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ARIZONA PHOTOS - Joel's Visit To Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

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Tohono O'odham Reservation

August 19, 2006 - I drove out to the Organ Pipe National Monument this morning. Since I have to drive 120 miles there, I kept my eyes open for neat desert shots on the way.

Adjacent: Desert view from the Tohono O'odham Reservation - I had tried to get some wild flower (or weed) pictures while going through the Tohono O'odham Reservation, but was unable to get one that I wanted due to being buzzed by an INS helicopter. I watched his flight path and saw Border Patrol vehicles driving frantically off road just north of Arizona State Highway 86. I saw this as an ill omen after last time. Organ Pipe National Monument sits right on the border with Mexico. It's one of the most remote and desolute of all National Monuments in the USA. What most folks do not know is that on the Mexican side is a large highway running across Sonora to Baja California Norte. There are many villages on the Mexican side, unlike the American side. This is the edge of America that no one knows much about.
Organ Pipe National Monument The Organ Pipe National Monument sign on Arizona State Highway 85.
Arizona Immigration and Naturalization Service Check Point on Arizona State Highway 85.
The Mexicans are still crossing in large numbers despite whatever you might hear or read in the news.
Large rock left in the road to slow the Park Rangers down. I heaved it back to the side, it weighed an easy 30 pounds, far to heavy to be moved by the rains without greater destruction to the semi-graded road.
Port Of Entry at Lukesville, Arizona

I checked in at the Ranger Station to get a report on the shape of some trails that I wanted to use. I had hoped to go hiking on the Camino De Dos Republicas since it has been closed to vehicle traffic. I found a friendly and knowledgeable Ranger and she said that it would be foolish, stupid and dangerous to even attempt to hike that trail.

I also asked her about the impact of the National Guard along the border. Basically, the National Guard is doing office work to free up the Border Patrol Agents. She did say that they had gone through the National Monument a few times, but she felt sorry for them since they were from Kentucky. Dumping troops here in the summer from out of state isn't a very wise thing. Our heat is deceptive. At first, one feels the lack of humidity and proclaims it to be a second rate heat. That works if one goes inside to A/C right then and there. If one doesn't, one finds that the heat drains life and moisture quicker than lightning without water and acclimation. Heat stroke and dehydration are killers not to be trifled with.

I did get directions to a trail that I had never been to, but before I went there, I drove south to the Port Of Entry at Lukesville a few miles down the road. It was a quiet Saturday morning, and the only thing that I saw that I didn't like was a very large dog watching me.

A view from the trail somewhere in the Ajo Mountains. The trail went past the ruins of an old house, a corral with a windmill pump still in the wash. Not much to look at by itself, but the scenery was grand.
Mammillaria between two rocks - I spent way too long hiking there, but it was worth it. From what I saw of the trail, not that many folks had been down it. I can tell you first hand from the number of spider webs that I walked into that the young couple from Virginia who I met at the trailhead had not gone down the trail very far.

After I slowly drove back to Arizona State Highway 85, I went further south and went on the Ajo Loop. As usual, it impressed the heck out of me. Quite a few of the Chollas are blooming. That doesn't mean much to most, but what is odd is that they are spring time bloomers (March/April). My guess is that with the drought and the heavy rains the last few weeks, is that they just went haywire since they probably skipped their spring time blooms. It requires quite a bit of energy for a cactus to bloom.
A cholla bloom.

From the Ajo Loop.

More Arizona desert scenery. The drive back to Tucson was uneventful until I came the Three Points Area (about 25 miles west of Tucson). It was bumper to bumper all the way into town and through town itself. I had to ask myself why I keep coming back to civilization and its madness since I'm far happier out in the desert. Besides a decent job that pays beans, it was hard coming up with a reason until I thought of a brewery about eight miles down the road. :)

-These pictures were submitted by Joel Smith in Tucson, Arizona. His web site is:

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