Organ Pipe Loop – A beautiful day but hot

Camped in an alluvial canyon on the west side of the Bates Range last night, right under Kino Peak. These are volcanic mountains and the peak itself is such a steep sided ellipse that it must be a lava plug. Like so many desert mountains in SW Arizona, it is nearly naked of vegetation, a mountain of the earth’s bare rugged bones. I think that’s what draws me to them – they harbor no pretense of paradise. Existence is the most one can aspire to here.

I had a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage before starting the climb up to the saddle. The way was marked by intermittent use trails and migrant trash. The route was nearly as steep as the one up Alamo Canyon, but there were no large boulders to climb over and my progress was steady. Made the saddle through the range by mid morning, the temperature rising with the altitude.

A view back north through the Bates Range

A full blast of sun at the saddle – not to mention the piles of trash – gave me little reason to linger.

Saddle south of Kino Peak

The east side of the mountain was considerably steeper, and it was slow going. But still not a rock scramble like Pitahaya Canyon. My pants will be adequate for a decent return to civilization after all.

Kino Peak and its saddle

Saw a jackrabbit and a large covey of quail in the valley floor. The wildlife here is still quite scarce though.

The rest of the hike across the rolling Ajo Valley was uneventful, hot, and enlivened by views of the Diablo Range ahead. 

The principal obstacles to navigation across the desert floor are the washes. Some of them are steep-sided and deep; all are guarded, to a greater or lesser degree, with pickets of thorny vegetation – palos verdes, mesquites, jacarandas. The latter are particularly painful to push through, with their multitude of centimeter-long needle-like thorns.

When I crossed the northern reaches of the valley, I was hiking parallel to the washes and only had to cross them a couple of times. Here in the upper southern portion, the washes run south to north, and my easterly route requires me to cross one every quarter mile or so. Thus the main challenge in route finding is scouting out the gaps where the vegetation along the washes is not quite so thick as to administer excessive punishment while crossing.

But the deep, well-vegetated washes are also the only sources of shade. It’s hot, and I’ve stopped in them several times just to cool down. In other words, I’m complaining about the very thing I am also depending on. Typical.

Sunset view of the Diablo Range to the east

I’m reading Emily Wilson’s terrific translation of The Odyssey , and so this view of the sunset (being particularly rosy-fingered) seemed apt:

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