Organ Pipe National Monument had been on my bucket list for a long time. I liked its remote feel, how it hugged the Mexican Border, and how the only way to get there was via a small, rural road.
What surprised me were the number of Border Patrol police and their extensive network of roadblocks. I felt like I had left the US and entered a police state. People with guns to shoot you, dogs to sniff out your innermost secrets, and X-ray machines to probe your car make me nervous. It didn’t matter if I was innocent, I felt guilty.
On top of the national paranoia over illegal immigrants, there was Arizona’s unique twist on the issue. Mexican-Americans and Mexicans were guilty until proved innocent.
As an aside, Peggy and I were on a bus to the small Mexican town of San Sebastian in the Sierra Madre Mountains last week. Our guide asked where we were all from and one couple announced they were from Arizona.
“Aha!” the guide proclaimed to the couple, “You must show me your passports.” He was joking and we all laughed, including the couple. But his point was made. What if people from Arizona had to carry special papers when they traveled in Mexico and were regularly stopped by police?
Politics aside, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was, um, filled with cacti. There were mighty Saguaro, whip-like Ocotillo, Barrel Cactus, Organ Pipe Cactus, Cholla, and round Prickly Pears that something with a large mouth had been eating. We got up early in the morning to miss the midday heat and followed a winding trail out into the desert. Dark clouds hung over the mountains; birds were busy announcing the day. Curiosity pulled us off the trail but sharp thorns required that we walk with care. The dark of early morning gradually gave way to bright sun.
NEXT BLOG: We are off to Dinosaur National Monument where the big lizards roamed.