(nr Lukeville AZ)
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established to protect the named cactus and the habitat of the central Sonoran Desert. It covers an area from the Mexican border northward about 30 miles almost to Why AZ. On the west was the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and on the east was the Tohono O’odham Nation which made for lots of open space.
The Visitor Center had informative displays, a giftshop, a picnic ramada, restrooms, and helpful volunteers. A short film explained the unique features of that part of the desert. Afterward, there was a talk out on the patio about the importance of the ironwood tree in the desert.
A paved trail behind the Visitor Center meandered through various desert plants, with a view of the distant Ajo Range, and ended at the parking lot. There were very good samples of cacti and other desert plants typical of the area. I had lunch in Tardis while studying the handouts and deciding where I would explore on the west side.
North Puerto Blanco Drive headed west from the visitor center into the Puerto Blanco Mountains, and was alternately paved or gravel. The Red Tank Tinaja trail was about four miles in, and seemed like a reasonable choice. A two mile round-trip and easy hike took me past a view of Pinkley Peak to the water hole. There was still a small pool of water captured in the tank surrounded by red rock.
Shortly beyond the Red Tank trailhead, the road became one-way, narrower, for high clearance vehicles, and a very long way to pavement. So, I returned the way I came in. Since, I got a late start to the day, I headed back to camp. On my way, I pulled into the overlook for 3,225ft Tillotson Peak in the Ajo Range.
My camp was just outside of Why at Gunsight Wash BLM with several other RVers; but, all were nicely spaced apart. The site was well off the highway by the wash and a large ironwood tree. The weather was nice, it had a good internet signal, and of course it was free.
Camp: Gunsight Wash BLM boondock
Scene: Mountains, desert, cacti, tinaja
Also see: Organ Pipe-Alamo Canyon