posted: February 24th, 2015 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: Three years ago Janie and I hiked the Alamo Canyon Trail in Organ Pipe National Monument – and it was here that we encountered a group of illegal Mexicans stealing along the stream bed. They were carrying large backpacks highly suggestive of drug smuggling, and the experience was unsettling. Silently, they glared at us and we glanced back. Turning, they clamored out of the boulder-strewn stream bed and clawed their way onto the far bank. Then they disappeared into the brush. We scurried back to our truck, and then as park instructions requested, we reported the incident to park headquarters.
The experience was, in fact, alarming, and so disconcerting that we have never returned to Alamo Canyon. But the beauty of the canyon remained fixed in our memories, and because it has been haunting us, and because of increased security measures to help insure visitor piece of mind, yesterday, we returned.
Thoughts of encounters with illegal aliens have now been replaced with thoughts about the lushness and grandeur of
the saguaro and organ pipe that characterize Alamo Canyon
Alamo Canyon is, in fact, a splendid area, lush with both organ pipe and Saguaro, which you see immediately as you hit the trail. They flank the path and frame the Ajo Mountain Range, whose jagged ridge juts into the blue desert sky.
A stream parallels the trail and because of recent rains it was trickling, creating condition reminiscent of the features that apparently attracted, Bill and Birdie Miller who homesteaded here in the early 1900’s. Initially, they build an adobe home, but in the 1920’s the couple replaced it with a brick structure that still stands today.
Certainly the availability of water attracted the area’s early homesteaders, but perhaps it was also the beauty of
Alamo Canyon that so characterizes this gem of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
About 100 yards past the old brick home, we found a set of corrals and at this point we ran across park volunteer Lee Campbell. Ironically, we had attended his digital slide show only the night before. He said the corrals were constructed in the early 1930s. He also said that Bill Miller left his wife Birdie and that she managed the cattle all alone. Eventually, however, she sold everything off to the Grey family, whose ranching efforts we had explored several days earlier.
Janie examines the old corral built in the 1920 by Bill and Birdie Miller
For us, Alamo Canyon now stands out as a gem in the Sonoran Desert, offering what we believe are some of the monument’s best and most intriguing groupings of saguaro and organ pipe. But equally as important, we believe that when we think Alamo Canyon it will be yesterday’s adventure we think of first, rather than of our encounter in January of 2012 with a band of illegal aliens,who may have been transporting drugs.
ORGAN PIPE ADVENTURE FROM 2012
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. Often 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