It’s impossible to get from Southern California to New Mexico, where I’m spending most of the winter, without passing through Arizona. Here’s some of my favorite photos from that transit, which was mostly through the Sonoran Desert. (And maybe seeing desert photos will make y’all in cold, snowy climes feel a bit warmer today.)
About this image: Just outside the Sonoran desert area, is Mount Graham, near Safford. That mountain is the snow-capped peak in the background, on the right side of this image. I loved the tree and sky so that’s what I focused on.
Saguaro National Park
Did you know Arizona contains four different types of deserts? Don’t feel too bad, I actually didn’t either, until I was reading up on the Sonoran desert for this post. I knew Arizona had at least two different kinds of deserts because I’d visited them before. The Chihuahuan desert in the southeastern part of the state also includes Chiricahua, where I went camping in 2017. The Mojave desert slides across the California state link into the upper western part of Arizona. Third is the Great Basin, shared with Nevada and Utah. And finally, there is the Sonoran desert, which takes up most of the southwestern and central parts of Arizona. The Sonoran is where you’ll find what is probably the most recognizable image of Arizona, the Saguaro cactus. (It’s pronounced Sa-WAR-oh, so you can feel like a native Arizonan when you visit.)
There are a LOT of Saguaro cacti in the National Park and in the neighboring Tucson Mountain Park.
Tiny Video: Lots of Saguaro
Note: There are two sections to Saguaro National Park. I visited the west one, on the west side of Tucson. The other one, fittingly named the eastern section, is southeast of Tucson. The eastern one is larger and has more mountains, but the western one has more Saguaros and it’s close to a nice campground with electric sites. Which brings me to my next topic…
Gilbert Ray Campground
One reason I love this campground is that the sunrise and sunset views are amazingly beautiful and accessible. This was literally the view from the back of my trailer. You better believe I stood out there in my pajamas and slippers enjoying it while I took pictures!
The campground has three loops, two of them reserverable in advance and a third loop is first-come, first-served. The sites are a bit tight compared to state parks, but still more room between campsites than your typical RV park. It’s quiet and dark at night and if you listen closely, you might hear the faint song of a coyote far off in the Sonoran desert.
Tiny Video: View from my Campsite
Driving from Tucson over to New Mexico was going to be a long haul, so I split it up by staying two nights in Safford, Arizona. I’ve been here before, many times before I ever even thought of being a vagabond. My dad grew up in this area, so I’ve visited the cemeteries, the old dirt farms, and the courthouse where my grandparents were married 98 years ago.
It was a short stay in Safford this time, mostly to stock up on groceries and other supplies before spending six nights off the grid in New Mexico. I’ll be back for a longer visit here in April, when we’re having a Kempton family reunion, hoping to see many relatives coming from near. (If you’re reading this and you’re a Kempton relative, hit me up in comments or ping one of your Arizona cousins for details.)
Love me or hate me, the desert seems to say, this is what I am and this is what I shall remain. Go north for astonishment if you must have it. What I offer is different.
Joseph Wood Krutch