Arizona's Delightfully Diverse Deserts

Updated on September 3, 2017
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Tamarajo is a mother of three and grandmother of six who finds great joy in sharing her life journeys, experiences, and lessons with you.

All photos by Tamarajo edited with either Instagram, or Snapseed unless noted otherwise This photo was taken at the Siphon Draw Trail
All photos by Tamarajo edited with either Instagram, or Snapseed unless noted otherwise This photo was taken at the Siphon Draw Trail


My first visit to Arizona was in the early nineties when my husband suggested a trip to see his mother, who lives in the suburbs of the Phoenix area. I had barely left my home state of Minnesota prior to this trip, other than a couple of border crossings into Iowa. My only exposure to a different climate was limited to what I had seen on television or read about in a book.

In light of my little travel experience, I wasn't prepared for the entirely opposite climate and landscape difference that I encountered. As a Minnesota native, things like trees, water, and greenery were simply taken for granted prior to this journey.

Upon my arrival to the desert basin of the Phoenix region, I was greeted with wide open spaces of what appeared to be dusty colored nothingness and naked mountains in the distance, with some Saguaro cacti sprinkled here and there. I felt, a little bit like I had just arrived on another planet or the moon.

The dry air was something I was unaccustomed to, as well. I discovered quickly why lip balm is a staple in Arizona. Hairspray is something you might want to consider for your stay, as well. The dry air makes for a very static experience.

I have to be honest with you that the desert basin of the Phoenix area initially left me unimpressed and wondering why approximately 4.5 million people, of the 6th largest city in the U.S., has decided to live in this arid, hot and flat desert...that is until we did a little adventuring. Can I say I have since changed my mind?

After several more visits, and further exploration I have now come to understand the attraction to the rich diversity and beauty of this desert state in all of its varied expressions.

The remainder of this article will be a compilation of several visits, as we now make it an annual event. I can only give testimony to the places and spaces, that I have had the privilege to visit, but I must reassure you that there is so much more to see and do in this beautiful state.

Let's get started!


First stop is Phoenix and its suburbs.

I'm not a fan of most things metro in any state, but the Phoenix area does feature some highlights that I enjoyed, one of them being orange trees. If you visit in the winter, as we many times do, the smell of orange blossoms is in the air. They are not native to this area, but they are cultivated by private homeowners and industry growers.

In Minnesota, oranges are dry, sour, and fibrous, from being picked too early, so that they can survive a long time being shipped on a truck. An Arizona orange is ripe, sweet, and juicy! it was quite a treat to eat one right off of the tree. It was succulent and sweet!

Palm Trees

Another favorite tree that I admired, and is common to the metro area, is the Palm tree. Like the orange tree, you won't see this variety out in the desert regions, because they are not native to this area, but they are cultivated for landscaping urban spaces.

Palms are the southern version of an evergreen. They are not only beautiful, but they are a practical reprieve from the intense Arizona heat, as their large fronds can provide a substantial amount of shade.

Palms are not only practical but they also add a touch of life to the seemingly lifeless look of a desert basin.

Southwest Fast Food

One of our favorite places to eat while we are in Arizona is at "In-N-Out Burger", which is only available in the southwest. My husband and I aren't much into fancy dining, mostly because we are too busy exploring. If we didn't get a chance to pack a lunch or supper, we like to stop here. There are about four menu options which keep ordering short, sweet and simple. The flavor is fabulous, the bun is toasted, and fresh cut fries are made right before your very eyes.

A side note, that in such a large metropolitan area you end up waiting in line for everything no matter what time of the day it is. Shopping events in these densely populated areas is a painful experience for me. In these respects, I'll stick with the rural life.

South Mountain Park—Dobbin's Point

A lovely little overlook park that is located right in the Phoenix area, is South Mountain Park, otherwise known as Dobbin's Point. It is a beautiful way to capture a bird's eye view of the large urban sprawl of this region If you don't mind driving a winding gravel road to get up to it. The point sits about 1000 feet above and overlooking the metro area.

