Saturday, March 24, 2018
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ
, I am captivated by the desert, whether it be Mohave, Great Basin, Chihuahua or our own Sonoran Desert. I love the wide open views, the sparse flora, the equally sparse and ornery fauna, the warmth and chill of a desert morning, the majesty of the saguaro or the coarse obstinance of a Joshua Tree yucca. I feel unworthy of the sheer toughness required to accept the difficulties of residing in one of the harsher environments on Earth, and yet I enjoy the benefits of a clear, cool spring evening in one of the best government operated parks available to the American people. And more than a few people are taking advantage of it.
This park is bargain. The entrance fee is a mere ten bucks; camping is only sixteen dollars a night. If one, like I, has an old fart pass the entry fee is waived and the camping dues are halved, a bargain by even Mr. Scrooge’s estimation. Parks run by the National Park Service tend to have fewer amenities but Organ Pipe has many including flush toilets and solar showers, trash pickup, tables, grill stands, ramada shading and full RV sites, some with pull-through accommodations. Not available are cell phone service and wifi in the campground although weak wifi is sketchy but possible at the visitor center.
One thing of note is the campsite patrol pairing, an older couple driving around in one of those odd little two-seater carts with a truck bed, policing the recently vacated campsites The woman checks out the site picking up any pieces of left-over trash while the gentleman, get this, sweeps the tent pad with a broom. I don’t know if they are paid part-time or volunteers but they do their work cheerfully and effectively and the tent pads and campsites look positively pristine. Not bad for eight bucks a night.
I even managed to sneak in shower, yes, a shower, at one of the restrooms that has a solar shower, there being three such in the campground. It’s kind of a different experience since the solar heater doesn’t really get warmed up until midday, so earlier than that the showerer might expect to get a coolish sort of shower. Mine was tepid at best. Plus, the showers are push button for both a higher and lower shower nozzle. You push the upper button to receive about 5 seconds of shower. Several pushes are needed to get suitable wet. Lather up, push a button to rinse, then lather again, push a button to rinse, lather up, push the lower button to rinse. The lower nozzle may be for kids but works perfectly fine for washing one’s backside. All in all, it takes a bit longer to get clean but eventually gets the job done.
The park offers desert hiking at its finest with many longer or shorter hikes through the amazing Sonora desert landscape and a teeth rattling ten mile drive to an oasis hard on the Mexican Border, Quitobaquito Spring. Quitobaquito is a miracle in the southern desert, It’s a spring fed lagoon, hard on the border of Mexico, maybe an acre in size and maybe 4 to 7 feet deep. It is fed by a spring putting out about fifty cubic feet per second of fresh water and is inhabited by various waterfowl (a squadron of coots on this day) and a population of desert pupfish, little bitty guppie-like piscines that only live in this particular pond in the dez, kind of like the pupfish that live in a small pool in Death Valley. The question have is how the hell did they get there. For further info: https://organpipehistory.com/orpi-a-z/quitobaquito-springs-2/. It is a marvelous oasis in the desert.
I stayed 3 nights at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and should have stayed a week. I love this park and will be back.
March 23, 2018
North of Yuma, AZ
This was a quick, overnight stop on the way to somewhere after taking care of some business in Yuma. The lake is part of a system of small reservoirs on the lower Colorado River backed up by Martinez Dam and is heavily used winter visitors (snowbirds) in RV’s.
The RV’s are necessary since the camping area, while free of charge and worth it, is not overloaded with amenities. The lake has dumpsters and boat ramps but not much else besides a place to park. Parking is first come, first served and I would expect at the height of winter in the East this place gets very full since it was well-populated when I arrived.
Mostly it is a place to spend time on the cheap or the locals to drop a boat in the water for slow-speed recreation. Tried fishing from the shore and while fishing is always good, the catching is variable, in this case, nuttin.
If you are camping with an RV, Mittry Lake would be a lovely place to spend a few days between October and April, not so much in summer.
A little introduction may be in order. My name is Randy Mahannah, aka Randoo, I am 67 years old, accompanied by my dog and I’ve been on the road since February 23, 2018, as of this writing just over 3 months. I have been in 5 states, 4 Motel 6’s and 10 different campgrounds over 6300 miles and stops at friends and family. I am on the road and I’m enjoying it. Let’s start with a bucket list item.
There is a place in the far western and southern desert of Arizona called the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. At first glance, one might question the possibility of wildlife even remotely living in such a harsh desert environment but live there these creatures do, most amazingly, desert bighorn sheep. But it isn’t just the critters, it’s the desert, some of the most rugged, badass, beautiful desert in America, the border of the Sonora and the Mojave deserts and amazing country.
Oh yeah, campground rating, uuhhh, no campground unless you consider the entire refuge as your campground because that’s what it is, primitive camping at its best. At Kofa there are no facilities, no restrooms, no designated campsites, no water, no nuttin’, just a bare spot in the dirt and a place to dig your privy. So in terms of a best-of-five something rating probably zip. In terms of desert lonesome awesomeness, 5 +.
Take lots of water, you’ll need it, at least two five gallon containers and if you are so foolhardy as to visit Kofa between May and September, take a fiver for each day you will be there, just in case. I was there in March and was quite comfortable, day and night. Winters will be mild daytime, chilly to cold at night, summers, oppressively hot daytime and dance-naked-under –the-moon beautiful at night with more stars than you have ever seen unless you’ve been to Machu Pichu under a new moon.
As for things to do, desert hiking both flatland and in the mountains is what is offered. Take a camera and try to get a sheep shot. If that doesn’t work the native palms in Palm Canyon that stand still and won’t run away from you and the landscapes under a changing desert sun are wonderful.
I spent three nights there and was enchanted by a desert landscape I’ve wanted to visit since I was draft eligible. It’s all about timing and tolerance but if you find yourself in the neighborhood of Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, 23 miles south of Quartzite, 60+ miles north of Yuma, Arizona, allow yourself a night or two. Might pleasantly surprise you.