It’s a leisurely morning of coffee, tv and packing up. By the time we finish replenishing food supplies at a nearby Big Box Store (washing our produce in their bathroom sink) it’s time for breakfast/lunch at another Mexican place! Big Dog is certainly getting his Mexican food craving taken care of!
Saguaro West, the western part of Saguaro National Park, is also right next to suburbia. Worse, the main road through the park is a commuter road. Drivers are all in a hurry and seem irritated by those who want to cruise the cacti. This part of the park is a bit wilder, less ‘burby and more interesting but the scenery is really just as impressive along Highway 86 towards Ajo. Saguaros, chollas, ocotillos, opuntia, green limbed palo verde… just no yuccas.
Today we are headed towards Organ Pipe Cactus National Park. The road goes through the Tohono O’odham Reservation but there are no roadside souvenir stands. These Native Americans aren’t very commercial.
We turn off at Why (“Why?” “Because.”) and go south to Organ Pipe. It’s only a few miles from the Mexican border, so naturally, there are border checks and patrols. This IS Arizona, after all, where the people took matters into their own hands regarding illegal immigration.
Now, what IS an organ pipe cactus? We are not sure yet. All we see are the usual suspects of the Sonoran Desert – saguaro, ocotillo, opuntia, palo verde, mesquite… There are also tons of wildflowers – little yellow things, purple things, feathery reddish things. The ocotillo are greener here and some have leaves. Others have red flowers that attract hummingbirds.
We just found out the other day that saguaro is pronounced sa-WAH-ro and die after only 20 hours of freeze. Even the giants that are hundreds of years old – HUNDREDS! – are done in after 20 hours!
It’s already after 4:30 by the time we get to the Visitors Center at Organ Pipe and it is closed so we go straight to the campsite. There are literally hundreds of sites here and more RV than tent sites. It’s probably too hot to be in a tent here most of the time. The sites are all cement pads on the desert floor, with a picnic table and grill, but each one has pretty desert landscaping for a sense of privacy. It’s also one of the more developed campsites. There are real flush toilets! A utility sink! (First one since Big Bend.) And even a solar shower! All for only $6 with the senior pass. What a deal. No wonder everyone loves it here. Unless you are an illegal immigrant. Here, too, there are lots of warnings about illegal border crossings (“Do not attempt to help them!”) and check points everywhere.
We have an early dinner accompanied by the beautiful Sonoran sunset — “Hey, that could be a new drink!” – then stroll to the amphitheater for a volunteer ranger talk. “Lee” talks about “ouchy things” – spiny plants, dangerous animals and insects. Here, we find out that the wild peccary called javelina is pronounced Ha-veh-LEE-na, not Jah-veh-LEE-na, and cholla is CHO-ya. Now we can sound like we know what we’re talking about.