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!



 

Remote, Rugged and Wild – Big Bend National Park

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Big Bend National ParkI can see now why Big Bend National Park is the least-visited national park. Coming here is not just a casual stop along the route to lots of other places; it’s remote location makes it a destination that requires driving more than two hours south of the nearest interstate highway.  That’s a good thing, and a bad thing, at the same time. Continue reading