Whole Life Magazine

June / July 2017

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Page 24 of 35

ey're also stunning at rst light, when the foot- prints of desert mice and rabbits—and the slithery path of a snake—are still imprinted in the night- cool sand. ere is a wonderful in- timacy about summer in Death Valley. ink of the experience of an infrared sauna—the intense dry heat of the day, taken in small doses, feels cleans- ing and healing. And you'll want to experience, albeit brie y, the buzzing quiet of the desert at high noon—a time of in nite peace, when just about all living things take shelter in the shade or burrowed beneath the sand. A six-hour drive from L.A., Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona's Sonoran Desert is another of our favorite hot sum- mer stays. ere are no hotel swimming pools in the former copper mining community of Ajo near the monument, but the sleepy community has much to recommend it all the same. Enjoy views of the stunning red hills—the town is named for the Native American Tohono O'odham tribe's word for the color. Although the desert is abloom with owers in the spring, it's summer, when the heavy, honey-gold light falls across the desert and the hills glow like rubies, that the region really shines with color. e only people visiting are those who love it—the sense of solitude, the vastness of the desert, the tough beauty of the landscape. It's a spe- cial, private experience. In town, take a late a ernoon stroll around the Spanish colonial-style plaza. Or check out the ever-grow- ing Artist's Alley, with over 80 impressive mu- rals spilling from alley to main street. ere is also the well-curated Under the Arches art gallery, featuring works by emerging contempo- rary artists, many local. e plaza is owned by the non-pro t Inter- national Sonoran Des- ert Alliance, the group which is also behind the rehabilitation of the town's former Cur- ley School, now the Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center. Originally built between 1919 and 1948, the now industrial-chic hotel rooms were once classrooms; the campus also includes a community garden, a courtyard with re pit, and renovated art- ist's lo s. At dusk, wild javalinas may roam outside the windows, and the hills deepen to ochre. Later, you'll hear the howl of coy- otes in the distance. Like them, with the night warm and fragrant, you'll want to stay out in the stillness and stare up at the moon. It may be the warm, quiet nights that make summer desert trips here so compelling. Early morning, before the heat sets in, bike or hike the lovely scenic loop road around town just a few blocks from the hotel. en, as things heat up, explore the town's mining museum and small historical museum; from the mining museum, you'll be able view the mile and a half mine, 1200-feet- deep, and formerly one of the largest copper mines in the world. Organ Pipe National Mon- ument is just 25 minutes away. Pick up a map from the visitor's center and take an easy-to-drive dirt loop road into the heart of the park, past a red rock arch and many unique cacti. At the visitor's center, a short, paved path leads visitors close to lo- cal ora and fauna. e Or- gan Pipe cactus itself needs plenty of sun and can't toler- ate cold weathersomething the cactus and I agree upon. As in Death Valley, sunsets are spectacular here, and the area also o ers unparalleled star gazing. Ninety minutes away is the Kitt Peak Nation- al Observatory, with night sky tours and day programs open to the public, allowing access to the observatory's powerful telescopes. So—is there any wonder some like it hot? Like all desert creatures you'll want to seek some shade—or a pool—during the hottest part of the day. But the serenity of early morning, when the des- ert's natural beauty seems as if it is only yours to enjoy, and the delicious warmth of clear nights perfect for star gazing, makes a little shade-seeking more than tol- erable. We've always emerged from our summer desert stays feel- ing as if the heat has baked in its own sense of bliss, carrying the quiet, the colors, and the sound of solitary summer winds with us through all our busy city days. Summer in the Desert: Where to Stay Death Valley e family-friendly Furnace Creek Ranch has plenty of green space, a vast pool, and charming, comfortable rock- ing chairs on the porches or patios of its large, modern, well-appointed rooms. A well- stocked general store and sev- eral dining options, including the Wrangler Steakhouse and the Forty Niner Café are on the property. BBQs and wag- on rides are o ered in season. Open year round. http://www. furnacecreekresort.com/lodg- ing/reservations/ Organ Pipe National Monument/Ajo e beautifully renovated So- noran Desert Inn and Confer- ence Center features over-sized individual rooms and even a dorm-style room for family and other groups. Outside the sleek, modern rooms is a charming community garden; the town plaza is just a few short blocks away. Dine at the Agave Grill, which features a surprising menu of Asian-fusion dishes freshly prepared, or grab a brew and sandwich at 100 Estrella, just o the plaza. http://www.sonorancc.com/ June/July 2017 25

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