Friday, April 8, 2016

Organ Pipe National Monument, Yuma and into California

March 31 - April 5, 2016:

We pull out of Desert Trails at 9:30 AM for Organ Pipe National Monument near Why, Arizona.  It is a scenic ride on route 86 west through the Tohono o'odham Indian Reservation.  In areas the roadside wildflowers were distracting and frustratingly colorful.  I say frustrating because the best ones always seem to be where there is no roadside pull-off.  I think it might be the natural order to make them inaccessible for protection.   I stop at a roadside store for a drink and buy a three pack of pineapple empanadas, I can’t pass them up ?  At the town of Why, we turn onto route 85 and proceed another 20 miles to the Organ Pipe National Monument.  Twinkles has arrived in advance, paid for the camp site and has it all scoped out.  It is as beautiful as I remember, a nice concrete pad with picnic table, bright sun and beautiful views in all directions.

Rain ahead

We take a 2.6 mile roundtrip hike to the visitors center on the Desert View Trail through a mixed Saguaro, Organ Pipe, Staghorn Cholla and Englemans Prickly Pear habitat.  The Saguaro Cactus are actually starting to bloom almost a month earlier than normal due to the higher temperatures caused by “El Nino” this winter.  The Organ Pipe Cactus bloom a few weeks later than the Saguaros so we will miss them entirely. The Cholla and Prickly Pear cactus are also blooming early this year.

Close up of those wicked spikes

Ocotillo are looking beautiful

Organ Pipe Cactus

We also take a 4 1/2 mile hike to the Victoria Mine which has the ruins of the old mine store.  There are several mine shafts in the area and it must have been a large operation in it’s day.

Ruins of old mine building

Twinkles posing in the window

Do not enter the mine shaft

Dark red Cholla blooms

Afterwards we take a 28 mile roundtrip dusty bumpy drive on the South Puerto Blanco Drive to Quitobaquito.  The dirt road runs parallel to the Mexican border with many warning signs about watching for illegals.  Quitobaquito has a spring which creates an oasis, trees and greenery with a beautiful pond. It was better than we expected.

A few Saguaro's are blooming

Looking across the border into Mexico

The trail to Quitobaquito

A real Oasis

Border Patrol road along Mexican border

Nice Cholla bloom

We attended two ranger talks, done by the “Dark Ranger” on night skies.  Organ Pipe NM is working on becoming a certified dark sky location.  The Ranger gave two very interesting talks, not the usual identification of constellations.  Instead a talk about astronomical things that are a problem, that break current established scientific rules, can’t be explained and are troubling. The other talk focused on the immense size of the suns, planets and galaxies out there, in comparison to ours and how we are constantly finding more and more.  This is scary, sobering stuff to me, thinking about our little Earth suspended out there in a dark infinity with billions of other things moving about at thousands of miles per second.

On April 2nd, we pull out of Organ Pipe and head for Yuma, Arizona.  That involves taking route 85 north back through the town of Why, then through beautiful Ajo (must return there next year) and on to Gila Bend, Arizona.  We then take route 8 west through mostly unattractive country, devoid of vegetation, to Yuma, Arizona.  We pass through Yuma into California for about ten miles, stopping at the exit for Ogilby Road.  A few miles down the road are several BLM boondock areas which are mostly deserted this time of year.  We set up on the edge of the American Girl wash, a really private secluded site.  It is extremely quiet here except for the helicopters frequently flying overhead and the freight trains about a mile away.

A nice mural in Ajo

It was a warm ride as the AC was not working, nothing but hot air, so I rode with a window partially opened.  On checking this out later I noticed that the idiot who changed the battery, (me) neglected to plug the connector back into the AC low pressure cut-off switch.  It was a relief to see that, plug it back in and have the AC start working again.  Especially since, it’s super hot and dry here,  It’s almost drought conditions and the vegetation in the desert here looks wilted and half dead.

Our boondock site is rather large, the nearest neighbors are more than a 1/4 mile away.

We  have impressive reflections !

We are all alone out there

We start Sunday with breakfast at Brownie’s Cafe in Yuma, since 1946, which was very good, but not great.  Next was the Yuma County Fair for a few hours, your typical county fair, lots of unhealthy food, overweight people, crazy amusement rides, 4-H exhibits, livestock and family themed entertainment.

That's Brownies Cafe

The Pigs are relaxing

Twinkles inspecting a quilt

Giant food vendors

We took a ride way out behind our campsite to the foothills of the Cargo Muchacho mountains.  Mining claim stakes are everywhere and there are many abandoned small mines.  Also lots of old rusty car parts, glass and cans.  We next visit the nearby ghost town and gold mine of Tumco.  It was one of the earliest and largest gold mines in California, but like most of them it didn’t last long.  Only a few foundations, a few crumbling walls, the Cyanide Tanks and lots of rusty cans, broken bottles and assorted metal pieces remain.

Heading into the hills

All that is left

An old mine shaft

Old stone ruins at Tumco

More rusty old cans

The historic Yuma downtown area is looking more vibrant and improved since our last visit in the spring of 2013.   We took a morning walk along the Colorado River and it was enlightening to see the progress that has been made in restoring the river front natural areas.  The Colorado River is still flowing nicely here !

The entrance to the historic area

Park area under the Sea to Sea Bridge

The Colorado River is alive

The old Hotel San Carlos

We had lunch at a newly opened brew pub, Prison Hill Brewing, which was very good and seems to be doing well.

Much in Yuma realtes to the famous Yuma Territorial Prison

We also went to the Sanguinetti house and museum which is an amazing rags to riches success story.  Mr. Sanguinetti came to Yuma at 15 years old, penniless, got a job at a store and within a few years owned his own store.  He then went on to become a leading citizen, owning several businesses, farms, ranches, even the bank. The museum is his actual home with the two front rooms being the original adobe structure.  There is a beautiful garden area in the rear that is now used for weddings, special ocassions and tea parties.

A family portrait

The Algodones sand dunes are another huge attraction here for the off road fans, they are huge and beautiful.

A high performance dune buggy

View of the dunes from route 8 exit

In the evening, we view an amazing sunset at the campsite.

Next stop is San Diego, California,
Twinkles and Slick

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