This week I’m in training related to the Interpretation Division of the park. Yesterday we took a long, tiring trip (17 miles of very bad dirt road – one way) to the homestead at Bates Well that was established in 1919, before Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was declared a monument The remains of the homestead is being stabilized for preservation as a historic part of the Monument. Back then, as now, human trash has been deposited over the landscape – now they are known as ‘artifacts’.
Tuesday was the first day of training and we were advised of our ‘safety’ responsibilities. We get a lot of questions from visitors about venturing out into the accessible areas alone, or going to Mexico, specifically Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco), which is only about 60 miles from here. The Law Enforcement Division ranger advised that it is NOT safe to go to Mexico; however, people must make their own decision about that. YES, there IS a lot of illegal activity being monitored in this park – much smuggling of drugs through any means available. The good news is that they don’t want to be seen in the areas where visitors and staff are, so in general, the park is pretty safe if you stay in the designated areas.
The toll on the environment from illegal activity, whether drug smuggling or human smuggling, is bad – trash and human waste, and the occasional dead body. A few days ago two UDAs (UnDocumented Aliens) ventured into the volunteer housing area on foot, and knocked on our doors, including mine, asking for food. This is not uncommon here. Their presence was reported to a staff member who was carrying a radio, and the information was passed to Law Enforcement. They arrived quickly and apprehended the men. We never felt any danger; however, we are advised to not engage with these people in any way, whatsoever.
The Visitor Center exhibition area is getting a facelift, with new photographic and hands-on demonstrations. Here is a photo of one of the mock-ups for the proposed exhibit. My boss, who is the Chief of Interpretation, is delighted and excited to see the completion of this goal soon.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 40th Annual Fiesta at Tumacacori Historical National Park, the site of a historic mission, and the place where I will be volunteering later this month through April. I met several of the people whose names I’ve either seen in emails, or with whom I’ve been communicating. I happened to meet the person there who is responsible for the new materials in the Organ Pipe exhibit, and she said she hadn’t heard how they looked. I just happened to have my camera with my photos of the materials with me, so she could get a peak.
I will be leaving Organ Pipe just before Christmas; it’s too bad that I won’t get to demonstrate too much of what I’ve learned in training before I go! Most of the volunteers for the winter season have arrived. Some of us are leaving soon. This has been a very interesting enterprise for me. I have met a lot of very nice folks here. Even out here in the remote desert there are potluck dinners, cards and jigsaw puzzles, dancing and nights at the movies. The Visitor Center just got a new audio/video system and we can watch DVDs on a big screen after-hours there. Tuesday night we watched “Avatar”.
The cellular/Internet situation has not improved so I have not been able to get phone service here. And by the time I complete a day or several days at ‘work’ I’m too exhausted to travel to the park ‘hot spot’ to go online. By that time it’s dark, and getting cooler, and the bathrooms are not very close by. That is a real factor!!!