Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus

Organ Pipe Cactus ©2013 Bo Mackison

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau from Walden

We traveled west. Warnings of high winds — 40 to 50 mph — and dust storms, downed electrical lines and zero visibility were more than enough reasons for us to curtail our planned expedition to California’s Joshua Tree National Park, and stop only three hours west of the Tucson area.

I’ve been to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument several times over the last few years, but Sherpa had never visited this park, so it seemed like a wise alternative. Sunny, a bit of a cooling breeze and temperatures in the mid 70s to mid 80s, fit the description of a suitable camping destination.

I am the tent camper; Sherpa is the reluctant camper in any type of camping set-up. He considers a tent a fine place to store the camping equipment while he checks out the nearest motel. But he was a super trooper these past few days, and we spent an uneventful two nights protected by a tent while we slept.

(Sherpa has every right to have hesitations about tent camping — he has camped through torrential downpours, collapsed tents, wildly spirited neighbors with loud music, ambitious families with terrified toddlers, and even a near miss by a tornado.)

Organ Pipe’s campground played the perfect host. We had a tent site at the edge of the Sonoran Desert and set up so we could watch the sun rise over the saguaros and organ pipe cacti. The stars filled the sky and we had a clear view since the moon delayed its rising until way after midnight. A cloudless, moonless night of star watching in a dark desert wilderness surely is a life changing experience. We spread a sleeping bag on the picnic table and couldn’t stop staring. There were so many stars, and such a wide swath of the Milky Way, we swore we could hardly find a black bit in the sky. The sky is ALL stars!

We hiked during the day – including one 3 mile hike that I misread as “easy and meandering.” Sherpa read the same sign which correctly described the hike as strenuous and difficult, but he didn’t say a word when I suggested we hike to Bull Pasture. Well — it was one of the more magnificent trails I’ve hikes since we tackled several out-of-the-way hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains when we were in our twenties.

Suffice to say that I was gratified to see that my new self-care program of healthy eating and exercise paid off.

As for the Organ Pipe Cactus, what a spectacular plant! I promise many more photos from our travels, including entire mountain sides of Organ Pipes mixed with Saguaros.



Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Nothing makes her happier than trips to explore the many protected wildernesses across America – the National Parks and Monuments.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. I remember that sky – that SKY! It’s incredible! What a lovely travelogue you’ve penned (typed), Bo. I enjoy every syllable of your prose, which brings back fond memories of the Sonoran Desert. I’m envious, but thank technology for allowing me to be with you via the internet. XO!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Blazing heat, not much in the air — great conduit for the blue spectrum! 🙂 Whatever the reason, I do so love the Arizona sky, the bluest I’ve ever seen.

  2. Gandalf says:

    Sounds fabulous. I’ve never been to Organ Pipe before. I’d like to get there.

  3. Beautiful photo! I can still remember the day when I first saw the organ pipes!

  4. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a night sky that was ALL stars. It sounds like you’re having a wonderful time, Bo. Beautiful image. It makes me feel warm just looking at it. 🙂

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