We headed south, trying to find Hat Mountain. Of course we missed the turn off, since driving at the speed limit of 65 mph (about 110 km/h) seems so much fun, everything wizzes by. Furthermore, of course we didn't notice that we missed it until we got to the outskirts of the next town Ajo. Feeling robbed, we decided to drive back to the turn off to Hat Mountain which was probably about 20 km. When we did find it , it turned out to be an Air Force Gunnery Range. Not feeling very brave, we decided not to breach the fence, never mind ramming it with our rental car. So, we headed back to Ajo, in search of better luck.
We did find it there, luck that is. We stopped by at the very helpful Chamber of Commere, who told us how to get to the local museum and how to reach the lookout for the abandoned copper mine, apparantly the second largest open pit mine in the world, abandoned in 1984. The 'hole' is about 1.5 km across and 350 meters deep. That's is also the level of the ground water!
We stopped by the Museum, which although small, is filled to the rafters with extremely interesting stuff, from ming gear to an old dentist office. The volunteer guide, Jim, was very helpful and we had a nice chat. Turned out he is as interested in photography as I am, we got hime to autograph his prize winning humming bird shot, published in the latest edition of the local newspaper.
From Ajo, we headed southeast on SR 85 and 86, towards Organ Pipe National Guard, where we stopped by the visitor's centre and obtained some information about hikes. We decided on a hike up to the Arch, which is a natural bridge, towering high above the surrounding plains in the Ajo Mountains. Now, you always have to approach these hikes like home renovations: if you knew ahead of time what was facing you you would never start them. So you do the obvious and try to forget about possible difficulties. The sign at the bottom said the hike was 'relatively easy'. That is the problem with the word 'relative'. Relative to climbing Mount Everest I would say. Especially the second part of the hike is strenous, with climbers (notice I didn't say hikers) having to crawl on your knees over rocks, negotiating precipitous cliffs. One false move and I'm headed home in a pine box. If they can ever find me, that is. Anyway, we did enjoy ourselves, proving that at our age we can be fit and stubborn at the same time. The view at the top was gorgeous, though you cannot see the arch from up there. Going down is proably as tough as going up, we had to think of our 10-month-old granddaughter Amaryn, who is a pro at bum scooting, a process, where she sits on the floor and pulls herself forward with her feet. Well, that was us on the rocks, as their is no other way of doing it, save for sliding down face first. Exhausted, we arrived at the bottom.
We then headed to Tucson, about a 180 km trip from Organ Pipe. Since it is just north of the Mexican border, the NBPS (National Border Patrol Service) is out in full force. Quite a few roads have checkpoints, there is one just at the exit of the Organ Pipe Park where we stopped and 'interrogated'. Actaully that is a supreme exaggeration, when asked for our citizenship, Canadian, 'Go ahead, have a nice time' was the next phrase. Since it was getting late, we were faced with the drive to Tucson through a darkened, lonely desert. Fortunately, there was a moon out, and even more fortunately, this moon had a huge ring around it, I hadn't seen a ring like that in a long time.
Tucson announces its present from quite a distance away with beckoning lights. Unfortunately, we felt kind of cheated when the advertised motel room rates were worth about as much as the paper they were printed on on the real rates were about twice that. Being cranky and tired, we were in no mood to argue (does that make sense?). So we put up. Then came the dining experience of a lifetime: McDonald's, since the crankiness had not dissipated between us moving in to our room and heading out for dinner. There just seemed nothing else around. Oh well, tomorrow is another day...