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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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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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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As I drove south from UT into AZ I wondered when I would start to see the Saguaro cactus. for some reason I thought they would be rather rare when I did get into their area. How silly of me! Sometime north of Phoenix I started to see them, lots of them and I was thrilled. I was headed to a small town SW of Phoenix where a good friend & her husband had moved to from NJ. What a change for them and their dogs. Their hacienda sits on the side of a small mountain and above it stand a handsome Saguaro.
They live close to the Sonoran Desert Nat. Monument so we made a couple of trips there, the first time I got some lovely sunset images and on the way back to the house we spotted a rattlesnake in the road. First time I’ve seen one out west and it quickly went into the brush.
We went back another night with her husband, it isn’t wise to venture out into the country there without backup. It was a perfect night for the Milky Way. I didn’t do any light painting, the light on the cactus is caused by light from the Phoenix area being reflected off the smog or haze. Next time I visit we hope to get a bit further away from the ambient light.
Another day they took me to the top of South Mountain where we could look down on Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and other places. There isn’t much open space between the places at all, rather like the megalopolis from Newark to Boston.
One night Jo Ann and a good friend of hers took me to The Road Runner for a totally different sort of atmosphere. It’s a bar with a bull riding arena out back and Saturday nights there is bull riding. The food was excellent and reasonably priced, after that we moved to the stands and got our seats. There were 8 riders and only one stayed on for the required 8 seconds. I took my small point & shoot camera and with the low lighting it wasn’t very good for any action shots.
Seeing the desert and various cactus whetted my appetite to return and do more exploring in the Southwest.
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