.

We spent our first full day there on bikes – riding the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Scenic Loop – a twisted maze of gravel washboardy road, with steep uphills and their corresponding downhills – the downhill washboard sections were the WORST – my arms, shoulders, and butt are still vibrating! wp-1488675082887.jpgwp-1488675026155.jpgI ran into a bit of a bother at Teddy Bear Pass, a section of the Scenic Drive which is flooded with Teddy Bear Cholla cactus. Beautiful to see, but treacherous. Of course, I needed one more photo. Before I knew what had happened, I had a cactus stuck to my bike shoe. I tried to stomp it off with my other foot, which also got stuck. Like a dope, I tried to pick them off with my fingers, sticking a few spikes deep into my thumb! Yikes! John, at this point, was far down the road. I pulled as many of the spikes out of my shoe as possible, but here’s the result I had to ride with for the rest of the way home. (I’ve had better rides.)wp-1488675103724.jpgThis is what a Teddy Bear looks like – beware. They are NOT your cuddly friends.20170306_000102.jpgAnother day at Organ Pipe was spent on a long hike through the only small area in the US to have the Senita Cactus as a local resident. Frankly, it’s very hard to tell the difference between the Senita and the Organ Pipe. But, in either case, they tower over the landscape with their elegance. Organ Pipes can have up to 100 arms. wp-1488947257059.jpgSeveral in the campground are enormous. What I find curious is the woody structure which is only visible when the cactus is dying or dead.wp-1488675158691.jpg To look at it otherwise, you’d think that it had just fleshy appendages, not any real structure. The same applies to the elegant saguaro.20170307_213500.jpgSaguaro skeletons are sometimes available for purchase for landscape decorations. But, each much be tagged and certified by the DNR. You certainly don’t want to be caught with a unregistered saguaro – alive or dead. Penalties are very steep. Along the trail, we passed this gigantic specimen. It must be one of the largest in diameter we have seen.wp-1488846603843.jpgSome cholla varieties also have interesting skeletons.wp-1488675150647.jpgOn our hike, we stopped for lunch at an abandoned mine. It’s always interesting to contemplate life as it must have been in these tough times.wp-1488846620515.jpgDesert beauty is everywhere here. Although I don’t think I would want to live in Arizona year-round, it sure is a gorgeous place for visit when the skies and blue and the temperature is moderate. There is a lot to enjoy here.20170307_214557.jpgwp-1488783563348.jpgwp-1488675096130.jpgwp-1488675082887.jpg

15 thoughts on “Dusty Arizona

  1. Hmm, cactus rather than trees, I’m not sure that i like that idea, especially if I were to get stuck by a wandering cacti as you were. ;) Other than that, it looks like another great place to visit during a Michigan winter. I’ve read that in many areas of the southwest that there’s a spectacular display of flowers this year due to the rains, I hope that you’re able to catch part of that.


    • We have seen spectacular masses of California poppies along the roadside as we’ve headed west. Of course, there are no photos to document this, as I’m not so skilled at shooting a moving target thru a truck window. We hope to get to Death Valley before the end of the month, and catch some of the desert bloom there. Most of the larger cactus don’t bloom until May-June, so we won’t see them, but the ground-hugging wildflowers can be a gorgeous blanket of color.

      Right now, we’re enjoying being close to San Diego – weather in high 70s, camped under two big trees. A bit of shade and humidity is just the ticket for us right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those dang teddy bear chollas. One would think they wouldn’t hurt a fly! Nasty little creatures. Should be called “demon bear chollas.”

    We are loving this time of the year in GV. Today was 85 and perfect, and we are enjoying watching the cactus around us start to bloom.

    Have fun!


    • Cholla are nasty. Just lurking around, waiting to spear you.

      Glad you are enjoying improved weather. We are in Yuma – going to be near 90 today. That’s just too hot for us. Heading toward San Diego area tomorrow – hoping for weather that’s a bit cooler.

      But other than the weather, I don’t have too much to complain about.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Liz. That was such a lame moment – I know better than that. We keep one of those big plastic Goody hair picks clipped on each of Jezzy’s leashes so that we can flick a cactus blob off her foot if one attaches – you’d think I would have something handy to care for my own big feet. (I had a hell of a time getting those spines out of my shoe – they were stuck in there pretty well by the time I finally got home). Chollas are not your friends.


  3. Have you already done a technical post of how you guys deal with the lack of water and electricity when dry camping in remote areas?


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