Ajo, Arizona 2019

February 5th to 25th

Tuesday morning I depart Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, driving about 30 miles north to the town of Ajo. Ajo is a lovely town with a large winter snowbird population. The town has the basic necessities of local grocery store, hardware stores, laundry, restaurants, and a small library with good wifi. It is roughly a 75 mile drive to Buckeye if one needs other amenities not available in Ajo.

View larger photos/slideshow on Flickr

Camping Near Ajo

Beautiful desert landscape of my campsite near Ajo

What I love the most about Ajo though is the beautiful landscape. It is still far enough south to have organ pipe cactus, along with saguaro cactus, the iconic plant of the Sonoran Desert. And of course, it has the beautiful Arizona light of sunrise and sunset.


Moon rising at sunset



A lovely example of organ pipe cactus

Charlie Bell Pass Trail

Ajo is surrounded by public lands, including the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. CPNWR is the nation’s third largest national wildlife refuge at 860,000 acres. Most of the refuge is designated as wilderness, making access by motor vehicle limited. In the northern section of the refuge is the Charlie Bell Pass Trail. The refuge designates this road as high clearance 2wd. From the refuge visitors center in Ajo to Charlie Bell Pass is about 17 miles. Most of the road is well-graded gravel. The last couple miles is rocky, mostly cobble with a few larger rocks. Vehicle access ends at the pass in the Growler Mountains, but the old road grade continues on, and one can hike down into the Growler Valley.


Little Tule Well, windmill and one of the water tanks that are located on the refuge


I see quite a few Harris Hawks in the deserts around Ajo


Hiking the road grade down into the Growler Valley


The meaning of petroglyphs is not known, we can only guess.


A scorpion perhaps?


woven basket?

First Time Geocaching

For a while I’ve been thinking of trying geocaching. There were a couple active geocachers in the group I camped with at Kofa NWR in January. I picked their brains for some information on how to get started. It’s pretty simple really. One just needs to create a login on one of the geocaching websites and search for caches in the area. Then download the gpx file to a GPS or mobile GPS app. Geocaching.com is the original site, but there are others. I signed up on geocache.com and checked for caches around Ajo. I found four near my campsite along a loop of about 5.5 miles. I thought these would be a good “tryout”. The four are pretty easy to find. It was fun looking for them and added interest to the hike.


Geocache loop map


North Ajo Peak


A weather monitoring station out in the middle of nowhere


One of the geocaches


This one was just peeking out


Another view along the loop


Ajo Peak


Near the last geocache

Some Recent Reads

The rainy and (relatively) cold weather Arizona has experienced this winter continues. Fortunately I love to read. On days I can’t get out, I settle in with a good book. A few months ago I had read Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, which is ranked eleventh on the Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. I was prompted to read it for the story, but also because it was set in Mexico. It is a difficult read; but I did enjoy it. I decided to read it again and enjoyed it even more the second go round. The prose is beautifully written – one review I read described it as being cinematic. Another novel set in Mexico I also enjoyed was Love In The Time of Cholera. There There is the first novel from Native American author, Tommy Orange. The novel is set in the urban landscape of Oakland, CA. New York Times Book Review lists it as one of the ten best books of 2018. For those who like apocalyptic literature, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is a good read. It is in the vein of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and is set in Heller’s home state of Colorado. For lighter reading, I recently finished J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady series, and have just started on Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series.

Crested Organ Pipe Cactus

A few miles from my campsite there was another geocache I was interested in because it was near a crested organ pipe cactus. This fan-like growth occurs in saguaros, organ pipe, barrel and other species of cactus. The cause remains a mystery, while theories include genetic mutation, lighting strike or freeze damage.

The cache is near a prominent landmark known as Locomotive Rock.


Locomotive Rock


Several areas showing crested (or crisate) growth


A closer view


Another closeup


With the recent rains there were alot of these small yellow flowers blooming

From Ajo, I am heading back to Tucson. I have tickets for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at the Fox Theatre. And I’m sure I’ll find some other things to do there.


Ajo sunset


Desert moonrise


12 Comments on “Ajo, Arizona 2019

  1. Ben went out to see the Petroglyphs with a friend today so it was fun to see your photos, since I doubt he’ll come back with many. Have I asked you what camera you use? Your photos are striking. I think you mentioned what editing program you use, but don’t remember.

