Arizona and the Big Cacti

Next stop was supposed to be Saguaro National Park, but that was a couple inches too far on the map to make it there before dark, so we just started driving west.  A little bit after we got into Arizona we saw a campsite sign from the freeway, so we took the next exit and drove into an RV park.  It was dark at this point so when we checked the office, nobody was there so we walked around a little and heard some music coming from a big metal barn type building so we went inside.  Inside was a pretty happening blue grass party.  There was a band on stage and a bunch of people sitting around talking and listening to the band.  We took in the sites for a minute and then went into the kitchen area off to the side to see if we could find out if we could camp there.  The lady we asked if we could camp asked us what type of rig we had and we told her we’d be tent camping.  She proceeded to tell us that we couldn’t do that there because they didn’t want to pay the extra $10 thousand dollars for insurance for tent campers that was required for the area because of all the poisonous snakes and spiders and insects and such.  I don’t think we really wanted to stay there after hearing that, can you blame us?  They offered us some pie and some cake, so we took them up on that offer and they told about a place that we could camp that was about 20 miles away called the Hot Well Dunes.  So we set off to find this place.  What the didn’t tell us was that most of this 20 miles was on a dirt road and it had been raining recently and when that happens in the desert, the road sometimes washes away.  We followed the signs and drove slowly through the dark in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the desert for what seemed like an hour or so and we only almost got stuck once.  When we finally arrived, there was nobody in sight so we read the signs and put the camping fee in the envelope and put it in the drop box and then set up camp.  We woke up cold in the morning to coyotes howling.  First there was one on our left that sounded about 50 feet away and then another one on our right that sounded a bit closer, so we kept quiet and I actually heard one running past the tent not to far away a little bit after that.  That’ll wake you up in the morning.  After we were sure the coyotes were gone, we got out of the tent and saw that there was a good layer of frost on top and that wasn’t going to be drying anytime soon so we went in search of the hot springs that we were told about.  There was a nice hot tub that was filled up from a pipe from the hot springs and overflowed down the hill on the other side.  It was a great temperature and warmed us up really well.  I don’t like to swim in chemically treated water, but this was straight out of the ground, good stuff.  There were some other people there, and we met some of them in the hot tub.  We sat around and soaked up the goodness from the water, engaged in conversation with the other folks and in a couple hours it was like 60 degrees outside.  Man, the desert is crazy, from freezing to 60 in a couple hours.  When our skin started getting pruned we figured it was time to go so we went back to the tent and wiped it down so it would dry quicker.  We made a couple sandwiches and had a little brunch while the tent dried out, then we packed up and were on our way.

At this point, we had mostly been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola, apples and oranges so we were both craving some good green veggies so we stopped in Tucson and found a wireless internet hot spot at a McDonalds and spent some time checking stuff on the internet and we found a food co-op not too far away.  We got some kale, chard, spinach, broccoli, cilantro and some raw milk from grass-fed cows.  We started drinking the milk right away because it wasn’t going to last all that long because we didn’t have a good way to keep it cool and it was some good stuff so it was pretty easy to drink it quickly.  And we headed west again.

When we got outside of Tucson we started seeing the big cacti off of the road and started getting excited because the cacti were pretty cool looking and they were the biggest plants we’d seen in a while (plants don’t get very big in the desert).  It was just starting to get a little dark out so we found a campsite at a state park just outside of Saguaro National Park.  We ripped up those greens into a nice salad in the little cooler that I had and we went to town on it.  Mmmmmm, so good.  Mmmmmm, so nutritious.  The campsite had showers too, so we both were able to get nice a clean.

The next morning we were able to pack up the tents right away because they didn’t have any frost condensation on them and then it was off to Saguaro National Park.  We went to the visitor center and saw an informational video about the cacti and the Sonoran Desert ecosystem and then went on a little nature trail hike and then it started raining so we took the hint and got out of there.  It doesn’t rain very often in the desert, but when it does, man it rains a lot pretty quickly.  And you’d think that when it rains, the ground would just soak up all of the water really quickly, but it doesn’t really do that very well.  The though I had when I saw how much run off there was, was that the ground didn’t know what to do with all of this water.  It rains and the ground is like, what’s this stuff?  The road we were driving on wasn’t a major highway, so every so often there was a wash or a low point in the road so the run off could go by.  Most of the time there’s no rain so this makes more sense in the desert, but when it is raining, there is a lot of water going across the road.  I thought it was pretty fun driving through the little rivers going across the road, and we didn’t get stuck so it was all good.  Next stop was a little further west into Arizona to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park.  This place wasn’t very impressive because the cacti looked almost the same as the saguaros, they were just smalled and had more shoots coming up from the middle so it did look a little like organ pipes, but they were just not that impressive so we left after about 5 minutes looking around in the visitor center.

