Lily and I are very much enjoying the desert winter as everyone back home in Seattle endures snow and rain and gloom. I’ve worn shorts everyday since we arrived in the desert just before the holidays. Anyway, here’s what we’ve been up to while most everyone was taking down decorations and thinking about getting back to normal life post holidays.
We rolled into Palm Springs one late December afternoon. The sun was shining and the winds were light. This would be our home base as we entered 2022. First on the list was to stock up on groceries at Trader Joes and then check out the area.
The only thing I was really interested in doing while in Palm Springs was the Arial Tramway to the peak of Mount San Jacinto. I reserved tickets online a few weeks before arriving because the place is very popular with tourists from all over the world. I took the first tram at 9 am so it wasn’t very crowded.
Once at the top, there are hiking trails galore but it was too cold and icy to venture out. So I just spent some time taking in the views before heading back down. I learned that there are two rotating tram cars that pass each other midway on the journey. Here are two videos of the opposing cars traveling at the same speed.
Video of the tram car starting its descent back to the desert floor.
And, video of the opposing tram car starting its ascent to the peak.
Back at the hot springs resort, I was treated to some pretty awesome sunsets. Because of COVID and especially Omicron, I did NOT take any dips in the mineral spas or indulge in any NYE festivities.
After a week of sun and wind it was time to leave Palm Springs and head towards Arizona. But first, a quick overnight someplace very interesting and unique.
The Salton Sea
As we were driving East towards Arizona, we passed the Salton Sea and spontaneously decided to pull into a primitive campground for one night. It was really nice to be isolated and alone and not around people for 24 hours. The shores of the shallow saline lake are composed of fish and bird bones that die off due to the high levels of salt and other chemicals.
The next morning we woke up and took our time getting ready to hit the road. Next stop is the Green Desert in Arizona.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
We crossed our first time zone on this trip and entered Arizona. The landscape is incredibly interesting and I had to catch myself starring off into the distance too long as I was driving. I think the Arizona landscape looks like the floor of the ocean.
After 4-ish hours of driving we arrived in the Sonoran Desert and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I was very much looking forward to being here for several days. We pulled into the Twin Peaks Campground which is actually our first National Park campground and it was perfect.
The Sonoran Desert is actually a living, green desert. I hiked around and did some off roading to experience the amazing biodiversity and rare plants of this special area.
We took the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Drive which was an off-road trail that takes you all the way back into the Ajo Canyon and to the Arch Canyon Trail. I didn’t hike to the Arch because Lily was with me and it was too hot to leave her in the car that long.
And of course the desert sunsets were just spectacular. I did a 1.5 mile hike from the campground to the top of a peak to capture these photos on our last night in the park.
Alas, our time camping in a National Park came to an end. We loved being there. It was 100% dry camping for 5 days and we ended up with water left over for at least another day or two. The roof solar panels charged up the lithium batteries to nearly full each day so I was able to enjoy every aspect of Airstream living (cooking, showering, streaming, brushing, flushing) while being totally unplugged for nearly a week. For us, it doesn’t get any better. Love being off-grid.
Before leaving the Sonoran Desert, we explored the casual little town of Ajo which is the centerpiece of a former copper mine and is filled with Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.
Here is some of the artwork that exists in the alley behind the downtown plaza storefronts.
Right across from Artists Alley was Oasis Coffee and of course I wanted to patronize a local business so I grabbed a chai latte. It was amazingly delicious and the best chai latte I’ve had on this trip.
So, that was our time exploring wind farms, saline beaches, and the green desert. We packed up and continued heading east towards Tucson for a quick stop to collect some Amazon packages and refresh the Airstream tanks.
By the way, it’s officially been two months since we left Seattle and we are still loving Airstream life and planning to keep on going and going. We’ve already got major stops planned well into February so stay tuned for more adventures.