Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

We made it to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument before the sun went down.

This gave us time to grab a site at their more popular campground, Twin Peaks, and get some rest. But not before reading that we shouldn’t help anyone cross the border.

As the park sits directly on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, it does seem to make sense to post something about people crossing. But to be honest, the only thing I was worried about from reading that page was the giant cartoon scorpion (And how do you not give someone a drink of water if they ask for it?)

In the morning, we were determined to get a spot at their Alamo campground, a four site primitive campground surrounded by mountains and cacti. Somehow, as we were entering the area, all four groups were leaving. We had our pick and opted for a mountain backdrop.

After assembling the tent, we got in the car and started the Ajo Mountain Canyon drive. A brochure led us around the 21 mile loop, providing information about plants, animals, native people, and geology. Halfway around the loop we stopped at Arch Canyon to stretch our legs and take a little hike.

The desert flowers were in bloom and we were surrounded in technicolor with the sound of killer bees humming all around us (I pulled my hood up because I don’t take risks with Mother Nature). Look at these flowers though! I’d try to protect that too if I were a bee.

We saw a trail head leading up the mountain and decided that a short walk to stretch our legs might be better as a strenuous scramble to the top.

This trail is not maintained by the park but by visitors who mark the path with cairns. We followed the little piles of stones up (and up even more), stopping to identify the ironwood trees and take in the scenery (and to take a few breathers too). Sometimes I find that my head is down for so long while hiking that I forget to look around me. Stopping to look up is good practice for hiking and life.

We made it to (what we think was) the top and took in the view below.

We were supposed to be able to see some arches at the top (hence: Arch Canyon), but we may have gone a bit off trail. Cairns everywhere! Here! There! Stop putting down rocks piles all willy-nilly, people!

We decided to head back down, got a little turned around (blast you, cairns!), and made it back on trail by a blessed cactus that Ryan recognized because it looked like Mickey Mouse.

We finished the Ajo loop and headed for the short Desert View Trail, where we got to see a lot of plants we recognized from our time at Saguaro.

The ocotillo were covered in their waxy leaves and looked lovely against a cloudy blue sky.

We got to experience the Organ Pipes in all their glory here on the Desert Loop Trail. Though not nearly as tall as the Saguaro, they still stand proud at around 15 feet.

They can also live until about 150 years old. After they die, animals use their “ribs” for building material, and the circle of life continues. Everything has adapted to survive in the desert, and everything is used.

We headed back to camp to hit up part of the Alamo Canyon for sunset.

The light was just right as the sun began to fall, and we got to experience some super piped organs.

We found this water source nearby and surmised that the cacti do so well over here for that reason.

We took in the sunset with gratefulness, shadows of cacti leading us thoughtfully back to camp.

With quiet hearts and minds, we lay our heads down to hear the music of the night. Which was the voices of three middle-aged couples having a reunion at the campsite near us. We expected crickets and owls, but we got Daniel reminiscing about his off-roading expeditions. Well, you can’t win them all. And on the bright side, at least Daniel and his friends were having a good time too.

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