Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Monday, February 17, 2014

Warming Up at
Organ Pipe Cactus NM

There I was, bundled up at Saguaro National Park, feeling sluggish, and it occurred to me that I could probably drive someplace warmer.  So, on the spur of the moment, I decided to backtrack southwest to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (ORPI).  The temperature there was to be in the high 70s.

Organ Pipe Cactus was so named because the early
settlers thought the hollow stick of the dead braches
of this cactus look like organ pipes. 2/8/14 
ORPI is a showcase for the Sonoran Desert's many plants and animals.  So much so that the United Nations named it an International Biosphere Reserve.  Here you have 2 distinct plant communities for the hottest & driest, and the wetter parts of the Sonoran Desert.  The Organ Pipe Cactus itself reaches it northern limits in this small part of the United States.

Upon arriving at the Monument, I got a tent site at the far end of Twin Peaks Campground.  I asked for and was given a place that was fairly private ... the sites around me were vacant.  Good thing because I needed my rest; I had caught a cold!

My campsite at Twin Peaks Campground,
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, 2/7/14

My campsite had lots of plants and bird activity going on.
Here is a dead saguaro cactus in the foreground, an
ocotillo, and lots of creosote bushes. 2/7/14

The creosote bushes had little yellow flowers and were buzzing with lots of bees.  The Brittlebushes and Rabbitbrush were ready to bloom.  The ocotillos were greening up too.  The Palo Verde and Mesquite trees provided nice shade.  I saw lots of birds -- Gambel's Quail, Cactus Wren, Phainopepla, Red Tail Hawks, Curve-Billed Thrashers -- and heard Woodpeckers and White-Winged Doves.  Little lizards scurried and rabbits scampered.  It was a good place to warm up, relax, and recover from a cold.

The next 3 photos progressively show the eastern sky and Aho Mountain Range
near my campsite at sunset.  2/7/14, 5:40 PM

Aho Mountain Range at campsite, 2/7/14, 6:11 PM

Aho Mountain Range from behind campsite, 2/7/14, 6:13 PM

And here is the western sky during that same sunset.  At campsite, 2/7/14, 6:18 PM

I took several drives while in the Park.  The first drive on North Puerto Blanco Drive was 10 miles up and back on a maintained dirt road.

Driving north on the North Puerto Blanco Drive.  Pinkley Peak.  2/7/14

A little Mexican Gold Poppy as seen on the N Puerto Blanco Drive.  2/7/14

Globemallow as seen on the N Puerto Blanco Drive.  2/7/14
Close up of the Globemallow.  2/7/14
Looking east at the Ajo Mountain Range, while driving south on
North Puerto Blanco Drive.  2/7/14
The second drive I took was on another maintained dirt road.  It was a 21 mile loop called the Ajo Mountain Drive.

The Ajo Mountain Range, with its striations of ancient ash falls,
stole the show on the Ajo Mountain Scenic Loop Drive.  2/8/14

A few parts of the road were paved on the Ajo Mountain Drive.  2/8/14

Amazing rock formation.  2/8/14

Lots of Saguaro Cacti here too.  2/8/14

Just to the right of center is an arch created by the weather --
freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw
-- the arch will get bigger and eventually collapse over time.  2/8/14

Taken from the Ajo Mountain Drive.  2/8/14

Last look at the southern end of the Ajo Mountain Range before
 looping west on the Ajo Mountain Drive.  2/8/14

Before I ended my stay at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, I took a stroll on the nature trail behind the Visitor's Center.

The specialized Pup Fish inhabit the hot and salty
desert springs in the Monument.  2/9/14

Here is a Brittle Bush starting to bloom. 2/9/14

A Palo Verde Tree with a clump of Mistletoe. 2/9/14

A close up of the Mistletoe on the Palo Verde. 
The berries are a favorite of the birds.  2/9/14

Fuzzy seed pods of the Creosote Bush.  2/9/14

Close up of a Cholla, sometimes called the
"Jumping Cholla" because the needles seem to
reach out and grab if you get too close.  2/9/14

I love how the Chollas seem to glow.  They almost look soft.  2/9/14

The Saguaro's arms can grow in funny twisted ways.  2/9/14
Warmed up, healed up, ready to head east again.

Beautiful Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  2/8/14


  1. Hi Suanne,
    I am planning to do car or van camping in the future. Just wonder where or how to get shower regularly when u are on the road.

    1. Hi Matthew! Some of the campgrounds I go to have showers. For example, the campground at Organ Pipe Cactus NM had bathrooms with solar showers. I have friends who use the showers at truck stops as well. But, for the most part, I do a sponge bath every evening before going to bed.


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