Saturday, March 1, 2014

d is for desert...Organ Pipe National Monument

d is for desert, and Organ Pipe National Monument is part of the great Sonoran Desert. This d-shaped cactus is a Saguaro which can grow in the shape of most any letter.
The cactus on the right is the park's namesake, the Organ Pipe Cactus.
Organ Pipe was designated as a National Monument by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. In 1976 the United Nations declared it an International Biosphere Reserve for its diversity, rare and endangered species, and rich cultural history.
On the first afternoon, we went to the Visitors Center where this memorial honored a park ranger killed in the line of duty along the border.
We stayed for the afternoon patio talk where this volunteer took on the character of one of the early ranchers that received land permits from the government in the early 1920s. She married into the Gray family, the most prominent of these ranchers. Ranching continued until the early 1970s. 
Outside the VC is a short walking trail. 
Where I discovered another new-to-me bird, the Lawrence's Goldfinch.
I wasn't surprised to see the Cactus Wren here.
This is one of two trails that permit dogs.
Cactus blooms.

Thistle got a sticker in his paw, so all future dog walks took place on the campground paved road.
What looked like swallows were flying all around this cactus condominium.

This Gila Woodpecker was sipping from the Ocotillo bloom.
The Desert View Trail was recommended by the ranger for great sunset views, so Beth and I decided to hike it. 
The late afternoon glow of the sun was pretty.

Long shadows as the sun begins to set.
This house sparrow landed atop a Saguaro to sing his evening song.
Looking down on the campground.
On the way back down we passed a Desert Ironwood tree.

We got back in time for the evening program.
And learned about rocks.
I didn't get outside in time for sunrise, but morning was pretty too.
Our sites at Twin Peaks Campground.
Morning bird...the Phainopepla
We hiked the Victoria Mine a circa 1890s silver mine.
B is for Big Bad Blister Beetles. Had to look these up. When disturbed they emit a liquid that causes severe burning blisters...ow. These two are mating...they stay attached for up to 24 hours as the female drags the male around from bloom to bloom as she eats. They like the yellow petals of the Brittlebush flowers...which are abundant right now.
The yellow flowers are Brittlebush.
A saguaro skeleton still standing. Natives use the long poles to harvest fruit off the living cactus.
We saw a few critters.
Chainfruit Cholla...see the chains of fruit hanging?
The Saguaro Cactus grow abundantly here in the valley.
Our first sign of the silver mine was this pile of tailings.
Victoria Mine is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the oldest prospecting sites in southwest Arizona.
Mining took place here sporadically under special use permit from 1880 until 1976 when the park was designated as a wilderness area.

Today the mines belong to the bats.
Beth is standing on top of the pile of tailings to photograph the scenic panorama.
Remains of mine buildings and equipment can be found.
And rusty tins...
This building was the mine store.
The doorway was small, but we fit fine.
Inside we found a bathtub....wonder if the miners had to pay the company store to take a bath?
And lots more rusty tin cans littered the floor.
Another critter your step.
Turned out to be a nonvenomous Gopher Snake, but we didn't know for sure then.
No rattles.
Distinctive was easy to look up.
More wildflowers blooming.
The red fruit of this small cactus caught my eye.
Dust blowing in the distance. The wind is because of an approaching storm. We decided to extend our stay an extra day to avoid driving in the wind and rain.
In the afternoon we drove the scenic Ajo Mountain loop.
Red-tailed Hawk
Loggerhead Shrike
Mountain view
The light-colored stripe, (I learned in my geology lesson last night) is rock called "Tuff," a layer of volcanic ash that has been compressed and hardened.
The living desert...

American Kestrel

This Organ Pipe Cactus has a cristate formation in some of its columns.

Twin Arches
We had the dogs with us for this ride, so couldn't do the trail.

More desert/mountain vistas

Found another arch.

Ajo Mountain. A hiker is just coming off that trail.
More desert wildflowers.

Peaches and Thistle enjoyed the ride.
And overnight the storm came. First rain here since early December.
Rain and wind. 
But after the rain, the critters came out. 

And the flowers looked even brighter.
And there are puddles in the desert!
On to Tuscon tomorrow. 

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