Sunset is a spectacular time to visit, as the city night lights mingle with the Arizona pink sky offering a captivating desert panorama.

This spot also has approximately 70 miles of trails if you enjoy hiking, bike riding, and rumor has it there is horseback riding available too.

Agave Plant

One common plant you will see throughout the desert, as well as urban spaces, is the Agave plant. You might be familiar with a health food sweetener known as Agave that is made from the nectar of this plant.

A fascinating fact about the Agave plant is that it flowers once and then it dies. They are sometimes known as the "century plant" because it can take many years, most commonly thirty or forty years, for the plant to blossom. When it does flower it shoots up a stalk, up to, thirty feet in height.

There are many species of this plant that have varying leaf widths but all have a similar structure.

Superstition Mountains—Lost Dutchman State Park

The Superstition Mountains are named rightly so, as they are the subject of many superstitions surrounding a lost Dutchman named Jacob Waltz. Jacob was a German immigrant whose search for gold led to a legend about a hidden gold mine. Rumors claim he found a wealth of riches somewhere in the range but died with the secret as to where the treasure may have been hidden. Many people have since lost their lives looking to discover the legendary riches and perished either from the extreme and unforgiving desert climate or by unknown people attempting to prevent the find. These deadly searches have occurred as recently as 2011 and 2012.

There is a reality series on the History channel that chronicles the adventures of present day treasure seekers in the Superstition Mountains, titled "Legend of the Superstition Mountains" The series provides a lot of background history to the story as well as individual present day stories and experiences.

This park and mountains are located just a hop skip and a jump from Apache Junction, a Phoenix suburb.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Just across the road from the park entrance, there are some "old western" themed touristy places to shop and eat. One memorable from our visit there was drinking prickly pear cactus juice. It was very refreshing and reminded me, a bit, of lemonade. I had no idea a juice could be made from a cactus plant.

The prickly pear cactus is cold tolerant and very common in the desert as well as urban landscaping. It is a highly edible variety of cactus which is thought to help stabilize blood sugars, lower bad cholesterol and maintains good cholesterol. The leaves, flowers, stems, and fruits are all edible and can be boiled or grilled.

Onward with our journey.

Siphon Draw Trail—Destination Flat Iron

Within the "Lost Dutchman, State Park" in the Superstition Mountains is a popular and well visited public trail that leads to the top of what is known as "Flat Iron". It is easily identifiable by its shape. This is a rugged, steep, uphill, climb, and can feel a bit relentless, because of how rapidly it elevates.

It is ranked as a difficult climb, and a person should be in good shape if they are planning on making the entire hike. Such was not the case for me this year. It is nearly 6 miles to the top and back, and it is a little over 2500 ft elevation gain from the base of the trail to the top of Flat Iron. It takes about 4-5 hours to do the entire tour so start early and give yourself plenty of time for the climb.

There is no bathroom stops on this trail and finding a private stop could be quite a challenge. So make you sure you take care of that kind of business beforehand.

If you just so happen to be there at the right time, you may get to see some para gliders descending from the sky. Notice, in the photos on the right, they land perfectly, right on the trail. An accurate landing is most likely inspired by the desire to not land on a prickly cactus or rocky outcropping.

Snakes and scorpions, on warmer days, should also to be noted. This is their habitat and even if you don't see them, it is good to be aware that they are there.

This is a good place to also mention that, it is an absolute must to bring water on any desert hike, even if it isn't really hot. The air is so dry, and just a little panting and mild sweating can leave you feeling parched. It does not take very long to dehydrate.

Also, sunscreen is a necessity as well. If you are a northerner, such as myself, you will notice how much more intense, and high in the sky, the sun is in the south, as compared to the angled more muted sunlight in the north.

Looking down at the water basin
Looking down at the water basin

The Water Basin—Summit Flat Iron

The halfway point to Flat Iron is known as the "water basin". The elevation at this spot is 3085 feet which is about a 1000 foot elevation gain from the trail head.

This is where I usually stop due to my fear of heights, and also the trail becomes much more rugged in both steepness and loose rock. This is, also, where my husband and I split up. He heads to the top. I linger and join up with some fellow northerners for the trip back down.

