Arizona..the adventure begins
First stop Yuma…not exactly a state park, but with the high temperatures we needed a plug in for the AC..have to keep the boys cool, they have their Goldilock’s zone of being comfortable and the old fellows don’t tolerate any more than three hours driving..so we respect that or have cats yelling at us starting around at an appointed hour and then it does not stop…we are their slaves and they have us well trained.
Besides, I found a spot on the Colorado River next to a beautiful park so that seemed like a good spot to rest a few days. River Front RV Park, no website, just phone. There is a fancier one across the river and that much closer to the endless noise of US 8 so we decided this would be a bit quieter, didn’t realize it was a 55+ park…we snuck Mike in;)..I lied about my age:)..it looked like most of the residents were packing up and moving back North before the hotter temperatures arrived so this quiet little spot that backs right onto the West Wetlands Park and Colorado River was just what we needed. The park used to be a garbage dump, and now all 110 acres along this slow flowing river are a testament of what can be done with time, trees and volunteers…and there was a hummingbird garden..how could I possibly resist that or the hundreds of Palo Verde trees in bloom. Not only hummingbirds, it vibrated with life in the bushes and trees. The well kept paths meandered through out the park to a small lake with a few resident Ring Necks as well. The burrowing owl habitat unfortunately looked abandoned.
It was a wonderful spot to explore a brand new set of birds and blooms, and did I mention Mexico is only a hop and a skip away?..after suffering through two different what people called “Mexican”meals in Yuma, we have given up eating what folks call Mexican food North of the border, with the exception of Bracero, in San Diego, and Socorro’s chile rellenos in Mina, Nevada.
Los Algodones, Mexico exists it seems to work on American teeth and sell them cheap pharmaceuticals. The town is full of dentists and pharmacies. The walk across the border was a breeze, turn right at the first intersection and a few blocks down you will find Tacos El Poblanos..can I say heaven? We ate way too many and left very very happy…:) Walk back to the otro lado was just as quick, a nice change from Tijuana:)
Catching our breath in Yuma we took a day drive back West to North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area. We have admired these dunes many times passing by on the US 8 but never had time to explore. We took Olgilby road North to the 78 and then West to the dunes past the Obregon Mountains and lot’s of boon docking sites. Could be a great winter spot in the future. The Algodones Sand Dunes System covers more than 200 square miles, making it one of the largest dune areas of North America from California into Northern Baja. The spectacular hills and views of the California mountains behind are fantastic. To the South vehicles are allowed but to the North the only means of transportation is by foot or horseback…beautiful..leave only footprints, washed away by the wind almost as soon as they are made.
After exploring Yuma for another day and wandering through the West Wetlands Park a few more times to the hummingbird garden we were ready to head East and South again to darker skies. At Highway 85 in Gila Bend we turned South towards Ajo and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Time for a wilder space…
and my first encounter with a pair of Gila Woodpeckers! This was going to be my kind of place. This small RV park (Ajo Heights) was bristling with birds and cactus blooms. The drawback was it was right on highway 85 but not overly noisy. Within a few hours the bird feeders were busy, including my CTV one (cat TV..it sticks to the back window) keeps the old guys amused and exercised as they try to catch them through the window:)
Ajo is not exactly the most scenic small town, it has tried by the looks of it to attract an artsy group but so many buildings are closed or just crumbling it feels somewhat derelict. Being a mining company town it had a rough start. The historic plaza is beautiful, but mostly abandoned store fronts and closed stores. Two large churches dominate the square and an old railway now unused lies in the back. The highway runs through town, going South to Puerto Peñasco, or as the Americans call it Rocky Point, Mexico. The majority of the inhabitants here are snowbirds or retirees escaping some colder northern land. It felt somewhat depressing but it was surrounded by natural beauty once you got past the mine that dominates the entire town. There is a scenic route that takes you around the outskirts of the town that is a worthwhile drive. Along Darby road we spotted quite a few well used boondocking sites. It’s somewhere we will come back to.
The majesty of the Saguaros is breathtaking and the Organ Pipe cacti as well. The first blooms were starting on the Saguaros as we made our way South to the Organ Pipe National Monument. Located half an hour south of Ajo, after passing through the town of Why (or Why not?) you continue through the Migra check points and then to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. The campground looked fantastic as we took a tour through it, it is where we will come back to for a future cooler weather visit. To the East of the visitor center is the Ajo Mountain Drive, a 26 mile long scenic dirt road that rises and falls from the desert floor to the foot of the mountains. At mile 9 you pass the beautiful Arch Canyon.
Scattered with areas to stop and various trails this bumpy 26 mile long one way dirt road isn’t suited for all vehicles. The area is surrounded by spectacular mountain outcroppings of every colour imaginable and lots of migra trucks patrolling;) An under visited park we were told, many Americans seem even afraid to get close to Mexico;) their loss.
So many mental notes to make, and so many places to revisit. This desert landscape leaves you with that feeling of immensity…it goes on and on…the Europeans we meet are always stunned by these huge distances with not a soul in sight. Having to leave a dear friend here made it even that much more memorable..we’ll be back to mourn and celebrate when we are ready.
Tucson was the next leg of the journey. Continuing on 85 until Why, it turns Eastwards into 86 and flattens out through the Tohono O’oham Nation Reservation we were running in front of an incoming storm system. In the distance Kitt Peak and it’s many observatories dominate the skyline. The roadside was spectacular with poppies and penstemons in bloom. One more leg of our adventure..Stay tuned:)