March 23, 2017

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

"Borders are scratched across the hearts of men,
by strangers with a calm, judicial pen,
and then the borders bleed as we watch with dread the lines
of ink along the map turn red."
Maryn Mannes

Pedestrian fencing dividing Sonora, Mexico and Organ Pipes National Monument
While at San Simeon State Park, a full time RV'er inquired if we had ever been to Organ Pipe Cactus? "Where I asked?" "Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona...right on the border of Mexico. The park is awe-inspiring and features a beautiful campground." Wow I thought...we gotta go there while we are in that part of the state...sounds like a perfect side trip to amplify one's experience...and with us having middle names of "InspireMe"...

But the story he shared with me sealed the deal. While he was camping there, the host woke up one morning to find an old man, fragile and thin, sitting on his patio chair. "The man was kind and polite...just needing a safe place to rest. He was from Guatemala, (a beloved country to Imkelina and her family), seeking a better life for him and his family. As there were so many US Border Agent patrolling the roads, this camper was surprised he had made it to Organ Pipe Cactus undiscovered." As of the result of this brief conversation, I knew I wanted to see this place, to help me grasp the risks and hardships that these "illegal refugees" endure to behold a glimmer of hope. When we were there, seeing the borderland, which in reality is a very daunting landscape, we were able to comprehend the desperation and despair that forces one to survive...for this great migration to see OZ is anything but painless and safe
Cactus Wren

Crested Organ Pipe
Just a short drive from Ajo, AZ, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is just a dazzling desert jewel. It is also an International Biosphere Reserve. Located in the extreme part of the state which shares a border with the Mexican state of Sonora, you have 330,800 stunning acres that celebrate life and landscape by showcasing the most pristine tract to the great Sonoran Desert of this American Southwest. The monument exhibits an extraordinary collection of wildlife, birds and plants, including the Saguaro, Ocotillo and it's namesake, the Organ Pipe Cactus rarely found in the United States. Here you can grasp that every seed is awakened and so is animal we yield to all the flora and fauna the same right we give inhabit this land. The monument is a true desert experience.
2.6 mile Palo Verde Trail to Visitor Center

1.2 mile Desert View Nature Trail

Vista of Desert View Nature Trail
Alamo Canyon Trail Views

1.8 mile Alamo Canyon Trail

historic corral Alamo Canyon Trail
Twin Peaks is a perfectly designed campground that allows everyone here to intertwine with the Sonoran Desert. And to assist you toward embracing your beautiful surroundings, the NPS offers daily interpretive talks at the Kriss EggleVisitor Center (named after a Law Enforcement Park Ranger killed by members of a drug cartel), ranger led hikes and tours throughout the Park and evening interpretive programs offered in the campground amphitheater. During one of these interpretive talks at the visitor center, we had the pleasure of connecting with a gifted photographer, a seasonal ranger at our beloved North Rim and a dedicated steward of our west, Gaelyn, the Geogypsy. And as we found out later, we actually were mirroring each other's adventure, i.e. stops at Kofa, Ajo and here. Imkelina and Sydney had a collection of hikes to enjoy...and if we would have stayed another week, she could have crossed each one off her list.

We experienced some beautiful sunsets and remarkable silhouettes through the moonlit nights. And although we had a little too much moonlight, they say the night skies here offer a true will witness the stars at peace, drifting slowly through the darkness and into our deepest being. 

Alas, there may be a day when the human race will be able to hear the pleas of our cherish, protect and share. No boundaries, No Wall, no rules, no violations
At Waypoint 31.94205, -112.81207

March 15, 2017

Darby Well Road Boondockers

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. 
I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one."
John Lennon

Friends Dick and Melinda have shared many a conversation with us of camping on the BLM land around Ajo, Arizona. So it was an easy decision to rendezvous with them there for a few days to have that experience for ourselves. Deserts have always attracted nomads.

Dick and Melinda had found a perfect camping spot large enough to easily fit two rigs, pretty flat and some awesome views. Imkelina just needed to drive a few miles in on a washboard, rut filled, sandy road to get there. We enjoyed many beautiful hikes, had some fun happy hours and many energetic campfire conversations...sister and brothers forever! 

But we did have a hilarious take away during a brief tutorial on how to prepare "Chorizo" know, the soft and spongy Mexican sausage roll. If you want to try a dish way ahead of it's time, ask Dick and Melinda about their Chorizo grilling recipe. Melinda says the "one eye monster" will never feel the same...