    We drove out Cemetery Road Sunday almost to the fence at the refuge, taking off north at one point, finding some great camping spots and lots of wildflowers. I loved the silence. It rained a half inch yesterday and will warm up soon, so I expect a lot more.

    I couldn’t go with Ben today, so your post cheered me. Good to hear from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Martha, I hope you’ll be able to hike out to the petroglyphs one day. I’m glad to be able to share the photos. I’ve only driven as far as the cemetery, I should drive out there next year. I would also like to drive out to the Pinacate Lava Flows and sand dunes down on El Camino de Diablo. Supposed to be good wildflower area. A long drive though. I’m still a little nervous about camping back in there totally by myself. Its probably silly and maybe next year I will. I was a lot more comfortable this year with hiking etc than I was last year.

      My camera is a Panasonic Lumix G85. I’ve had it almost a year now and overall am extremely happy with it. I plan to write a page for the blog about the camera but just haven’t gotten it done yet 😀 Last winter I was debating with myself what camera to buy. I really wanted to get a dslr. In fact I had ordered a Canon from Amazon while I was in Ajo and was having it shipped to Belly Acres RV Park. I guess Amazon was suspicious of the name so they sent me an email that my account was hacked, cancelled order and shut down my account access for 24 hours LOL! I’m glad now as I think the G85 is a much better choice for me.

      I’m glad you are enjoying your remaining time in Ajo! I’ll look forward to seeing your wildflower pics. Have you checked on the poppies by Hat Mountain to see if they are blooming?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Funny story about Amazon, but I think they saved you some money. If you are getting those good photos with the Panasonic, why switch. I have a Canon 60D and would really love to unload it and get a smaller camera. Most of the photos I’m taking for the blog are with my phone…adequate for now. I have a long lens for the Canon but it’s so heavy I don’t carry it anywhere with me except when we are driving around in the car. This next blog post will be a mix.

        We haven’t checked Hat Mountain. Ben has been working, except for today and when it was raining. Maybe this weekend we’ll head out there. We only have a few more weeks here.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just had to tell you that Ben got back from his outing to the petroglyphs. He had three photos of the same field of wildflowers and three photos of the road they were on. No photos of the petroglyphs!! Funny boy. I told him how glad I was you posted photos.


      • Haha! That is so funny 😂. I have a few more photos of them. I’ll take a look and if there are some decent ones I’ll put them in the album on Flickr if you would like to see more. I’ll post a comment here when I’m done.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I added a few more photos of the petroglyphs to the album Flickr that is linked at the top of the posts.
        Also, I forgot to reply about the photo editor I use. When I purchased the camera, there was an offer to purchase Photoshop Elements 2018 for $50. I had been using a free editor that wasn’t very functional so I decided to purchase the Photoshop Elements. It is more user friendly than the regular Photoshop. I was able to pick the few things I needed to do pretty easily. Also, it came on a dvd. Adobe has gone to cloud based only for Lightroom, which doesn’t work for me. Otherwise I probably would have used Lightroom. It also included video editing software which I haven’t looked at yet since I don’t do much with video. I did download GIMP to check it out, which is also free. It is NOT user friendly at all!


  2. Hi Deb, As usual, enjoyed your report. Gorgeous country that we’ve missed seeing–in fact, we missed the desert so much that we are in the process of purchasing another condo in Green Valley. 🙂 It’s in the same complex (Villas West) but the location is very nice and it is a 2-bedroom instead of the one we had before. We’ll go in mid-April to take possession and see what needs to be done, then we’ll return next October for the season. I’m excited and can’t wait to get back. I don’t know if you meet with your blog readers but if so I’d love to meet up some day for a book chat. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Robin, how exciting that you are getting another place in Green Valley! Congratulations! Isn’t southeast Arizona just amazing, I so love the desert in this area. Absolutely I would love to get together with you. Let’s definitely plan to do that. I will probably get back to Arizona by November.

      Hope all goes well with the purchase!


  3. Very beautiful… I love cactus! They’re even more incredible in their native place.

    I don’t live in desert or arid place though. I live in tropical country, kind of humid, but I take care of some cactus in my garden.

    I’m so excited when my Peruvian Apple Cactus blooming enormous 12 cm petals at night… eventhough it’s not in its native place. I post about it in my blog here, if you want to peek in… 🙂

    Salam from Indonesia! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Panda Bear, Thanks for visiting my blog. I love the cactus also, they are very beautiful. How wonderful you were able to see your Peruvian Apple Cactus bloom. It was beautiful!


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