Friday, February 11, 2011

Organ Pipe Cactus - Why, not Why?

I realized yesterday that I have forgotten to write my blog about Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where we visit after leaving Quartzsite.  This national treasure is near the town of Why, Arizona a few miles from the Mexican border.  Organ Pipe Cactus grow mostly in northern Mexico because of the hotter, dry climate, but a few survive this far north, in this part of the Sonoran Desert where the conditions are just right.  There are many Saguaro Cactus here too, as well as Cholla, Prickly Pear, Ocotillo, Mesquite trees and Palo Verde trees, both of which are desiduous and leafless now.  This is called the green desert because there is so much plant life here and so many Palo Verde trees, whose bark is even green, that the desert is green all the time, not brown like the rest of the Arizona deserts.  It's beautiful.

We camp on BLM land just outside of Why.  Signs are posted at the entrance that there may be immigrant and drug smuggling problems here because of the proximity of the border, but there are many RVs here, and a campground host.  We have to register, as we did in Quartzsite.  Some BLM areas require this formality; most do not.  There is still no cost to camp, but there is a 14 day limit.  We will only be here a few days as we're meeting our Quebec friends near Tucson in a few days.

Marilyn with an Organ Pipe Cactus
We arrive at night, and hope to do a couple of days of hiking, but our first full day here is really cold and very windy, so we spend the days inside relaxing.  But the next day is sunny and warm again and we head out to hike the Bull Pasture trail in the park.  This trail takes us through a canyon up about a 1,000 feet elevation gain to a stunning view of the desert and the Mexican city of Sonoita.  The day is hazy so the visibility is poor.  There are fires burning in Sonoita it seems; farmers burning their fields?  From this distance it is hard to say.

We hear helicopters over the trailer each night; we assume they are looking for Mexicans crossing the border illegally.  When we drive from the park back to our trailer near Why, we have to cross a Border Patrol checkpoint.  The Border Patrol Officer says to me "I assume everyone (there are only the two of us since Grady is back in the trailer on the BLM land) here is an American citizen?"  "No," I say.  He looks quizzical.  "We're Canadian."  He smiles.  "Go ahead," he says.  Didn't he even see our Ontario license plate?  Maybe he doesn't know where Ontario is!  A state somewhere up north perhaps.

When we leave Why to go to Tucson to meet our friends from Quebec, we see a group of five Mexicans who have just been captured by the Border Patrol.  They must have been walking up a wash when they were found.  It's a bit sad.  Most of the problems are drug trafficers.  So far, we have had no problems and have always felt perfectly safe.

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