Senita on the left, Organ Pipe on the right:
Close ups, including a crested Organ Pipe:
We spent 5 nights in the NPS campground right in the heart of Organ Pipe National Monument, and totally loved the whole place. This park had been on my bucket list for a while, but because it’s so out of the way, and frequently very, very hot, we hadn’t gotten around to it. This was a great week to be there, with mild temperatures and not many other tourists.
This park is the northernmost refuge of two different kinds of columnar cactus, the Organ Pipe and the Senita. Both varieties are common in Mexico, but are so frost intolerant that they only show up in this very warm part of the US. Besides the cactus, there’s lots of other greenery, since it’s part of the Sonoran Desert, the wettest desert in North America.
There were plenty of formal presentations if your tastes run that way. We attended a night sky program at the outdoor amphitheater and took a ranger-led van tour around Ajo Mountains scenic drive. There were also daily lectures at the visitor center and night hikes.
We sampled a good portion of the hiking trails, many of which are just old paths between mining claims that dot the landscape. Our favorite was the Estes Canyon hike, with a great first view of the canyon that makes you say “WOW!”, but can never quite by captured in a photo.
Remnants at the Victoria Mine:
Cholla cactus skeleton:
Pale pink mountains as far as the eye can see:
We had a bit of a rough time at first because of some overcast days, where our solar panel just wasn’t producing anything. With limited power coming in, we had to be really conservative with our usage, so we just decided that we were camping, but in a really nice tent with indoor plumbing. We made the most of all the daylight, and finished dinner by sunset. Then, we’d take a long walk around the whole campground to enjoy the colors of the sky as they changed from vivid to dusky to completely dark. When we were tired of walking, we stargazed from our patio, and talked until we were sleepy. I realized that it’s easy to feel a bit disconnected from your partner, without even knowing it. This stop truly felt like a vacation, primarily because JJ and I had the time to really *be* with each other, and share our thoughts without any time pressure. It made me think that we might want to turn the lights off more often at night, and walk and talk, and just enjoy each others company.
Free nightly light show at the campground:
Also, happy 12th anniversary to us!