One day I hope to work up the courage to get up to the top. Until then my husband will be the photographer for that leg of the journey. He would rather climb and enjoy the view, but just for me, he took a few shots.

If you really like roughing it, you can camp at the top.

Hilariously, this year I dawdled so much taking photos and admiring the views, that he made it to the top and back in the same amount of time it took me to go half way up and back.

Spires at the top of Flat Iron
Spires at the top of Flat Iron

Plane Crash

At the top of this trail, there are some rocky spires that project from the mountain top. One set of them bears the black sooty remnants of a tragic plane crash that occurred in 2011.

A divorced father of three was flying his children to his home for Thanksgiving in a twin engine plane. Another pilot who was on board, and manning this leg of the flight, crashed into the side of one of the spires. There was also a mechanic on board who was just along for the ride. Six people total perished in the incident.

The flight was at night and has become a topic of controversy concerning FAA rules that had changed five years previous. Because of an increased volume of commercial flights, the regulation stated that small aircraft were required to fly below 5000 feet. With these mountains presenting at about the same elevation, this made for some scary encounters for pilots when navigating this particular area.

The video I have included is footage of the mother of the children who made the climb three years after the event in order to view the memorial that has been placed there in tribute to them.


Saguaro Cactus

A stand out cactus that is native and exclusive to this region, known as the Sonoran Desert, is the ever popular and iconic Saguaro Cactus. Its blossom is the Arizona state flower and it is the largest of all cacti in the United States

They can grow up to 70 feet tall and weigh up to 4500 pounds. They have a 5-foot tap root with a spreading network that is only 4-6 inches deep on average. It is a cold intolerant cactus that can be killed by frost. The cactus can shrink or swell by 25 percent in a given year, depending on how much moisture it receives. It is interestingly predominantly made up of water. Its ability to conserve due to its design is amazing. The video on the right can explain some of the science behind that.

Saguaros can live up to approximately 200 years old and they don't grow flowers until they are about 35, or arms until they are about 100. These, like the Prickly Pear, have edible parts.

Birds such as wood peckers may harm a cactus by making holes and creating unstable areas in this very large plant. It is also illegal to damage a Saguaro cactus in the state of Arizona.

The Grand Canyon

What would be a trip to Arizona without a visit to the awe inspiring Grand Canyon, in the Northern part of the state? It is one of the worlds natural wonders, and second largest canyon in the world.

Nothing could have prepared me for the sensation of personally experiencing the largeness, dizzying depths, and grandeur of this space. I say space because that is what I felt like...I was out in the middle of outer space!

My depth perception was calibrated for a flat southern Minnesota landscape and all systems were on tilt as I tried to comprehend the "take my breath away" views. I was both terrified and mesmerized by them.

If you were there, I was the lady who inched her way to, and leaned away from, the bars at the edge of the precipice that overlooked the 1 mile high, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long, crack in the earth, wincing and whining all the way.

My husband is the opposite of me and can be found, fearlessly skipping around tall isolated rock formations like a gazelle while I wince and whine for him.

I always tell him how much I admire his bravery, to which he replies, "There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity". I think the man with the fancy camera, in the accompanying photos for this section, might agree. He was actually encouraging the leap, and I was pretty sure he was looking to get his, once in a lifetime million dollar, shot of someone jumping to their death.

My fears aren't entirely unfounded. The Grand Canyon has approximately four and a half million visitors annually and claims about twelve of them to death of some kind. Two or three of these are due to falling into the canyon, not to mention, the over 300, helicopter rescues that are performed annually.

Wrapping up this section, I would just like to share that there are so many things you can do at the Canyon that is not included in this writing, such as aerial viewing via helicopter, mule rides, hiking, fishing, kayaking down the Colorado river that flows through the Canyon...the list is endless.

Snowbowl and Flagstaff

Not too far south of The Grand Canyon is a mountainous region known as the San Francisco Peaks with big winter snow and is home to Humphrey's Peak. Humphreys' Peak is the highest point in Arizona with an elevation of 12,633 feet.

