Day 13 - February 10, 1998 - Milepost 1571 (205 today) - Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ

(SF). As we drive east, heading home, I notice that Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is only 60 miles or so out of our way. Oh, what the heck-let's detour. We do not have to be back home until next Tuesday to pick up Bert's Mom at the airport for her annual trip to a warmer clime. We turn off I 8 and head south on US 85. The lady in at the Ajo Chamber of Commerce tells us the local Radio Shack does e-mail for people. As Bert buys an antenna for our cellular phone I retrieve and send the mail. When we arrive at the gate to the monument, we decide to buy a GOLDEN Eagle Pass for $50. This will enable us to enter all our national parks without paying a fee for the next year. As the ranger measures RTENT (maximum length is 35 feet) he asks us how many nights we will be staying. We decide to stay two nights and pay an additional $8 per night for camping. As we enter the camping area, we decide this place is a gem even without hookups at each site (water and a dump are not far away). We park in a nicely landscaped pull through site (one of 208), a good 25 feet from our neighbors. I fail to understand why there is a 35-foot limit because all 55 feet of us with the toad fits with room to spare. All the sites are pretty much the same size. Bert sets up his bird feeders (I read later we are not to feed the birds or other animals). This is my type of birdwatching. I am amused by the antics of House Finches fighting for each bit of food, Morning Doves nonchalantly picking at the ground, Gila Woodpeckers sneaking in and out as if no one should see them Gilaw1.JPG (39723 bytes)and Curve-billed Thrashers coming and going as if all this was normal. This is just 10 feet from my chair. The desert view from my own perch embraces an outstanding variety of plant life. I laugh at the funny outlines of the Saguaro Cactus. They look like baseball players or traffic cops, or even swans. They are serenaded by the tubes of the Organ Pipe Cactus. The Teddy Bear Cholla looks so cute and soft at a distance but I understand it packs a mean bite if too close. Each site has an abundance of plant life carefully landscaped. My little backyard has the familiar Texas prickly pear growing next to ocotillo. After dinner we attend the ranger program at the amphitheater. We learn more of the vast variety of life residing in the monument. Upon our return to RTENT, the moon is so bright that our path is bathed in its light. The stillness of the night (generator use is limited to the hours of 12 PM to 4 PM) is as deep as the clearness of the day. I am beginning to like the desert (in the winter!).

(BF). I am glad to be leaving this RV park. The longer we stayed the more unpleasant it became. Now a few miles from the park we recall that they never gave us the $20 promised in their advertising flyer; that adds another to the column of unfulfilled expectations for this Coast-to-Coast. From Yuma we head east through flat arid lands of creosote bush, then south to Ajo where we send and receive our e-mail at a friendly Radio Shack, continuing south to Why (don't ask me why they called their town Why) into the Sonoran Desert and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I'd heard of this place, but had no idea where it was or what to expect. The dry drab browns and rocky barren spots we'd come to expect for much of Arizona are transformed here into lush desert, a pair of words that sounds like an oxymoron. Plant life is prolific with forests of Saguaro that resemble vast fields of misshapen green telephone poles, sprinkled with cholla adorned with yellow green needles that give them a soft fluffy character,Cholla1.jpg (107082 bytes) and a close fitting green velvet desert floor filling in the gaps between cacti. Without hookups, we camp with 200 other RVs in one of the prettiest campgrounds we've visited. The well-separated sites are nestled in a cactus garden, the envy of any Albuquerque homeowner. I immediately notice the prolific bird population frequenting the campground, so I set up my feeders and a water dish. In a short while the birds take notice and we have a veritable zoo for private viewing. Even Shari gets excited by the proximity of bird life and takes my telephoto equipped camera and fills a roll with closeup shots of cooing Mourning Doves, inquisitive Curve-billed Thrashers, pink hued House Finch, mischievous Cactus Wrens and fire engine red Cardinals. Quartzsite may have been our goal, but Organ Pipe highlights my trip.


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