The next scheduled stop was either San Diego, CA to visit my cousin, Lynn or to the Morning Star Ranch.  So as we were driving west again, we looked at the map to see if there was a good middle point to camp for the night and Emily saw Dateland, AZ and we remembered from when we were at Koinonia that that was where they got their dates.  Koinonia trades pecans for dates with this community near Dateland, AZ (haha, dates from Dateland) called the Children of Light.  We called up Koinonia and got the phone number and called them, but we got the disconnected signal.  Well, a month earlier at Koinonia, we were cutting open the dates from this place and stuffing them with pecans so we knew this place had to exist so when we got to Dateland we pulled off the highway and stopped at a travel center to see if anyone knew where this place was.  Turns out, the first person I asked knew, how about that?  She said, “Oh, the crazy people with the pool.  You want to go visit them? Okay…..?”  This sounded like it was going to be an adventure.  We followed her directions and got there a little while later.  When we got there it was like a little oasis in the middle of the desert, lush greenery and big date palms (yeah, dates grow on palm trees, but not just any palm tree, a date palm).  When we arrived, we went inside the main building and were greeted by a friendly old gentleman named Elect Phillip.  We found out later that the members of the community were the elect of God and as such had the prefix added to their name and when they joined the community they not only got the prefix, but got a new name.  So there was Elect Phillip, Elect Star, and Elect David.  In total, there were 8 people at the place, 3 were the so called elect and the other 5 either just lived there or were visiting.  The place was very nice and the people were also very nice and hospitable and generous.  They gave us a nice little room with two reasonably comfy beds and told us that we could stay as long as we wanted.  We ended up staying there for 5 days.  We found out that the Children of Light started in Canada when a woman who was a pastor at a church up there heard a call from God to start this new thing and live a different life so she started telling other people about it and gathered a small group of people to join her and gathered some publicity because of how weird it all was.  They left Canada sometime in the late 1940s in search of where God would have them go and they traveled around the US for 12 years before they landed in the middle of the desert in Arizona.  This Elect Phillip guy was a character.  He talked and sang loudly, and he didn’t really sing very well so when we all sang songs together I would be struggling to hear the tune and listen to the other peoples voices over his so I could follow along.  He also had some interesting perspectives and theories on things.  He told us that Nicola Tesla, the guy that did the pioneering work to develop alternating current and much of the science behind modern electrical systems, had done some experiments and had some success with producing abundant free energy and that the government had stopped him from getting it to the public because they wanted to keep making money from fossil fuels.  He also told us about some of his other theories and they didn’t really make much sense, so we just let him keep talking because it seemed like he liked to talk.  I asked him a bunch of follow up questions to what he was talking about, but I still couldn’t make much sense of a lot of it, except the history of the Children of Light.  So there were only three of the elect left and the others had either died or left, but the faithful few remained and they were doing what they believed God was telling them to do.  They had a strictly vegetarian diet and in the meals, all the parts of the meal were measured out in specific quantities for the specific person that was to eat them.  A meal might have included the following: 1 grapefruit, 1 orange, 4 dates, 5 pecans, 1 dollop of this date grain cake mixture thing (it was pretty good) a very small bowl of yogurt with flax seeds and some porridge.  Breakfast was pretty much the same every day, as was lunch and dinner, but it wasn’t the same thing for all three meals.  The food was very good.  The weird thing was that the amount of food I was given always seemed to be enough to just fill me up.  I eat a lot, so that was saying something about this food.  Very interesting.  So, we helped them out with some things while we stayed there.  We sanded down some metal chairs and repainted them and pruned this parasite thing out of a bunch of trees and went with Elect Phillip one morning to a farm nearby to glean some tangelos.  When farmers go through and do their harvesting, they don’t get everything and often they will let people come and take the left overs because it helps clean up the area and helps prevent diseases and pests so the farmer has to do less work to deal with the disease and pest problems associated with monoculture crop agriculture (thats a technical form of growing alot of the same plant in a large area of land with nothing else growing besides it).  So, we got a pickup truck load of tangelos for free (they tasted really good too).  Fresh fruit tastes sooooooooooo much better than anything you can get in a grocery store, mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  After the 5 days, we were ready to leave, and as we were saying our goodbyes, Elect David who had been very quiet for most of our time their said quietly to me as I shook his hand to not listen to any of Elect Phillips weird ideas.  I laughed really hard when he said that because it was so unexpected and really funny coming from that quiet old guy.  The were also very generous when we left, they gave us a box of tangelos and 8 bags of dates.  We ate the tangelos within a month and I still have a lot of the dates left, they are really tasty and great traveling food because once dried they keep very well.

Next stop: Morning Star Ranch in Valley Center, California.

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