Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
is somewhat secluded and off the beaten path, located about 5 miles north of the border towns of Lukeville and Sonoyta, MX, on Highway 85 south of Why! To get here from Tucson we took the Ajo Highway 86 west.
The namesake organ pipe is a large cactus found rarely in the United States, although it is common in Mexico. The monument encompasses the bulk of its U.S. population. Like its fellow cacti and other desert inhabitants, the organ pipe is tuned to the rhythms of the sun and the infrequent rains. A glutton for heat and light, it grows on south-facing slopes where it can absorb the most sun.
Its close proximity to the Mexican border has been a mixed blessing, especially in the last few years, and resulted in the closing to the public of many areas previously accessible, most obviously the Puerto Blanco scenic drive. It still remains one of the most beautiful locations in the Sonoran Desert and one of our favorites!
We spent 3 terrific laid-back days just doing our thing: hiking, driving the backroads, and taking photos. We keep the tripod handy in the back of the jeep and tote it in a ways to capture the two of us in a beautiful landscape or hamming it up with a multi-limbed Saguaro or bushy cholla.
We hiked 5 miles round-trip to the Victoria Mine site, over rocky, hilly terrain and down through arroyos that see frequent flash floods. Both gold and silver were extracted from this area in the late 1800's.
We drove the Ajo Mountain scenic road, a 21 mile, well maintained, gravel road suitable for passenger cars. This drive is probably the highlight for most park visitors with many pull-overs for picnic areas, side hikes and incredible mountain scenery.
Late afternoons we sat outside enjoying the last rays of sun and warmth, reading our respective books, "World Without End" (L) and "Edgar Sawtelle" (H), then barbecued a steak, tossed a salad and drank a toast to another great day!