Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Backyard

Sunrise on the Palo Verde Trail, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
My list of new places to check out grows faster than I can check things off.  This winter, so far, has not been particularly snowy in Arizona, so I went back to the list for winter destinations.  Mostly that means places too hot to comfortably visit in the summer.

Fiddling around with maps last month, I was surprised to see that Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is less than 2 ½ hours from home.  Why had I never been there? 

The Monument is home to at least 28 species of cactus, including the namesake Organ Pipe which is common in Mexico but much rarer in the U.S.  Organ Pipe Cactus are not as cold-tolerant as Saguaros, so their range is farther south.

I recently had a second trip to the monument, hiking and driving to some fresh spots and enjoying storm light, camping, and the 200th night camping in my Four Wheel Camper.

Border Fence, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The Monument’s proximity to the international border is always asserting itself.  There are signs suggesting how to handle oneself if you should run into border-crossers (who might be identified by the backpacks they carry. Rather like landscape photographers, I thought) Driving the Puerto Blanco Loop, the border fence is visible much of the time.  I found myself reflecting that political lines are odd, arbitrary things and that this one feels anything but friendly.

Storm along the Ajo Loop, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Storms give a new perspective, that is when I can motivate myself to be out in the cold wind.

Sunrise, near Twin Peaks Campground, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Sometimes the pay-off is breathtaking sky.

Cactus Skeleton, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Other times the light is so flat and gray that I’ll resort to working with smaller scenes.  The Chain Fruit Chollas leave especially lovely skeletons after they die, and these are a favorite subject.

Temperatures climb early in the spring here in the Sonoran Desert, but I hope to make one more trip before they do.

Clearing storm at Alamo Canyon, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
More on the website, in the Winter 2017-18 Gallery.