Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Part 4

On one of our remaining days in the park, we decided to explore the area off the North Puerto Blanco Drive.  We drove to the trailhead for the Red Tanks and Senita Basin hikes and decided on a 7-mile route that would take us along the Red Tanks Trail bringing us to the Senita Basin Loop – which would ultimately lead us back to Red Tanks.  While the 7-mile length might seem daunting to some, it was a relatively easy, mostly level walk that followed a section of an old mining road. 

The interpretive sign at the start of the trail gave us some indication as to what to expect on our walk.  There are numerous side trails and alternatives to take that can decrease or extend your hike, including a spur that passes by some old mining sites (the Baker Mine trail spur).

I like that the trail description also shared some safety precautions including the possibility of encountering cross-border activity and how to deal with this.  We did come across some old, discarded clothing at several locations along the trail and found one of the black water bottles mentioned in the safety tips.  All of these items looked ancient and not the result of recent activity.  In our time spent wandering around the national monument, we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable in the back country. 

Much of the first part of the hike followed a dry river wash.

More scenes along the way….

Along the wash
Palo Verde trees provide lots of color to the desert landscape
Loved the colorful rock in the desert!
Great shot showcasing the diverse plant material that thrives in this green desert!

This area is known for some depressions called “tinajas” that form in the bedrock from spring rains or wind erosion. These carved-out depressions hold water and are an important lifeline to plants and animals in the desert.

A Tinaja depression along the trail
A red-tailed hawk soaring high above the desert!

I mentioned previously that we came across discarded clothing and water jugs along parts of the trail. It was a very sobering experience. I could not help but feel compassion for those who give up everything to travel to a foreign land in hopes of a better life.

Clothing found along the trail
One of the black water jugs that are carried by the migrants

In several locations throughout the park, we noticed these tall blue flags and, near this trail, we finally discovered just what they are marking! They identify the location of water stations. A group call Humane Borders, operating out of Tucson, distribute these 55-gallon water containers near routes along the border used by migrants. Their mission is simple: “to save desperate people from a horrible death by dehydration and exposure.” It is so very heartwarming to know there are such kind, dedicated people out there who volunteer their time to help save lives.

Humane Borders water station

This concludes my photographic and written journey recounting our trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument! It was a special place equipped with one of the best national park system campgrounds I’ve ever experienced. Take the time to travel there if you can! Outstanding hikes, beautiful sunsets, lots of plants and wildlife – all in a place less-travelled and wonderfully quiet.

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