Our first stop was the Visitor's Center in order to find out what programs were included with our cost of admission, and to pick up a hiking map.
One of the limitations of not traveling with a vehicle other than our motorhome and bicycles is that we can't do things like the 21 mile (34 km) scenic drive they have here. However, it turns out that they do ranger guided van tours of that route, so we asked if we could sign up. And they're no extra cost!
They had an afternoon tour scheduled for 1:00pm, and not another one until Friday. There was only one spot left on yesterday's tour, and the Friday tour was sold out. There are only 10 people allowed on each tour.
We asked if they sometimes get "no shows" or last minute cancellations, and they occasionally do. One of the rangers noticed how interested we were, and went and made a phone call to check on one of the sign ups. He came back and scratched out a name, and wrote our names down! Nice!
They also do a hiking shuttle that brings you to a trailhead that allows you to hike back to the campground area. So we signed up for that shuttle for Friday afternoon.
With that done, we made our way to the campground entrance. There are no reservations allowed here. It's first come, first serve. But, they're only a little better than half full, and there are 174 RV sites. There are no hookups, but they have a well designed water and dump station as well as six washroom buildings, three of which have showers. They also have a "generator free" zone, so that's nice for those of us who don't like generator noise.
Camping is a reasonable $12 USD ($15 CAD) per night. A day use vehicle pass is $8 per day, or you can buy an annual National Parks Pass for $80 USD ($104 CAD). We decided on the annual pass because we have plans on using it a few times more between now and the end of April and again in the fall.
Sherman, happily parked up in the "generator free" zone.
All sites are angled pull throughs, and decently spaced apart. A well designed campground!
It was 11:30am by the time we got ourselves set up. We were pleased to discover that we had a really good Verizon signal way out here in the desert, so we have good internet. We had some lunch, and then walked over to the meeting point for the van tour.
Ranger Sardius giving us a pre tour talk.
The 21 mile (34 km) tour is three hours long and stops at various points of interest along the way where the ranger gives a little talk about the things in the park.
Yes, it is a "park", and it is operated by the National Park Service, however officially it is not called a park, it's called a "monument".
What's the difference, you ask? Well we wanted to know as well, because it sure seems like a park to us!
Well, National Parks in the U.S. are land areas that are set aside for inspirational, educational, and recreational purposes and generally contain some sort of outstanding scenic feature.
National Monuments in the U.S. are land areas that contain some sort of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest.
So, now you know. Still seems like there's a fine line between the two to us!
At our first stop.
Saw much of it out the window.
Lots of colors in the hills.
This Organ Pipe Cactus was an odd variety.
Our second stop.
Ranger Sardius was a wealth of information. It was a really good tour!
I love the Saguaro cactus.
Ruth, with a huge old Organ Pipe cactus.
There's an arch in this park. It's actually a lot bigger than it looks in the photo...the opening is 90 feet from left to right.
Desert scenery in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
We totally enjoyed the tour. Can't believe that it's included with the cost of admission. So of course it's a popular tour and we were very lucky to be able to get on at the last minute.
We've booked in for a three night stay here!
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