We head up to this area, occasionally, so my husband can take advantage of the ski runs at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort. They offer a great "Ski free on your birthday" deal of which he likes to partake of.

The winter climate in this part of the state is more reminiscent of an average winter day at home. The Northern Arizona Ponderosa pine forest reminds me, a little, of Northern Minnesota, with the exception of elevation. In Minnesota, we have some very small mountains in the extreme northeastern corner of the state. These are by far larger.

Typically, this mountainous area of Arizona receives about 100 inches of snow each year, oddly making it one of the snowiest cities in the U.S. The Snowbowl remains open in the summer, offering scenic ski lift views.

If you are the athletic adventurous type there is a place called "Flagstaff Extreme" that offers a zip line obstacle course, and once again, the views are fabulous.

The city of Flagstaff is located just to the south of this mountain range and is ten miles from the ski area. It has a population of approximately 70,000. It sits a the intersection of two major interstates 40 running east and west, and 17 that runs north and south.

Before we head south and east from Flagstaff there are just a couple of places to note to the west for our next destination


Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater is a fascinating little place to stop. It is a little bit to the west of Flagstaff and not far off of Interstate 40 in the northern part of the state.

No hiking here or even a tree to look at for that matter, but the very large hole in the ground is stunning. It is a perfectly shaped bowl evidencing the impact of a, not from this planet, very large spherical object. I can't even imagine the sensation of that impact?

Like the Canyon, a photo just can't quite capture the immensity of it and the personal feeling of smallness while standing along its rim. There is a six-foot tall astronaut dummy in the center of the crater as a frame of reference to its size.

There are an educational center, gift shop and a Subway sandwich shop on site.

Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest | Source

The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

I only a have a few things to say about the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Let me first begin by saying that, as far as deserts go, yes they both were a beautiful "look see", but I had a problem with the word "forest" being included in the name of a place that has no trees. I felt a little deceived. It should have been more accurately named the "Petrified Wood Chunks Desert". There wasn't a tree anywhere to be found, and if you wanted to see petrified wood binoculars would be required, because you can't just go out and look at it. You would be better off going to the rock hound area that will be discussed later. You can actually have some specimens of your own to keep, as well as witness a few desert plants for your viewing pleasure.

Next stop Walnut Canyon.

Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon National Monument was a nice little afterthought and a pleasant surprise for something to do while my husband went skiing in Flagstaff. I don't ski but I don't mind doing a little hiking. We brought a friend with us and so he and I selected this little gem of a spot to explore.

This canyon is just a few miles west of Flagstaff and has a couple of interesting hiking trails that tour ancient native American cliff dwellings. The rim trail is a little less than a mile around and offers some spectacular views of the canyon as well as "up close" and personal tours through some cozy looking ancient homes tucked into the rocks. You can actually go inside these fascinating living spaces and imagine what it must have been like. It is, for the most part, a paved and relatively easy path. The Island Trail is a little more strenuous with some elevation changes, and again about a mile long.

There is another area that features cliff dwellings known as Montezuma's Castle, that is farther south, and Just off of Interstate 17, south of Flagstaff. Montezuma doesn't offer hiking and the dwelling is 90 feet up the cliff. It can only be viewed from a distance below. There is a small replica that shows what the inside looks like and how it was used by the Native Americans of that time period.

Montezuma's Castle
Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma's Castle

There is another area that features cliff dwellings known as Montezuma's Castle, that is farther south, and Just off of Interstate 17, south of Flagstaff. Montezuma doesn't offer hiking and the dwelling is 90 feet up the cliff. It can only be viewed from a distance below. There is a small replica that shows what the inside looks like and how it was used by the Native Americans of that time period.

Arizona Sycamore

One more feature I noted at this particular park is the Arizona Sycamore trees that ornament the area. I was fascinated by the beautiful patchwork bark patterns of this tree.

