Organ Pipe National Monument: Puerto Blanco Drive, Dripping Springs and Pozo Nuevo Road

January 16-18, 2016

We try to make at least one trip every Winter to Organ Pipe National Monument. We had to squeeze this one in, but we managed a thrilling three-day adventure including some parts of the park we had never visited.

With our luxurious new camping rig, we were quite content to boondock both nights, and we chose a spot just outside the park with an appropriately challenging approach and magnificent views in all directions.

Locomotive Rock Panorama
Locomotive Rock
There was great hiking nearby, including a striking rock promontory.
View from Locomotive Rock
Here's the view of our rig from the top of the rise.
Organ pipe cactus with the Ajo Mountains
Lots of organ pipe cactus on the south-facing slope, and quite a few elephant trees as well. Morning view with the Ajo Mountains in the background and that curious haze that always hangs over the Valley of the Ajo.
sunset at Locomotive Rock
Rosy sunsent from our campsite.
organ pipe cactus at sunset
The pipes! The pipes! Are Calling!
hiking to Dripping Springs
Next day we drove Puerto Blanco Road, which reopened last year after being closed for 11 years. The last time I drove this road was 14 years ago!
tortured volcanic rock
The highlight of the drive was a hike to Dripping Springs. The Puerto Blanco Mountains are composed of red and yellow volcanic tuff, but the rock is scarred and sculpted as if it was limestone.
saddle above Dripping Springs
We had no intention of hiking to the top of the ridge above Dripping Springs, but we missed the trail and found ourselves on a wind-blown knife's edge ridge with knee-weakening views.
view from the saddle above Dripping Springs
Scampering up the last few feet to the ridge, where we were promptly flattened by the wind.
Puerto Blanco Mountains
Okay, let's see if we can find the spring on the way down!
Dripping Springs Panorama

Dripping springs is one of only two permanent sources of wildlife water in Organ Pipe National Monument (the other being Quitobaquito Springs. The water was milky blue from the minerals it collects as it seeps through the rock walls.

Unnamed peak in Puerto Blanco Mountains
Impressive unnamed peak visible from the saddle.
Pozo Nuevo Road
About halfway around the Puerto Blanco Loop, we realized the Pozo Nuevo Road was open (it had been closed since 1998), and that it could potentially connect to Bates Well Road and take us right back to our campsite west of the park.

It was a very, very rough ride through some eerily beautiful and absolutely deserted desert. We did not see a single vehicle — not even the Border Patrol! — on the 14-mile stretch from Puerto Blanco to Bates Well Road.

reattaching the ham radio antenna
Dennis stops to reattach his ham radio antenna, which shook loose repeatedly. And now Taco Grande has some nice "Arizona pinstripes."
crested caracara
Crested caracara. We see him/her in the same spot between Kitt Peak and Sells, every trip since 2002. Is this really the same bird, or do birds pass down their perches from one generation to the next?