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All deserts are NOT created equal

To prove how different the deserts of the southwest can be, I have provided some comparison photos.

Let’s start with the desert outside Yuma. The closest thing we get to greenery is creosote bushes and the odd Palo Verde. No cacti here. To ensure you don’t miss the cacti, all the bushes and trees have dreadful thorns. The only thing missing is the remarkable ability of the cacti to leap out and stick themselves to you with barbed thorns that hurt coming out more than they do going in. Actually, the desert around Death Valley looks a little like this, except it has even less foliage, prettier rocks, and a whole lot of salt.

Just a few miles east of Yuma we have the KofA National Wildlife Refuge. I really love KofA (that stands for King of Arizona, the name of a now-defunct mine for, I believe, copper, in the refuge). Unfortunately, it presents two difficulties. First, virtually none of the roads are appropriate for RV travel. Naturally, that doesn't stop us from traveling into the refuge to camp. It simply means that it takes 45 minutes to travel 5 miles over sharp gravel, washboard surfaces and the occasional giant pothole. Plus you are risking the health of your tires. After you leave the camping area, the going gets much worse. I can’t even ride most of it on my trike, although I gave it a valiant effort. Second, there are a gracious plenty of cacti, and my co-pilot doesn’t seem to have the sense to avoid them, so she is constantly dragging bits o’ cactus into the house which I must try to pull off her while she strenuously resists.

Here we have the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge south of Tucson. There are actually a few different types of landscape here, but this is where we camped, and I rode through 18 miles of pretty much the same thing looking for Pronghorn Antelope. Of which I saw, regrettably, none. The only wildlife I succeeded in viewing were some deer, which are small in comparison to the ones that wander across my property in northern Idaho in giant herds. Apparently, though, there is great birding here, and sightings of the antelope are not uncommon.

Here is a little gem buried within the BA NWR. It is a riparian area I stumbled across while riding the “paved” road through the refuge. I say “paved” because, though it does actually have black stuff on it, it is worse than some gravel roads I’ve been on. The whole thing is nothing but patch on top of patch, infrequently interspersed with a bit if loose asphalt gravel and some large potholes. Apparently, one can take this horrendous road all the way to I-17. If one wanted to for some strange reason. Obviously, this is not a desert. But is right in the middle of a desert-like area.

Here we have the Ironwood National Monument northwest of Tucson. The saguaro (which these cacti are) aren’t really an issue because they keep to themselves rather than leaping on unsuspecting tourists.

Here is part of Saguaro National Park (west unit), also west and slightly north of Tucson. Plenty of saguaro here plus the ubiquitous Prickly Pear. Although this photo doesn’t show any, there are also Barrel Cactus, Cholla and Hedgehog Cactus. More on that in a future installment.