I also discovered that these are Arizona's largest deciduous trees, growing as tall as 80 feet high, with almost an equal spread, and like the palm, it can provide a substantial amount of necessary shade with its very large four to six inches, star shaped leaves. This particular variety of Sycamore is native and exclusive to this region of the U.S.

Seasoned logs from this tree can last for centuries. The roof beams of Montezuma's Castle are made from Sycamore logs that are over 700 years old.

It's time to head east and south now to one of my favorite drives that will take us through Oak Creek Canyon.

Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive

The Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is one of the top five in the U.S. according to Rand McNally. Highway 89 begins at Flagstaff and takes you to Sedona. It's about a 30-mile drive that will take about 45 minutes, depending on how often you pull over just to look around. There is actually a very nice overlook park at the top of the canyon about 15 minutes south of Flagstaff, offering a beautiful bird's eye view of this forested red rock region.

There are hairpin switchbacks along the way. Once again I was both terrified and mesmerized by the experience. I can report that the view was totally worth the fears I faced. The 15 mile an hour speed limit around the turns helped a lot, and there are guard rails along the cliff side of the road. The elevation drops about 4000 feet from the overlook to Sedona which is another 15 miles from there.


Sedona, home of the infamous red rocks, hosts a population of only 10,000, but it seems like a lot more, from a traffic perspective, because of the heavy tourism. Scenic Highway 89 is heavily traveled at Sedona.

Sedona is full of craft, culture, and mysticism, be prepared to hear about and see gift shops laden with items, themed in things like aliens, and vortexes.

Like the Grand Canyon, there are a plethora of things to do in this region. We prefer the outskirts trail exploring variety of things to do. The natural wonders are just no comparison to the sometimes odd offerings within the town itself.

Bell rock, just outside of Sedona, is one of our favorite hikes and will head up our next section

Devil's Bridge

Devil's Bridge is an amazing natural bridge not too far outside of Sedona, and I was almost as amused by it as I was the Grand Canyon. Nothing compares to the Grand Canyon.

It is a three mile, round trip, hike, that for the most part is easy, that is until you get to the end. The last ten minutes of the hike dramatically increases in elevation with the rough rock for steps that curve steeply up a ridge that leads to the bridge.

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Being an Acrophobic, it took me about fifteen minutes to talk myself into going up the second set of them. The steps kind of look cozy all tucked into the surrounding mountain side but off to the left is wide open, over the cliff, space. Many people passed me with ease so my senses may possibly be a bit exaggerated.

Once you get to the top it can be slippery and icy. This area is about 4000 feet in elevation and shaded most of the time which helps this little spot maintain snow and ice.

Much Like the canyon, this spot, too, can be very dangerous if you don't watch your step. I would not recommend bringing little ones up there. A lady fell off the edge a couple of years ago, when she lost her footing, while out on the bridge, and another lady died not too long before that, when she fell on the winding stairs, as she made her way back down the trail. The view is totally worth the climb. Just use some caution and watch your step.

I didn't make out to the bridge on the first visit. This last visit I was determined to do so, even if I had to crawl on my belly, and I made it. I did not resort to belly crawling, but used a bottom scooting, stay low, technique while my husband jumped over the three-foot wide bottomless crevice as displayed in this sections accompanying photos.

Manzanita Tree

While at the top of Devil's Bridge I found an interesting tree that had bark that was so smooth it looked like plastic. After a bit of research, I discovered that it is known as a Manzanita tree. Its name is taken from the Spanish word for apple because its fruit resembles miniature apples.

They are evergreen shrubs with edible berries and common to this area. The leaves have some medicinal uses for treating poison oak rash and mild urinary tract infections and can also be used as a disinfectant.

The flowers are pink bell shaped blossoms and smell like honey. Apparently, there is enough nectar in these flowers that you can squeeze them and partake of a little nectar yourself.

Seeds are commonly sprouted by a fire that cracks open the seed pod. These seeds can lay dormant for up to one hundred years.

Cathedral Rock

Another great, and popular to the region, hike that offers spectacular views, in the Sedona area is at Cathedral Rock. Once again the best photo of this section was taken by my husband or our friend as they peered through the spires because I couldn't get up that high. It is a less than a mile hike to the spires that ascend some 900 feet up from Oak Creek (see the photo on the right) and is one of the most photographed places in all of Arizona.

