Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Yesterday, we drove a 21 mile established park route with 18 designated stops. The preservation is based on the organ pipe cactus above, which is said to play an eerie sound like an organ when the wind whistles over the spines. This area es estimated to be 10,000 years old, a young desert, and specimens are young here as well.

Saguaros dominate the landscape. It is estimated by scientists that a saguaro only begins to make arms when it reaches 65 years. They live 150 to 200 years and can weigh 50 tons.

A  “green” desert, it  is just beginning to bloom with desert marigolds and poppies, but the ground is full of young lupine that will put on a gorgeous show of purple in about a month.

O’odham Indians made a home here, learning how to synchronize their activities with the harsh weather. They used flash flood water channeled  to irrigate quick growing crops in a few areas and harvested palo verde seeds and cactus fruits. Explorers wouldn’t have survived this desert without help from the Indians. The O’odham built shelters like the one above from a tough woody plant, the ocotillo, that resembles a cactus.

Ocotillo shows bright red leaves at times looking like it is in full bloom.

Look but don’t touch, is instinctive when looking at the cholla, pronounced choya, another common cactus in the park. Two species of cholla grow here. Edible fruits can catch on clothing, animal skin or fur and travel all over the park.

Twice, I picked up a dead rider from the cholla.

Prickly pear, is another edible. I’ve tasted the fruits and the leaves which when cooked taste like green beans. They are called nopalitas and you can find them at Mexican groceries.

A crest grows in an organ pipe, a mutation with an unknown cause, admired for its beauty.

The drive covered diverse terrain, and took us a leisurely four hours. We picnicked for lunch, the weather was beautiful. While the saguaros are majestic, they sometimes take on comical shapes.

My favorite-the elephant.

I’ll take you to my teddy bear leader.

Don’t shoot, I give up!

What should we name the baby, dear?

He can’t seem to keep his story straight. Arrest him.

I’ve called this meeting to discuss important issues for young saguaros.

I prayed you would get home in time.

You must stop for an inspection.

Goodbye folks. Come back again.

Monday, January 30, 2012


After an uneventful drive to 4.2 miles north of the Mexican border, at Organ Pipe National Monument, we set up our camp. Organ Pipe is part of the Sonoran desert and has some unique features. For instance, it rains here in summer and winter and, as a result, is the greenest of the four major North American deserts.

We stopped at the visitors center and right then two  Harris Hawks stopped in for a drink in a small pond the back of the building. It is filled with pupfish and the hawks come for a drink of water and occasionally grab a fish snack out of the shallow pond.

One flew into the tree, the other is sitting in the shadows near the pond.

Both hawks  waded in the pond before flying off, but, one has to be fast to get pictures. Their orange colored  breast, white tail feathers, and brown shoulders give them distinct coloration.  We spent about an hour in the visitor’s center and watched a film. Unless you live nearby, you miss the many seasons and vistas in the park; spectacular blooms and creatures that make the desert a living, vibrant place. The ranger gave a 15 minute talk about the various states of development to finally bring this unique place to fully protected status. It not only protects organ pipe and sonito cactus, but pronghorn sheep and a rare whole habitat. Organ Pipe is now a UNESCO bio-preserve, and richly deserves that world distinction.
The park is primitive without electricity or showers. It does have modern bathrooms. We walked out at 7:30 to attend a star-gazing gathering led by a ranger. It was so dark, even with our flashlights, we never did find the amphitheater. We laid back in our chairs and enjoyed the stars on our own. Dark like this is hard to find in our modern world.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Yesterday morning, I volunteered in the kitchen at the VFW . They were hosting  their Chili Cook-off, Salsa Competition, breakfast, lunch, auction and chili tasting. Michelle, far right, was the head honcho and she brought Flat Stanley, actually many Flat Stanleys,  with different modes of dress. What a hoot!  Michelle made breakfast burro-itos made with burro meat, eggs and potatoes. Stanley and I are old friends, (I took him to Thailand with me) but burro meat?  That was a new and delicious experience.  Yowzer!

Around 11:oo we went sight-seeing;  our first stop was the Historical Plaza built in 1917 by Isabella Greenway. One end served as the train depot for Ajo, Tuscon, Cornelia and Gila Bend. The Spanish style square is now home to offices and retail shops.

The post office is in the plaza and I had a letter to mail, so I taught Flat Stanley how to mail a letter.

Flat Stanly accompanied us to the Cornelia Copper Mine that was once the major industry in the area.  Now it is a big pit in the ground, one and a half miles across, with a lake at the bottom that is 120 feet deep. It’s interesting that at the nearby museum, we learned  how workers got to the bottom of the pit.  To drive the pit on the ridges you see, would be over one hundred  miles. They had to get to the bottom quicker than that. Too steep to drive straight up, they found a way to cross the roads at a 3% grade and make the trip in seven miles.

Local museums fascinate me because they have special knowledge relating to their unique area you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

There was the usual implements, stoves, tools, equipment, old wagons, horse carts, branding irons and so on. In fact, we gave Flat Stanley a ride on the wagon above. But, most fascinating to me was a collection of burrs. You laugh,I’m sure. But wait until you read the description.

At home I grouse about fox tails and the invasive thistles we have.  And, numerous tiny burrs, but these. They are like killers.

I’d hate to have one of those caught in my socks. The ball at the back is impossible to separate. It was probably the burr that led to the invention of velcro.

