We spent eight days at Organ Pipe National Monument in southern Arizona doing what we’re supposed to be doing and enjoying that we could still be out moving around. Otherwise I think we would go nuts.

How could this be too close to anyone?

What a beautiful park & campground and at this time of year, the Sonoran desert is probably at its best. It is full of all kinds of cactus not the least of which is the organ pipe but also a lot of saguaro. I read that Saguaro cactus can live to be 200, don’t flower until they’re 65 and don’t send out an arm till they’re 90! They are all swollen from a winter of rain, ready for the drought of summer. It was easy to distance ourselves because the spots are spacious and neatly landscaped. But we all got the boot as the park & campground closed just like so many open spaces including trails, dispersed camping sites in the national forest and BLM lands. So while trying to get to a new, private campground we stopped to grab some groceries and found out that’s where everyone is! Now we’re in an old mining town outside of Phoenix staying on a small ranch of sorts- Box 8, where the air smells like orange blossoms and there are pretty mountains in almost every direction. We’re in a field by the barn. We’ll stay here for a little bit now to see what unfolds in all this mess. We have some projects we can do and we can hike the mountains as long as there isn’t a busy trailhead. It seems nutty that a trailhead would become an issue at all and then people lined up in a store is fine. There isn’t anyone we know who’s lives haven’t been turned upside down.

Project day today. The rear marker lights and the backup camera are going in and the truck is clean too.
We hiked all along the uppermost spine visible here toward of the left.

Exercise is a great stress reliever. We hiked and biked all over the park and then we biked to hiking trails to make the day even longer! For years we’d been wanting to catch the desert wildflowers at Death Valley (closed!) but I think we got a good demo here of what they can be. If Vitamin D and a good dose of UV is part of prevention then we got that covered, along with a sock tan. We hiked to a copper mine, up to the tippy top of the highest point you could get and had lunch on a windless summit, to a spring, an arch, to an old ranch, up washes and over rolling desert. This park shares the border with Mexico but we avoided venturing near the perimeter because of ongoing construction of the namesake. To me, the orange monster this side of the wall is the scariest thing of all. Embarrassing too. I guess if there was a negative it was all the border patrol driving back and forth up every road all day long and the occasional helicopter flying low. Our neighbor stayed out on a trail till sunset and was hurrying back on his motorcycle when he got blockaded by 2 border police cars so that they could politely question and search his paneers because his speed seemed suspicious.

Ever feel like you’re being watched?

There are towers all over and they have cameras among other equipment. A humanitarian group has a permit to provide and service water stations within the park for anyone trying to make the trip across the border. They say humanitarian water in both English and spanish and there is a picture of a religious figure on the barrel. They have tall blue flags so they can be spotted from afar. One one of the hills we hiked up that didn’t have a trail, we saw a private cache of water and canned food, old wrappers, cans , some clothing, carpeted booties and the infamous black water bottles (like a windshield wash fluid bottle) that the park service tells you to look out for. For some reason it is is a common bottle to use for water. Someone attempting to cross also will make slippers out of pieces of carpet for soles and canvas uppers to strap over their shoes so that they will leave less footprints. This according to an officer. He said that we were walking at a common rest stop, and being high up like that was a good watch post to see if the coast was clear to move onward. We found all this rather disturbing. Right or wrong, who else will be willing to stoop all day to pick our vegetables for pennies? It’s complicated.

Well protected nest in the cholla cactus

Well the other construction was that of birds nests perched in all the cactus. And then lookie here, a pretty blue egg! We’ve had 3 swarms of bees- 2 right over our heads which was a little unnerving and then one while we were driving that hit our windshield like hail- sad. Every time we’d hike up high enough we’d start hearing the canyon wren call. It’s a descending sound that reminds me of the stock market falling but most of the time its our favorite birdsong of the area.

OK, just one more wildflower pic

So a big thumbs up for Organ Pipe, it was fun and a good way to spend some time that we didn’t think we’d have. I hope we and anyone reading this keeps their health and that we can all get on with our plans before going insane.

I guess this is what we’re doing right now too.

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