Take a Hike by Cold Splinters: The Organ Pipe Catus

To add a little more adventure to our week, we’ve invited Jeff Thrope of Cold Splinters to treat us to a taste of the great outdoors every Wednesday. Check out his new column, and then do yourself and your computer a favor, and go sit under a tree.

A few years ago, after seeing a photograph of organ pipe cactus in an old Time-Life Wilderness book, I had started planning a trip in my head to come see one with my own two eyes. So here I was, by myself, 10 miles from Mexico in Organ Pipe National Monument on the day after Christmas, 2009. After a few tin cups of whiskey and warm water, I went into my tent, put on a headlamp and started reading the book I had purchased at a Boulder, CO thrift store the previous day. It was about an American guy in the 1970s trekking through Nepal in search of a large, elusive cat.

I arrived at this camping spot in the dark after traveling a few hundred miles in a rented car, trying to avoid a ubiquitous hip hop song that discussed the merits of "Neeeeeeew Yoooooooork," the one place on Earth I didn't want to think about. I read inside my sleeping bag for most of the night, too excited for the sun to come up and to eat hot cereal to fall asleep. I finally did, and at 6 am, I was woken up by a screaming baby a few hundred yards away, just as the sun was starting to rise behind a patch of ugly cacti. I went to the bathroom on a mound of dirt near my campsite, put on a bright red coat and sat on a metal bench trying to muster up the energy to make coffee. I watched my dust palace light up, endless and empty, home for the next couple of days. It was the loneliest place I had ever been. I made a few cups of coffee, went for a short run, and when I got back to my campsite, made a monster bowl of hot brown rice cereal with raisins. I walked a few hundred yards into the desert, sat down, and looked at the Swiss Army watch my girlfriend had given me for my birthday a few years ago. I smiled and quietly yelled the word "fuck" to myself.

It was only 8:30 am. Thank the lord.

Posted: March 10, 2010
Take a Hike by Cold Splinters: The Organ Pipe Catus