Mar 8 64921 8:16
Up early, we have too parks to see today in Gila Bend. RG wants to hide under the covers and will on top of first the sheet, then the blanket and then the quilt. I finally get the coverlet on and he hides in the pillows.
We are ready to go, it is a beautiful day, sunny, no clouds, and no cat. Can’t find RG, he is hiding somewhere in the RV and won’t come out. We have looked everywhere, in all the drawers and cupboards, behind the couch, under the couch, in the bed, the closet and even places he could not get to.
We head off to fuel up. Diesel 48 gals at $2.77, we are still under budget on fuel. We finish fueling and head off. In just a few minutes, RG strolled out from under the dash very nonchalantly. After a good scolding, and then a loving he settled down in my lap to sleep, I may twist his little neck.
We just passed a billboard, picture of Bush and the words “Miss me yet?” A little Arizona humor.
We are passing crops and orchards in a large valley rimmed by mountains.
As you look across the wide expanse of the valley here and see mountains miles off in the distance, I often marvel at the stamina and determination of the early settlers. Even at 60 miles an hour it seems a vast distance, at 2 or 3 miles an hour it must have been quite daunting.
We have to stop at a border patrol checkpoint, but only 2 questions, how many aboard, and are we citizens of the U.S.
10:37 we arrive at Holt’s Shell RV Park in Gila Bend. This is a Passport America park and our cost for the night is only $10.97. We get all set up and head out to check out our two national monuments for the day.
First is Sonoran Desert National Monument. This monument encompasses nearly 500,000 acres of untrammeled Sonoran Desert landscape and is the most biologically diverse of the North American deserts. The most significant aspect of the desert is the large Saguaro cactus forests. It also contains three distinct mountain ranges and three designated wilderness areas as well as many significant archaeological and historic sites.
Unfortunately there is no Visitor’s Center and the area most accessible by road from Gila Bend is closed to motorized vehicles. We do drive into one area and get a few pictures.
Then it is off to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Organ Pipe is nearly 60 miles south of Gila Bend. On the way we pass another Border Patrol checkpoint that we will have to stop at on the way home. We finally reach the entrance to the Visitor Center.
We watch a movie on the diversity of the area, rainfall, plants, and animals, get the stamp and buy a guide for one of the driving tours.
We are taking the Ajo Mountain Drive tour. This is 21 miles along a graded one-way, dirt road. The road is designed to blend in with the landscape and yet give you a good perspective of the different plants and landscapes within the monument.
The drive has numbered pullouts and an explanation of what you are seeing in the guide. Saguaro cactus is the largest species of cactus in the U.S. and is very abundant here. Some grow up to 50 feet high, live for 100 years and weight several tons. The Saguaro will store moisture in its stem and branches. The accordion-like pleating allows the plant to expand during wet times and contract during drought.
The Saguaro blooms during May and June and only at night. The fruit of the plant is
Eaten fresh or dried for winter. Seeds are ground and into a substance that is considered a delicacy and the juice is set aside to ferment as wine or boiled to make thick sweet syrup.
The Organ Pipe Cactus within the U.S. grows mainly in the monument. Many branches rise from the base at the ground instead of a straight trunk like the Saguaro. It flowers in June and July with white flowers tinged with pink. Like the Saguaro they bloom at night and attract bats and insects that pollinate the plant. Organ Pipe also bears an edible fruit eaten by many birds and animals.
Also present here is the Chain-Fruit Cholla. It looks a lot like a teddy-bear cholla but the flowers and fruit are located on the top of the fruit of the previous year until long chains hang from the plant. This fruit is nearly always sterile and the cholla rarely reproduces by seed. Instead sections of the cholla fall off and scatter on the ground where they take root and grow new plants.
The Ajo Mountains tower over this valley with Mt. Ajo rising to 4,808 feet. About high way the road tour is Arch Canyon. Arches are rare here and Arch Canyon if 36 feet high, 90 feet wide and over 720 feet above the road. It was formed by the freezing and thawing of water and the carving force of the wind.
Other plants in this monument are the Creosote Bush, Jojoba, Foothill Palo Verde, Brittle Bush, the Mexican Jumping Bean, Prickly Pear Cactus, the Teddy Bear Cholla, Mesquite, Ironwood, and Ocotillo.
The Monument is a high desert, most of the monument is above 2,000 feet, and looking off across the valley the opposite hills look green. The Saguaro looks like people climbing the hills.
On the way back we stop at the Border check point where we are asked where we are from, where we have been, and where we are staying. The car is also checked out by the beautiful German shepherd.
We get back to the RV, do laundry, take a walk and fix dinner. I can’t get on the internet so this will get send as soon as we can make contact.