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