After a great (but too short) 6 months in Yuma, we have hit the road again.
Our first destination was the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, located in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona on the U.S./Mexico border.
The organ pipe cactus, abundant in Mexico, is found rarely in the U.S. The vast majority of those present are located within the park boundaries. Its cluster of columns grow tall, often exceeding 20 feet, making the organ pipe the second largest cactus in the U.S. (next to the mighty Saguaro). It produces a red fruit that has provided a food source to the Native Americans for centuries, raw, made into a jelly or beverage.
After watching the orientation video at the Visitor Center, we took the scenic 10 mile North Puerto Blanco Drive.
One of the highlights of the day was seeing the saguaro in bloom, a first for us.
After the drive, we walked the Desert View Trail, a little more than a mile in length.
An easy trail, it ascended to a viewpoint, looking down on the park campground in one direction, and to the other side, the tiny town of Lukeville, with it’s backdrop, the mountains of Mexico.
We spent the night in the sleepy little town of Ajo. Wondering how the name originated, a little research turned up the following:
A similarity between the sound of the Papago word for this locality and the Spanish word ajo for many years led to misapprehension concerning the origin of the name of present day Ajo. The Papago Indians used au'auho ("paint") in connection with mines at Ajo because the ores were a source of red paint which the Papagos used to decorate themselves. This was so noted by one of the earliest American travelers in the region. Nevertheless, the fact that the Mexican miners pronounced the word without the double pronunciation of the au of the Papago resulted in a word that sounded much like ajo. This, added to the fact that the Ajo lily (the root of which looks and tastes much like a spring onion) grows abundantly in this area, led to the belief that the locality was named Ajo because of the wild lilies.
I would have liked to had more time to explore the architecture of Ajo, dating back to its heyday as a copper mining community. Some of the buildings are quite striking:
We stayed in the Shadow Ridge Campground, where the sites were bounded by multitudes of blooming oleander bushes.
For more photos of the park and Ajo, click the photo below: