Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ajo Mountain, February 20

Oh no!! what is that white stuff?  We are in the desert!!!
 Those little white spots are not dust on the camera lens!
 Ajo Mountains get a dusting of snow.  What a site!!

 The sun started to come out and the snow quickly disappeared.

Then the power went out, so no work for the park employees or volunteers.

El Camino del Diablo, February 19

A few weeks ago, my neighbor approached me and wanted to know if I did any Jeep'n in my Jeep.  I explained I didn't really do anything radical as my Jeep was not set up as a rock crawler and that I loved to explore the back roads.  My neighbor wanted to drive the El Camino del Diablo, which is a dirt road that leaves out of Ajo and terminates 118 miles at Wellton (near Yuma), and he and his wife didn't want to do it alone. I decided it would be doable in one day so Joel and I agreed to join our neighbors and then it turned out a third couple would also be going.

The 118 mile dirt road crosses Organ Pipe NM, Cabeza Prieta NWR and part of the Goldwater Range. The Cabeza Prieta NWR and Goldwater Range require permits in order to enter the NWR and Range, so on one of our grocery runs to Ajo, we applied for the permits, sat through the mandatory video in order to be issued the permits and maps, and obtained all the necessary paperwork .  The permits are good until the end of June and it turns out there are other places to explore that require the same permits.  You are suppose to call the range the day you enter so they know you are there.  In some cases you need to obtain a gate combination.  We were able to call the day before, mainly because there is no cell coverage in some of the areas.

The day started out early.  We left the campground at 7:00 A.M. so we could top off the fuel for the Jeep in Why and be at the intersection of Rt 85 and Darby Road south of Ajo by 8:00 A.M. to meet the other couple.

Joel and I had already driven part of the road past Bates Well several times during our "buffelgrassing" pursuits so I knew the road well enough to take the lead. As it turned out I lead most of the time and did all of the driving.

The morning light hitting the mountains was pretty:
 The terrain is pretty lush in parts.
Our first stop was at Bates Wells
 The last time we were here the park services was working on the old ranch house.  There was no one home today..guess it was too early.
 One of the windmills on the old ranch
 We continued on enjoying the mountain vistas.  This area wasn't quit as lush as the beginning.
 Look how straight and tall these Saguaro are!
 The road gets really sandy in spots and the boarder patrol has put down these metal mats to help with the erosion.
 What  are these tires doing here?An ominous sign of bad road conditions?  Actually, the tires are drug behind the boarder patrol trucks to smooth out the dirt road and also to help them determine how many vehicles have gone over the road.  It is one way they have of determining if there has been unusually high vehicle or pedestrian activity that may have been smuggling or illegal aliens traveling by foot.

 The road was recently "tire drugged" as there aren't too many fresh tire marks.

This sign is self explanatory.  If you need help, and you don't have your US passport or proof that you are a US citizen, you may get a free ride back to Mexico!

In the beginning of this posting there was a picture of the lush desert.  As we drove further we encountered some flowers and sandy desert.  Aside for these flowers there was little vegetation.

 And we drove over a lot of lava and lava beds.
 Lava beds and then the sand dunes in the distance, with Mexico near the mountain.
 The monument commemorating the establishment of the Cabeza Prieta.
 As I was driving a long I saw something shiny.  At first I thought garbage, i.e. cans and bottles.  But when I investigated further I determined they were shiny rocks...what is called desert varnish.
 I guess most folks drive the road the opposite direction then we did because this sign was at the end of our trip.
Since I was in the lead and driving most of the time, I didn't take as many pictures as I normally do.  The road had a lot of variety from lush valleys of Saguaro and Cholla to sparse areas with forests of Ocatillo only.  It made for a long day as we didn't exit at Wellton until 5:30 and still had to drive back to Organ Pipe via the highway..another 150 so miles.  A great day, but a long one.  I'd love to do this trip again, but in segments.  There are several camping spots, so maybe next time.....

The Arch Canyon Hike, February 16

There are many arches in Organ Pipe NM, but most of them are off the beaten path.  (The photo of me on my  blog header  was taken off the beaten path in Organ Pipe several years ago. ) The most popular Arch is found off  Ajo Mountain Drive and is most visible from the road.  I had never hiked the Arch Canyon Trail during my previous visits to Organ Pipe, so decided it was about time to cross this one off the list.

