Organ Pipe National Park – A Desert Showcase

Okay so it’s in the middle of nowhere, UNLESS you are traveling to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico).  Every single time we pass it I say “I wish we could stop”, but the lure of the Mexican sand beach & fresh ceviche keeps us on course.  We discover our friends felt the same way so we decided to stop on the way back!  The Organ Pipe National Monument is a large stand of these unique type of cactus.Similar to the saguaro this forest of organ pipes thrives in the South West corner of the Sonoran Desert. lrg_dsc05137A stop at the Visitor’s Center to check in and then off to a 2 mile loop trail for an overview.The views are incredible from the top of the loop.lrg_dsc05142From here you can see the border wall and into Mexico. You can’t miss it.
img_0527‘It’s easy to see where the cactus got it’s name.

I was surprised to see the difference in structure of the interior of the Saguaro versus the Organ Pipe.

Bonus, the Ironwood trees were in bloom creating pink patches of color.

Believe it or not this area was a large cattle ranch owned by the Gray family for a century.  The last cattle taken off the land with the death of Robert Jr. Gray in 1976.  lrg_dsc05148It seems there is a lot left to discover so we will return, camp, and explore another day.  For now we will just relish in the refreshing hike and head home.

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Close-up of the Organ Pipe Cactus
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The Hohokam did live on this land for a time and leave petroglyphs. This rock was lying near the path. Who knows if it is part of an actual petroglyph or simply a rock scribble.
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The saguaros in the area are blooming.

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Ancient Wonder Next Door

We often travel far to see an ancient site sometimes asking a local for a review only to find  that they haven’t even heard of their local attraction.  We were surprised until we realized we had done the SAME THING in our hometown.  Since our revelation we are determined to explore more sites nearby   In fact we had a lot of fun recently at the Signal Hill Petroglyphs located in the Saguaro National Park West just  few miles away.P1220906-001

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Go that way

lrg_dsc04590We took a picnic and enjoyed a few little animals and birds. Great place to enjoy a picnic lunch at the well kept covered tables.
7017086_medium_1462828617thJust to the east is an easy path leading to the petroglyphs.   lrg_dsc04599
lrg_dsc04596They are said to have been created by the Hohokam people. We stop to to imagine what the artist was trying to convey with these symbols.2017-12-31_12-41-33_000Looking over the valley from this site I can see how it would have been chosen as a beacon for travelers.lrg_dsc04594   I have to say it’s been fun discovering adventure right in our own back yard.

Treasure Hunting At The Gem Show

Each February vendors come to Tucson, AZ to exhibit gems, minerals, fossils, boulders, and natural art at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

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5 ft and above for these crystal formations!

The logistics of shipping the tremendous amount of heavy rock always amazes me. In just a few weeks tons of material arrive in Tucson.   I picture an off-balance washing machine thumping away; except its the earth wobbling from the excess weight.2018-01-27_13-01-26_504.jpeg

I have my favorite venues.  The Co-Op on Oracle Rd  always has a large petrified wood room with  different tables on display every year.  I highly recommend hugging petrified tree millions of years old whenever one gets a chance.

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Spectacular Petrified Wood Table.
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Tables are made from slabs millions of years old.

My favorite room at the Co-Op has Septarian geodes from Utah. I check their room first thing on the first day as they are very popular.

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Each Septarian Egg is unique.

The Co-Op is handicap accessible and always has fossils to see.

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We tried the new venue advertised as the “upscale” 22nd street show.  Not my type of product but found some interesting art!

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Warrior Woman made from metal and motorcycle chain hair!

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These bat coffins are quite interesting.  However pants would have been a good idea.  I was not prepared to see bat genitalia so early in the morning.

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Also proof that someone whacked that Geico lizard. Perhaps now we can stop contemplating why a Gecko selling insurance in the US has a UK accent and has access to Navy aircraft carriers.

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In the olden days (I’d say even 10 years ago) there were only a few different venues hosting exhibits. It was easy to see in a couple of days. The fame of the Tucson Gem Show spread and now there are  venues  all over town.

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The ever popular giant pink skull decor.

