Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sonoran Serenity

By the beginning of February, I'd been parked at elevation 4,500 feet in central New Mexico for 4 months.  As much as I loved the people and Refuge at Bosque del Apache, I was itching to replace the Chihuahuan Desert's brown with some greener surroundings, do a little boondocking, and get back to "T-shirt and short-pants weather" (as Tioga George used to call it).  Southern Arizona's Sonoran desert was just the remedy!

I originally thought I'd spend a week in Benson trying out the Escapees Saguaro Co-op RV park, but I arrived an hour after their last spot had been rented out.  So, on to "Jello Plan B"-- head to Tucson to stock up on all the big city conveniences I'd been missing.

Pima Fairgrounds RV Park was more crowded than I'd ever seen it.  I didn't realize until the next day that it was Gem Show Week in Tucson--- oops!

Even though RVs were packed tighter than sardines in a can, there was still plenty of open space around the complex to do some power walking and enjoy the sunsets.

After hitting the local Sprout's Grocery Store for some bulk-food and fruit/veggies, and the yummy Tucson Tamales to stock up the freezer, I headed over to Best Buy to get myself an early birthday gift-- this great-sounding, little Fugoo Style bluetooth speaker (with an incredible 40-hour battery life).   I like to stream music, TV, and movies to my iPad Mini when stretched out on the Winnie's rear bed, and this little speaker now gives me great surround sound back there.  It's also been fun to use outside for happy hour parties.

One afternoon as I walked the fairgrounds perimeter, I noticed that the RV show was back (it was here during my 2012 fairgrounds visit too).  I didn't have my wallet with me, but decided to take a look at the new Winnebagos and other RVs on display anyway.  Lots of sparkle and sizzle, but I honestly didn't see anything that appealed more than my 9-year-old View!  That's sure given me more confidence to proceed with Winnie's pricey new exterior makeover later this Spring (more details coming soon)!

With Tucson errands done, I pointed the Winnie 180 miles west towards the glorious BLM boondocking area south of Ajo, Arizona.   I arrived to find far fewer RVs here than my last visit in 2012.  The old strip mine on the west side of Darby Well Road has now been fenced off, reducing the number of easily accessible spots along that road, but taking the first right turn (onto Scenic Loop Road) and heading west to where it meets up with Alley Rd, revealed a dozen even better boondocking sites, and plenty of space for everyone to spread out and enjoy some solitude.  No sardine cans here!

My spot was simply magnificent.  Quiet, no other RVs within a 1/4 mile in any direction, lots of hiking trails through lush Sonoran desert, and fantastic sunsets and starry skies.  Best of all-- perfect weather! (low 80's during the day, and around 60 at night).

Organ pipe, saguaro, and cholla cactus with palo verde and brittlebrush. 

Ocotillo in bloom

Sunset skies over the Winnie
One day, I decided to try out my brand new America The Beautiful Federal Lands Volunteer Pass by visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument about 30 miles south of my campsite.  Major portions of the western and southern sides of the park recently reopened (after the 2002 assassination of park ranger Kris Eggle by members of a Mexican drug cartel).  I'd never gotten to see these areas of the park and the little yellow Tracker was itching to do some off-roading, so the 37-mile Puerto Blanco trail on the western side of the park was calling our names.

While it was a fun drive, I have to admit that the main Ajo Mountain Drive on the east side seems a bit more scenic.  Still, there was plenty of cactus to see...and even drive thru!

Saguaro cactus "drive-thru"
I also drove a side road into the Senita Basin, named for these hairy-topped senita cactus--

Of course, the park's namesake cactus, the organ pipe, was in abundance as well--

The highlight of my day was the little side road down to Quitobaquito on the southern boundary of the park.  Quitobaquito is literally only a hundred yards or so from the Mexican border.  You can clearly see trucks buzzing along Mexican Hwy 2 from the parking lot, a short little brown border fence on the U.S. side, and an even shorter little white fence along the Mexican side.

It was kinda funny to be driving a simple, gravel road on the U.S. side, while the Mexican vehicles were zooming smoothly along their modern, paved 4-lane highway on the other side of the border!

Not as funny was seeing a tall, solid fence the U.S. has installed over about a mile or two of hills on the park's southern boundary near the Lukeville border crossing.  When the short fence exists just a mile further west (which prevents vehicles from crossing but still allows wildlife, and apparently pedestrians, to travel freely), what's the point of building this massive ugly fence and disrupting wildlife?  Dumb.

But I digress...

Quitobaquito is a small pond and natural spring-- a literal oasis in this vast, dry section of Sonoran desert.

This curious pair of female ducks were enjoying the pond when I visited:

Female Hooded Merganser and Female Ring-necked Duck

Just love the female Hoodie's hairdo!

Female Hooded Merganser
As much as the ducks would like to think they're the main attraction to Quitobaquito, they are upstaged by a tiny little fish only found in this small spring.  See those tiny little dark dots in the upper corner of the pond?

Quitobaquito Spring
 Those are called Quitobaquito Desert Pupfish and they're an endangered species only found here (as there are not too many natural springs like this still left in the desert).  These little fish are only about 2" long and survive in this very shallow waters of this spring.  Just amazing to see them so clearly!

Quitobaquito Desert Pupfish
The spring's channel that runs across the footpath is only about 6"-10" wide and a couple inches deep.  Quite a thrill that this special place is open again to the public.

Quitobaquito Spring
As I was leaving Organ Pipe, the sun was setting and clouds were swirling to make quite a wonderful scene to remember.  I'll return to this park again one day to explore it more!

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument


  1. Nice photos & how nice to be in the Sonoran desert. The southwest portion of Organ Pipe was closed when we were there years ago too so I'm thinking maybe we'll head on down that way again maybe next winter. That Ajo & Why Arizona area was one of the first areas we spent time in when first starting out years ago & hold many great memories for us.

    1. I think you & Pheebs will love jeeping around all the reopened trails at Organ Pipe! I believe it was your blog & photos that originally lured me to Ajo a few years ago, and it is right up there as one of my all-time favorite boondocking spots. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. We boondocked off Darby Wells a few years ago and loved it! Thanks for the lovely photo reminders!

  3. Thanks for the tour, we are headed that way for a few days in a week or so

    1. If your rig is shorter (i.e. under 30 feet), it might be faster/easier to drive down Alley Rd from town-- that's only 2 miles to the primo boondocking spots vs. about 4 miles if you go the Darby Well/Scenic Loop route. Great Verizon signal there, but I'm not sure about AT&T. Have fun!

  4. Lovely visit and great photos. Nice to see you and about again.

  5. Thanks so much for your beautiful photos and great informative posts. Looks like you found a lovely spot. Enjoy.

  6. Gorgeous desert landscape photos. This area is so beautiful, and I love the little Hoodie. I haven't seen water birds in a while. :)


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