Fun in the Arizona Desert

In this post I wanted to update on where we have been this past week. After several months visiting in California we headed to Arizona, the 32nd state in our RV travels. As some of you may know, Mark and I have already seen quite a bit of Arizona, just not while staying in an RV. Mark grew up in Tucson and at one time we lived there for a few years during our early married life. In past years I have done road trips with Mark and other family members in different parts of Arizona. So after saying all of that it is good to be back. I love the desert and the sunny climate.

Tehachapi Pass Windmills

For our first stop in Arizona we decided to stay at an RV park in Ehrenberg, on the border of California and next to the Colorado River. Before coming we stayed a few days in Bakersfield at one of our favorite sites, Orange Grove RV park. From there we headed south with a little more than we came with (a few large bags of fresh oranges I picked) for the drive to Arizona. After all the cold, wet weather in California, the drive across the Tehachapi Pass and through the high desert region of California was filled with vistas of snowy mountains and in some places a little snow lingering on the ground.

Sunset on the Colorado River

We spent our first few days in Arizona exploring the Quartzite area, 20 minutes east of Ehrenberg. Quartzite is a small town that is popular in the winter with RVers and off road enthusiasts, but not so much in the summer when temperatures soar. It has miles and miles of open country with much of it managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that is open to the public. Dirt roads and tracks crisscross BLM land and so we couldn’t resist a drive to explore this desert country.

The desert outside of Quartzite

I still remember how thrilled I was to see saguaro cacti when Mark and I first drove together to Arizona from California. That was decades ago, but I can remember pronouncing their name wrong, by saying the “g” sound instead of a “w” (sa-wah-ro) sound which is the appropriate Spanish pronunciation. When we ended up moving to Tucson and landscaped our front yard with desert plants, I couldn’t resist buying one of these beauties. They are so heavy that it had to be trucked in from the nursery and placed in the selected hole with some equipment. This was not the kind of plant that we could purchase at the local nursery, put in our vehicle and drive home. It was only about 7 feet tall with no arms, which is rather short for some saguaros that normally reach heights of 40 feet. It takes years to gain this kind of height, as our saguaro was about 70 years old.

It was a treat to look up at the saguaros again, the largest cacti in the United States. They only grow in the Sonoran desert in Southern Arizona. From a very young age, they are protected by a “nurse tree” such as the Palo Verde pictured in the photo below. The Palo Verde shelters the saguaro from the elements but as the saguaro gets larger it can eventually kill the Palo Verde by taking away nutrients and water from the soil around the tree. I could tell that this Palo Verde was not thriving as others in the area were. I imagined the branches of the tree looked like arms around the saguaro, a “loving embrace” to the cactus that was slowly doing it in.

Palo Verde with saguaro

The saguaro in photo below has definitely seen better days as most of it has crumbled to the ground, leaving only a shell of its former self.

Dead Saguaro

Southern Arizona has seen a lot of rain this winter so there was a nice carpet of yellow wildflowers all around the desert floor where I walked. Mark enjoyed making a few videos of the scenery with his camera and tripod.

Desert wildflowers in bloom
Mark behind the camera

Another one of my favorite desert plants is the cholla cactus with its fuzzy looking stems and joints. Although this cactus is a beauty it can be deadly. My sister who is a horse lover talked about how problematic it is to ride in desert areas because cholla cactus can cause severe injury to them. They are called “jumping cactus” because the ends break off in the wind and can attach to anything. I am glad there was no wind blowing the day we visited!

Cholla cactus

One early evening we took a bumpy ride through the desert on dirt roads and tracks going up and down gullies and small hills. I was out of practice on roads such as these and often asked Mark, can we make it, is this too rough? He would say it was no problem, that’s why we’ve got a truck, so on we went.

Driving desert backroads
Up the rocky hill we went

Along the way we found an abandoned shack. There was no clear indication as to why it was out there in the middle of nowhere, but we saw signs of old mines and mining claims as we drove, so perhaps it was a miner’s shack.

Abandoned shack

I hope you enjoyed this trek through the desert. In the next post, more exploring in the town of Quartzite.

2 thoughts on “Fun in the Arizona Desert”

  1. Saguaro is so high on my list. Just beautiful terrain. The saguaro is like the baobab of the Americas, such a unique sight. Hoping to make it out there in the next year, cant believe they grow to 40ft!

    1. Yes, you must see the saguaros soon! I could hang out with them for hours, one of my all time favorite plant species.

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