After the 4th or 5th venue it can feel like repetition, However, treasure may be right around the corner. 2018-01-28_14-03-55_966

I try to buy my supplies from returning vendors to show  support to them for coming back each year.  Half the fun of the treasure hunt is talking to the vendors and listen to their story.  People come from all over the world. There are so many different paths that lead to the Gem Show!

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Lights show through the mineral creating fascinating patterns on the wall.

One of the more artistic booths has unique gem inlaid pictures.  Every year they exhibit and have a darkened room where the art is illuminated from behind. Impossible to capture the beauty  in a photo.

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This pic doesn’t even come close.  Metal background, gem quality inlaid lapis, turquoise, & coral.

When I tell the exhibitor that ‘this is always one of my favorite booths”, she animatedly responds “Oh do you posses one of our pieces?”  I tell her “I wish”  as I run my hand over the cool metal and stone.2018-01-27_11-04-27_323

One of the returning booths only sells Himalayan Salt Lamps.  If you see one you want buy it because if you wait to “buy it on the way out so I can take it straight to the car” it  the treasure will be gone.

There are miles and miles of beads,

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Gems,

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Fossils,

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Who knew these fossilized poop emojis sell for $2,000?

Art,

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Collections,

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Treasure hunters bring your walking shoes!   There is no place like the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

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Replenishing my supplies:  Hopefully enough to get me through 2018.  Until the next treasure hunt at least…

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Turquoise all shapes and sizes

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Ready to go!  Excited to use some of the new product in the projects. Stay tuned to Desertwindsgallery.com

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I’itoi Cave

Since I was a young girl I heard about a mysterious sacred cave in the Baboquivari Mountains on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation southwest of Tucson, AZ.  I have always been fascinated by the sharp contrast of the Baboquivari Mountain Range against the sky.Rising high above the desert Babo Peak  has been written about for centuries as a beacon for those who travel through the valleys.  Unfamiliar with the permits required for hiking  on the reservation, and not knowing the trails, I  searched and found an archaeological tour group heading to I’itoi Cave.  I was thrilled to finally climb that famous peak. The archaeologist and guide is Al Dart from Old Pueblo Archaeology .  The tour was so well organized and we felt like we were hiking with friends. His knowledge and passion  for sharing information exceeded our expectations. Highly recommended for a first look at any area one is interested in exploring! Traveling by SUV for12 miles on an un-maintained road, our group arrived  at the Baboquivari Campground Area to find campers taking down a tee pee from the previous night’s birthday celebration.  Al was quick to point out that the tee pee is not part of the Tohono O’Odham culture but had been used for this particular ceremony and overnight stay.  He went on to describe the history of the area in great detail.   Even at this early stage of the tour we could tell this would be a wonderful experience.

The campground area is beautiful and worth exploring.    Above us and surrounding us like a giant hug stood Babo Peak. The hike to I’itoi Cave is a little over mile on a trail rated difficult.  Fortunately our guide made frequent stops along the trek  pointing out both man made  and natural wonders along the way.  He included reading excerpts of  early European explorers during our rest stops.The views are spectacular and unspoiled from this vista. What a perfect day to hike.The cave has a tiny triangular entrance behind an outcropping of rock.  It’s a wonder anyone found it at all.  It is said  I’itoi  still lives there as protector of the Tohono O’Odham people.   Iitoi is sometimes referred to as “Older Brother”.  Some traditions have him entering the cave through a labyrinth and others refer to  him as the man in the maze.

We were met by the caretaker/shaman of the Baboquivari Wilderness Area who was waiting by the entrance.   He is said to be over 60 and makes the climb three times a week.

He told us stories about I’itoi and Eagle Man who had been sent to earth by the creator. Both of them were tasked with making  people so they each set out to  make people of different colors.  Eagle Man’s people did not survive but I’itoi’s purple people were strong and became the Tohono O’Odham.

When someone asks him the best way to enter/exit the cave, he laughed and said you can go in however you want, but  “there’s only one way out, head first, like being born”.

