This is a picture of the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson, Arizona. I took this picture from Saguaro National Park in the spring. The Sonoran desert get very green and full of life in springtime as you can tell from the lush landscape of saguaro cactus and other desert plants leading up to the mountains.
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
One of the best parts of traveling to new places is eating the local cuisine. I was excited to try El Charro in Tucson AZ. El Charro is not only the oldest continuously operating family owned Mexican restaurant in the United States, but it is an absolute must to visit if you are in Tucson. While they are known for inventing the chimichanga, the reason I was there was to try their famous Carne Seca Platter. Carne Seca is prepared by marinating shredded lean angus beef and drying it in the Sonoran desert sun. It is then grilled with green chiles, tomatoes & onions.
Sun dried beef……count me in!
It was served with fresh guacamole and tortillas. They claim Gourmet Magazine called it a “taste explosion”. That was pretty accurate. I made a taco with the corn tortilla, carne seca and and guacamole. It was so flavorful and delicious. It was the most unique Mexican food I ever had. I definitely recommend El Charro. Five stars for both ambiance and taste!