The incredible Sonoran Desert in bloom – Arizona

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Palo Verde flower

“WOW!” was the first word that came out of my mouth as we approached Tucson on I-10 from the east.  We were looking at a sea of yellow as the Palo Verde blooms had virtually exploded!  This was our “nth” visit here, the unofficial home base where we’d spent several winters and one long hot summer.  During most of those visits we’d seen a lot of brown and dark olive colors, and some uniformly lush green.  But this time it was yellow all around!

The Sonoran Desert in springtime, after an unusually wet winter

The weather Gods were finally with us during our two-week May visit, the coolest in more than 40 years according to the National Weather Service.  The locals also confirmed the desert would be more colorful longer this year, and they couldn’t remember a more intense and widespread Palo Verde bloom.  It looked like our timing was good!

The Palo Verde is Arizona’s state tree

Palo Verde is Spanish for “green stick”

Our priority on this visit was doctor appointments, everything from cancer follow-ups to eye and dental inspections.  Fortunately we both continue to have eyes and teeth, and no cancer!

While driving around we couldn’t help but notice the vibrant colors along every road, hillside, wash and just about everywhere else:

We managed to hike two trails: the Cactus Forest Trail at Saguaro National Park-east and the Douglas Spring Trail at a nearby city park.  During both outings we were awestruck by how lush, colorful and vibrant the desert was:

A Cholla cactus bloom brought red highlights to the landscape

The desert was awash with yellow and splashed with red from Ocotillo blooms.  Hints of pink to light yellow from Prickly Pear flowers, and deep red or bright yellow Cholla blooms added to the mix:

Red Ocotillo blooms added brilliance to the scenery

The usually drab Chollas and Prickly Pears were bursting with color:

Not to be outdone, the stately Saguaros were sporting green crowns on their heads, bulbous nubs blooming into beautiful flowers.  They usually start to wake up in mid-May, but a large number were already showing off their milky white blooms that are Arizona’s state’s flower:

A single Saguaro can produce as many as 100 flowers in a season, with each lasting only one day.  They usually open at night and close soon after the sun starts to beat on them:

This Sonoran Desert beauty was sporting white headdresses

All doctors gave us two thumbs up, with extra happiness about two years cancer-free for Steve.  Even Betsy got a full bath to remove filth carried many miles from Texas.  A great visit all around!

Oh, Steve (a habit copied from one of our fellow RVers, you know who you are!) 🙂

Wickenburg, Arizona

We moved on to Wickenburg, 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, to explore it as a possible place to settle down one day.  We placed it near the top of our list after driving around, hiking, talking to locals and looking into real estate prices.  It met most of our requirements and we intend to come back to take another look later this year.

We consulted several pioneers who were milling around downtown.  They seemed to be frozen in time, but each had a story to tell via audio stations:

With the Sonoran Desert as a backdrop, the surrounding mountains keep residents close to nature with access to numerous hiking trails.  We tackled two of them during our stay;  Vulture Peak and Sophies Flat.

At an elevation of 3,660′, Vulture Peak is the highest point in the Vulture Mountains

We had hiked Vulture Peak in 2015, but Steve wanted to give it another try.  It’s only four miles out and back, but the last half going up is a strenuous climb up a steep hillside on loose rocks.  We ran into a terrible gnat invasion this time which pretty much spoiled the hike, but Steve was happy that he made it without the exhaustion he experienced the first time around.

Dozens of gnats seemed to like our hiking pants

Assessing the challenge ahead

Scrambling through a rocky gully

Made it to the saddle!

He attempted the summit, but a rock wall and no available ropes stopped him 😦

The view from the mountain’s saddle is worth some scrambling

Sophies Flat Trail was a fairly easy 7-mile trek through washes, over hills and around Red Top Peak.  It was another scenic desert hike with yellow remaining the dominant color:

Soap Yuccas were in bloom too

Wickenburg in the distance

The Teddy Bear Cholla blooms were waning

Barrel Cactus showed some buds

Our lucky day, we spotted not one but two venomous Gila Monsters along the trail.  One of them hissed at me!

The Palo Verde put on a spectacular show, turning the desert a gorgeous yellow-gold.  We were delighted to be here during a special spring brought on by the unseasonably cold and wet winter that several of our RV friends had endured.  Simply breathtaking!

 

Next up:  Summer plans revealed, more hikes and meet-ups with friends!



