Posts Tagged With: saguaro


Yesterday, we drove a 21 mile established park route with 18 designated stops. The preservation is based on the organ pipe cactus above, which is said to play an eerie sound like an organ when the wind whistles over the spines. This area es estimated to be 10,000 years old, a young desert, and specimens are young here as well.

Saguaros dominate the landscape. It is estimated by scientists that a saguaro only begins to make arms when it reaches 65 years. They live 150 to 200 years and can weigh 50 tons.

A  “green” desert, it  is just beginning to bloom with desert marigolds and poppies, but the ground is full of young lupine that will put on a gorgeous show of purple in about a month.


O’odham Indians made a home here, learning how to synchronize their activities with the harsh weather. They used flash flood water channeled  to irrigate quick growing crops in a few areas and harvested palo verde seeds and cactus fruits. Explorers wouldn’t have survived this desert without help from the Indians. The O’odham built shelters like the one above from a tough woody plant, the ocotillo, that resembles a cactus.

Ocotillo shows bright red leaves at times looking like it is in full bloom.

Look but don’t touch, is instinctive when looking at the cholla, pronounced choya, another common cactus in the park. Two species of cholla grow here. Edible fruits can catch on clothing, animal skin or fur and travel all over the park.

Twice, I picked up a dead rider from the cholla.

Prickly pear, is another edible. I’ve tasted the fruits and the leaves which when cooked taste like green beans. They are called nopalitas and you can find them at Mexican groceries.

A crest grows in an organ pipe, a mutation with an unknown cause, admired for its beauty.

The drive covered diverse terrain, and took us a leisurely four hours. We picnicked for lunch, the weather was beautiful. While the saguaros are majestic, they sometimes take on comical shapes.

My favorite-the elephant.

I’ll take you to my teddy bear leader.

Don’t shoot, I give up!

What should we name the baby, dear?

He can’t seem to keep his story straight. Arrest him.

I’ve called this meeting to discuss important issues for young saguaros.

I prayed you would get home in time.

You must stop for an inspection.

Goodbye folks. Come back again.

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After an uneventful drive to 4.2 miles north of the Mexican border, at Organ Pipe National Monument, we set up our camp. Organ Pipe is part of the Sonoran desert and has some unique features. For instance, it rains here in summer and winter and, as a result, is the greenest of the four major North American deserts.

We stopped at the visitors center and right then two  Harris Hawks stopped in for a drink in a small pond the back of the building. It is filled with pupfish and the hawks come for a drink of water and occasionally grab a fish snack out of the shallow pond.

One flew into the tree, the other is sitting in the shadows near the pond.

Both hawks  waded in the pond before flying off, but, one has to be fast to get pictures. Their orange colored  breast, white tail feathers, and brown shoulders give them distinct coloration.  We spent about an hour in the visitor’s center and watched a film. Unless you live nearby, you miss the many seasons and vistas in the park; spectacular blooms and creatures that make the desert a living, vibrant place. The ranger gave a 15 minute talk about the various states of development to finally bring this unique place to fully protected status. It not only protects organ pipe and sonito cactus, but pronghorn sheep and a rare whole habitat. Organ Pipe is now a UNESCO bio-preserve, and richly deserves that world distinction.

The park is primitive without electricity or showers. It does have modern bathrooms. We walked out at 7:30 to attend a star-gazing gathering led by a ranger. It was so dark, even with our flashlights, we never did find the amphitheater. We laid back in our chairs and enjoyed the stars on our own. Dark like this is hard to find in our modern world.

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