After all the educational programs at the Saguaro National Park were finished on our first day, we prepared to leave the Visitor Center. First we needed to find a place to stay for the evening. We purchased a National Geographic map of the area, which showed BLM land, and inquired about boondocking possibilities at the information desk. The first person we talked to warned us to be careful to not cross over onto reservation land, and another person overheard the conversation and gave us helpful pointers about how to get to a parcel of BLM land they knew to be active for boondockers. Finally they all warned us to be careful and watch out for drug smugglers sneaking across the border. People are really worried about these criminals, but a quick Google search did not reveal any concrete stories of the violence we were warned about.
The directions we received did not lead to a place to camp, but after some searching we came across information on the BLM website about the Ironwood Forest National Monument managed by the agency, and we drove there. We camped at this monument at the Manville Street entrance for three nights. The first morning the police came by to ask if we had seen any drug smugglers and warn us to be careful, and that evening a ranger stopped by to say the same. We saw the police vehicle drive by a couple more times while camped there. The third night we had company, a fifth wheel (trailer-style camper) parked close to the road, which we pulled as far away from as practical to not impede on their privacy.
In reading about the Ironwood Forest National Monument, which is established to protect the the ironwood tree, I found my way to the website soliciting volunteers. Reading this along with our experiences at the Saguaro National Park with the volunteers there caused me to reflect on the ways in which our national conservation and nature education programs depend on volunteer labor. I found this both inspirational – I look forward to the day when we are settle and I can contribute – and a little sad that these programs need the volunteers because they cannot support enough motivated individuals to make a living working in these important fields.
Each afternoon after the programs we went for short walks on trail in Saguaro National Park, and on the third day we hiked a short mountain contained in the park. The whole time we scanned each cactus in our view in search of the perfect, archetypical specimen that sports two arms opposite each other and just offset vertically. In the search of this “perfect” cactus, we saw many beautiful sights and had a lot of fun.