©Bert Gildart: When you park your vehicle at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the first thing you see is a gravestone (a boulder) adorned with a plaque. Just above it two hawk feathers have been affixed to the stem of an organ pipe cactus, and when the wind blows, the feathers flutter gently suggesting a moment of great peace.
The marker, the plaque and the feathers are all back dropped by bold letters near the roof of a substantial building and they read Kris Eggle Visitor Center. The combination of features reminds visitors that not too long ago a man was killed by a drug runner in this National Park Service administered national monument.
On that fate full day Kris Eggle was on the trail of a man who had illegally crossed the U.S./Mexican border less than five miles to the south with the intent of selling drugs. A radio message from an overhead helicopter had alerted Chris that the man was hiding behind a huge Saguaro, and when Chris turned the man shot and fatally wounded him.
L to R: Hawk feathers drape from organ pipe branch and often flutter in desert winds; image of Kris Eggle near grave marker; hat, plaque and flowers back dropped by organ pipes.
Today the park recalls the service of the 28 year old ranger not only with a namesake visitor center but with a plaque positioned in front of that Visitor Center. The plaque reads:
On August 9, 2002
While protecting visitors from harm
United State Park Ranger
Was slain in the line of duty.
His service and sacrifice
To the National Park Service
And the people of this country
Will never be forgotten.
Tragically, the conditions that resulted in Eggle’s death still exist. Thousands of illegal immigrants still cross the borders bringing drugs, and I know this is true as I overheard a conversation the other day in which a park volunteer described an incident that occurred at Victoria Mine just a few miles from the Twin Peaks Campground. Five days ago, Janie and I had hiked to that area so the narration was of particular interest.
The volunteer had been looking down from a ridge when he saw four Mexicans. Shortly thereafter they picked up huge packs, which later (after being apprehended by park rangers) proved to be filled with drugs. With a street market for these drugs in the thousands, these men were dangerous.
Sadly the incident is not isolated, and certainly I don’t know the solution. Nor do I know what Kris Eggle would think. The only thought I have is to create a penalty that would be so severe for such transgressions that illegal immigrants of all kind will give more serious thought to stealing across the border here in Organ Pipe.
This park contains natural history features found nowhere else in North America and they are so unique that Organ Pipe has been designed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Park. Right now over 60 percent of the park is closed to Americans, and that is a travesty.
AIRSTREAM TRAVELS SIX YEARS AGO:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Sometimes the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy