field notes from callen: organ pipe national monument
When you live on the road full time, you see a great many things. Things people see once a year, or never at all, constantly flying past the windshield. Deserts, mountains, dirt roads to nowhere are always calling. Some call louder than others with a delicate mesmeric pull I’m learning to follow. The brown highway sign read, “Organ Pipe National Monument 43 Miles.” It was close to midnight of course, and our little family was exhausted from days packed with adventure. We simply couldn’t warrant the additional bite of adventure on an already overloaded 2,500+mile two-week trip out of Texas. So the sign fly by the windshield without an impulsive brake and U-turn… But the bait was set, and we were waiting to bite.
Alas, life sanctioned the obscure trek to the Southern border a year later. We are nomads now. And nomads can trek as they please. And trek we did, turning off the 8 East from San Diego, we set coordinates for the unlikely wonderland of Southern Arizona. Sure enough, that mesmeric draw did not disillusion. We found ourselves negotiating vast desert towards several crests in the distance. Giddily I perused my somewhat loaded google map in a sea of technological void, scouting which pixilated ranges we would explore first. Just miles from the Mexico-USA border we pulled into the visitor center, casually met some now lifelong friends, then quested down the Ajo Mountain Drive.
Twenty-four miles of secluded desert paradise lie ahead. The iconic organ pipes were unlike any cacti we’d encountered. We of course parked at first site of the cacti and wandered into the expanses. We found ourselves amidst a incredible forest, and I remembered that night on the highway. I remembered the feeling, a tug towards the undetermined. Our time was spent mostly in silence, enjoying the fortune of our quest. We are desert people, and we had found yet another home.