A great gift was given to me; with the pandemic subsiding my best friend from Estonia was able to once again schedule time to visit my lame ass out here on the West Coast. Now...mind you...we've had a questionable problem where going on a road trip leads to world disasters, but still were willing to press our luck. Originally we were hoping to get to Yosemite to see great waterfalls with the snowmelt but, whelp, The Artist had different plans and decided to dump feet of snow in the Sierras instead! Death Valley wasn't in a great bloom, so, over some bourbon, we started to go through other options and as I reminisced about some of my favorite places in Arizona I brought up one of my favorite missions and suddenly it was decided!
We started off on the road and hit traffic in the middle of nowhere, so only got to Blythe the first day driving through the night. Where we stayed at a Motel 6. I do not recommend this hotel. Though non-smoking, possibly the foulest smelling room I've ever encountered! But yet it seems like a poetic place where I should retire. After all they do have a pool and a hoist for the pool...
So without too much postpartum depression the next day we hightailed it out of that Motel 6, hoping to get a campsite. On the way we stopped by Casa Grande NM. Along the way there, however, in daylight, suddenly it was amazing. The entire desert was green, the brittlebush were all blooming, and there were carpets of flowers just creating streaks across the land as if it was wearing different scarves! This was something I did not expect to see and have never before seen this part of the desert in bloom. Our plan had given us an unexpected and most bodacious happenstance: a superbloom! Driving across the desert, seeing all these dense patches of wildflowers...stunning.
Casa Grande still amazes me. Though we have no records, we are just left to guess at what it might have been. With openings aligned with the solstices and even longer term lunar cycles profound knowledge of the operation of the universe was here. I am just glad that something of their amazing creation remains for all of us to bear witness.
After booking it to find a campsite (the second to last one!) we went on another travel leg. My great friend had pointed this out and I'd never been...the Titan Missle Museum National Historic Landmark. It is the only remaining Titan II missle silo that is still intact and it is phenomenal. Just being able to see the rocket itself that powered the Geminii program was great as I am fascinated with space. However, the tour takes the cake. You get to go into the actual control room of the silo which still has all the original equipment and it is a sight to see. Growing up I loved the movie Wargames, and suddenly the opening sequence became a lot more real. If you ever get a chance, do not pass this place by. It gives respect not only for all the engineers and operators that really kept us safe during the Cold War, but also how insane nuclear war really can be.
So, to calm down from imagining an upcoming apocalypse, we next went to Tumacacori NHP. This was the inspiration for this entire crazy trip. I love this old mission; it's architecture has such a unique blend of geometry that I've never seen in any other mission. I'd only seen it once before but wanted to see again. Visiting it again was a wonderful experience. The structure and architecture are phenomenal, and this time I even went into the museum right before closing and saw some of the wooden sculptures that used to be tucked away in the naves. It is an incredibly unique place and also in a very peaceful setting. Plus there is a bar across the street that has been there since the mid 1800s with the very first liquor license in Arizona after prohibition was lifted. So it has that going for it.
Now, with key point one for the trip achieved, it was time to fulfill the next goal: go have a beer in Mexico. I was a bit timid but my friend pushed me on and, yup, we were in Mexico! Customs was a turnstile. It is amazing how quickly it seems like a different country. Clearly it is not ADA compliant, but all kinds of little street vendors, you don't quite know if the cars will stop for you, but Nogales is really pretty. Lots of fun older buildings, a pretty church, scooters ridden by folk blaring Low Rider, and a very friendly ambiance. After a wonderful meal and a few really cheap beers at the 33, we headed back across the border. Aside from another group with questionable IDs that required summonning Smitty, we had no problem walking back across. That was when we tried to find the old town on the US side. Hmm. Well, the US side of the town was much more dodgy. Funny; we both felt safer in Mexico! So we got back in the Jeep and went to the bar by the mission and then back to the campsite.
The next day was hiking in Saguaro NP. I've been here a few times and always loved the gorgeous cacti forests, but seeing them alongside all the wildflowers was striking. Differnet colors and greens all around! We hiked up to Watson Peak and along the way just had a wonderful time. Starting off in a lower elevation with the wildflowers and saguaro it was wonderful to see all the botanical changes gradually unveil as we ascended. At the top was a very tired boy (and another who was fine...who wasn't me...) but panoramic views. So bizarre to see just how built up everything was in the desert. It made me thankful that at least this little portion was preserved.
Next up was Organ Pipe, where years ago I was stopped by a ranger and accused of being a drug smuggler (go profiling). This was kind of the kernel in my head of thinking about this kind of a trip. But, hard as we tried, we couldn't find a restaurant and, yet again, late in the day, no campsite. A little frustrated we started bantering (not arguing, just banter!) and thinking of skipping the monument when I thought of an idea; OK, so the park site says same day reservations are honored; though it is 6PM, isn't it technically still the same day? After wrangling with awful government websites, lo! A tent site! Plan succeeds after all.
We went on out on the Victoria Mine trail, the trail on which I had been on before many years ago. Again, still many new unique and pretty wildflowers there I had not expected to see. The mine itself was still as I remembered; the old pulley hadn't been moved. This time, though, and with daylight, my friend pushed me to go on to Lost Cabin Mine. There was a lack of organ pipes on the trail, but then, going on the next portion, we crested the hill. Suddenly, as if spawned by an unusual vortex of energy, organ pipes were everywhere! Entire hillsides just dominated by them. Even different cacti were flowering here where nowhere else they were. Astounding. So if you find yourself in Organ Pipe and on that trail, go just a little further and you will witness the wonder of The Artist.
On the way back to my place we stopped off to see the Old Mud Pots and the Salton Sea. The mud pots are still active, and I suppose the plant next to them is a geothermal power plant. Pretty interesting. Not a bad stopoff if you're around the Salton Sea.
Soon my friend had to fly back home. But still, as always, flying by the seat of our pants, we had constructed a wonderful and memorable trip that just might not be able to be recreated again.
The photos are from the a900 system along with an iPhone mini 12. The a900 photos are mixture of the 24-70mm Zeiss, 100mm Macro, and the 70-400 G.
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