 

30 thoughts on “The incredible Sonoran Desert in bloom – Arizona

  1. We were there in late March and thought we hit the jackpot seeing all the blooms. You guys really got a show!

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  2. The silver lining – wet, chilly winter brings beautiful blooms. So glad you got to see them and that your check ups revealed just what they should have. Congratulations to Steve on this wonderful anniversary, I assume you celebrated appropriately! Glad you enjoyed your time in Wickenburg, it really is a pretty good spot…

    Oh Steve….

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    • Yes, we got to enjoy what you endured while in Tucson 🙂 It was the silver lining especially that I was there with him at his doc visits.
      Steve smiled…

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  3. You scored! Good medical news, all of the blooms and 2 Gila Monsters. I have been on a hike in AZ when the gnats were so bad, locals wore netting over their heads. I gave up pretty quickly.

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    • The gnats were pretty bad but because he has to rehike it we both perserverd 🙂 It was good news all around.

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  4. Well, I’m glad to hear something good came out of that miserable winter. Though, I’d be a lot more glad if we were there to witness the payoff for all that cold and snow! Oh well.

    So glad and so relieved to hear all the checkups went well. And I look forward to hearing more about these various contenders for places to settle down! Is Grand Junction still in the running?

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    • He he he, we thought of you while enjoying all the lushness in the desert, so we thank you for enduring the wet and cold while you were in Tucson.
      Fruita is still in the running, both of us like that small town except for their winters 😦

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  5. Oh yay!!! So happy to hear that you guys passed all of your “inspections” with flying colors. Now you’re ready to go for another 100,000 miles, LOL. :-)) Seriously, I know it is always a relief when you get those appointments out of the way.

    I had no idea the desert could burst into such a profusion of blooms. It’s so gorgeous—and your photos are wonderful. I love the vast landscape of saguaro and blooming paloverde, and I also love seeing your closeups of the individual cacti blooms. One of these days I would like to see the saguaro in bloom. Lucky you that you got to see it without broiling in the heat this year!

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    • This is our second spring here in Tucson and by far this time the desert was really in a super bloom. Thank you Laurel, it wa a relief getting good inspection reports, now we can concentrate on our summer fun.

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  6. What a stunning display of blooms, MonaLiza! Love the Chollas, although I like to view them from a distance. 😉

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  7. We have yet to experience a spring in the desert. One thing we would love to see is all those blooms, absolutely beautiful! We could do without all those gnats however!

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    • We just lucked out this spring with all the crazy weather all around. And desert was really a sight to behold.

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  8. I’m sure it so exciting to have great check-ups again after two years. Such a weight lifted. And how sweet was it to be in Tucson with low temps in the spring. The flowering bushes and cactus are gorgeous!! Just a huge WOW!! So much color!

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    • Definitely, a relief, especially that I was with Steve on both doctors visits. Perhaps one day you will bring your MH in the Sonoran Desert next spring, it is just a short drive from your hometown.

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  9. We saw just a little bit of all those yellow palo verde blooms on our drive to San Diego a couple days ago. You really got the timing right this year for spring desert blooms!

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  10. Just looking at those ants has made me very itchy. 😳 What beauty you see on your travels, Monalisa. Such an interesting post.

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  11. Wow is right! Gorgeous wherever you turned. I am glad that our brief health scare didn’t keep us in Tucson unexpectedly BUT I sure would have enjoyed seeing all those blooms. Great hiking, too! I just love Saguaro NP.

    Wickenburg looks pretty cool, and you know we’ll have to check it out ourselves. Maybe we’ll end up as permanent neighbors someday. Ha, now you’re rethinking that! 😄

    So glad your health checks went well — yay yay yay for cancer-free!!! Can’t wait to hear your summer plans and see more of your stunning pics.

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  12. ML & Steve.

    So very glad Steve checked clear. The travels continue.

    Enjoyed seeing what TLG and I knew we would miss as a result of the seeming wet/cold winter. The vast sea of color looked impressive, and hiking within it was the icing on the cake.

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    • We have to thank you for enduring the wet/cold winter while in Tucson for we got to enjoy every bit of color the cacti was showing off. It was a sight to behold!

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    • Totally agree with Lisa, and that Gila Monster is well camouflaged! Had a chuckle about the Teddy Bear Cholla blooms cause unlike Teddy Bears, they’re not very huggable 🙂

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  13. Sounds like a great visit so far back in AZ and glad to hear you have all your teeth 😆. I for one, vote for Wickenburg as a home base. That means I’ll be only an hour a way 😁

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