Winter 2017 - Part 1
Welcome to our blog, friends and family!
I am going to start this post by explaining how this trip came about. We wanted to be in a national park on Feb. 11 – Brian's 62nd birthday so he could buy his lifetime Senior Pass for $10. We wanted to visit Death Valley National Park – a park we have avoided during our summer travels – and revisit familiar places in winter (Saguaro National Park, Joshua Tree NP, Phoenix to name a few). We love the desert and wanted to experience it during cooler weather, so off we went!
We took a week to get out of Texas, camping in three state parks (Buescher, Seminole Canyon, and Davis Mountains) and visiting a high school friend in Bandera (Thanks for sharing your beautiful home and deck view, Lacy!). Having traveled the I-10 route many times, we decided to follow U. S. 90 through Del Rio, Langtry, Alpine, Fort Davis, Marfa on the way to Van Horn. We enjoyed a guided tour of the pictographs in Seminole Canyon, a repeat visit to Fort Davis National Historic Site, and a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains.
View from Lacy's desk in Bandera, TX
Davis Mountains Sate Park, west Texas
Seminole Canyon State Park, TX
Seminole Canyon pictographs
We spent one night in New Mexico before leaving the interstate in SE Arizona for a few out-of-the-way NPS sites we have not been able to visit yet. We spent Super Bowl Sunday on a 5-mile hike at Fort Bowie National Historic Site to visit the ruins at 5,000 feet elevation - great views and a surprising number of other visitors. Just down the road was Chiricahua National Monument with a nice campground and gorgeous rock formations. The next day found us less than a mile from the Mexico border at Coronado National Memorial, within site of the existing wall.
Ruins of Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Arizona
View looking north from the trail to Fort Bowie
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
Chiricahua National Monument
Our next stop was Tucson and one of my favorite national parks, Saguaro NP. Three previous visits have involved summer temperatures and quick photo ops along the scenic drive. This time, we were able to hike for a few hours and really get close to the majestic saguaros.
Our selfie at Saguaro National Park
Brian is dwarfed by a mature saguaro
Kris with a younger saguaro (less than 75 years old because it has no branches yet)
growing in the shelter of its palo verde 'nurse' tree where is sprouted.
A very old saguaro (perhaps 150 years old) with branches on branches - magnificent!
Two nights at Picacho Peak State Park within site and sound of the interstate and railroad and a foray down gravel roads into Ironwood National Monument were next (along with a high concentration of geocaches in the area). It was great setting up camp with a giant saguaro standing guard.
With Brian's birthday fast approaching, we made our way south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive took us 2 hours to complete – many more saguaros and organ pipe cacti. The Sonoran Desert is quite green in the winter and has more vegetation than other U.S. deserts. We looked forward to a full moon hike with a park ranger, but found ourselves in a crowd of about 50 people armed with flashlights so we declined to join the “herd.” Bright and early the next morning, we were at the Visitor Center when it opened and Brian purchased his lifetime Senior Pass. We look forward to half-price camping fees in federal recreation areas and national parks now. We have been told that the price is going up sometime this year...hopefully, not before I get my pass in May.
Happy Birthday, Brian - he is holding his pass and has his thumb up.
Ajo Mountain Drive, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
natural arch with a tiny one above it - Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Kris standing next to a mature Organ Pipe Cactus
unusual crested growth in the heart of an organ pipe cactus.
We are now in Yuma, Arizona to attend a large geocaching event. Yuma has many new housing developments gobbling up the desert and numerous RV parks. We are staying in an RV park in town so here is a look at our “RV” –
Can't wait to camp at Joshua Tree National Park in California tomorrow.