Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ NOV 28, 2017

We left Casa Grande and headed south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which is seven miles from the Mexican border.  Along the way we passed fields of cotton. 20171128_09342620171128_114235 

We settled in for a three night stay at the National Monument campground  called Twin Peaks (no utilities at their campsites).  Normally we get enough power from our solar panels but it was overcast the entire three days so we had to run our generator twice a day for about 45 minutes to charge the batteries completely.

After getting settled we drove over to the Visitors Center where we watched a movie about the park.  The National Monument is a 516 square mile “biosphere reserve” of rare cacti located in the Sonoran Desert.20171128_14435520171128_150935

One afternoon we drove along part of the southern boundary of the National Monument on the Puerto Blanco Drive which borders Mexico for 31 miles.  We could see some of the wall separating the United States and Mexico in the distance, but were shocked to see this “border” along the boundary of the National Monument!  IMG_1664IMG_1678IMG_1682

We looked and then asked each other if that could really be the only thing separating the two countries??  About that time a Border Patrol vehicle with two border agents came by and stopped to ask us if we were okay.  We asked if that was really the border fence.  They said yes and we commented on what a hard job they have and thanked them for their service.IMG_1669IMG_1675

We drove for about an hour and many many border patrol vehicles passed us as well as helicopters flying overhead.  What a tough and dangerous job they have.  A park brochure said the smuggling of drugs and humans goes on in the park.  In 2013 there were over 4,000 arrests and approximately 100,000 pounds of marijuana seized just in the National Monument alone!  At the Visitirs Center is a monument to a young park ranger named Kris Eggle who was killed in 2002 while attempting to apprehend illegal aliens. The National Monument Visitors Center is named the Kris Eggle Visitors Center in his memory. 20171128_144144 

It was not unusual to see signs like this in the park.  Our first day in the National Monument we talked with a Park Ranger driving through the park and asked him about safety concerns.  He told us most smugglers and migrants want to avoid detection and therefore avoid contact with people.  But we did take extra precautions at the campsite and while hiking.20171128_151319

Speaking of hiking, we learned if we walked at least five miles in the park we would earn a park pin.  We kept track of our hikes and on the last day we stopped by the Visitors Center and picked up our pins. We were pretty proud of them.20171130_152004

During our stay we took several nice hikes which were relatively easy except we had to walk on very rocky trails.  A little hard on the feet but at least I didn’t have to do any rock scrambling which I detest.  20171129_115334IMG_1622IMG_1628IMG_1645IMG_1649IMG_1652

We learned about the various types of cacti, including the organ pipe cactus for whom the park is named. It is easy to see why they are called organ pipe. IMG_1610 

This area is the furthest they grow north of Mexico and the only place they grow in large stands in the United States.  


These Organ Pipe Cacti Grow On the South Side of the Ridge

On one hike we came across the remnants of an old homestead and corral.IMG_1653IMG_1655IMG_1657

Our second day in the National Monument we drove a scenic road called the Ajo Mountain Drive that wound along the foothills of the Ajo Mountain Range for 21 miles.  It was a dirt and gravel road and our car was really dusty by the time we finished!  The Ranger at the Visitors Center gave us a driving guide that explained various stops along the way.IMG_1619IMG_1631

While we were very happy not to see any snakes, we were disappointed we did not see any wildlife other than birds. We were especially disappointed we did not hear any coyotes at night.  We always heard them while in Tucson and felt certain we would hear them in this very remote park.

Here is the view of the border crossing.IMG_1683IMG_1684

When we left the National Monument we drove through the tiny village of Why.  Next to a gas station we saw a coyote and stopped to take his picture.  Normally they are shy and hard to take their picture.20171201_101028

Next stop: Yuma, AZ where we will be for seven weeks through the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Cactus facts:

  • A Saguaro cactus’ first arm appears at between 95-100 years of age.  It reaches its full height with two or more arms at 200 years of age!IMG_1644
  • Average height of the organ pipe cactus at maturity is fifteen feet.
  • They were named organ pipe by the early settlers who thought they looked like church organ pipes.
  • The organ pipe cactus produces its first flowers at around 35 years of age.
  • Organ pipe cactus, unlike saguaros, live around 150 years.

One thought on “Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ NOV 28, 2017

  1. karnold249

    We really found this very interesting. I love cactus and the pictures were great. It was encouraging to read about the border agents and the presence they have in the area. They do have a tough job and I am glad you thanked him.

    Love you blog!

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