It isn't always the height that gets me with these places but it's the texture of the rock as well. Sometimes the trails lead up some really smooth slippery or loose rock that is difficult to get a firm grip with your feet or hands, if needed, on.

Much like the dangers already discussed in other sections of this tour, so it is with this spot. The photo that heads this section was taken at the base of the spires (600 feet up) at the top of the trail, and some have died climbing the spires themselves. Climbing the spires is therefore not recommended.

Bell rock, displayed in the Sedona section is actually the most climbed rock in the area and it is also where most rock climbing deaths have occurred. It isn't near as tall as these other spots but it is the unstable crumbly sandstone that can give away quite easily. Like Cathedral rock it's relatively safe and easy for the first part but it's trying to get to the top that is dangerous.

Another safety note on these climbs always be on the lookout and have ears perked for loose falling rock along the way. I had one come rolling at me on the Siphon Draw Trail. Others up ahead were kind enough to yell rock several times for those of us in it's path, so we could step aside and get out of it's way.


Barrel Cactus or Compass Cactus

One more desert plant that is common in both urban and wilderness area is commonly known as the Barrel Cactus.

The Barrel cactus gets its name obviously from their spherical shape. They have a similar water conserving accordion structure as the Saguaro Cactus. Three feet is about as tall as this plant gets. A deep prick from this variety of cactus might require an antibiotic. The fruit on this particular cactus can be consumed but word on the street is that it is not very palatable.

They are also known as the Compass Cactus because they slant towards the south. This occurs because of the northern, more shaded side, grows faster.

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

My husband thought it would be entertaining to take me to see Theodore Roosevelt Dam that is located on the Salt River northeast of Phoenix.

The entertainment part involved choosing a lesser traveled route, state highway 88, otherwise known as the Apache Trail with the foreknowledge that I might find this distressing.

It is only 45 miles long but takes three and half hours to drive it. The reason for the length of this trip is all the hair pin curves and steep grades that will be encountered along this mostly gravel, sometimes no guard railed, and sometimes pot holed journey. Slow is about all you should go. There are a few spots that scarcely accommodate two vehicles passing each other. R.V.s are not recommended on this route but we saw several of them along the way.

The initial part of the trip was unsuspectingly easy and beautiful. I spent most of the last half of the journey in the backseat, bent over so I could not see the unguarded dizzying depths. Either my husband was a bit unnerved himself or he didn't care for the results of his entertainment attempt because he opted for a much lengthier interstate route for the ride back.

This explains the lack of photos on the second leg of this journey. I, therefore, posted a YouTube video recorded by someone braver than I. The driver in this video also sounds a bit distressed.

Please don't let me discourage you from this scenic adventure. It gets almost five stars on Trip Adviser from most folks who sincerely enjoy this kind of thing.

A trip to the Colorado Rockies is not in my near future.

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Middle of Nowhere
Middle of Nowhere
Middle of Nowhere

Round Mountain BLM Rockhound Area

One of my favorite adventures of our Arizona tour is rock hounding on the Arizona New Mexico border at the Round Mountain Rock Hound Area hosted by the Bureau of Land Management.

Fire agate is our goal but I've been known to haul home about 100 pounds of anything unique and beautiful. The chalcedony is just laying on top of the ground, in some spots, so thick that it looks like it snowed. I'm quite an amateur at this and still honing my identification skills.

Most land has private or corporate mineral right claims to it, and landowners don't take too kindly to trespassing or collecting things on their property without permission or pay. Therefore, the state of Arizona has, so very kindly, set aside a chunk of land for free public collecting. They only ask that you don't sell what you find, clean up after yourself and don't use any large equipment for mining or digging. It's set aside for people like myself who just have a lot of fun finding and collecting the material for a personal collection.

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Fire Agate
Fire Agate
Fire Agate

Fire agate is our goal but I've been known to haul home about 100 pounds of anything unique and beautiful. The chalcedony is just laying on top of the ground, in some spots, so thick that it looks like it snowed. I'm quite an amateur at this and still honing my identification skills.

