We arrived at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument this winter with high expectations after last year’s amazing visit. To our surprise and shock, the first three days were overcast and rainy! What the heck?
We got out for a few short hikes but spent a good deal of the time holed up in the trailer itching to get out there and explore this cool park.
The Sun Returns
Finally on day 4 the rain clouds cleared and were replaced by blue skies, puffy white clouds, and warmer temps. It was perfect for a day of exploring and photographing the lush desert landscapes. We decided to head out the popular Ajo Mountain drive and check out some areas we missed during our previous visits.
The drive is 21 miles so there is lots to see just driving, but I advise getting out of the vehicle and doing some hikes out into the desert to get a true appreciation of the place. Wear long sturdy pants, thick soled shoes and a hat. I find a walking stick really helps as well. Also take twice the water and food as you think you’ll need. Part of the charm is the rugged remoteness, but that comes with risks. (Organ Pipe NM safety)
The days of rain had actually been a blessing as the park scenery was glistening. All the dust had been wash away, the air was fresh and the ground was still damp giving the colors an extra pop. The desert also smelled terrific.
The Cool Wet Discovery
We did a few short hikes and on one of those I heard running water! That is not a sound you hear much in this area. I could see across a rocky gorge was little hanging valley with a small pool. Too cool! I ran and told Anne about my discovery and said “We have to go check it out, could be a great photo op”.
We packed up a lunch, extra water and headed over. The hike in wasn’t too bad, but we did have to traverse a few deep washes and walk along a ridge or two all the while avoiding the numerous pointy cactus. It was well worth it when we got a close up view of the scene. There were a few nice pools of water and small trickling waterfalls. But what really made the scene was the multitude of Organ Pipes dotting the background and the reddish color of the stone. This would make a very nice reflection type photo and Anne was soon scrunched down sorting out the best composition. The blue sky and puffy clouds were the icing on the cake.
We gobbled down our picnic lunch and spent a few hours hanging out, photographing and exploring the location. There were remnants of an old concrete dam. I guess it must have been used in the past for livestock. All throughout the rocky cliffs were cactus eking out an existence in this harsh terrain. I was astonished at the size of some of them given their meager space on the rock face.
Few More Interesting Stops
Afterward we hiked back to our trusty “Big Blue” truck and headed off further down the mostly gravel drive stopping at several more interesting places. In one area on a steep slope we found hundreds of Teddy Bear cholla sharing the ground with Organ Pipes. I haven’t seen cholla cactus this thick except the Cholla Garden in Joshua Tree NP. Looking at them into the setting sun they all light up as the fine fuzzy needles captured the light.
Another spot was a return stop we liked from before. It offers a spectacular mountain and valley view out to the cactus cover plains and all the way to Mexico in the distance. The place is just made for a photo with a small Organ Pipe, barrel cactus and a perfect jumbo of rocks. Let’s just say a number of selfies were taken for our scrapbook memories.
Sunset Hike Caps the Day
We arrived back at the campground in time to take a final hike of the day for a sunset view. Just near the Twin Peaks campground is a short trail up to the top of a ridge, a perfect spot to watch the sunset from. It also provides a neat overview of the campground and all the rigs below. It was a perfect way to finish up another fun day in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
For more info on the park and campground check out last year’s blog posts
Fun Day at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe 2015 Photo Gallery
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