Jaeger's Blog

To look at things is very different from seeing it – Oscar Wilde

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

SONY DSLR-A700, f/9, 1/500 sec, ISO 200

Odometer: 49,648

Time: 08:00 am

Weather: mostly sunny and still hot

From Gila Bend south on HWY 85 all the way almost to the Mexican Border the road leading there is offering some spectacular views of blooming Saguaro cactuses on the dark volcanic hills. The Saguaro often begins life in the shelter of a “nurse” tree or shrub which can provide a shaded, moister habitat for the germination of life. The Saguaro grows very slowly—perhaps an inch a year—but to a great height, 15 to 50 feet. The largest plants, with more than 5 arms, are estimated to be 200 years old. An average old Saguaro would have 5 arms and be about 30 feet tall. When water is absorbed, the outer pulp of the Saguaro can expand like an accordion, increasing the diameter of the stem and, in this way, can increase its weight by up to a ton.

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is right down at the border to Mexico. In the Park itself we take a 21 mile gravel road roundtrip where we can now also find the Organ Pipe cactuses some of them are blooming as well as we find out. 

This columnar cactus is the second largest in the U.S. (next to the Saguaro) growing as tall as 23 feet. Instead of having a central stem, however, a cluster of 5 to 20 slender branches grow from a point at ground level and curve gracefully upward.

These water-storing trunks are about 6 inches in diameter and have 12 to 17 deep-green, rounded ribs. The Fruits lose their spines at maturity, opening to display an edible red pulp. This fruit has provided a food source to Native Americans for centuries. The pulp can be eaten as is, made into jelly or fermented into a beverage.

We are stopping and going, taking pictures watching out for animals (snakes and others) and admire the beauty of the desert.

Route 86 and 15 lead us back into civilization and only a couple of hours after the silence and the openness of the desert we are in the middle of the Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale area. We stop for a coffee and then leave again on scenic route 87. 

The landscape and the weather are changing rapidly, from desert bushes and cactuses to Pine trees, from an altitude of just a few feet above sea level up to over 6000 feet elevation (2000 Meter) and temperatures as low as 56 Fahrenheit (13 Celsius).  So within not even 24 hours we went from boiling 110 Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) to 56. Meanwhile it is also very cloudy and at times its raining (purring down). Within only a few hours we are in a completely different climate zone. 

Arriving in Payson, we conclude that this is not the place to stay. It would have been very nice to go hiking in the forests – if the weather were nice! We continue on route 260 and then 377 to Holbrook, the next bigger town. Even with the rain this route offers a lot for your eyes. The further we get towards Holbrook the Pine trees are getting fewer and fewer and the landscape turns into grass land.

At around 5:00 pm we are in Holbrook and soon find a room for the night.

Overnight Stay: Motel 6

Dinner: Mesa, Italian

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