Out here in the desert, we continue to be surrounded by cactus, mountains, and natural beauty — and, more recently – friends! We met Kathy and Greg last summer on our first volunteer project in Montana. Outgoing, adventurous and welcoming, we hoped to see them again one day. After their summer adventures ended, we stayed in touch when they returned to their home in Minnesota. Now on their first snowbird trip, we planned to cross paths in New Mexico, but they were driven west by the cold temperatures there, and came to us instead!
We scoped out a great boondock spot for them within site of our unit and celebrated their arrival with a happy hour reunion in this beautiful place. Since their previous night had been 19 degrees (!) and involved a frozen water pipe, the chilly-but-comfortable evening temps here near Ajo were a perfect antidote. With years of travel stories to share, as well as some delicious homemade guacamole, there is never a dull moment around a campfire with these two! The next day started with a short hike and ended with a chili dinner made over our heart shaped fire ring (courtesy of Kris). It seemed like a fitting first day of desert life. And Kris had the vision to see that spreading the coals out in the fire ring would make a beautiful end to Valentine’s Day.
A day’s outing to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was one of the highlights of our time together. About thirty miles south of where we are staying, it’s the only place in the US to find the Organ Pipe Cactus. Lucky for us, their range spreads north to Ajo, so we’ve been camping with the giant, many-armed cactus for a while now. The park has a drive through three desert biospheres, including canyons and high mountains, with information about the cultural history, plant life and geology along the way. We had some fantastic views, a tasty picnic lunch under a roof of Ocotillo cactus branches, and learned (among other things) about the hardy pack rats that build nests from thorny cactus joints. That’s one way to discourage visitors.
So we’ve been short on adventure but long on fun and friendship for the last week. We’ve been swapping music and movies, enjoying the hummingbirds that found us almost as soon as we hung Kathy’s feeder, and keeping company with the perfect javelina skull that Kris found close to camp. Days were sunny and peaceful with companionable silence or happy laughter (except for the day-long driving rainstorm that drove us all inside!). Throw in some world-class bloody Mary’s (the first I have ever liked) and sunsets, and I think we’ve officially become desert rats.