Introduction to Sojourners
The Cascabel Conservation Association (CCA) seeks to provide a place where individuals, referred to as sojourners, can directly experience themselves and nature as a unity.
Solitary sojourning in wildlands, though somewhat alien to our modern society, is a long-standing tradition in many cultures.The Greek word “eremite,” from which the words “hermit” and “hermitage” are derived comes from the Greek for desert or wilderness and designates those who withdraw to the wilderness for religious purposes. Possibly the desert became associated with hermitage because its vast emptiness parallels the condition of the human heart.
The Corbett Center comprises a hermitage and primitive campground located in Hot Springs Canyon in a small mesquite bosque at the end of a dirt road. When the hermitage is occupied by a sojourner the campground is not available to others.
The Corbett Center may be reserved for use by solitaries or small groups. In order to maintain the integrity of the wildland, all facilities are intentionally primitive. There is no electricity, no heating, cooling, refrigeration, inside plumbing, hot and cold running water or flush toilets. Phone and internet service is not available and sojourners are requested not to bring cell phones.
Designed and built by David Omick, the 8×16 foot hermitage has a simple sleeping and living area. An outdoor kitchen provides a propane stove and covered work area. Drinking water is hauled in, but a 55-gallon rainwater harvesting tank provides water for all other uses. A metal chimenea is available on the cement pad for small fires. A composting toilet and a primitive outdoor shower are nearby. (see photos).
The campground may be reserved for tent-camping retreats for small groups (no more than 12). The campground includes a historic shade ramada and a fire ring. A composting toilet and a primitive outdoor shower are nearby.
Getting to the Corbett Center
Personal vehicles will be left in a designated parking area and a CCA staff member will shuttle the sojourner and their personal belongings to the Corbett Center at the beginning of the retreat and pick them up again at the end. No provision is made for restocking or driving in and out during a retreat.
Some decry the lack of seasons in the desert, but to locals, there is always variability and change. Some believe that there are even more seasons in the Sonoran desert than in other parts of the country.
The Sonoran desert is a place of extremes, very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Day and night temperature fluctuations of 40 degrees or more are not uncommon. Dehydration, hypothermia and heat related illnesses are real concerns in the desert, and adequate precautions must be taken. Spring and fall offer the mildest weather conditions.
Winter (December-February): Daytime temperatures are typically in the 50’s and 60’s, with nights below freezing, often in the low 20’s. Snow is rare but possible. Deciduous trees like cottonwood and mesquite lose their leaves. The variability of winter means that good sleeping bags and warm clothing are essential. Dressing in layers is recommended. Sun can still be intense, making broad-brimmed hats, skin protection and sunglasses necessary.
Spring (March-April): Daytime temperatures typically range from the 60’s to the 90’s, with a lot of variability and strong winds. Nighttime temperatures can still dip below freezing. Wildflowers and small shrubs are in bloom. This is an excellent time for sojourning.
Early Summer (May-June): Daytime temperatures are commonly near 100 degrees or higher. Nighttime lows can be as much as 50 degrees cooler than daytime highs. Winds moderate, and light breezes or calm periods become more prevalent. Larger plants such as cacti (including saguaro), yuccas, palo verde, acacia, creosote, and mesquite are in bloom. Lizards, snakes, spiders and insects become fully active. Morning and evening coolness is pleasant, but generally this is a season for the hardier visitor.
Due to the intense heat and drought in the month of June, the Corbett Center is closed to retreats.
In early and late summer it is essential to drink a lot of water (a gallon a day or more) and supplement with salt. We recommend wearing lightweight pants and long-sleeved shirts, rather than shorts and tank tops, as they offer better protection from sun and insects. Again, broad-brimmed hats, sunscreen and sunglasses are recommended.
Late Summer (July-September): Daytime temperatures moderate slightly as the “monsoons” bring moist air and thunderstorms. The added humidity causes the nights to stay warmer. Severe thunderstorms often cause flash flooding in washes, even several miles from the source of the storm. This is our most dramatic season with wild storms and breathtaking sunsets. It can also be one of the most challenging seasons with gnats, mosquitoes, humidity and high nighttime temperatures. Lightning is a real threat in late summer, and one should take adequate precautions. Stay away from high points and keep a low profile.
Fall (October-November): Daytime temperatures begin to moderate, typically ranging from the 70’s to the 90’s. Nights can be quite chilly or even freezing at times. The broadleaf trees up the canyon or on the river change colors. Insects are still prevalent but not so severe. Fall, like spring, is one of the most delightful times for sojourning. Temperatures are mild, leaves are still on the trees, and there is still lots of daylight.
CCA land occupies 600 acres in the uplands of the San Pedro River watershed. It is in a remote area about 75 road miles east of Tucson in an area of unpaved roads. It is situated between the Galiuro and Winchester Mountains to the east and the Catalina and Rincon Mountains to the west,
Although the land is in the Sonoran Desert, it is also proximate to the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, as well as the Basin and Range “sky islands” of SE Arizona and SW New Mexico that connect the semi-tropical mountains of the Sierra Madres with the temperate zones of the Rocky Mountains. As a result, there is a great diversity of plant and animal life in this region. Evidence of this was the naming of the San Pedro River, Arizona’s last remaining undammed river, as one of The Nature Conservancy’s “Last Great Places,” and as one of the premier birding areas in the continental United States.
The Corbett Center is located in lower Hot Springs Canyon, beside a streambed which is normally dry (known locally as a wash). Occasionally, during rainy periods, water flows in the wash. Hiking up the wash is easy and water is usually flowing within a mile or two. Further upstream, water flows year round through the Nature Conservancy’s Muleshoe Preserve.
To help preserve a sojourner’s solitude, vehicle blockades and alternative parking are provided when the center is occupied. Signs and a marked trail lead the occasional hiker down into the wash and around the center.
PLANT & ANIMAL COMMUNITY
Plants here are primarily desert scrub: creosote, mesquite, acacia, palo verde, saguaro, ocotillo, yucca, and various cacti.
Animals seen in this area include: Cottontail, jack rabbits, coyote, bobcat, mule and
white tail deer, badger, skunk, gray fox, ringtail cat, mountain lion, raccoon, coati, javelina, desert tortoise, rattlesnake and gila monster
Bird sighting in this locale include: Gambel’s Quail, White-Winged Dove, Roadrunner, Elf Owl, Gila Woodpecker, Cactus Wren, Curve-Billed Thrasher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Scott’s Oriole, Black and Zone-Tail hawks
Potentially dangerous desert dwellers include: Rattlesnakes, gila monsters, scorpions, cone-nose beetles, centipedes, black widow spiders, ants, bees, wasps, etc. Generally they are not a concern if common sense is observed, but one would do well to learn about them and take due precautions. Small guidebooks are available from CCA to assist in identification, precautions, and treatment.