We took turns, 6 at a time went in.   G and I waited our turn and watched as each person came out of the cave differently… and yep, we all looked just like a birth.  Everyone re-entered the world differently.  Some  needed assistance to which helpers joked about needing forceps.   Other than the occasional awkward exit from the cave, it was quiet and peaceful, everyone speaking softly.The shaman/caretaker was asked why he let non natives enter the cave.  More specifically, why he would let Catholic or Christian symbols be placed as offerings. His answer was beautiful.  He said he had thought about it many times, and had meditated about it for a long time here in the cave.  He said he believes that there is one god, different to the different cultures, but still one.  He said their story is similar to a Christian story.  They share a flood story, and I’itoi died and rose again.   As long as people are respectful, he wants to share this sacred cave with the anyone seeking it’s peace.Finally our turn came. We aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the cave and I can see why.  Whether or not one believes in I’itoi as a deity or not, there is a unique reverence entering  the darkness.  A shaft of light is just enough to see the uneven walls of the cave and shines deep toward the sloping back wall.  What lies inside are the prayers, hopes and dreams of those who had come before.   I noticed a  faint scent of incense as I knelt down to add two little purple flowers that I had brought from home. I gave them my own meaning as I placed them in the fine dust on the floor so they would  just catch the corner of the sunbeam.   My own experience was energizing kneeling there on  the soft dirt.  Following the sun I exited out the triangle hole and slid back to the real world.Refreshed we all headed down the mountain to the next stop….Petroglyphs.There is an outcropping of rock on the valley floor peppered with petroglyphsProtected by an overhang they have been here for centuries.Some of the red pictographs are dated at over 5,000 years old. The whiter carved petroglyphs more modern, around 500 years and have Hohokam influence.Some areas had holes used for grinding. A new tradition to toss coins into them as a prediction of future events.As the sun faded to a glorious Arizona sunset it was time to say goodbye.

Renewed and tired we headed back to Tucson holding the Shaman’s words in our heart, we are all one people.

Good Geode Hunting

The theme of this week’s hike was geode hunting.  Following directions down an unmaintained forest road we found ourselves just north of  the Mexican Border at an abandoned corral.  2017-09-02_13-15-43_0002017-09-02_13-11-37_000The summer rains have filled the canyon with life.2017-09-02_13-21-20_000.jpegCaterpillars and butterflies everywhere.  2017-09-02_13-55-46_000

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2017-09-02_13-32-24_000There is a slight breeze gently whispers through the valley.  We have our picnic in quiet reverence.

Time to find what we came for. The hike up the canyon is beautiful and we are looking for a 90 degree turn north where a geode collecting area is located. The suspense hunting for treasure is exciting.  2017-09-02_13-25-20_000I turned & jumped when I saw this Chupacabra…2017-09-02_13-40-49_000 It’s just G holding up a COW PELVIS. Gross.  Of course he wants to take it home. “You could make something from it!” No no no. Nope. No….Sigh.

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The canyon is beautiful.

So far the hike is the treasure. 2017-09-02_13-27-54_000We aren’t sure what we are looking for.  About 100 yards past the 90 degree turn in the canyon north, rocks  peppered with small geodes are everywhere.2017-09-02_13-48-47_000

There are big holes in the cliff walls where large geodes were removed.  It’s so hard to get them out. Someone had better tools than we are using.

It takes a really, really long time to chip out with a pick. Now we have a few little geodes to cut & polish…2017-09-02_13-29-19_000…and beautiful memories.2017-09-03_15-38-11_238

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A very photogenic calf. 

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Sand Between My Toes

2017-08-18_06-42-01_454 (1)Two weeks ago we took off for Puerto Penasco Mexico. Selfish with the beach we travel just as school starts and before a major holiday it is a guarantee that we will encounter few other travelers.  2017-08-18_14-14-28_155We set up our RV by 11am and head to town to a favorite restaurant.  The tide is extremely high and we enjoy hours of great food and drink with an unmatched view.

 

2017-08-18_15-06-49_504The ocean’s rhythm washing away months of stress.

Long walks on the beach with the tide out seem to be mandatory as we are drawn to explore tide pools and ever-changing sand.

2017-08-20_13-59-33_518.pngThese parents have found a creative way to keep their children occupied for hours building a spectacular fort.  2017-08-19_07-52-04_000Later squeals of joy as the tide washes their work away.

