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Alive with Color in Arizona

There are easier places to go to for great southwestern scenery. But this remote place near the Mexico border has a unique blend of vegetation and rock formations that make it an adventure worth the trouble. Organ Pipe National Park is about a two-hour drive from Tucson, which has its own share of awesome cactus like the saguaro.

But what makes Organ Pipe National Monument special is the variety of saguaro, organ pipe cactus, and many other cactus species all in a secluded mountainous setting. So remote is this park that it is quite possible that you could spend hours here without seeing another tourist.

If you look at the photo taken from the higher elevation in the Ajo Mountains, you can see the gravel road in Arch Canyon below. My rental car is a faint speck in a parking area near a bend in the road. I hiked for about an hour up the canyon to take a close-up photo of the arch. I finally found the arch, but it isn't as dramatic as those in Arches National Park. Still the canyon is fun to explore. I had hopes of spotting a scorpion, tarantula or a cougar (from a distance of course), but all that nature gave me was this sunset. The moment didn't suck. The two photos of the sunset are actually of the same saguaro cactus. There are thousands of them in the park, and equally thousands of the organ pipe variety.

It's best when you go to the park to stop at the Visitor Center first. I picked up my usual refrigerator magnet, looked at the displays, and informed the staff I was taking the 21-mile loop road. It's always a good idea to let someone know where you're going when traveling alone.

One sad note - a memorial at the visitor center exists for a park ranger who was murdered by an alleged Mexican drug cartel after illegally crossing the border. Kris Eggle who was an honor student and a talented runner was only 28. He once ran the park loop (all 21 miles) just for fun.

I tried not to let thoughts of his tragic death ruin this beautiful day in wonderful Organ Pipe National Monument. Like Kris, I am a former distance runner and from the state of Michigan. I connected with his love of the outdoors and wish I had known him.

That day he applified his memory with this beautiful sunset in his beloved park. You are home, Kris.


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