My first encounter with the desert in Arizona was on a road trip shortly after retiring in 2002. Staying at an RV resort near Blythe, California close to the Arizona border we decided one day to trek over to Quartzite, Arizona, a 20 minute journey.
Rave reviews circulated that the ‘Quartzite Yacht Club’ served a great plate of fish and chips. Interesting, we thought.
The ‘Quartzite Yacht Club’ was a club in name only. There was no water….no boats either….just pictures on its rough board walls of wave cresting sailboats and lots of dust. True to it’s billing, the fish and chips were indeed very good.
As I recall the trip now, the ‘Yacht Club’ was also known as a hangout for those who loved to bet on the horses. Half a dozen TV screens hung on the walls each broadcasting a different race. Sitting at a corner wicket a crusty babe busily collected money and passed out tickets and winnings. Memorable for the absurdity of the moment was that she was smoking up a storm while connected to an oxygen bottle. Quite the scene.
The desert around Quartzite was rocky, dry and dusty. Vegetation was sparse. Ideal for rock hounds and desert rats but I found little of interest there and looked forward to getting back to California. I had lots to learn.
After almost annual trips to the Desert Southwest in Arizona and countless hikes in the desert my perspective has changed. Regardless of the terrain interesting images are there for the taking. Vast scenes of rocky outcrops, wind blown designs in the sand, grasses reaching deep for life giving moisture or a high flying raptor searching for its next meal are all subjects for interesting compositions.
My favourite areas to hike and make photographs are where the saguaros grow. The saguaro stands above the many species of cactus that thrive in these areas. No two saguaros are the same. Each seems to have a personality. Many stand straight like soldiers. Some can exceed 40 feet in height. Character comes with the development of arms that appear when a saguaro is between 75 and 100 years old. Some seem to be swinging their arms as if dancing, others saluting, clapping or even pointing directions. Older saguaro offer housing for birds that peck holes for their nests.
Last week I found a trail in the Tonto National Forest where many huge saguaros reside. This past weekend I journeyed to the Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona. Reaching well in to Mexico this ecosystem has wonderful saguaros seemingly standing in regiments for as far as the eye can see. This weekend I hope to hike in the Pikachu Peak State Park near Casa Grande, Arizona to photograph the saguaro and hopefully, desert wildflowers.