And I loved the O’oddham Papago friendship bowl.

Ajo was home to some famous people, too. This is Harry Pollard Sr. a gunfighter friend of Doc Holiday; Spanish American WarVeteran. He surveyed the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon and later became an Ajo Deputy Sheriff. They called him “Hole In The Head” from his injuries during a gunfight and was hired by writer, Zane Grey, as a guide. He was the REAL old west.
Then there was Isabella Selmes Ferguson Greenway King the first woman to be elected to the Arizona Congress in 1933. In fact, she served two terms. She built the Plaza in Ajo, and built a house there, buried a husband and erected a cross visible for miles. But, the docent told us about her interesting marriages and her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt, a college friend. Briefly, one of her husbands, Ferguson, was dying to TB. They separated their bedrooms  because TB is was then a deadly and contagious disease.   Greenway asked permission of Ferguson to marry his wife. He granted that permission and upon his death, and after a year’s wait for mourning, Greenway married her.  Greenway was an interesting guy as was Isabella.

We went back for the chili and salsa competition. This guy, with West Roselle Chili, won. This picture was taken early in the day when the teams  just started cooking.

This woman won two trophies for two different categories of salsa. Hey, what more can you ask for than excellent chile and salsa. Yum. (No one was giving out their recipes.)
For more pictures click the link: https://picasaweb.google.com/106530979158681190260/AjoStanleyAndSights

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Yesterday, before we left Painted Rock, this little fox came out of a hole and decided to catch the last rays of  sunshine.

As the sun went down, a partner popped out of the hole and we watched them cavort, and peek and scamper in and out of their den which is right next to the road in the park.  Then, when it got dark, they took off and went hunting. Taking pictures was tough with the low light and their quick movements, but, doncha know?  We  love this kind of entertainment.

As we were leaving the park, and on arriving, too, we saw gigantic power lines being installed. Jim speculated it was a new solar installation. As we rounded the bend, there was the sign.  ABENGOA, Solana Generating Station.  We love to see that happen. It is interesting that at Painted Rock, and at every campground or boondocking site we stay, we are the only RV with lights on in the early morning.  Thanks to our solar. We get up and enjoy the quiet mornings with plenty of power.

We  drove to Ajo, Arizona, did our laundry, drove around town, went to the visitors center for sight seeing  information and visited the VFW. They allowed us to park overnight .  Jim took a notion to photograph our view from the dining room window every morning, just for the heck of it. Sometimes they are diamonds and sometimes coal.  I kind of chuckled over what is sure to be a coal picture today.  Light is just breaking and he went off to help the post volunteers  set up tables and canopies for a big chili cook off.  Looks like we are in for a fun day!
Last night we had a beer at the VFW bar. For a small town, they lost 16 guys to WWII and they have three graves right on site. I’ve never seen that before. We’ll probably learn more about it today.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Author Jerry Ahnert told us about  two distinct features marking  the “real” Butterfield/Immigrant Trail.  A place where children played with stones and an obvious encampment farther on.  Wednesday afternoon, a couple of hours before sunset, I decided to try to find the place where children played while Jim finished a book he was reading.

The terrain is rough and desolate, but beautiful in its own way.

Signs of human activity were fairly abundant. A placement of rock pointing in four directions? Did it indicate something of importance?

An old metal can. Did it hold water?

A piece of metal?  From what era?  Jerry told me when the travelers camped, children play with whatever is available to them. In this case, they placed stones around a bush. He dates his site by finding other artifacts such as bits of metal, buttons, and so on to authenticate the site.

I zig-zagged back and fourth and decided to follow the deepest runnel figuring the stage  would follow water.  I found many campfire spots and stacked rocks before  locating the bush with rocks stacked around it “where children played.”  But, even then I questioned. How can one be sure when those rocks were placed?  Wouldn’t that bush be dead by now? Jerry stated that this area is very stable, and changes very little. He has been hiking these places for sixty years.  The right place or not, the walk was invigorating, made purposeful by trying to find a historic site,  and I returned to catch a nice sunset.

In the morning, Jim decided we should try to find the encampment, so we spread out and searched for signs in two different areas. We could see in a distance the saddle, or pass, the stages had to cross over to get to the Gila River behind the Petroglyphs.

Again, there were many campfire spots. This one, I kicked a rock out of place and noticed how deeply it was buried. Deep enough to convince me it was an older spot. But, how much older?  No ash, small plants had grown into it.

An unusual shaped object once was buried in this spot. Could it have been a part of a stage coach?  Or an old frisbee?

More evidence of what we thought might be water cans. Lots of them, mostly crushed.

We found a deep wash, and several narrower washes running into it that drained the nearby mountain as the elevation increased. We speculated, could these ruts have been made by a stage coach. Both of us are remembering some of those old western movies we’ve seen. But, would a stage have driven inside the deep channel of a wash? So, I walked the bank and Jim stayed in the wash.

Our find!  The obvious encampment. Cans strewn down the embankment to the wash.

Shards of broken dishes, and a piece of rusted metal.

A piece of a thick milk glass bottle.

I love rusty stuff, but Jerry entrusted us with information and we would not loot this site for anything and left it as it was for the next (hopefully respectful) visitor.

We enjoyed a more leisurely pace on our return and took more pictures of scenic stuff.  I uploaded the pictures from our desert hikes if you’d like to see them at the following link:


I also uploaded my petroglyphs pictures if you would like to cruise through them.