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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: A Precious Slice of the Sonoran Desert

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I was hunting for arches. No, not Utah’s Arches National Park, crawling with tourists, but a tiny two-paned window high up in the hills of one of Arizona’s remotest national monuments. It was a double arch—one stacked on top of the other—found in the aptly named Arch Canyon, that drew me one warm May afternoon.

Sure, I could see the striking splotches of blue sky shining through the rusty earth from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, but I wanted more; I wanted to see the arch from the other side, and to see it much closer up. So, I parked my car at an empty trailhead that began on an unpaved road nine miles deep from the highway and set off with my camera, some water, and perhaps a little naïveté.


Whimsical green columns sprouted up all around me, some from a central trunk and others from the desert floor all bushy like. Globular chollas vied for space in the neighborhood with creosote trees, but what was most striking was the lack of any noise at all. Hardly a breeze was blowing…