NOTICE: CHANGE OF DATES TO ASSURE SOME BLOOM ACTION!!!
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a real gem in the National Parks. Not only do you find the only natural stands of Organ Pipe Cactus in the United States, but also a huge variety of Sonoran flora and fauna amid amazingly rugged landscape. Late February is prime wildflower season at the Monument, and with the rains we've gotten this year, I'm hopefull that we'll have some pretties to walk among and photograph.
Due to border violence and illegal activity, "backpacking" in the strict sense is not allowed in Organ Pipe. However, they do have very nice car-camping facilities which we can reserve, and there are many spectacular dayhikes that we can conduct in the area.
Friday: We'll drive to the Monument. The drive is about 3 hours from either Tucson or Phoenix, and is a pretty trip by most people's standards. Arrive at the campsite when you can, keeping in mind that the park is very isolated, and there aren't many amenities (such as food or gas) nearby. In otherwords, bring what you'll need. If you get there early enough, we can do a sunset hike on the Desert View trail around our campground.
Saturday: There are many options for hiking in the park. My plan is to summit Mt. Ajo. Here's a detailed description (http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=725) of the hike. It is strenuous and involves off-trail scrambling, but it's one of the most spectacular hikes in the state. Other hikes in the area are detailed on the NPS hiking guide here (http://www.nps.gov/orpi/planyourvisit/upload/Guide-to-Hiking-Trails-revision-Sep-2012.pdf).
Saturday night we'll feast at the campground.
Sunday: I'll lead a hike with the goal of completing the "Grass Canyon Loop" as described in Erick Molvar's Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country. It is described as a 6.2 mile loop, with a 1,255' elevation gain, all off trail. However, I've hiked the Alamo Canyon portion of this loop, and I know it's doable.
Sunday night we'll be done and head for home.
I've reserved the group site at the Monument, with 6 tent 'pads'. This means 6 large tents or even more smaller tents, with room to expand to a larger site if need be. Please try to buddy-up if possible, however.
There is a $5 per person, per day fee for camping. Your $10 deposit will be required to secure your reservation and will only be refunded if the trip is cancelled.