Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

When you're camped out in Gunsite Wash you're about 20 miles north of the visitor center for the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I traveled to the center and the adjacent campground one day for a day trip.

Just 20 miles south on Hwy 85 from Gunsite Wash.

The Organ Pipe cactus, a distinct looking plant, only grows within the 570 square miles of the national monument, thus it's name.  That's one on the right side of the sign above.

The entrance to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center at Organ Pipe.

I really drove down to the visitor center because the campground is near it and I wanted to evaluate it as a possible site for staying at next year, but first I toured the visitor center and it's exhibits.

One of the cactus exhibits inside the visitor center.

It only takes a few minutes to walk thru the internal displays at the visitor center but there's a nice outdoor nature trail outside that is cool to walk.

One of the stops along the visitor center nature trail, the sign explains the view.

At the rear of the center the nature trail ends with a neat little pond housing some type of small endangered fish that is indigenous to the National Monument.  It was constructed by some middle school kids from nearby Ajo, AZ.

The pond housing tiny little endangered fish.

About a mile away from the visitor center is the Twin Peaks campground where you can dry camp (no hookups) for $9 a night if you have a US Senior Pass.

The Twin Peaks campground entrance.

The campground consists of 128 camp sites with four restroom facilities.  There are no hookups but I did notice a cell phone charging area up near the campground office.

Campsites among the Organ Pipe cactus (and Saguaro).

Not sure what type this one is but the flowers were pretty.

I spent an enjoyable and educational morning at the Organ Pipe National Monument.  Next year when I return to Gunsite Wash to camp I will probably add a few days at the Twin Peaks campground so I can hike the monument.  You really can't go wrong choosing where to camp in this part of Arizona!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Campground Review: Gunsite Wash Why, AZ

After paying for two weeks stay at the Escapees North Ranch facility I was ready for some free boondocking which Arizona is renowned for.  Three miles south of the tiny Arizona town of Why in the Sonora Desert on the west side of Arizona Hwy 85 lay Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administered land called Gunsite Wash.  You can camp for free at Gunsite Wash for up to 14 consecutive days after which you have to relocate at least 25 miles away.

This message board greets you at the entrance to Gunsite Wash.

If you decide to try camping at Gunsite Wash DO NOT use a Google Maps search of "Gunsite Wash",  the app will direct you down an extremely narrow bush lined two track path that it wants you to travel on for 5 miles!  I trusted my gut and immediately turned back to Hwy 85 rather than try to tow the Mini down Google's dubious trail.  The western turn in for the Wash is just past mile marker 55 immediately after you cross a small bridge.

A typical campsite at Gunsite Wash, note the stone fire ring.

Here's the Gunsite Wash data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None (Dry camping.)                                                 
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     No                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      No (Pack in/pack out)                                                
Toilets:                                                 No                                                      
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      No                                                                  
WiFi:                                                    No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                   No (Convenience store in Why)                                
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 No                                          
Verizon reception:                               4G,  4 bars                                          
Internet reception                                4 bars
Cost:                                                    Free for up to 14 days

The weather during my stay at the Wash (I'm going to stay for another week) has been near perfect with days in the high 70's and nights in the mid-40's.  One thing I like about Gunsite Wash when I compare it to Craggy Wash is the multitude of trails through Gunsite that are perfect for me to get in my daily three mile hike (Gotta get my steps in!).

A path I walk daily while at Gunsite Wash.

One of the things you notice while camped at the Wash is how quiet it is.  The Mini's camp site is far enough away from Hwy 85 that there is no ambient noise whatsoever.

The Mini set up in the Sonora Desert at Gunsite Wash.

Gunsite Wash is about 20 miles north of the international border and there are signs reminding you of that fact at the entrance to the Wash.

There was a strong Border Patrol presence in the Wash area and along Hwy 85.

With fellow RV'ers within a couple hundred yards of the Mini's campsite I never felt at all uneasy even given the warning signs and I never saw anything or anyone suspicious during my daily walk although three Border Patrol SUV's raced through the Wash one day heading west, I don't know what they were after.

After almost five years of full-time RV life my list of great camp areas I want to return to on an annual basis is getting pretty long.  I'll publish it in a post one of these days but I'll definitely be adding Gunsite Wash to it with a note that the first 14 days of March is the time to experience great camping weather!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Back at North Ranch

February in central Arizona this year had been 10 to 15 degrees below average with nighttime temperatures getting into the low 30's almost every night.  The Mini has an excellent heating system but it chews through the propane pretty quickly and, if boon-docked without hook-ups, really draws the house battery down in no time.  I have a small propane canister fueled heater but it doesn't have a thermostat -- it's either on full or off depending on when I turn the knob so it's useless for warming the Mini at night, although in the morning it quickly heats the inside of the Mini to comfortable temperatures.  So, rather than trying to "tough it out" through the cold spell I drove over to the Escapee's North Ranch RV facility near Congress, AZ.  I reviewed North Ranch previously here:  North Ranch Review .

The office at North Ranch.

With the hookups at my campsite at North Ranch I was able to run my electric space heater, which has a thermostat, at night and it managed to at least keep the Mini in the 50's through the night.

A flock of sparrows live in that cactus and serenaded me throughout the day.

I spent two weeks at North Ranch at a cost of $17.50 a day with my Escapee membership which is an outstanding value for full hookups in Arizona's busy season.  Today is the last of my 14 days here so it's moving day tomorrow.  Heading south tomorrow (hopefully for warmer climes) I'm planning to hit an Anytime Fitness in Buckeye for a workout, stock up the Mini at a near by Walmart then head south of Phoenix to more BLM land at a place called Gunsite Wash, where I've never camped so I'm looking forward to that.

Thanks for reading!