Organ Pipe Loop – The Atun Trail

Up early for what I knew would be a challenging hike.

My sleep was disturbed last night by a pair of vehicles that pulled up to the trailhead at Alamo Canyon around 3. They got out and conferred casually in Spanish, like tourists rather than smugglers, then left on foot. They returned about an hour later, chatted some more, then drove off.

I walked the mile of trail along Alamo Canyon then started climbing up the gully of N Alamo Canyon. After a half mile, I discovered the work of the early morning visitors- a cache of food in a 5 gallon bucket and several gallons of water. The water jugs were inscribed with inspirational slogans such as “vaya con la virgen “ and “chinga la migra “.

Lower stretch of North Alamo Canyon

A possibly life-saving stash for migrants

It was clear that I was not the first to use the N-S corridor of N Alamo and Pitahaya Canyons. In fact the canyons were well covered with empty tuna packets, interspersed with discarded socks and black plastic jugs. The amount of trash was phenomenal.

I can’t criticize groups like No Mas Muertes for their efforts to preclude death and suffering of migrants. Whether they will end up causing more or less suffering is debatable. But they should take responsibility for the trash generated, directly and indirectly, by their efforts.

Looking down Pitahaya Canyon toward Montezuma’s Head

Trashed or not, this was a hard route. The top one mile both ways was a continual rock scramble, much worse on the way down than the way up. I did enough butt scootching to wear holes in my pants. My poor plastic ukulele took a beating too. I moved slowly and carefully. There was no phone service, no one knew exactly where I was. Anyone else traveling the canyon would have little interest in contacting the authorities for a rescue.  If I fell or pulled down a rock on myself, I’d be in big trouble. I’m hardly in good shape, and my legs and arms were heavily overtaxed well before I reached the valley floor.

But from there it was an easy stroll across the desert pavement through gardens of cholla, Saguaro, prickly pear and palo verde. No Organ Pipes on this side of the mountain.

Hunkered down now on an acre of clear gravel from which I hope to get some good shots of the eclipse. This is one of my reasons for coming here at this time – a total lunar eclipse over the desert should be really cool.

Full moon at dusk heading toward its conjunction with Earth’s shadow

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