Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Friday, February 13, 2015

Organ Pipe National Monument

Down in far southern Arizona on the Mexican border is one of the most remote national parks in the states.  Created by Roosevelt in 1937, the park was still seeing mining a grazing activity until 95% of it was declared a wilderness area in 1977. The effects of mining and grazing can still be seen all around the park, but it is returning to its natural state and was declared an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1976 as an excellent example of the Sonoran desert ecosystem. Much of the park was closed from 2003 to 2014 due to safety concerns around illegal smuggling activity after a park ranger was killed by smugglers in the desert.  Now it is all open again and the ranger and Border Patrol presence is everywhere, so it is quite safe.

We camped here for a week and took advantage of the hiking and scenic drives in the park.  We took a ranger shuttle one day, driving right by the border fence and through some nasty dirt roads, to a trailhead where we could hike back 5 miles to the campground. This was a great way to experience the solitude and beauty of this remote place.  I took a ton of pictures here, some of which are below.

The full moon setting on the desert

The Organ Pipe Cactus is common in Mexico, but only grows in a few places in the U.S.  It grows to 15 feet tall and can live over 150 years. It blooms at night and is pollinated by one species of bat.
The Saguaro cactus is common everywhere in Arizona and has come to symbolize the state.  They can grow to 40 or more feet tall!
In the desert, the "Belt of Venus" is very obvious at sunrise and sunset. The blue band is the earth's shadow and the ping band above it is the sun's rays hitting the atmosphere above the shadow.
The cactus wren lives on and around cactus its whole life and somehow manages not to get stuck!
We took a 20-mile loop drive to the nearby Ajo mountains for a short hike and very beautiful desert scenery.  The Sonoran desert is the greenest and most lush desert in the world.

On our 5-mile hike, we visited the site of the Victoria Mine, which operated into the 70's. This is what is left of the mine store building.

Our campground was a long way from anywhere,  The mountains in this shot are in Mexico.

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