Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – 2019

January 30 to February 5

Monday morning I leave Saddle Mountain BLM to drive south to Organ Pipe Cactus NM. My friends Cindy and Scott, who I met at Kofa last year and also camped with at Quartzsite, were going there to meet up with a jeeping group they are part of. I was planning to go there also, so we arranged to camp together. I made a stop in Buckeye for groceries and gas at the Fry’s. Then on down to Twin Peaks Campground in the Monument. It was another short travel day – just a couple hours of driving.

Click to view all photos in this post


Sunset at Twin Peaks Campground

Twin Peaks is a beautiful campground. There is lots of natural desert plant life among the sites, which are a nice size. There are no hookups and winter generator hours are limited to two hours in morning and two in the evening. There are four rows designated as no generators for those who have sufficient solar, as well as 34 tent only sites. Last year the campground was no reservations. Since then they have gone to a reservations required system for January to March. However the campground has never filled up. When I made my reservation a few days ahead, 111 sites out of 174 RV sites were available. The fee is $20 per night, 50% discount with a pass. It was $16 last year, so a small increase.

I continue to be amazed at the beauty of the Sonoran Desert this year with all the precipitation it has received. I had seen on the Monument’s Facebook page that some poppies were blooming already. I asked a ranger where would be a good location to find them; and she recommended hiking out to Montezumas Head. So on Thursday I drove up to the Ajo Mountains Wayside, about 12 miles north of the visitors center. The hike is cross county to the east about 4 miles.


Montezumas Head

As I got closer to the peak I began to see clusters of poppies here and there. As I arrived at the base of the peak and looked to the south, the wall of that canyon was covered with yellow patches. I hiked on over there to take a look. It is early in the season for poppies so I was amazed to see so many.


There were large patches of poppies all along the canyon side


More poppies


There were other yellow flowers mixed in. I don’t know what they are.

I love the color and shape of these flowers, and couldn’t resist taking a gazillion photos! I’m only including a small sample here, haha! It was an overcast day. And also windy, making it difficult to get a flower photo that was properly in focus.


Another view of Montezumas Head


This is one of my favorites of the photos I took

I spent a lot of time exploring the canyon side. It was about 4pm when I arrived back at the truck and headed home. Just as I turned onto the campground road, a border patrol officer pulled me over. He asked where I had been that day, which I answered. Then he asked if I had been up on Hwy 86. The answer was no. Apparently a citizen had phoned in a report that a truck with the description matching mine was seen driving out of the desert onto Hwy 86. He asked several more times if I had been up on Hwy 86 and driving out in the desert. I kept telling him no, my truck was parked all day at the wayside and I had been hiking out to Montezumas Head. Then he asked if I would allow him to look in the back of the truck, which I did. Then he asked to look in the back seat, so I opened the door for him. I think he really wanted me to be the person they were looking for, but he finally radioed in that my vehicle matched the description but wasn’t the one they were looking for. Relieved, I went on my way to the campground. I have to say, it made me a little nervous though. I was out all day by myself, with no witnesses as to where I had been. So how does one prove they were NOT at a particular place? Whenever I pass through a checkpoint, I am always very polite to the personnel and try to make some pleasant comment to them. They are out there doing their job, and really it can’t be all that exciting standing at a checkpoint all day. So far I have always been sent right through, knock on wood!

The rest of the jeeping group arrived on Friday. Saturday morning everyone met at the visitors center to drive around the Ajo Mountain Loop. This isn’t a four wheel drive road and doesn’t require a jeep. But it is a beautiful drive. Unfortunately, Saturday was another cloudy day – I’m starting to sound like a broken record!

One of the highlights of the drive is Arch Canyon, about half way around. There is a trail that goes about half a mile up the canyon. There were patches of poppies, purple phacelia and a few other flowers along the trail. And some blue sky appeared while we were there 🙂


Arriving at Arch Canyon


The arch


We took a lunch break here and some walked up the trail.


Along the trail.

I didn’t take many photos along the rest of the drive as it was just too cloudy.

Back at the highway we turned south for five miles to Camino de Dos Republicas, which goes out to a couple of old ranch buildings.


Gachado Line Camp building

After the line camp, we drove another half mile or so along the border to the old ranch house.


Road along the border


The old ranch house

On Sunday, we drove around the Puerto Blanco Mountains loop. This is considered a 4wd road but it is pretty mild. It rained the whole way, so I didn’t take any photos.

Cindy and Scott have satellite TV; Sunday night I watched the Super Bowl with them and a few of their other friends. I was rooting for the Rams, but it wasn’t to be. Those Patriots won again, boo!!!!

Everyone left on Monday morning, but I stayed until Tuesday. It was nice just to relax and hang out for a day. Organ Pipe is one of my absolute favorite places. I expect I’ll return here often.


Farewell to Organ Pipe until next time

4 Comments on “Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – 2019

  1. It sounds like the security situation has improved. Last time I was there, a lot of backroads were closed and the Park Services was running armed convoys to Quitoboquito.


    • Hi Richard, a lot of changes were made after Chris Eggle was killed. There is a large Border Patrol station on Hwy 85 south of Ajo. The barbed wire has been replaced with various structures to reduce border crossings. As this was done areas of the park were gradually reopened. I believe around 2015 all of the remaining back country areas were opened. It seems to be much better now.


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