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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Around 4:00 p.m., I am 20 minutes from the park entrance. Before I left, I saved on Google Maps a BLM spot to boondock (32°14'24.8"N 112°45'11.2"W). So, I decided to check it out. It is perfect! There is plenty of space to find a quiet site, and it's a beautiful area. I set up camp, took my chair out, and enjoyed the remaining sun, waiting for it to set.

It's a quiet night here in the desert, and I am in a nice deep sleep when the sounds of the coyotes interrupt my sleep. That creates an uncomfortable feeling in my body. They sound too close for this to be a cute experience. Going outside in the middle of the night becomes a not-so-good idea anymore.

When I decided to come and visit this area, it was to get away from the rain. I thought I was going to see another flat brown desert, but WOW, what a stunning surprise my eyes received! The combination of the mountains, the many kinds of cactus, and the different species of plants is something out of this world. How exquisite the colors of the mountains folded into a play of rhythm. One specific color mesmerizes me - a unique mustard-type color, which I had never experienced before. It excites my inner joy. I find the Organ Pipe a very interesting cactus. I get the sense they are in constant prayer with their arms reaching out to the skies, praying to God for some rain.

I drive the twenty-mile dirt road loop of Ajo Mountain Drive, stopping along the way to absorb this breathtaking view. There are only two trails to hike on this loop. I plan to do both since they are about 6.5 miles combined. I start with Arch Canyon. The silence here is peaceful. The only sound is of the birds; their songs are music to my ears.

The hike starts with an easy path to follow. The climb began less than a half mile, and sometimes I am mountain climbing rather than hiking. Part of it is due to being vertically challenged, but it's a challenging climb, nonetheless. I must watch my footing since some of the trail is along the edge. The view is beyond words to describe. Most of the time, I am alone on the path, which makes this, for me, an empowering experience.

One thing is putting a level of anxiety into my peace, the poor marking of the trail and the fact that even though I download the map on Alltrails, it is not working as it should. I get to the top of the mountain but can't find a safe path to reach the arch. There is no room for disappointment when I am rewarded with a stunning panoramic horizon! The hike is taking me longer than anticipated, due to the physical challenge and the extra time it takes me to find my way around.

I decided to take a lesson from this hike and no longer hike when I can't easily find my bearings. Feeling lost in the wilderness is uncomfortable for me, and I would like to avoid it if I can. Unfortunately, I don't have time to squeeze in the second hike; the day is almost over.

I decided to stay at the campground in the park. It's a lovely evening, and I cook myself a nice dinner. Just about four in the morning, I woke up from the sound of heavy raindrops on my car. Oh, no! I left my chair and stove outside! The little reception I had I lost very quickly, so I couldn't check the weather as I usually do. The last time I checked the weather, it called for beautiful sunny days ahead of me.

Looking outside my windows, the sky is solid gray. I enjoy laying in my comfortable cocoon for a bit longer, hoping the rain will taper off. If it doesn't, I will have to figure out my next steps.

By 8:30, I put on my rain gear (when I packed my car before leaving home, I made sure my rain gear was always within reach).

Funny that yesterday I wrote in my journal how the Organ Pipe looks like it's praying for rain. I am happy that their prayer has been answered. Who am I to complain about the gift of water?

I jumped out of my car, wearing my raingear and flip-flops, shoved my wet equipment in garbage bags, and drove off. Thirty minutes into my drive, I find a local restaurant where I can sit for breakfast, wash up myself and my muddy flip-flop. I made sure to leave a generous tip, and as always, leave the bathroom cleaner than when I arrived. I don't see the need to endure this weather, so I travel back to Fountain Hills to enjoy a few more days in the wonderful company of Gina and Bob. It's also time for my second oil change since now I travel just over 10,000 miles.

My next regrouping place will be in mid-April when I visit my friend Jennie in Palo Alto, CA. Until then, I will be camping through Sedona, Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, San Diego, and up the coast.

The experience of traveling with the wind and not having reservations made ahead of time is appealing to me. The freedom to make choices and changes as I need is an extra blessing. So, I decided to make a significant change to my travels. I am letting go of traveling to Alaska to allow me the freedom and flexibility I would like to have when I travel through Canada. I realize I am trying to squeeze too much mileage in a short period of time. I am not on this journey to check out as many places on the map. One of the gifts I would like to receive from my journey is the appreciation of living in the moment, and enjoying what is in front of me without the pressure of time. Rushing through my travel is not allowing me room for mistakes, or as I prefer to see it, as an open opportunity for good lessons and self-growth.

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