Tag Archives: sonoran desert

Arizona’s Top 3 National Monuments Part 2

7 Jul

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Arizona is brimming with enchanting places to explore including over a dozen national monuments. This is the second of a three part series on my favorites, including the pros and cons, best times to visit, and other key travel tips.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

A long, winding dirt road pierces the desert floor leading toward a crest of crimson cliffs. While speckles of jubilant yellow dot the hillsides, this is a foreboding place. Chiseled by arroyos and protected by chollas, views fan out beyond the unseen international border. Despite the crusty terrain, the ride is smooth and the warm, dry air is surprisingly fresh.

By mile four, undulating gardens of distinctive cacti animate the landscape. In the fading light of day, these haunting figurines mimic the human form. Normally, the patriarchal saguaro rules the Sonoran but in this lonely pocket of country features a rival. The banana-shaped organ pipe cactus is not as tall as the saguaro but much wider. While common in Mexico, organ pipe are only found in this US park, which is also a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

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At nearly 331,000 acres Organ Pipe Cactus NM is the largest national monument in AZ with 95% of the land designated wilderness. Park visitors can explore via two scenic loop drives. The Ajo Mountain drive is the most popular and scenic. It is a 21-mile, one-way loop that traces the base of the mountains before circling back toward the visitor center. Across the highway is the Puerto Blanco Loop, a 37-mile drive through mostly open desert and gaping views. Other rough 4WD roads are options for longer stays and seasoned visitors.

The park has several official hiking trails but the premier trek is summiting 4808-foot Mount Ajo, the areas highest peak.  This is a full-day hike, partially off-trail totaling 9 miles with a cumulative elevation gain of 2800 feet. Definitely not for beginners. A shorter and easier option is hiking the trail from the campground to the visitor center. Enjoy pleasant views of the mountains while traversing through copious cholla gardens. There are a few benches along the way.

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The exceptional Twin Peaks Campground, featuring 360-degree views, was fully remodeled less than ten years ago. There is reliable vacancy nearly year round. If interested in hotels, find a few in the town of Ajo about 35 miles away.

Summers at Organ Pipe Cactus NM are hot. The ideal times to visit are between November and early April with pleasant daytime highs and cool nights. Delicate ground flowers such as poppies and owl clover flourish in late February and early March. The strength of annual blooms vary and flowers wither when daytime highs exceed 85 degrees. Saguaros and organ pipe cacti don’t bloom until May.

Dining choices are also limited. There is a convenience store and small diner in Lukeville, a military-border town about seven miles away. Purchase a few snacks and cold water at the visitor center, otherwise, it’s a lengthy drive to a restaurant.

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If you are interested in seeing the best of Organ Pipe Cactus NM consider joining me on a group workshop. Due to high springtime demand of my private tours,  I’m assembling a 3-day group event in March of 2018. If interested, message me for more information.

 

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Updates, Musings, and the Future

3 Mar

Well, here is an update with the latest happenings at Wild Moments…

Hard Drive Issues

 
My hard drive is at the forensics lab and hopefully I”ll know by later today whether any of the information we’ve lost is recoverable. If it is, we have to decide whether it is worth the price of recovery, which could range anywhere from $200 and $2000! Being that it was basically the third hard drive failure in a little over a year, we have decided to bite the bullet and get a new computer within the next few months.

Unfortunately, I did lose all the notes on our current blog series entitled, “Wild Moments” and some of the information I had recorded I just can’t seem to remember.  I plan on continuing that series in the future. On a positive note, I did not lose any RAW photography files,  just recently edited ones and a few master versions that were not backed up.

Art Festivals

Our next art festival is in less than two weeks. It is the Litchfield Park Arts and Culinary Festival. We plan to add some new items and to expand the variety of our inventory even more with some different sizes, prices, and products. We were also recently accepted for the Prescott Fine Art and Wine Festival on Mother’s Day weekend May 7 – 8.  If you stop by, be sure to mention you read about the festivals here for a 15% discount off any single item purchase.

Recent Trips

Over the past two months, we have enjoyed several day trips out to the Superstition Mountains, a three day trip to Tucson and another trip to the Mohave Desert. Currently, the website does not feature all of the images captured on these trips as we are a little behind due to the loss of information from our recent computer failure. We hope to be caught up within a month.

Upcoming Trips

Joyce and I are returning to Tucson this month for a couple more days and nights. During that time, two of our images will be debuting at an exhibit at the Art Institute of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Hopefully while we are there,  spring conditions will prevail and will have some new wildflower pictures to share. We are also in the middle stages of planning our second trip to the Pacific Northwest.  We will be visiting in May and plan on spending equal amounts of time at the Columbia River Gorge and the Palouse.  We are hoping to time our trip for peak wildflower season. This will be probably be the only photography trip of the year where we actually fly to our destination. 

Workshops

Our Zion Narrows workshop is coming up at the end of June. If anyone is interested please contact me or check out our workshops page for more info. This is an incredible opportunity to work with me in a very small group setting and grab some killer images of the Narrows. This is the best time of the year to visit.

Special Thanks

Thanks to everyone who has supported Wild Moments by purchasing our products and sharing our website with their family and friends. We couldn’t do it without you! We hope to hear from you again soon.

Michael and Joyce

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