Splendid Isolation

When we left Tucson we headed to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. There are 83 numbered campsites in the refuge. They are all primitive (no electric, water, bathrooms, etc.) and are available first come first serve. Here is our first campsite.

March 23 – 26, 2020.

We had to go. We had been spending a good bit of time since arriving in Tucson at the beginning of February camped out on our friends’, Julie and Jason, vacant lot catching up on our life – working on blog posts, improving our minds, planning our trip to Alaska, researching things we needed to buy, doing taxes, etc. We had actually left a few times. Once to the Buffalo Soldiers Festival, and once to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. The road and adventure are always calling to us. But this isn’t why we had to go this time. We had to get away from our friends.

We had gotten into a bit of a comfortable routine while we were in Tucson. Every morning we’d wake up, make the bed, and drive to a park just a few blocks away with a public restroom to pour out the previous day’s liquid eliminations. And while we were there I availed my self of a real flush toilet for more serious eliminations. Some days we would arrive back at the lot when Julie and her dog Pearl would be returning from their morning walk. Julie would stop to chat and Pearl would come into the van for a visit. After that, we would gather up some clean clothes and a towel and head inside for showers. Julie and Jason work from home so we would try to be unobtrusive but still always had to pay the shower toll by giving Pearl a few belly rubs. Once clean we were off to the ever-busy library – or as we came to know it the community center/after school care/homeless shelter or even a place to find a best man for your upcoming wedding to the woman you were on a date with at the very same library the week before.

Our friends were extremely generous with their house. I did some baking in their oven. We hung out on their porch to use their internet and work on van projects. And every 2 or 3 weeks I lugged all our dirty clothes inside to do laundry (an extra toll to Pearl on those days).

But then COVID – 19 got real and everything changed. We stopped using public restrooms. We stopped going to the library. We stop using my friends’ toilet paper. We stopped petting Pearl. We did a last load of laundry and we stopped using our friends’ shower.

Another Tucson friend, Deanna, had already stopped letting us in her apartment. Which was good, she didn’t want to risk getting the virus and passing it on to her parents. Subsequently, we realized that we shouldn’t be going into Julie and Jason’s home either. If they were going to catch the coronavirus we much rather it be from each other and not us.

We spent a day driving all over Tucson replenishing our dwindling food and drink supplies, topped up on gas, filled our fresh water tanks, and then did what we are good at and headed out into the middle of nowhere for two weeks of quarantine or as we came to call it, splendid isolation.

Map of Buenos Aires and the 83 marked campsites

We could see the 7,734-foot Baboquivari Peak from almost everywhere in the refuge (see how many times you can spot the peak in this post). The peak is comprised of granite and is more resistant to weathering than the surrounding rock. I think from this angle the peak looks like a man sitting down with his back to us and his head bowed. What do you think?

Although we knew the visitor’s center would be closed due to the virus, we stopped by anyways to see if there were trail maps we could pick up. A refuge employee was manning the center, unlocked the door, and invited us in. Inside we saw this rattlesnake skeleton as well some other great displays.

Pond for preserving endangered Chihuahuan Leopard Frogs at the visitor’s center. Unfortunately, the frogs had already left for the season.

Trail behind the visitor center.

The refuge was once home to a ranch. There are remnants of it throughout the refuge.

Gila Monster. The ranger said this was his first reported sighting this year. They spend most of their time underground.

Checkered White butterfly.

Loggerhead Shrike.

Poppies.

More Poppies.

Black-throated Sparrow.

Our second campsite.

And there was one beautiful sunset after another.

Another view of sunset.

Purple Owl’s Clover.

Another view of Baboquivari Peak. We first learned about the peak on our visit to Kitt Peak Observatory 3 years ago. According to Tohono O’odham legend I’itoi the creator lives in a cave deep under the mountain. Their people arose from the center of the earth through this navel of the world.

This Antelope Jackrabbit actually came toward us when he saw us.

Spreading Fleabane.

Ocotillo at sunset.

Different sunset, same ocotillo.

There are ponds like this throughout the refuge. Not super scenic, but this is where you might find migrating shore birds.

Vermillion Fly-catcher. Once you spot the first one you can see them often. They usually fly a couple of yards away from their spot, catch a bug, then go back.

We spent a little time watching this Crow (or Chihuahuan Raven). It was jabbering into thin air like an old drunk guy on a barstool complaining about the “dang gubmint”.

White-stem Evening Primrose.

Compsocryptus.

Barrel Cactus. These guys usually lean slightly southward. Something to remember if you’re trying to find your directions on a dark night.

Mule deer.

Phainopepla.

Red blooms of an ocotillo.

Southwestern Mock Vervain.

Parry’s Beardtongue.

Sand Phacelia.

Trailing Indigo Bush.

Pink Fairy Duster.

Cactus Wren.

Desert Chicory.

Baboquivari.

* Click on pictures to enlarge and view in a slideshow.

** We loved the refuge. This blog only covers our first 3 days. The next post will be about the next 3 days with lots more pics of wildlife, birds, and Baboquivari.


Ok, how many times did you spot the peak? Have you ever seen a Gila Monster in the wild? Have you ever heard of Spreading Fleabane, a Phainopepla, or Parry’s Beardtongue before this post?

4 thoughts on “Splendid Isolation

  1. Capt Robert said:

    Great story. Glad I’m not the only warren zevon fan left

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks! Love Warren Zevon. Glad you got the reference.

  2. Amazing sunsets! Love the peak and views throughout this post. And such good luck with the Gilla Monster. Nope, we have never seen one. It looks like you two are also becoming experts of flowers and insects. This refuge looks amazing. The perfect spot to self-isolate and explore a bit. 83 dedicated campsites seems plenty, but I assume the place has been found!?

    Your posts are so drawing me back west… Hopefully in a few months!

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks! When we got to the refuge there was hardly anyone there but by the time we left lots more sites had been taken. I’ve heard that it can fill up. I think lots of weekenders come from Tucson.

      The west is pretty amazing.

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