Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

The Lure of Open Spaces

Bert Gildart: Because Janie and I were so caught up in the problems of illegal immigration in Arizona’s Organ Pipe National Monument, we didn’t take much time to discuss the incredible beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The United States contains four different such places, but many say that the Sonoran is the greatest—that it is the Goldilocks of all deserts.

“It’s not too hot and it not too cold; it’s not too wet and it’s not too dry. It’s just right.”

ORGAN PIPE CACTUS THORNS: While in Organ Pipe, I accompanied Bruce Secker, one of the park’s volunteers, on a walk he leads from the Twin Peaks Campground. The trail provides a 5-mile-long round-trip excursion to Victoria Mine, site of an early day homestead. However, we probably spent more time talking about the area’s incredible natural history. Once Bruce taught high school and college biology, and his interest has extended to the Sonoran Desert, making him the perfect person to accompany. In his five winters at this park, he has amassed much knowledge.

We stopped often to discusss cacti, and he spoke of the organ pipe. Obviously Bruce had canvassed his stops along the way, for he was able to point out a number of small organ pipe cacti and tell us a little about them.

“Nineteen eighty-eight was a great year for cacti,” said Bruce. “Biologists say that was a recruitment year, meaning it was a year of good moisture. In turn, that translates to the germination of many cacti seeds.”

Bruce continued, pointing out that the specific organ pipe under consideration was growing at a typical rate of speed, which was but a few inches a year. “Since 1988 that specimen has grown only 18-inches—and that’s about average. Not until they reach the age of 40 will they start putting out all those extra ‘organ pipes.’”

Continuing, Bruce said that Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument produces 28 different species of cacti, and that all share thorns.

“Things survive out here,” said Bruce, “because they bite, stick, or sting. In the case of cacti, they stick.”

Cacti stick because they have thorns, which are the product of their evolution from leaves. Certainly by sticking they serve to protect themselves against constant consumption, but they also clothe the cactus creating a microhabitat. They provide shade in summer and add some warmth in winter. Thorns also funnel rain water.

Because leaves became spines they had to evolve some alternative means of photosynthesis, and so stems became the pads of cacti and it is here that oxygen wastes are released and carbon dioxide taken in. The process is much more complex than suggested here in my broad brush strokes, but in short, that’s what happens.

The trail to Victoria Mine was essentially flat and wound beneath the base of the Ajo Mountains. Bruce told us that because of so much illegal drug trafficking we could not leave the trail. He also said that the park has organized groups of volunteer to pick up all the trash left behind by illegals, and that he expected they’d be doing the same again before long…

PAHRANAGAT CAMPSITE: We’re making good progress toward our home in Montana, and spent last night just outside of Alamo, Nevada, in Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. We were awakened by the call of thousands of Snow Geese. They had stopped here to “stage,” meaning they were feeding and gathering strength to continue their long flight north and into the Arctic. We like all the open spaces provided in these desert settings, such as the Sonora—and now the Great Basin Desert of Nevada.

Beautiful though it is we must not linger, for daughter Angie tells me we’ve been gone almost a year. Actually, Angie, it’s only 10 months, but we’re anxious to see friends and family (!) in the Flathead, so tarry we shall not.

2 Responses to “The Lure of Open Spaces”

  1. Nancy Zatkoff Says:

    I can’t wait to visit this area. Wow! What a story.

  2. Bert Gildart Says:

    Nancy,hope you do, and if so, let us know. We might redezvous with you.