Friday, February 18, 2011

Ajo Mountain Drive: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Note: Two separate blogs posted today to get caught up!


(Why, AZ)  Tuesday after our morning hike in to Alamo Canyon, we stopped for a picnic lunch, grabbed the  free guide for the Ajo Mountain Drive and were off.


The scenic drive is 21 miles long and makes for one totally satisfying afternoon of immersion in the desert.


The free drive guide really made the trip for us.  For example, did you ever hear anyone say the desert smells like rain?   They explain why in this pamphlet so we tried an experiment.  Take some of the tiny leaves from the creosote and soak them for a minute in a little water, rub them between your fingers and smell.  This is the intoxicating fresh aroma these bushes give off after a rain storm. 


There are 18 stops along the drive with a brief story in the book for each stop.  Most explain something unique to that part of the drive.

At Stop 6 there is a ramada built from ocotillo branches like those that would have dotted this landscape when the Tohono O’odham tribes inhabited this Diablo Wash canyon as far back as 12,000 years ago.







At Stop 9 there is this strange looking organ pipe cactus, with some unusual arms calls crests.  This is a rare and beautiful phenomenon that is considered a mutation but which scientists are still not able to explain.




Midway in the drive you come to a set of arches high above the canyon. 


Can you see the double arch configuration?  Again, a highly unusual natural phenomenon.


At the higher elevations you encounter some different vegetation, like jojoba bushes and these agave.  The agave nectar was used in ancient Indian rituals in this area.  Yes, and today it makes great tequila!


At Stop 14, there is a sketch in the guide of the various peaks with their names like Diaz Peak to the left, Sweetwater Pass, and Diaz Spire to the right.  The Diaz Mountains are named after Captain Melchior Diaz, who was a leader in the Coronado expedition, 1539-1542, and died of a freak accident here.


Once again, we were lucky enough to have this drive almost totally to ourselves.  It’s a great place to take your time and enjoy being out in some of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes. 




Since we weren’t much in the mood to cook after our day of exploration we ventures 10 miles north to the quaint little town of Ajo.  We ate at 100 Estrella.   If you are staying in Why this is about the closest we found to a decent restaurant.  They do have a very good beers, burgers and homemade fries.  I had a flatbread Tuscan Chicken pizza that was good, but while the tomato and spinach toppings were very fresh and tasty they were not baked with the flatbread so it wasn’t the way I personally like a thick gooey warm pizza topping. 

If we were rating our days since starting this new lifestyle on the road,  we aren’t able to think of many that would rank higher than our day exploring Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Hugs, C




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