LOTS OF PRETTY PRICKLY THINGS

Hiking Dripping Springs Trail
We left White Sands and had an easy hour-long drive over to the Organ Mountains.  We were in desperate need of a washing machine, so we stayed at the KOA just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico instead of a state park. Las Cruces was pretty nice and the housing communities around New Mexico State University were filled with some pretty awesome adobe homes. After we had settled in and got our laundry finished, we headed over to Dripping Springs Recreation Area and hiked for an hour or so to see the actual Dripping Springs. We can confirm that yes, it's still dripping, but that's about it.






Resort Ruins along Dripping Springs Trail

We hiked back to the car and then drove down Baylor Canyon Road, a nice gravel road that provided good views of the Organ Mountains.  As we were waiting for the sun to set, we noticed a pickup truck had showed up. The driver honked at us and then drove over. I figured I was set up on his property and he was there to kick me out.  Instead, he handed me a lengthy letter about how he's being followed in parks and national forests by unknown individuals, and being video-taped while using the bathroom by his neighbors. This isn't the first time this has happened to us. When we were in a state park in Pennsylvania, this guy talked out ear off for about 10 minutes about how somebody was following him everywhere. Weird…..






Afternoon light on The Organ Mountains

When sunset finally arrived, so did the monster storm clouds which blocked the sun just enough that there was no light hitting the mountain.  Just down from where I was set up, the mountains were lit up wonderfully, as if the sun was teasing me. Needless to say, sunset was a bust, so we packed up and headed back to camp. To keep things short, the next 2 days were spent trying to get a decent sunrise/sunset of these mountains. It never really panned out but we had fun nonetheless.

We packed up and headed off to western sector Saguaro National Park, which is called the Tucson Mountain District. The first thing you notice when you drive into the park is that the saguaro cacti are HUGE.

Yup, they're tall
I always thought they were about 8 feet tall at most, but they grow up to 50 feet tall. We headed to the visitor station and talked to one of the coolest Rangers we've met so far. He told us all the best trails to hike, where the wildflowers could be found, and also gave us info on nearby areas of interest.  He said he was envious of our trip and told everyone in the visitor center not to mess with us because we're hobos and we don't take any crap.

The first and longest trail we did was the King Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak. The 7 mile roundtrip (which we probably made 8 after a little detour) was a pretty tough little trail. Most of the trail was filled with jagged and loose rocks, which made slipping and tripping a normal occurrence most of the way up and back down. The view was worth the effort though. From atop the peak you could see the entire city of Tuscon and in the other direction, a flat desert plain stretching out to the surrounding mountains. We inhaled the Subway sub that we brought along for the much needed energy boost to hike back down.

By this point it was not fun ; )

Atop Wasson Peak
We definitely learned a few lessons while hiking this trail.  One:  32 ounces of water is not enough for two people to hike eight miles in 80+ degree weather and no shade.  Two:  Apply sunscreen before hiking in said weather or else you will rock a sunburned farmer's tan for the next week.  Three: Lightweight hiking shoes are not intended for extremely rocky terrain and the bottoms of your feet will become so bruised that it hurts to walk on pavement.   

We took a break from the park and decided to visit the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, which houses everything from javelinas to mountain lions, to fish. We spent some time in the hummingbird aviary, where hummingbirds zoomed by your head every few seconds. It was a small area and it was pretty crowded, so we found a little corner and just sat and watched all the birds zoom around for about 10 minutes.  We also visited the museum's cactus and botanical gardens.  While walking around, one the rangers took note of my photo equipment and showed us where we could find a grey fox sleeping in a tree.  Not part of the museum exhibits, the little guy had made a nest about fifty feet up.  Unfortunately all we could see when we got there was his little paws sticking out of the nest.


Hummingbird at the Desert Museum



A pretty rainbow over camp

The last day in Saguaro, we had some pretty awesome thunderstorms roll through. We went out hunting lighting bolts, but the storms moved so fast it was too tough to catch any in photos. Before giving up, we headed up to Signal Hill where there are probably about 10 petroglyphs scattered among a group of rocks. We had ventured out here the night before for some star photos, but with the awesome skies overhead it was worth stopping for another photo, despite getting soaking wet in the process. After the storms did their thing, we were left with a perfect little rainbow over our campground. A fitting end to an enjoyable stay among the prickly giants.

Storms over Signal Hill
Among Giants

Incoming storm clouds in the early morning hours

Signal Hill under the stars
Mexican Poppies below towering Saguaros
Setting sun and Saguaro

We reached our filth limit after five days without a shower and left Saguaro in search of a much needed cleansing. We drove the long and hard 26 miles to Catalina State Park, which is just north of Tucson. We showed up to a full campground, but luckily somebody was in the process of canceling the rest of their stay as we were inquiring about sites and we were able to snag a spot for the night. The showers were hot, clean, and felt terrific.

The storms that had been lingering all day brought some great clouds over top the Santa Catalina Mountain Range, which was adjacent to our campground. I felt like relaxing a bit today, but the huge mountains surrounded by menacing clouds were calling my name. I set a goal to try and produce a compelling black and white series with the mountain range as the main subject. I spent about 4 hours wandering around in the foothills, trying to avoid twisting my ankle while ascending and descending the terrain that consisted of huge boulders and loose rocks. I was caught in a few rain showers while I was out there, and I would pack up and walk to a new location each time the rain began.










After hunger had set in I made my way back to camp and we drove to the In-and-Out Burger right outside of the park. It was our first time eating here and we were in agreement that it was probably the best fast food burgers we've ever had.






We're heading to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument tomorrow and then Joshua Tree. Watch for a new update in the coming week.


Comments

  1. Great update, Jordan. I know that area fairly well as I have good friends in Tucson and spent many a Christmas there. They live in the foothills of the Santa Catalinas.

    Love your b&w series - quite foreboding. Look forward to your next update. Meanwhile, I'm off up a Scottish mountain!

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  2. So wonderful to travel throughout the United States, the manner in which you minimize color to a basic form, to emphasize texture, light, and shadow, so that each image is allowed to tell its own story…in its own unique way. Wonderful!

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