Most land has private or corporate mineral right claims to it, and landowners don't take too kindly to trespassing or collecting things on their property without permission or pay. Therefore, the state of Arizona has, so very kindly, set aside a chunk of land for free public collecting. They only ask that you don't sell what you find, clean up after yourself and don't use any large equipment for mining or digging. It's set aside for people like myself who just have a lot of fun finding and collecting the material for a personal collection.

The Drive to the Rock Hound Area

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Watch the shifting landscape in this set of photosCotton Fields with Mount Graham in the distance
Watch the shifting landscape in this set of photos
Watch the shifting landscape in this set of photos
Cotton Fields with Mount Graham in the distance
Cotton Fields with Mount Graham in the distance

The drive to this place is about a four-hour drive from the Phoenix area through the lonely desert. There are no large metropolitan areas along the way to the far eastern side of the state, just some small communities. and reservations. The Saguaro cacti are nowhere to be found past the Globe area. I was surprised to see cotton fields along the way.

A 360-degree scan of this place leaves you with the impression that you are in the middle of absolutely nowhere and have the world all to yourself.

We did have to share the space with cows as the, very near by, Lazy B Ranch uses the land for cattle grazing. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was raised on this very ranch and even wrote a book about it "Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American West (2002)"

We also had to share space with several varieties of pit vipers, Gila Monsters, and scorpions of which we saw none of because it was February and cool enough to keep them in their hibernation phase. I did, however, see a coyote peak at me from around a desert bush.

Two of us actually wore snake boots. It helped me relax and focus on potential treasures rather than on noxious reptiles.

Gem hunting is big business in Arizona. Tuscon, which is between the rockhound area and Phoenix, annually hosts the largest rock show in the world I prefer to find the stuff myself. There also is a rock shop in the nearby town of Duncan, called "Rock-a-Buy". The owner is very friendly and offers great tips on how and where to find fire agates. He also has a lovely collection of his own to admire and you might want to grab yourself a little souvenir while you're there.

Duncan, AZ: Simpson Hotel

The final leg of our journey ends at the Simpson Hotel in Duncan Arizona. This is where we usually spend the night after a long hard day in the desert searching for treasures. It is a charming, as well as historic, renovated bed and breakfast that offers some extremely reasonably priced room rentals.

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Breakfast is optional. If you want the breakfast, it is $12.00 extra, but well worth the added expense. It consists of an all natural, organic, when possible, meal, with just about everything that has been purchased from local growers and producers. Our breakfast included a fresh vegetable egg frittata, turkey bacon, fried potatoes, tortillas, and fresh fruit. Unlimited orange juice and coffee are included.

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There is a hobby farm at this place, in spite of it being within city limits. There is a goat, some chickens, and a few random cats. In the morning, the windowed doors at the end of the hall, are crowded with both cats and chickens peering into the house, most likely, wondering what's for breakfast.

We had an evening meal at a local, and family owned, pizza place called "Humble Pie" just across the street and I must say it really was the best pizza I have ever eaten.

Duncan itself is a small town in Arizona, that is only about 15 minutes from the rockhound area and 5 miles from the border of New Mexico. It hosts a population of a little over 600 people and sits along the Gila river from which the Gila monster derived its name.

The Gila monster, a sluggish venomous lizard, and it is exclusive to this region. Interestingly, it's venom is the subject of some studies, in that, it may inhibit the growth of lung cancer tumors.

Duncan has been destroyed twice once by flood and once by fire according to Wikipedia.


I hope you have enjoyed the tour, and are able to, someday, partake of some of these lovely offerings in the Grand Canyon state, if you already haven't. I also hope to have provided some useful information should you get the opportunity to do so.

I will continue to add experiences as we further our adventures to new places.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Tamarajo


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      • Tamarajo profile imageAUTHOR


        22 months ago

        Hi Chin Chin, most of our visits are in the spring when everything is budding and blossoming. At the end of summer some of these places take on a more barren look, but diverse just the same. Each desert has its own flavor.