Although I have never been a "desert rat", I gotta admit the seams of these desert horizons have intrigued me...much like a brown maiden basking in the sun. Oh those desert vistas! Brilliant sunrises to awaken to and stunning sunsets to introduce those luminous starry nights. We have become fascinated with this region of land. This is a land of extremes, a land of contrast and definitely a land of many surprises.

Not a day passed that Imkelina and her loyal sidekick Sydney were able to leave their tracks on miles of desert washes, game trails and rock strewn ridges. Imkelina's unlimited photo opportunities were only exceeded by Sydney's treasure of critter scents.  

As each new day unfolded, the crisp, fresh morning air acted as an immediate tonic, sending a charge of life through me. Below us were the beautiful vistas of rocky gorges and on the desert floor, a mosaic of shapes and colors created by cacti with wrist-less arms and their desert blooms. Enchanting, inspiring and awe bled from my mind as it tried to comprehend this wonderful medley of sights...I have discovered the West of my imagination.

At Waypoint 32.34592, -112.89218

March 2, 2017

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

"The desert takes our dreams away from us, and they don't always return...Those who don't return become a part of the clouds, a part of the animals that hide in the ravines and of the water that comes from the earth. They become part of everything...They become the Soul of the World."
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Our destination upon leaving Point Mugu State Park was Cottonwood Springs Rd just a mile north of Interstate 10, which is the south overflow camping area of Joshua Tree National Park. But 40-50 mile per hour gusts that were pounding the I-10 corridor and a inoperative fridge made us head toward a sheltered harbor and 30 amp we headed to Desert Hot Springs. 

But we did have a wonderful surprise on our detour. the Rauschers were also headed north on I-10 toward Lancaster for some repair work themselves. With some coordination of time, speed and miles, we were able to connect for a nice lunch at the Chiriaco Summit Cafe. The grilled food smelled so good, it permeated all around our table, drawing the scrutiny of the local feral cats.
Dome Rock Boondocking

After a brief stay in Desert Hot Springs to try to cool our refrigerator, we headed toward Quartzite, AZ to see if we could find our dear friend Frank Roberts. Once we found a campsite on Dome Rock Road, we scurried off to locate Frank among the horde of rigs at La Posa South Long Term Visitor Area. Although we initially thought Frank's directions to his rig were "spotty" to say the least, we were quite shocked that we actually found him. As this was our first time to embrace the Quartzite Experience (and quickly we realized it would also be our last), we were amazed by the number and type of recreational vehicles scattered throughout the desert. Truly mind boggling...and we were only witnessing a partial gathering of campers. This was the last day of the show, thus the mass exodus had already begun. The next morning, we bid a 'see you later' to Frank and headed south to Palm Canyon Drive and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

The name Kofa comes from a former area gold mine: the King of Arizona mine, with Kofa a contraction of the name. In 1936, the Arizona Boy Scouts mounted a statewide campaign to protect the bighorn sheep, leading to the creation of this refuge. Encompassing over 665,400 acres, Kofa was officially established in 1939 and the desert bighorn sheep is now the official mascot for the Arizona Boy Scouts. We drove the gravel road for about 7 miles looking for a campsite that was accessible, flat and had some great views. 

We found the ideal spot within this tiny morsel of the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by miles of cactus laden plains and mountain peaks, a wonderful place to relax. Oh how I love the the solitude and intoxicates me with the freedom of others, offering the peacefulness for my inner thoughts to dance free and see nature's beauty without filters. 

At the end of the road is a short hike up through Palm Canyon...the palms are quite hidden, but there. Scanning down toward the valley floor points out just how isolated this hidden paradise is...although we did see two of our fellow bloggers camped here Gaeylyn of GeoGypsy and Ray of Love Your RV.

Imke and Sydney walked many of the sandy washes near our campsite, marveling at the beauty of the diverse desert gardens. And poor Sydney, never having experience those dreaded barbs from the Teddy Bear Cholla, certainly let us know when she had her first encounter with one. It only took that one time for us to learn that you never hike in the desert without your trusty Leatherman or are least a pair of needle nose pliers in your back pocket. Aaaaaaah, and then there were those spectacular sunsets...the sun and the earth in desert sunsets always seem brighter, wilder...more demanding, more silent...somehow more certain. Kofa is beautiful.

At Waypoint 33.35876, -114.13633