Leaving Lilypad safely stowed with Bette in Apache Junction, we took a short vacation from our vacation and flew to Seattle to see granddaughter Olivia in “Annie” and celebrate her thirteenth birthday, watch Xan start his basketball career, and begin our search for new winter headquarters on Vashon Island. The decision to be nearer to these two wonderful growing spirits was easy, but getting Liz to accept moving has been hard. She can’t handle the term “moving to Vashon Island” and is careful to explain to friends and family that we will always be on San Juan Island for the summers. But for the winters, we want to be closer to Xan and Olivia and the wonderful family they share. So our travels in Lilypad will soon be coming to a close and we are looking for a place to rent or buy on Vashon.
|Hiking in Organ Pipe Cactus National Preserve
Then one more night at Road Haven in Apache Junction and we were back on the road again. It was with great relief that we escaped from the greater Phoenix metropolitan area and headed to the remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in the southern part of the Sonoran Desert. Administered by the National Park Service this lovely park on the Mexican border was only recently reopened to the public in the wake of a drug smuggling-related shooting death of a ranger and subsequent border security build up. We attended “coffee with the superintendent” and learned that in 2002 there were 15 border patrol officers in the area and now there are 550. These agents and the park personnel play cat and mouse with folks who (aided by humanitarians who leave caches of food and water) try to cross the desert to a new life in the United States. In 2013 4,000 people were intercepted in the area. When we headed north away from the park we were merely waved through several armed checkpoints, exactly like our passage through border patrol checkpoints in Texas; which made us think that the perfect way to smuggle people north would be to engage older white women in RVs to drive them out. But back to the park, having been assured that it is “safe,” we took a lovely hike up the unspoiled desert hill, full of organ pipe cactus, ocotillo, teddy bear cholla and other beautiful desert plants. We stayed two nights, enjoying the solar-heated showers in the campground and the volunteer-naturalist-led slideshow programs in the evenings: one on the desert tortoise and the other on the coyote.
|Arizona Oldtime Fiddler plays Ashokan Farewell
|American Pelicans float the Salton Sea
Liz got to practice this new technique and posture at our next stop: two nights alongside the beautiful Salton Sea. The pelicans appeared unimpressed as she fiddled at the sea shore . Presumably if your species has survived for millions of years, nothing humans do is that interesting. But humans are going to have to do something soon if they want to save this critical refuge that is a stopping place for 40% of the migrating waterfowl in North America. The Salton Sea was accidentally created in 1905 by industrialists attempting to divert the Colorado River to irrigate the desert, and it surprised future generations by not drying up in the years following. Runoff from theset agricultural lands is the primary source of water now and, as you may have guessed, this water is laden with fertilizers and pesticides. A few decades ago the Sea supported five types of fish and a depth of 60 feet. Now motorboats can barely maneuver due to low water, and the only fish that survive is tilapia. Another notable organism besides the birds is the beautiful pink barnacles that were introduced by amphibious watercraft during World War II. The shells of these dying animals create lovely pink beaches that crunch when you walk. Now birds find haven here and we saw two species of pelican, black necked stilts and many gulls. To see them fly across the Sea, landing on a landscape that once bustled with human activity and now is all theirs, really makes one reflect on the egregious impact of human greed and folly.
|Lisa taught us how to pick citrus
|Super Bowl Party with Marie-Josée and Lisette
|We've touched all 4 deserts on this trip