After leaving CA we headed east to the Apache Junction area of AZ. We had a few days before checking into Lost Dutchman SP so we headed up the mountains to Tortilla Flats NFS campground. What a nice campground in a spectacular setting. Great views all around. One day we drove down into town, stopping at nearly every pullout to see the views. The mountains are home to some Desert Bighorn Sheep and we got to see a few of them.
From Tortilla Flats we moved down to Lost Dutchman SP. The mountains are visible from everywhere in the park. Looking out a window of the trailer and seeing them was a never-ending delight. Several friends were camping in the park and we managed a few get togethers before we all headed out. Other treats included lots of good places to shop and the huge flea market in Mesa.
One day a few of us went out into the desert to see some wild horses. This particular area has some pretty impressive Saguaro cactus, too. We spotted at least 3 bands and were able to watch one for a while. Watching the horses interact a bit was interesting. There were 3 stallions grazing a ways off from the band we were closest to (which included some foals). When the boys started moving closer one of the mares trotted out and greeted each of them, with a bit of a squeal and sniff. She seemed to make it clear they were not to come too close and she left satisfied she had done her job.
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My trip from FL to UT this month was pretty uneventful and I stopped at Goosenecks SP to relax for a couple of days before continuing. As always the goosenecks created by the San Juan River are memorable.
Ever since traveling route 95 northwest from Blanding, UT, to Hanksville I’ve wanted to take that road again and stop along the way. This May I finally got to do that. Most of the road is included in the Bears Ears National Monument and goes through BLM land. I had studied various maps and had some idea where I might be able to stop for overnight. My first stop was just past a butte called Cheese Box Butte. There is a pullout that leads to a sort of circle and beyond that a pretty rough road that goes down to more open space. I decided to stay at the circle but did see a car head down the road and then a couple set up their tent in an open area much closer to the river than where I was.
I had an idea to camp at Fry Canyon, but the entrance of that road was posted so I kept on going a ways. I saw a turn off to the right and saw a pickup truck parked near a sign, but by then I had gone by the turn. Just ahead I saw a sign “Jacob’s Chair Viewpoint”. OK! I turned around there (doesn’t take much room to turn my truck & Casita around) and went back to the turnoff. It lead to another very large circle where I found a relatively level spot to park. The sign posted showed all sort of trails and from my viewpoint I could see tent campers below and across the river. This would be an ideal spot to explore with a 4WD vehicle and a nice place to just hang out for a bit. There was a nice breeze so it wasn’t too hot even with no shade.
I think if I’d been a week later the desert floor would have been covered with cactus blooms. I managed to get some images of most of the flowers in bloom, it’s amazing what a variety there is in that dry climate.
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After spending a couple of weeks at Quartzite seeing friends and visiting another friend in Buckeye I went south to Organ Pipe Cactus NM for a few days. Been there before but it is a lovely campground and a good place to relax. I did get out one evening for some night images but the OP cactus were not close enough to the road for me to get any images of them. I tend to stick very close to the truck at night.
From Organ Pipe I headed over to Gilbert Ray cg, just south of Tucson. Very glad I got there on Thursday because when I got up Friday morning it was snowing! It didn’t let up so after breakfast I grabbed a camera and large zip lock bag to keep it dry and headed out to where I knew there might be some great photo opportunities. While I’m not a big fan of snow it was such a great opportunity I couldn’t pass it up. The roads were wet but not slippery.
At times it was snowing pretty good, the blurry spots are snowflakes coming down.
This is a great campground with electric hookups at each site. Given the very cold weather it’s been a real treat to not think about using up the propane.
My last day here it has warmed up and I even got a few sunset images.
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The last few days of my visit to the great Southwest were spent at Gilbert Ray cg in Tucson Mountain County Park. That is just down the road from the Saguaro NP
and AZ Sonoran Desert Museum. I did a couple of the drives in Saguaro NP and visited the ASDM with a friend another day. Must say that Museum is so much more than the typical “museum” it is really made up of several areas featuring desert plants, a couple of aviaries and several settings in which native wildlife live. The Otter, Cougar and Bobcat were visible, some of
Bobcat in the shade
the other critters were not but I’d say all the abodes were about as nice as any I’ve seen in any zoo or wildlife place. One of the highlights of the museum is the raptor shows they do twice daily. While we were there they flew 4 Harris Hawks, the only raptors know to work as a “pack”. Getting good photos was hard because I was facing into the sun.
One evening after a day of intermittent rain there was a glorious sunset. I’d found a place earlier in the day that I thought would provide a good foreground and it did. As the sun was setting it
AZ sunset with rain pouring down west of where I was
was lighting up yet more rain headed towards the campground, so it added something unique to the images. The next morning I got up early with hopes of capturing a good sunrise but the high mountain to the east and lack of clouds made that a non issue. As I stood there in the desert with my camera settings for the sunrise I spotted a coyote trotting by. Naturally I swung the camera to follow it, all the time thinking do I dare try to change the settings? Will it keep moving or stop? It stopped and I did get a photo ( but I didn’t realize it until later in the day).
Coyote in early morning light
Not the best ever but certainly the best/only one I can claim of a coyote at sunrise.
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Located near Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Garden. The friends I was visiting last week have annual passes so we went one day. A one day visit means you are covering a lot of ground at a good clip! The places is vast with various walks through different areas, displaying many varieties of desert plants including cactus, aloe and agave. Aloe 500 is a genus containing over 500 species of flowering succulent plants. Not sure
Another Agave, this one is over 2′ across
about the number of Agave species but I have a really good, prolific one in my front yard so I was attracted to those. Would love to find a couple of the ones I saw at the botanical garden to have at home.
We spent the day, which included a nice sandwich at the cafe on site then headed back to Buckeye.
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Different hours of the day (or night) at Quartzite give you very different views. Sunset is peaceful, colorful or bland depending on the clouds.
A very early morning (0545) can provide an opportunity to see the Milky Way.
A bit later when the sun rises the colors can be spectacular, changing constantly.
Late afternoon lights up the stately Saguaro cactus and highlights the bright green of the Ocotillos.
The last image is of a small percent of the RVs that come to Quartzite to spend the winter on the BLM land. It’s inexpensive and you get to pick your location, close to others, sort of close but not too, or way out in the desert.
One of the fun things about driving out West is seeing the way various cities decorate their over and underpasses.
I stayed at Quartzite for a few days with friends, this is all boon docking on BLM land, free but no amenities. It was cloudy, cold, windy and often rained, not exactly what you picture the desert to be. This particular week at Quartzite is a huge RV show, with literally hundreds of vendors all around town selling everything imaginable. On the BLM land you will see every type, make, age of rv, trailer or camping rig.
From Quartzite I headed down to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This is right on the border with Mexico. The saguaro, organ pipe and other cactus abound and the Ajo mountains make a nice background for some images. The campground here is very nice, with good sized paved sites, plenty of bathrooms and spigots for water. No hookups, of course, but with the solar I can do quite nicely.
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