Thursday, January 24, 2008

In the Land of Sun

Sunset view from Organ Pipe National Monument's campground.

Levitating in Arch Canyon. :-) We climbed way above the arches.

Chris had a business trip to Phoenix this week, so we left CA last Thursday and made a week-long road trip out of it. After visiting his dear friend Jeanne in Santa Monica and dining at a groovy raw foods restaurant (yep, we WERE in Santa Monica!), we bagged a whopping 3 miler, Monument Peak, in southern Joshua Tree National Park before heading further eastward to Blythe and Quartzite.

If you like road trippin', I highly recommend you put Quartzite on your list of Jan-Feb destinations. Home of possibly the largest gem-and-mineral show in the country, Quartzite attracts rock hounds and RV'ing snowbirds by the thousands, vendor stalls sprouting by the dozens with kind of a county fair flavor. We didn't have time to see it all, barely scratched the surface actually, because we wanted to make it to
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for the night.

After a LONG drive across southwestern AZ with a quick stop at the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Ajo (Cabeza Prieta, incidentally, is the final resting place of Ed Abbey and a destination added to my "Places to explore in more depth someday" list) we made it to Organ Pipe in time for me to get in a short run before nightfall. With the campground only about 5 miles from the Mexican border, the presence of many, many border patrol vehicles, and especially after coming across some empty water bottles, torn jeans, and a pair of boots (did the person continue BAREFOOTED??), all most likely jettisoned by an illegal, I spent the majority of the run pondering the plight of illegal immigrants, at the same time realizing how fortunate I am to have been born here and how much we Americans sometimes take for granted. The Monument was splendid, with more kinds of cacti than I'd ever seen before, including of course, the ubiquitous organ pipe variety, pictured above. We were told that the best time to visit, however, is when the spring flowers erupt in April.

After a rugged and scrambly hike in Arch Canyon (two arches!), we headed north through the outpost of Why (yep, that's the name of a town) and through the Tahono-O'odham Indian Reservation, a vast, sparsely populated, desolate yet fascinating section of desert that seemed more akin to a hawk sanctuary -- literally dozens were sighted! Ignorant of the fact that Florence, AZ, is home to reputedly 17 (!) prisons, we somehow ended up there Sunday night but had some great Mexican and margaritas.

We finally arrived at the hotel in downtown Phoenix after a nice hike up Peralta Canyon in the Superstition Mountains just east of the city. Hotel guests are allowed to use the adjacent fitness center, so I was able to get in my upper body weight work and two yoga classes this week. Oh boy! I also hit the trails every day, climbing Camelback and Piestewa Peaks right in the city--how cool is that?!--and a nice 20 miler out in McDowell Mtn. Park, home of the Javelina Jundred and the Pemberton Trail 50k. (My body reminded me that I hadn't done any long runs for a few weeks...)

Back to CA tomorrow.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Sounds like a fun road trip! Deserts are pretty fascinating ecologically and geologically. Glad you guys had fun!