Pusch Ridge, rising 3,500 feet above Sutherland Wash, lights up just before sunset.
My wife and I had no idea how the winter would go when we first planned on taking spring trip to Arizona in March. As far as we were concerned, our kids had spring break, late winter/early spring is a great time to be in the desert, and we figured it would be a welcome change of pace if we happened to have a really stormy season. We planned the trip in October and November. When snow started falling early in November, we had no idea that the Long Winter lay before us and how welcome a trip to the desert would be. Needless to say, an escape to the desert was quite rejuvenating after nearly 5 months of snow.
The lead up to the trip was challenging, but once we hit the road, it was smooth sailing. Smooth, except for being evacuated from our campground in Sedona. We had one of the few campsites near town, which was located on the banks of Oak Creek, the main watershed draining the red sandstone wonderland. Its headwaters are located north of Sedona on the Coconino Plateau, where the higher elevation receives a lot more snow. On our trip there was a fair amount of snow in the high country and the warmer weather was melting the it at a swift rate. Consequently, Oak Creek was swollen and raging. Once we got there, we enjoyed our time in Sedona, hiking the red sandstone and soaking in the magnificent scenery, all the while Oak Creek was rising. On our last night in Sedona, we headed back to our camp, only to find it eerily dark. On closer inspection, only three tents were standing in the campground and in front of our tent we found this:
It quickly became evident that the rising creek had forced the campground to be evacuated. We quickly broke camp and headed out, saying a speedy goodbye to Sedona a little earlier than planned. So the trip was smooth sailing other than being evacuated out of our campground before it flooded.
So, it was smooth, except for the evacuation from camp and the time we went into one of our other campsites, driving through another rising creek with the warning that it may crest too high to drive through and we may be stuck in the campground for, as we were told “a few hours or a few days”. Fortunately for us, it crested and subsided and we were never stuck but it was an interesting conundrum.
Other than those seasonal incidents, the rest of the trip was fantastic. The weather was, for the most part, warm and beautiful. The desert was green, wildflowers were often abundant and the scenery, whether the sandstone of Sedona or the saguaro of the Sonoran Desert, was uniformly spectacular. We were all rejuvenated by being free of snow and out of our normal landscapes. We already can’t wait to go back.
A few images from the trip:
It is incredible how diverse the Sonoran Desert is. Even in the dry seasons, it is still so green compared to the other desert environments found in America. In spring, it is downright lush. Perhaps my favorite spot from the trip was this one above Sutherland Wash:
Standing there surrounded by saguaro cactuses, the icon of the American West, as well as multiple types of cholla, prickly pear, barrel cactus, ocotillo and palo verde, with grand, rocky mountains looming in the distance and yet, being able to hear the sound of steadily running water was a feast.
The scenery wasn’t all that was great. The family had a grand time as well, exploring, climbing, and enjoying the beauty of the desert:
Now back home in Mount Shasta, the Long Winter continues, with up to 20 inches of snow forecasted to come down Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully, perhaps even sometime in the near future, the thaw will come. Until then, we are grateful for a week in the desert.