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  • Writer's pictureSue.

Hiking Near the Mexican Border

We camped (glamped) near Gila Bend, AZ so that we could visit the remote 517 square mile Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which is 80 miles south of Gila Bend. The southern border of this national monument is 30 miles long and is shared with Mexico.

We researched the hiking trails in Organ Pipe and selected one that has to be accessed via a 21 mile gravel loop road, no problemo for the jeep. Since in the past the park was considered to be the "most dangerous" and was actually closed from 2002 to 2014, we looked into the safety recommendations and found the following on the National Park Service website:

"Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a safe place to visit. However, illegal border crossings and activities, including drug smuggling, occur daily. It is unlikely that you will encounter any illegal border activity, but you should be aware that such a situation is possible. Many safety precautions are in existence as a means to protect you and to continue preserving this national treasure.

Hmmmm. then there's this:

"Venomous snakes, scorpions, spiders, and centipedes are active during the warmer months. Never place your hands and feet in places you cannot see."

Well, we're used to that warning, we see it anywhere there is sun, sand and rocks.

At the visitor center and on the road to the trail head.

The Organ Pipe Cactus was named for its resemblance to church organ pipes. It's the second largest cactus in the US after the Saguaro. The Organ Pipe grows slowly, 2.5 inches a year and grows 16 - 25 feet tall. Some are 150 years old. This national monument is the only place in the US where the Organ Pipe Cactus grows naturally.

The 2.5 mile hike to Bull Pasture - Per the park guidebook "Strenuous trail with steep grade and exposed cliffs. Spectacular views of the monument and Mexico." Great! perfect for a senior citizen. It was a bit challenging but we made it. We passed 4 other hikers but no drug traffickers. At the top of the hike there is a rock formation that looks like a bull (a male bison), however the name "Bull Pasture" comes from the past when ranchers would winter their livestock within the limits of the pasture with its abundant grasses.

The view of Mexico

When we were on our way home we went thru a border control checkpoint. This checkpoint is about 60 miles from the border. It was dark and they used a flashlight to take a look in the back of the Jeep. I didn't get a photo of the officers.

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