2017-08-19_08-03-44_000Time moves slowly, effortlessly.

2017-08-18_12-36-30_867Then there is the shopping.   My favorite store is Mercedes Rusticos but it is closed this weekend.  We wander next door to this shop that has been here for as long as I can remember. The owner says 30 years and some of the items seem to have been here just that long.2017-08-20_10-01-42_466.jpegThe view from the 3rd story after climbing a rickety stair/ladder is spectacular.

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Rooftop

 

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Sometimes the shopping comes to you.

Don’t forget to stop and get a fresh coco…

It’s even an adventure at the grocery store with entirely different cuts of meat, giant watermelon, and the biggest bag of Cheetos ever.

Moments later we are back on the beach with our feet up, cool drink in hand watching the beach activities of the day.  The importance of doing nothing to refresh one’s soul. All  I need is this sand between my toes.

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Creature below exhales water and sand leaving beautiful patterns. This one is very semetrical.

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Footprints
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Nogales Sonora Mexico Has My Heart

As long as I can remember I loved trips to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. We lived a mere 70 miles north of the Mexican border and the ever-changing City of Nogales.  We had traveled through on our way to  Guaymas many times when I was a child but only stopped long enough to obtain a visa and move on.  It seemed as soon as we crossed the border, life immediately changed.5457530386_195d144b37_z (2)

We often crossed at night so I had to strain to see the city as dimly lit buildings flashed past the open truck window.  Delicious smoke from open fire grills and outdoor stoves made me want to stop and stay with the families.   Later my older sister would be allowed to take a high school trip with her friends and returned with colorful stories and fancy souvenirs.

e40118b9-c3ca-4c1b-a63c-71c6cd2ac294It would be years until I would be old enough for my parents to let me go on my own. Nogales offered just what I needed as a teen in the 70’s. Leather shops, blankets hanging in the sidewalks, colorful wood carvings and ceramics everywhere. Now mixed with the delicious smell of Mexican food and firewood was leather, wood and hot blankets in the sun.

Since then we have made several friends, visited houses on the cliffs, stayed too long, not long enough…Nogales.  I love the smells of this city.  We found a Cantina on a back road with chicken cooking on a grill outside and the smell was AMAZing!  There were many locals waiting in line for their order.   img_7486A friendly man saw me taking pictures and came out to tell us that yesterday the streets were flooded with 5 or 6 meters of rain. He showed us the pictures of the arches across the street barely above the waterline.  I didn’t get his pictures but below is the picture of the approaching storm. We are all  hoping it would not flood like yesterday.  Shops were ready with sandbags and everyone was optimistic.  img_7490It seems Nogales has grown up right along with me. Medical tourism is now a large source of income. Pharmacies and dental offices line the streets where blankets once hung over sidewalks.  Medication may cost less than half here.  My favorite dentist is here.  We like to wander before and after appointments.  Of course one MUST stop at La Roca to eat.

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A view of La Roca from the bridge.
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La Roca Entrance to the courtyard.

38dd285c-2b07-4c4e-af28-8809742fe74fThe plaza is cool and inviting.  6c69007c-93d2-4aab-8263-e7fd0089eee5Bright Colors and art adorn the sidewalks.77260f39-1ba3-4a04-bdaf-98714bf68cb4Walking back over the bridge we are above the lines of cars crossing the border from Mexico into the USA.2f29a39b-c9cf-49bf-9bfd-fee19d8b2685There are still some  tourist shops.  These young men played dominoes to pass the time during the slow summer season.  The  intense one on the right is winning.  img_7498Curios still line the streets as traffic leaves Mexico to enter the US.1224fedd-a706-43eb-84e0-80b29868354aOld meets new.  edbbbc13-bc6c-4d50-b1ae-cab02932d616

05fd4559-4044-45ff-ade2-f6c0a6c5ec7eThere is a feeling when I cross the border through the turnstyle, walking on slick tile, then the bricks, past the chatter of the taxi drivers,  toward the main street of  Obregon.  Although the city changes with the needs of the tourists, the people and the city we love stays the same.  Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.