Brushing the Border: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Really, we would have loved to get to Mexico, but Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was at the top of the list, too. The sun and sand were calling my name (Andy’s not as much of a beach guy), but we decided that it just wasn’t going to work this time. We aren’t ones to make plans on where we’re going next, but the impeding summer monsoon season forced us to set out some rough guidelines on where we wanted to go. This meant that we needed to be back up to Colorado by late April, so a few weeks exploring the beaches of Baja just wasn’t in the cards for us.

 

Instead, we got about as close as we could, with the help of a unique national monument.

 

 
 

 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument sits right near the border of Mexico, along the southern side of Arizona. This special ecosystem, stretching from the southwestern United States down into Mexico, is the only place on the planet with optimal conditions for the organ pipe cactus. Alongside the organ pipes, massive saguaros towered into the sky. We couldn’t help but let our jaws drop as we hiked past their prickly beauty. The more we moved on, the more species of cacti we were able to see. These plants fascinated us, and learning about them quickly became the nightly ritual for our time there.

 

After our long hike, we took advantage of the campsite and the amenities offered by the National Parks Service. Twin Peaks Campground is right inside the park, and (like any NPS-run campground) was adorably charming and very well-maintained. By mid- afternoon, the camp's solar shower was perfectly hot and provided a much-welcomed relief from our normally compact experience. You all know what I’m talking about, too: that moment when you come out of your respective sides of the bathhouse, hair still damp and wet flip flops squeaking around, and you each let out your respective sighs of building happiness from the day.

 

That, my friends, is what camping is all about.  

 

 
 

 

We decided that the night wouldn’t be complete without some grilling, so we decided to indulge our carnivorous sides with an uncommon steak dinner. In true Ron Swanson* style, we washed it down with a glass of whiskey while the sun set and soft music played.

 

*Ron Swanson is a character from the incredible TV show Parks & Recreation. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should. Trust me.

 

Not wanting our time in the desert to end, we made our way to Ajo, Arizona. Darby Well Road offered the perfect mix of boondocking, cacti, and internet (which we would later find completely died during the day) for it to be the perfect 5-day home. We set up in the shadow of saguaros, and basked in the light and warmth of the Arizona sun. Each afternoon, as the harsh haze began to fade into golden hour, we wandered around the mountainsides, spotting the smallest cacti we could find and imagining what they might grow to be in the next 100 years.

 

 
 

 

Fun Fact: Saguaro cacti do not grow their first arm until they are at least 75 years old.

 

Eventually, we had to head on our Ajo-way (I couldn’t help but say that repeatedly when we were leaving- it’s important to laugh at the simple things sometimes). My birthday was coming up, and to celebrate we decided on a different kind of weekend adventure: NASCAR.

 

Camping Links:

Campendium - Darby Well Road

Freecampsites - Darby well Road