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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Organ Pipe Cactus NM – We Will Be Back


On our way from Yuma to Catalina State Park, we decided to take a short detour and stop for a short visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This destination has been on our radar for a couple of years. In fact, one of the law enforcement officers at Glacier had also served in that capacity at Organ Pipes. He had lots of great things to say about Organ Pipes. So, finally we made it.

The visitor center is only 5 miles from the Mexican border. Its proximity to Mexico and illegal drug and human trafficking makes some RVers hesitant to camp here and in the surrounding BLM land. Not to worry, here is the advice the law enforcement officer mentioned above gave us, “in Glacier you have Grizzlies and in Organ Pipes you have illegal activity in drug smugglers and migrants.” In both cases, you do not want to surprise them. So, stay on approved trails, don’t hike alone, and make noise.” Happily, I have not encountered a grizzly or any illegal activity while hiking.

Knowing our time in Organ Pipes would be short; we quickly got settled in at the very nice campground and headed out for the drive around the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Scenic Loop. While most passenger cars could easily navigate the graded dirt road we piled into Hal’s jeep and headed out. 

Scenic for sure! We had picked up the guide for the drive at the visitor center and followed the narrative through the 18 marked stops. Besides the many beautiful vistas, one of the highlights was seeing the unique Crested Organ Pipe cactus. The drive was a perfect introduction to Organ Pipes and the green Sonoran Desert.

Before dinner, JoAnne and I had time to take a leisurely 1-mile walk along the campground perimeter trail and watch the sunset on another perfect day.

Unfortunately, we could only stay here one day, as we needed to make our Catalina State Park reservation. So, I decided to get up early and hike the 4.5 mile Victoria Mine trail before we pulled up levels and headed to Tucson. This is an easy trail through the desert ending at several historic mining structures. The mines are closed to humans but now serve as bat habitats.

Just as I reached the mine, I got a cell phone call from my parents who live in FL. So, I got to share the experience and some of the pictures I took with my iPhone with them. Sometimes, technology is just plain cool.

I got back to the rig around 10 and in a matter of minutes we were down the road. We decided that instead of going back up to I8 we would take Hwy 86 – the scenic route.

As it turned out this was our only “encounter” of sorts with illegal activity. About 45 minutes out of Why (yes there is a town named Why) all traffic on 86 came to a halt and we found ourselves at the end of a long line of cars and trucks. We could not see what was causing the delay but everyone up ahead was out of their vehicles. Only after I got out of the RV and walked up the road did we see accident and learn what had happened. Illegal drug dealers had a car filled with Weed and were running. They took a corner far to fast and ended up flipping their car. Two of the illegals got out and ran but one had to be airlifted out. So, we sat for about 45 minutes as helicopters, border patrol and other law enforcement did their job cleaning up the mess. An adventure for sure!

Lots more photos here.

We really liked what we saw of Organ Pipes and want to come back and spend more time exploring the park and the little picturesque town of Ajo.

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