The first part of the hike is fairly easy with a moderate elevation gain on a maintained trail.  The day was clear, but very, very windy. You can see the Arch from the road.  If you look very carefully, there is a second arch or window on top.

 The picture below really shows the two arches.
 The good trail follows the canyon but one loses site of the arch not vary far up the trail.  The trail  abruptly ended with a sign warning of a steep, unmaintained social trail up to the arch.  I proceeded a little way, but the wind was blowing so heavily, I was having a hard time maintaining my balance.
 I turned around and headed back.

So, you have probably noticed the Photomatix watermark on the photos.  I'm trying out a software program which allows me to layer three different exposures of the same photos to pull out the all of the colors, highlights, and contrasts and enhance as needed. It's much simpler than adobe photoshop and cheaper.  I'm still playing with it and I can also do some other enhancements.  The photo below is an example of a "painterly mode". It almost looks like a painting.   Let me know your comments.

So, life continues at Organ Pipe.  Joel has been working on a mapping project and hasn't been going out "buffelgrassing".  I've been continuing with the buffelgrass project but have been going out in the field  with a young recent college grad who is with Americorp/SAC, which has proved interesting..mostly because he is so knowledgeable about other projects in the monument.

Check back soon, as Joel and I and two other couples are headed out on a Jeep trip on the El Camino del Diablo.  It should be interesting.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bull Pasture Hike, February 2

Probably one of the prettiest hikes in the park on a maintained trail is the Bull Pasture Hike.  There is lots of open land and cross country hiking in the park, but for an area so large there are very few maintained trails.

The hike starts out at the mouth of Estes Canyon and climbs for about 11/2 miles.

 At the top, a sign lets me know I made it to the top.  There is a faint trail that continues on to Ajo Mountain, but I didn't continue on this time. I'm sure I'll be doing this hike again when the days get longer, and I'll get that section then next time.

The view looks out over the park towards the canyon. The trail loops back through the large wash.

 Really rugged country.  These mountains border the Tohono O' Odham land.
 The canyon is lush with Cholla, Palo Verde, Saguaro, and Ocatilla.

I finished the hike and headed back to camp.  The day was still young, so I decided to check out the short Desert Vista Loop. From the loop I could see Ajo mountain and the area where I had hiked earlier.

A nice view of the public camp ground.

One of the  beautiful scenes from the Desert View trail .  Note the abundance of organ pipe cactus.
 The Buffelgrass project is going well.  The weather has warmed up and the hunt goes on.  I teamed up with one of the interns last week and we managed to visit over 23 waypoints along the Ajo Mountain Drive and only found a few buffelgrass plants...a good thing!

Quitoboquito, Organ Pipe Cactus NM, February 1

Quitoboquito is a natural Oasis in the desert, and part of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. OrPi also borders on Mexico's Reserve de la Biosfera El Pinacate with only Highway 2 separating the two parks.  Although the  road to Quitoboquito is closed, free van tours are offered by the park on the weekends in February.  The area is perceived by the media as "potential threat" to visitors (thus the reason this part of the park is closed) and  the van tours are escorted by park rangers and park rangers have a presence while touring the pond.  The "perceived threat" is due to proximately to the Mexican boarder, which is only a few feet from the road in places.

Our visit was not really a tour, but a training exercise for the volunteers who would be driving the vans and volunteers who would be narrating and answering questions.  Although Joel and I are not part of the interpretive volunteer force we were invited to go as volunteers of the park, thus leaving room on the vans for others during future tours.

Quitoboquito is a very beautiful and serene place. The pond is fairly shallow and supports an abundance of wildlife including the endangered pupfish and mud turtle.  It is fed by nearby springs which run through a series of small ditches to reach the pond.

The spring was a popular stop between Sonoyta and Yuma on the Camino del Diablo.  It is thought the first European to visit Was Spanish Jesuit priest Eusebio Kino in 1698.

 The area has been used for agriculture and roughly in 1860 Andrew Dorse settled in the region and expanded the pond.  There were evidence pomegranite stumps and berms were crops grew at one time.

 The head stone marks one of the earlier settlers who was french and is thought to have established a store for weary travelers.
The park is working to keep the pond in its natural state because it is such an important landmark for wildlife. The cotton wood tree in the picture above started to lean and the roots were effecting the intigrity of the pond and it started to leak.  The breach has been fixed.