Tag Archives: cactus

Organ Pipe National Monument

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Organ Pipe National Monument was our first stop heading east from the California coast. It is a few hours south east of Yuma, Arizona and about 10 minutes drive from the Mexican border. We rolled in after dark and were thrilled to discover this great big Organ Pipe Cactus right at our campsite. It was also great to be able to see the night sky and the stars again!

DSCN0999 The view the next morning was equally impressive. Big blue skies that seemed to go on forever.

DSCN0991We met a ranger shortly after pulling in and he mentioned that they had a packrat problem that they were working on – they were out on a trapping mission that night. I remember how fun the packrats were as a kid when we left out shiny things for them but having the risk of them eating at the important parts of the truck or trailer turned this from humourful to concerning. Neither Tim nor I had a great night’s sleep as we were up with any sound!

We headed out on a short morning hike before things got too hot and had lots of fun refreshing our memory on all the different versions of cactus – organ pipe, saguaro, ocotillo, chula and barrel cacti. Every vista was just beautiful…This also helped with Hunter and Tim’s ranger badges.

organ pipe ranger badges

We would definitely recommend this park – great campground, beautiful scenery, and good hiking!

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Scrambling in Joshua Tree

IMG_0923We stopped in Joshua Tree for a few days to break up the drive from Sedona to San Diego. Both Tim and I have great memories of previous trips there and we wanted to share the fun of scrambling in the jumbo boulders with Hunter.

We had initially hoped to camp in one of the campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park but unfortunately they just aren’t designed to hold a 49 foot monstrosity! After finding the one spot that would fit and realizing we were on an extreme angle and parked next to an area that had a sign warning of dangerous bees (really???), we decided to give up on that vision and head into 29 Palms to the commercial campground there. 29 Palms Golf Resort is an older, smaller worn down version of the Voyager resort in Tuscon. It was just fine for a 2 night stop…

Joshua Tree has a number of different areas / zones to the park. Situated between the Great Basin desert to the north and the Sonoran desert to the south, the Mojave desert is a rain shadow desert with a mix of latitude, elevation, geology and plants. We successfully completed another Junior Ranger badge and enjoyed the learnings through out the day.

One of the interesting “geographies” is the Chulla Cactus Garden. As you drive from the south entrance to the north entrance you suddenly come across this area full of chulla cacti. It is maybe a couple of kilometres deep and stops as quickly as it starts, leaving you really curious about the ecosystem that created it.

IMG_9435We spent a good three hours exploring all of the rocks and pushing our various comfort zones with heights and gaps.

IMG_9442Although the rock looks just like the slick rock found in Utah and northern Arizona, it is not! It’s a scratchy mixture that is almost like rough concrete. Not nearly as comfortable to slide or contort yourself when scrambling but it does provide good grip.

Another fun day playing outside in the sunshine 🙂

Saguaro National Park – Tucson, Arizona

tim hunter saguara NP signI’m not a big fan of the desert landscape…it just doesn’t do much for me. Having gone through a ranger naturalist walk at Saguaro National Park, I am now much more appreciative of the subtle complexities of the desert neighbourhood and the different plants and animals that make it home.

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Saguaro National Park is actually split into 2 parks, with the city of Tucson in between them. They are large tracts of land that protect this landscape from urban sprawl and the devastation that was happening due to ranching and cattle grazing.

The saguaro cactus is the quintessential symbol of the south west and it plays a critical role in the desert eco-system, often housing an handful of other animals in their stalks. A saguaro can get enough water for the year from a single summer rain storm. They have these funky accordion pleats that allow them to swell or expand to hold all of that water and then slowly shrink as they use the water up.

Thanks to the Ranger tour, we learned all about the main types of cactus in the Sonoran Desert – saguaro, fish hook barrel cactus, cholla, ocotillo, and prickly pear as well as the palo verde, creosote bush and mesquite tree. Mother nature is pretty amazing with how these plants have been created or have evolved to adapt to their incredibly harsh/challenging circumstances!

The learning that we did for the Junior Ranger program has come in handy for the rest of our desert stay…