Current Location: Organ Pipe NM Twin Peaks Campground Arizona
Mostly cloudy and 55 degrees F at 8am
Last year when we were on the way to Tucson, we decided to cut south from Gila Bend and visit Organ Pipe National Monument along the way. We thought a simple drive through would be OK for this time around. However, the charming little town of Ajo caught us off guard, and we spent many hours of our free time exploring the museum, architecture, and colorful murals. By the time we were ready to leave, it was late in the afternoon, and we needed to get moving to check in at Davis Monthan Air Force Base before 5. So much for Organ Pipe.
Thus it happened, that when planning this year’s route east, I opted for a couple of days at Organ Pipe. Now I know several people, including Al and Kelly, who think 2 days at Organ Pipe isn’t nearly enough, but at least it is something. This trip east is supposed to be a fast run to Florida, without all the meandering along the way that we did in 2014, so 2 days is actually a big deal for us.
We even decided on making reservations at the Twin Peaks Campground inside the monument rather than taking our chances with a boondock site. When we have all the time in the world, wandering around hunting for a good boondock site is fun, but not this time. On our way in to the park, we did see a ton of boondockers in the desert in the area before the park boundary. Next time perhaps.
Then again, there is something very nice about this campground. We are on an end site, number 70, in the area that allows generator use between 8 and 10 and then again between 4 and 6. Plenty of time to charge up batteries for phones, computers, make a pot of real coffee, process photos and write blogs. Surprising to me, I also have 4G Verizon reception out here in the middle of nowhere. Perfect. However, there is no television reception with our new digital tv and antenna. I suppose someone with a satellite would have wide open skies. We won’t have time for TV anyway, but still wanted to test our new system.
Yesterday morning, we left Catalina about 45 minutes later than planned . The brothers and wives came down to our site to wish us safe travels and with lots of conversation and laughter we found ourselves pulling out at neatly 9 am instead of 8. We decided to take the I-10 route all the way east to Highway 85, and then south to Gila Bend. On our last two trips to the desert we have traveled past the Salton Sea and south to I-8 to cross Arizona. Thought it might be time for something different. Interstate 10 definitely is not exciting, but it is fast and mostly smooth and easy. I didn’t mind that part at all. No dallying along the way, with a fuel stop at the Love’s in Gila Bend, and we arrived at our campground just after 5.
I didn’t even try to get windshield photos during the time Mo was driving. The desert is so beautiful, and it is amazing to watch the transition from the Mojave to the Sonoran Desert. As Mark has mentioned, the Sonoran is rich and lush compared to the Mojave. There is every shade of olive, lime, and soft sage green that you could imagine, with palo verde, mesquite, and the stately saguaros, plants that do not grow in the Mojave. Creosote is thick in both kinds of desert, but here in the Sonoran, with the recent rains it is especially lush.
Once we turned south from Why, on Highway 85, the desert opened up in ways that give your eyeballs a real workout. The open, wild desert stretches from horizon to horizon as far as you can see in all directions.
The mountains around here are gorgeous. Crazy wild things in all shapes that make them look like they are brand new, just emerged from the center of the earth. They can’t be that new, since there are huge ancient alluvial fans spreading out in all directions from those mountains. Still, I can’t wait to get to the visitor center this morning to get the skivvy on all the rocks and mountains and plants and animals. We have spent time in the Sonoran desert but not in an ecological wonderland like this.
Our space was waiting for us, with a nice little sign with my name on it. It had been a crap shoot until last Saturday when at last the government shutdown ended. Prior to that, we knew that there was no one taking care of the park, the visitor center was closed, and there were squatters in the campground. Our prepaid reservation would have been worthless if the shutdown had continued to this week.
We were prepared for trying to level up on rough ground, worrying about the jacks sinking into the sand. Imagine our surprise when we found a long, smooth, level cement pad waiting for us. There is plenty of room to open our slide on one side and our awning on the other, and a nice big patio area and cement picnic table.
At sunset, I walked around the perimeter of the park, where there is the “Perimeter Trail” where dogs are allowed. There are so many bathrooms here that I had a hard time figuring out where I was, but I didn’t bother checking them out yet. The campground is about half full. At six, the soft generator sounds stopped almost entirely, (always has to be one that pushes the envelope) and the park was incredibly dark and quiet the rest of the night. If you choose to skip the generator noise entirely, there is a large section of the campground that allows no generators. We don’t have solar so we do need the generator.
As I returned from walking, I noticed a lot of people with their hoods raised. Why would everyone be having car trouble? Then as I looked at the signs at the restrooms, I saw the notice that there are pack rats in the desert that love the kind of insulation inside the hood of vehicles. They suggested you could protect your vehicle from the damage by leaving the hood open. I came home and told Mo, and we opened both hoods.
I think people who come this far out of their way to visit a desert must love the desert. Unlike Joshua Tree which is so close to such a huge population, here it is an effort to visit. I do think people who love the desert for something other than a place to run their 4 wheelers have a different ethic. Nothing against all 4 wheelers, because I do know lots of good responsible people who love to ride in the desert. I wish all people who had 4 wheelers were like them. People here seem to be more intent on hiking and appreciating the environment, and treating it with respect. So far at least. That makes me very happy inside.
We hope to learn and hike and drive and explore this lovely place today, and the partly cloudy skies and moderate temperatures are quite welcome.