The Inscription Trail is a half mile paved loop trail in New Mexico’s El Morro National Monument. Half a mile wouldn’t usually take somebody 30 minutes to walk but if a park ranger hands you a hefty book with a couple paragraphs for each of the twenty something stops along the trail it’ll probably take you a while. And that’s what happened to me as I arrived just before the park closed it’s gates to day hikers. With my bible sized pamphlet about the rock inscriptions I started the trail to learn all about the history of El Morro. In a nutshell what I learned is that because of a year round watering hole at the base of El Morro’s sandstone cliffs, the area became a vital stopping point for people traveling west in the vast New Mexico desert (just like the first Love’s Truck Stop in New Mexico is to me after driving 18 hours from Georgia).
Anyways because of the sandstone’s easy markability many early graffiti artists made their mark in El Morro. Beginning with early Native Americans and continuing through the ages past Spanish explorers, pioneers of the Wild West, the infamous Don Juan, and up to miner 49ers. Since El Morro was made a National Monument in 1906 marking up the ancient walls is off limits but the history of people writing “[Blank] Waz Here” will be immortalized by this national monument.
My favorite inscription was a Native American depiction of some bighorn sheep!
Thanks! – Josh
Organ Pipe Cactus are a type of cactus that grows in the rocky Sonoran desert with many tall stems that grow from one short stump resembling a pipe organ. Their territory falls within the Saguaro’s territory and just like their iconic cousins the Organ Pipe Cactus only grow in southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. Out in the remote Arizona desert on the Mexico border is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This is one of the best places to explore these plants limited range and just like any remote National Park the best way to explore is by camping. The monument has two campgrounds, a larger one with running water and showers and RV hook ups, and a primitive one with a vault toilet and only four campsites out in a remote part of this already remote area. Naturally I chose the small remote Alamo Canyon Campground over the larger Twin Peaks Campground in my recent visit.
To reach the campground you must drive south on Highway 85, just before you enter the National Monument you will pass a border patrol checkpoint on the north side of the road, once you enter the Monument the campground is located down the unmarked dirt Alamo Canyon Road at mile marker 65.5. The road goes for 3 miles before dead ending at the campground and is suitable for most cars.
While driving down this road late at night I noticed a flashing blue light in the direction of the campground. I thought perhaps it was a police car or park ranger but as I got closer I realized it was a tall 30 foot pole with a large box bolted on. The box had a large red button with simple instruction above: “press if you need help”. This vague button with the combination of signs in the park saying that known smuggling routes exist in the park was a little disconcerting.
We arrived at the campground around 10pm and quickly set up and spent some time watching the stars. Having only seen this area at dark at this point I couldn’t help but feel a little spooked from the tall Saguaro silhouettes and the looming rocky mountain behind us but at the same time it’s hard to feel too spooked with the stars unfolding in the sky.
In the morning the place felt peaceful and quiet and we enjoyed our coffee among the tall cactus before departing. I really liked the Alamo Canyon Campground and will go back as soon as I can! There’s nothing like camping out alone in the desert wilderness!
Thanks! – Josh
These pictures were all taken just after waking up from sleeping in the backcountry of White Sands National Monument. The morning light on the sand dunes is beautiful and something I could stare at every morning! From even the small ripples created by the wind to the large mountains in the distance, every bit of this area is stunning!
Thanks! – Josh
I took these pictures from Petroglyph National Monument on back to back nights in late March. I like these pictures not only because they show the beauty of my favorite state, New Mexico but also because it shows how every day has new and different things to experience. The first night my focus was on the mountains and the city but the next night the moon crept above the Sandia Crest four times the size of the previous night and my focus was changed just to try to capture the New Mexico moon. With all that being said I hope this encourages you to get out and explore the nature around you because even if you visit the same place every day there are new experiences to have in nature!
Thanks! – Josh
I was talking to a friend who is flying into San Francisco and visiting Napa Valley for a few days. He had some spare time before his hotel check in, so I mentioned that he should visit Muir Woods just north of town. This was something he wasn’t aware was so close to San Francisco and Napa Valley.
Muir Woods is an impressive grove of old growth coast redwoods. It is also part of the National Park system, having become a National Monument in 1908. The Coastal Redwood is the tallest growing tree on the planet with the specimens here towering to as high as 258 feet. These trees should not be confused with the giant Sequoia’s in Sequoia National Park which seem to be as big around as they are tall!
Driving to Muir Woods from San Francisco International Airport is almost as fun as visiting the park itself. Muir Woods is 12 miles north of San Francisco, so you will drive through the Golden Gate Park, over the Golden Gate bridge and through the hills north of Sausalito. One of the most vivid memories I had was of smelling the eucalyptus while driving through the switchbacks on the way there.
At the park, there is a series of trails that wind through the trees with many an opportunity for an iconic photo. When I was there the banana slugs were mating or something and were everywhere. They were pretty cool and up to 10 inches long.
To get over to Sonoma or Napa Valley it is just a quick one hour drive northeast of Muir Woods. I doubt it adds more than 15 minutes to your trip to go this route. Well worth it.