        Thank you for stopping by and taking the tour. I hope one day you can visit the canyon. It is worth it.

        God bless!

      • Chin chin profile image

        Chin chin 

        22 months ago from Philippines

        Hi Tamarajo. I definitely enjoyed this tour and wish someday I could physically visit these places. I've been to the desert in Saudi Arabia. Mostly it is a great expanse of fine red sand with very little growth of plants. The climate is very hot and dry 2/3 of the year, so we choose to travel during the time of the year when it is cold. There are also awesome rock formations to see, but I've not seen anything like the Grand Canyon.

        Thanks for sharing the awesome places to visit in Arizona.

      • Tamarajo profile imageAUTHOR


        23 months ago

        Hi Bob, So glad you didn't fall on my tour and that you braved the journey with me.

        I was really hoping the photos would give a bit of the feel and flavor of actually being there. I spend most of my time, during travels, peering at everything I see through the screen of my phone in hopes of capturing and sharing what I find so fascinating. It is a great way to return to the experience whenever I would like and to share with others.

        The Rock part of the venture is sincerely my favorite! Those rocks are always "crying out" as you well know. They know who made them and all that is. They bear record of it all. This years take away message was that obviously things haven't always been as they are and they most likely wont always be this way either. Things can change very rapidly and dramatically at any given time, so know the plan and purpose and live it. This time and place is a precious commodity and we ought to therefore spend it wisely and well.

        Yes cacti and thorns are everywhere. I made the mistake of wearing shoes one day that were vented on the bottom which allowed little prickly something or others to get to my feet. I will not be packing those again.

        As far as lengthy walks go, the Grand Canyon, and Oak Creek Canyon both offered "drive up to" look outs and pull overs that required very little walking. So if you ever get the opportunity to be in this region make sure you get to the Canyon. It's fabulous.

        It was so wonderful to hear from you Bob. Take care and God Bless!

      • no body profile image

        Robert E Smith 

        23 months ago from Rochester, New York

        Wow, now I never have to go! I almost fell on your virtual tour! The rock place sounded super. I think I told you once I love polished stones but I wouldn't mind finding some natural ones and polish them myself. (I know I never will, hahaha) The heat sounds nice but the dryness and the powerful sunshine is not for me, though, I burn so easily. The cactus, oh the cactus, I just know that I would stick myself all the time. I had some negative memories of palm trees in Florida, them resembling telephone poles with a few leaves on the top. I am intrigued by the ones you described that gave much shade. I love a good shade tree and to have that be my much-despised palm tree, I'd go just to see that tree! The Grand Canyon, I know, must be a great site but I think the walking would get to me. I am not as young as I used to be. Thank you so much for taking this trip just for me. You are a good friend to face death so many times so I don't really have to go there. Bob.

      • Tamarajo profile imageAUTHOR


        24 months ago

        Hi Bill, Glad you enjoyed, and thank you much for taking the trip through the west. It certainly is different than the lushness of the east.

        I appreciate your visit. God bless!

      • lifegate profile image

        William Kovacic 

        24 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

        What a wonderful trip, Tammy! I've never been to the west, but I certainly enjoyed this trip. Thanks for the guided tour.

      • Tamarajo profile imageAUTHOR


        24 months ago

        Hi Ms Dora, the continual trips have been a good lesson for me in looking for the beauty in places where it isn't completely obvious. And it has also been a lesson in enjoying things that aren't necessarily familiar. I now look forward to seeing and or experiencing something new each time.

        I actually would love to get to Tucson one day. There are supposedly some great rock hunting spots in that area as well

        Thank you much for taking the time to read and your always helpful observations and comments

        God bless!

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        24 months ago from The Caribbean

        Sure, this was an enjoyable tour. I like the way you begin with your surprise at the strangeness of Arizona and then register your conversion to becoming an admirer. Then you tell and show us why, and you did an excellent job. Thank you. I visited the city of Tucson for a conference, but I'd certainly prefer to tour like you did.


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