the wandering chick
...Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
My photography buddy and I were all set to head to Page, Arizona to visit a slot canyon and to Monument Valley and the Cottonwood Canyon Road through the Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah. But at the last minute the forecast mentioned 36-degree nights, rain and the possibility of snow. A real bummer because we were soooo looking forward to seeing this incredibly scenic part of the U.S.
But our plans turned south. We headed down to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where we knew the weather would be much warmer.
We had no idea we'd be visiting there at the height of its spring season. We were blown away by how green it was and at the brilliance of the ocotillo and brittle bush.
It was then that we realized that we weren't the ones in control of our own weekend destination. The slot canyon, Monument Valley, the back roads of Utah - those will always be there. But this...this is a spring that doesn't come often. And I feel pretty sure that we were simply meant to see it.
With a bit of an imagination, cholla skeletons can take on the form of live creepy creatures. ..
...and even dead tree limbs can transform into flying birds.
A view of the U.S.-Mexico border fence can be seen from the South Puerto Blanco Drive on the south side of the monument.
The Arch Canyon Trail is less than 2 miles roundtrip and is an easy, but rocky, trail off the Ajo Mountain Drive. Along the way, notice the arch for which the canyon is named. The next few shots were taken from the trail.
At Alamo Canyon campground we watched a cactus wren build a home for an upcoming family. The cactus wren, with its distinctive call, is numerous throughout the Sonoran Desert. It's Arizona's state bird.
This Hooded Oriole was also spotted in Alamo Canyon. Alamo Canyon is located three miles east off the main highway as one enters Organ Pipe. Situated against the foot of the Ajo Mountain Range, it's considered the birder's paradise in the monument. There's a wonderful trail right around two miles long roundtrip that runs the length of the wash. We saw several birders coming and going, some even after dark and before sunrise. One particular birder was in search of a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Alamo Canyon is one of very few places in the U.S. where this species of pygmy-owl lives.
The next several shots were taken in the secluded and quiet Alamo Canyon campground.
We left the basin late in the afternoon, that time of day when the sun begins to cast its magical glow onto the mountains and desert floor.
We knew no one was around, but all the same we felt we might be being watched... by a big, big rock!!!
The Ajo Mountain Drive, a 21-mile scenic loop on hard-packed dirt, is a series of picture postcards, especially during this super bloom season.
The Senita Basin is a low-lying area of the national monument located on its south side. The basin is named after the Senita Cactus, though we didn't find many there. Saguaro and Organ Pipes seem to be more common than the senita, despite its name. To the right is a photo of the Senita cactus which is rare, even in this natural habitat.
Sleek and fast, the zebra-tailed lizard is common to the southwestern U.S.
The sun sets and a whole new world opens.
The Desert View Trail is a gradual climb up a small bluff that overlooks the desert floor. It's the perfect spot for both sunrise and sunset.
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