Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 6, 2015 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Today we drove over two hours west through the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation to get to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We saw several very elaborate roadside memorial markers similar to the one pictured here. 

Chrissy is so happy to be in 80 degree weather.

This is the town of Why, Arizona. It isn't much...just this beautifully landscaped gas station. Next stop...

....Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

This park is on the border with Mexico. There is a Border Patrol checkpoint on the road to the visitor center and warning signs everywhere about smuggling humans and drugs. The National Park Service recently opened up huge areas of the park (that had been closed for years) for hiking and camping because of a new fence and increased patrols along the border. 

After stopping at the visitor's center, we drove along North Puerto Blanco Drive until we reached the high clearance 4WD section of the road.

The desert is very colorful this time of year.

We didn't see many Organ Pipe Cactus in the desert areas.

But saw flowers just about everywhere....

....and warning signs everywhere. There weren't many people in the park either. So it was like we had the place to ourselves.

We decided to take a short hike along this trail just to get out of the car for awhile...

...and see what we could find out in the desert.

The Ocotillo grows really high out here...

...so do the Saguaro cacti.

A Saguaro cactus flowering. They only flower at the top so it is hard to get a good picture since most are over 15 feet high.

Wandering aimlessly through the desert. It was another beautiful day and so many different things to photograph.

Ocotillo flowers.

This cactus had more flowers by a large margin than any other I saw all week.

Finally we saw some Organ Pipe Cacti...

...we learned that they tend to grow closer to the mountains that in the flat desert areas.

I believe this is Chainfruit cholla...

...an example of the chainfruit.

The jet trails last forever in the sky here.

Kennedy leading the way on our hike...

....as usual I am trailing behind because I can't stop going off trail to take pictures.

Prickly Pear Cactus

After our hike, we headed over to the Ajo Mountain Drive...

...and saw smoke from a fire near the Mexico border.
This 21 mile loop will take us over three and a half hours to complete...

...but we thoroughly enjoyed everything there was to see. The following pictures were taken during our many stops along the way. We either wandered off the road or took short hikes into the desert or into the Ajo and Diablo Mountains.

One of the bigger Organ Pipe Cactus we saw.

Barrel Cactus

We took these shots to show everyone how much fun we were having in the Sonoran Desert...

....Kennedy was in the air for all his picture attempts...it took a few tries to catch Chrissy & me in the air.

When in doubt, hike along a wash to be sure of your return route.

The road near Mount Ajo.

We saw this bird everywhere we went in Arizona. I am pretty sure it is a turkey vulture.

Taken from a short trail in Arch Canyon.

Even the mountains are colorful.

Kennedy & I took a short hike into Estes Canyon while Chrissy relaxed at a picnic area.

Then it was back to the road and marker #13...I always pick up trail maps and guide books at the visitor center...I don't know anything about deserts so here's a chance to learn...so I stopped at every marker and Chrissy read the guide book for each one...this one was about the mesquite tree in the background...also known as "The Tree of Life" because the fruit is high in carbohydrates and the seeds have more protein than soybeans and are ground into flour used for breads.

Our stop at Teddy Bear Pass was incredible. There were Teddy Bear Cholla all over the place and many were flowering...
...we were running out of daylight but I had to get some pictures...
...these fuzzy kind of cute cacti multiple by breaking off and rooting into the ground. That is why there are so many in this area...but they have barbed and hooked spines that you cannot remove with your hands...so guess what happened...
...I got so many spines stuck to me that Kennedy had to remove them with Chrissy's Leatherman tool. I knew that kid would come in handy on this trip.
We were two and a half hours from Tucson and there is no place to eat between here and there. So we drove another fifteen miles out of our way to eat dinner in the funky little artist town of Ajo.

While searching for a place to eat, we passed this building. I loved the mural on it. We had a tasty dinner at 100 Estrella. Kennedy ate a one pound burger...it was as big as his head...like the waitress told him..."it is a huge burger honey...this ain't McDonalds". He deserved it after removing all those teddy bear cholla spines from my feet. We saw several coyotes cross the road during the drive back to Tucson in the dark. But no one thought my idea of hiking after dark in the desert was a good idea...oh well...another fantastic day for us in Arizona. Kennedy & I are on our own tomorrow because Chrissy will be attending the bear conference...my only job is to make sure he gets back safely...his only job is to remember where my body is so Chrissy has proof I died so she can collect the life insurance. 

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