January 9, 2014
Organ Pipe National Monument is a place of quiet desert beauty. It is a showcase that protects a small piece of the Sonoran Desert and its many plants and animals. Organ Pipe National Monument is a place of extreme temperatures with little rainfall. Summer temperatures can reach as high as 118 degrees fahrenheit. But I am visiting in January with daytime highs in the low 70s and nighttime lows in the upper 30s. Organ Pipe is a perfect place to visit when the rest of the country is under winter advisory warnings. Yet it is kicking my butt. Getting the best of me. Wearing me out. Waking up on the fourth day in the park, I’m not sure I can leave my tent. I muster some energy, get dressed, and start for the shower house.
Although the shower house is a very short walk from my campsite, I can’t make it. I am sitting on a rock that is lining the path as Caroline, my campsite neighbor, is returning to her camp. I tell her I can’t make it to the bathroom. She becomes very concerned. Caroline makes a cup of tea which I sip while she goes for help. She quickly returns with the camp hosts who have called the ranger station. Shortly, two national park rangers appear. This is the second time for me to be rescued in as many days. First Dave finds me when I am alone and lost in the Sonoran desert; and now park rangers arrive to take my vitals and assess the situation. We are having quite the party at Caroline’s campsite: two rangers, two park hosts, Caroline, and me. And I’m the sole entertainment. As I try very hard not to throw up the tea Caroline made for me, I explain my sad saga of woe. I assure everyone present that I am just very dehydrated and, really, all I need are some fluids. Nonetheless, no one wants to be near me. One very brave ranger approaches to take my vitals. Blood pressure good (a little high for me but I did not tell him), no fever, no emergency. Because I have been sick for three days, the ranger suggests that this may be more than just ordinary desert dehydration. It could be a stomach bug or something else. He suggests three options: ambulance to hospital (NO!!!), drive myself to clinic in Ajo, or he can give me one bag of IV fluids. One bag will not be enough but that is all he has. I choose option number four. I will slowly take down my tent and load my car and go to the clinic. But, still thinking I am just really dehydrated, I secretly plan to go to a clinic in Tucson, a two hour drive northeast of Organ Pipe. I thank the rangers, thank Caroline, and thank the park hosts for their concern. All offer to help me with the tent; but sometimes I can be independent and, I confess, stubborn.
The party disperses and I return to my site. After throwing up the tiny taste of tea, I begin the process of taking down camp. With very little energy, I slowly roll the bedding, empty the tent, pull the stakes, take down the tent, and load the car. Because I have to rest every five seconds this takes about two hours. Caroline has said goodbye but we will keep in touch and the park hosts have checked on me two or three times. Finally I am sitting in the drivers seat of my Camry looking at a deserted campsite. Promising to return some day to this very site (Site 198), I say my goodbyes to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, plug in my cell phone, and call my husband.
Stephen is truly the best husband in the whole wide world. He is encouraging, loving, and caring. I have talked with him several times during the last four days and he knows I do not feel well. He has called me frequently to be sure that I am OK. Before I leave Organ Pipe, I phone Stephen to inform him of my plans to drive to Tucson, find a clinic, obtain IV fluids, feel better, find a restaurant that serves soup, find a hotel, sleep in a bed, and feel even better. Tomorrow I plan to go to Nogales, Arizona, the beginning of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. He agrees with the plan and I point the car towards Tucson.