Alamo and Grass Canyons, Organ Pipe Natl. Monument, AZ
|Organ Pipe National Monument and the adjacent Cabeza Prieta NWR used to be my favorite corner of southern Arizona. This was until the aftermath of 9/11, when the border patrol and law enforcement presence was racked up to never seen before levels.|
Now, my former best loved hikes and camp sites are no longer accessible. Puerto Blanco drive is constantly "under repairs", an euphemism used to not to have to tell the tourists that the sandy stretch of dirt abutting the border is dragged daily by law enforcement to make footprints of immigrants stand out. Not the place where they want the average cactus-hugging backpack-toting outdoor enthusiast to stumble around. |
Rather than to tell you where you cannot go anymore, here's a patch of Organ Pipe that is still very much worth a visit, and usually devoid of the activites surrounding (quote) "High Intensity Enforcement". I'm talking about Alamo and Grass Canyons. Alamo Canyon is even shown on the leaflet that you get at the ranger station. It features four quiet camp sites with no facilities besides pit toilet, table and fire ring. Usually when camping there, the other sites were all unused, so the place makes for a splendid spot full of solitude. When getting the camping permit at the ranger station, ask for the "rearmost" site.
Grass Canyon is about two miles to the north of Alamo camp - to get there, simply walk due north at the base of the mountain range and then enter the wide bajada to your right, around (32.0949N/112.7177W). From there, climb upcanyon (southeast) until you reach the pass. Continue southeast down the drainage for about half a mile, until you get to the drywash coming from your left. Continue down this wash and keep going downhill inside or around the washes until you reach Alamo wash. Then follow Alamo wash back to the camp site.
While this is a beautiful desert hike, it ain't for the faint-hearted. Conditions in the drainages to the south of Grass Canyon vary from year to year - while there is usually no water, summer thunderstorms are still sufficient to allow a dense and thorny growth at the canyon bottoms. Wear long pants, bring ample water, and be prepared to leave some skin or blood behind :-)
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