Ajo and Mount Ajo

December 29, 2012 - January 1, 2013

We returned to Organ Pipe National Monument for the second time this month, camping at the mostly deserted Twin Peaks Campground. This was a relaxed trip, so we combined some moderate day hiking with a lot of quiet team beading in the sun, and having breakfast with our favorite desert birds.

During our one day of bad weather, we explored nearby Ajo, Arizona. The abandoned mine is hideous (Sonoita and Patagonia, take note, this is what you can expect when the ore runs out and Rosemont Copper skips town). However, we were surprised by Ajo's charming historic buildings and evidence of a lively artistic community. The old town square includes "The Oasis" cafe and a very nice gallery featuring work by local artists.

We headed south out of town on loopy gravel roads and found ourselves in the enchanting Little Ajo Mountains. No relation to "Mount Ajo", this chain of upended volcanic dikes occupies a square of land south of town that is neither part of Organ Pipe National Monument, nor Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, nor the Barry Goldwater Range. With a good high clearance 4WD vehicle, you can make your way to the base of some of the higher peaks. There are quite a few RVs tucked between the hills, and it's not hard to see why they'd be drawn to this place.

Continuing south around the mine, we eventually intersected the Darby Wells Road, where we stopped to have a look at a small cemetery. The graves were all marked with white wooden crosses and decorated with brightly colored plastic flowers. Later we learned that cemetery was part of Darby Well, a Hia-Ced O'odham village that was settled around 1900 by O'odham people who worked as miners in Ajo.

Sunset turned the saguaros gold, and we fell asleep that night snuggled under two big thick sleeping bags while a winter rainstorm pounded the thirsty desert. Pretty close to Paradise, if you ask me.