Monday, January 30, 2017


The strong winds died down a bit on Saturday morning so we left El Centro and headed east and south to our next stop in Ajo, Arizona.    This small town is smack in the middle of nowhere and doesn't have much to offer nowadays unless its a quick stop on your way into Mexico.    It once was a thriving mining community with a lovely little downtown area.    My camera died as I was taking pictures of the central square so I only have a few shots of the two white churches flanking it.  The square and churches reminded us very much of a Mexican town.

I loved the local references on this stained glass window
the Ajo Lilly, mountains and Saguaro

The town is a mix of small neatly kept homes, abandoned shacks and quirky, one of a kind places.  

Just down the street from our campground, Shadow Ridge, is a very old house trailer painted in a bright rainbow of colors.   It is neat and clean with interesting sculptures in its yard.   Next to it is a home that is falling down, literally.

 Lots of border patrol presence here as it is so close to Mexico. Our campground has two full rows of trailer/manufactured type homes owned by "the government" to house the increasing number of border patrol employees.

People are extremely pleasant and friendly both in the campground and in the town.   There is one small grocery store and its aisles go from groceries to plumbing and building supplies and back again with no obvious rhyme or reason.

In the morning and evening a troop of Javelina roam the campground looking for whatever they look for, food probably.   The manager warned me not to leave any plants outside or they would be gone by the morning.   Early last evening I spotted them poking around the row of motorhomes in front of us but by the time I got the camera out they had moved on.

The tailings and huge pit of the New Cornelia Copper Mine dominate the town.  Its closing in 1983 was a major catastrophe for the town, it was the only employer.

We drove up to the mine pit overlook this afternoon and met an old timer (86 years old) and former mine employee who runs the tiny mining museum there.

the blue/green water is a spring seeping through the pit's walls

He was full of stories and was happy to share his information and feelings.   He feels the mine can be reopened again in the near future, with this new president.
The ore is still in the ground, waiting to be uncovered.  

Inside the museum he showed us pictures of what the land looked like before the open pit began.  The three mountains peaks in the photo above stood where the gaping 1 1/2 mile wide, 1200 feet deep hole now waits.     This area has been mined since the 1500's he says, Indians worked surface veins of copper for dyes they contained and the Spanish began to dig shafts for gold and silver in the 1700s.

This next photo is just for Pam.....what do you think about this crested Pam, have you seen it anywhere?

He showed us other things that have come from this mine, other rocks and minerals and....a number of varieties of turquoise, one in particular was of interest to us.    He says there is no more available anywhere, but now I'm on the lookout.      Our first company was named Papago Plastics!

After the museum we took a scenic loop road, a dirt road really, through the beautiful green desert and back into Ajo past the colorful mine tailings.

One area of Saguaro's seemed to be particularly fertile!   I don't think I've ever noticed such prolific growth.  

Yesterday we drove south, through the even tinier (is that a word?) town of Why and into the Organ Pipe National Monument.   The town is at a Y in the road, hence the name.......

 Pam told us to make sure we got the "not so Junior ranger" booklet so we could find all the crested cactus along the main drive.    We saw at least 5 on the way to the Visitor's Center and then, with the help of the booklet, saw many more we would have surely missed.  

If you're not interested in seeing any more cactus, now would be a good time to stop reading.

the rare crested shadow

the crest on this Organ Pipe cactus is so beautiful

Enough cresteds for now.

At the visitor's center we were given another booklet that would tell us about the landscape through which we would drive.   The types of plants we would see, the types of animals we may see, the reasons why things grow where they grow and a bit of the history of the Sonoran desert and this park were in the little guide.   Lots of information.  I tried to keep track of each point and read about what we were seeing, but eventually gave up and just enjoyed the views.    I read it later, at home.

Arch 1 and 2

Organ Pipe and Saguaro

Organ Pipe cactus march up the sunny south slope

this huge Organ Pipe not only looked like it was a live creature swaying in the stiff wind,
it sounded like one.   wind whistling through its spines made an eerie rustling noise. 

colorful mosaic sign welcoming us to Ajo
We're off to Naco in the morning.    Pam and John are there already, waiting for a week of golf!


  1. wow! you hit the jackpot with Cresteds. and i loved Dave next to the organ pipe. great pix.

  2. Pam and John got us pretty excited to see that area. Now with all your photos we are really excited to get there. We will be in that area February 9 through the 12th. We are staying at hickiwan trails. I love crested cactui! Great post.

  3. thanks for the preview as we will be pilling into Shadow Ridge tomorrow for four nights before heading down into Mexico...

  4. We should be in Ajo at Shadow Ridge in less than 2 weeks. Looking forward to exploring the area. See you in Tucscon after that! :-)

  5. You got wonderful pics of the church - and I love the circle-rock-lizard house! I'm so bummed we're not going there this time, it is one of my favorite areas. And we have to go back and get the book so we can see the cresteds! Love the sea monster in the middle of the desert. Dave is very brave!!! Safe travels to Naco - may have to bump into you guys there :-)

  6. I'm so glad the Overlook Museum was open for you. That gentleman is a wealth of knowledge. Yes, I saw the crested photo on the wall which then lead to his getting his crested saguaro photo album out!! John was thrilled! He and his wife have search on four wheelers for these crested beauties. His photos were spectacular!! The huge one in the museum photo has since died and fallen he said. Aren't his stones beautiful!!! Looks like you did a great job finding lots of crested cacti. Never too many photos for me:) We really enjoy the walking tour around Ajo. Such a cute town. Lunch at the Old Theater while the locals played was so much fun we stopped twice.

  7. Thanks for the tip about the little store, we need to stock up before crossing the border, the permitted ones of course.
    We just passed by Ajo, the last time we were there,we have a few days to explore this cute little town. Steve is a little excited to see a Javelina again :(

  8. We loved our visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument—such a gorgeous landscape and wonderful hiking. You did a great job finding and photographing the crested beauties. Wonderful photos of Ajo, too—I was so bummed that we we didn't have time to stop when we were there. It's definitely on our list for a return visit.