Quiet time in a Desert Oasis

Some weeks, I feel like I could write a whole book about things we saw, places we went, and stuff we did.  And other weeks, well, we just don’t have all that much going on.  In light of my still swollen ankle, it’s probably for the best that we holed up at a BLM campground in Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area, but it sure doesn’t make for a ton to report!

The most excitement all week was just getting into the area. Our new friends, Brian and Jan from Canada, assured us that we would be able to navigate the hilly roads to get in, especially since they are mostly paved.  It seems that Canadians are much braver than Americans, because we gulped when we got partway down the narrow, curvy entrance road and saw the evil sign “15% grade ahead”.  With a few years of RV driving under our belt, and brand new brakes, we took a deep breath and forged ahead.  Turns out, the reason that the sign says “15% grade” is because there’s not enough room on the sign to say “15% percent grade, then a hairpin turn where you can’t see if anyone is coming, and there’s no enough room to pass them anyways, and then you need to gun it to make the 15% grade back up the other side.  Good luck!”  I would like to commend JJ on some grand driving skills, and a perpetually calm demeanor; we made it to the campground unscathed, and only mildly wound up.

Gila Box is mostly a desolate place, a dry desert of creosote, ocotillo, and prickly pear.  The reason to visit, for both humans and the plethora of animals there, is the life-giving Gila River that flows through it.  Between New Mexico mountain snow melt and summer monsoon storms, it flows (unlike most desert waterways) pretty much all year.  Because it’s such a consistent watersource, it’s valuable real estate for a huge range of wildlife. Without much even trying, we saw bighorn sheep, raccoon-like omnivores called coatimundi, and tons of birds. On her walks, Soupy chased the myriad lizards and butterflies that hang out in the campground.

The Canadians, Brian and Jan, were in the campground during a few days of our stay, and we enjoyed watching Brian take out his kayak into the mild whitewater bends of the river.  We’ve more or less followed in their trajectory for the last month, with lots of good conversation around the campfire, and it’s been fun to have some travel buddies.

After they left mid-week, the campground was practically empty.  We had a lot of very low key days, just taking walks around the campground, getting some sun, reading, and watching the skies. Of course, that all changed for the holiday weekend.  It was a bit of a shock to change from complete silence all day long to all the campsites filled with huge groups with ATVs, generators, and radios. This weekend, I realized how much I enjoy this time of year to be in the quiet of nature, and frankly, how very, very annoying people can be with the combination of big groups and alcohol. But, Sunday evening came eventually, and all the yahoos went home.

All the resting was particularly good for my ankle, and I think I’m going to be able to get back to hiking soon.  Gila Box was a good place to wait out the healing process, because there’s not really any hiking trails to tempt me to go out and overdo it.

We’re gearing up for a lot more activity, heading back north through Tucson to attend to a few more repair needs. (Grrrrrrrrr.)  I think what we need should be quick and not too expensive, and then we can make our way up into higher altitudes, before the heat arrives next week.  Arizonans might consider upper 90s to still be spring weather, but it’s too hot for our blood.  Plus, we need to start getting acclimated and build up our red blood cells for our 10,000 foot summer job!

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