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Havasu Falls is the most famous of the aqua-blue Havasupai Waterfalls that spill over deep-orange, travertine cliffs in a desert oasis of stunning beauty. The s

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Wild Arizona

Glimpse the Sonoran Desert Through My Eyes

There is a particular spot on the Agua Fria River where the water slips between narrow canyon walls, and you can hear water falling over stones. I have never met another person out there although I have seen footprints. You cannot get to this place with a motorized vehicle- you must go on foot.

Over the past thirty-five years I have hiked all over Arizona’s peaks, valleys, and canyons. My adventures began as a young father when we purchased a home not far from Trail 100. At the time, I was a long-distance runner and in the early mornings, I’d slide on my running shoes and explore the desert. Over the next three decades, I ran every trail I could find. My adventures carried me to remote places often miles away from even a dirt road. I’d stop, listen in silence, look closely at my surroundings and burn the images onto my mind- knowing this must be what the old explorers felt. It was like finding a paradise without roads, cars, or technology.

When I turned sixty and my knees gave out, the doctor said “osteoarthritis.” So, I exchanged my running shoes for hiking boots. Moving at a slower pace gave me a chance to notice details of the land: red-orange sunrises, old green saguaros, brown rocks, the beautiful shadows in a ravine. I searched for places found only on foot like a narrow canyon, a rocky peak, a tiny valley hidden by cactus. Along the way, I’ve met my share of wild animals. Over the years I’ve crossed paths with rattlesnakes, coyotes, owls, and elk, yet never had any problems with them. Not once did I feel threatened by these animals because I knew that if I give them space and respect we would get along just fine.

It saddens me now to see my beloved desert torn up by tire tracks and littered with bullet shells. Yet, over the years I’ve come to discover the desert is resilient- tracks wash away, wind scatters debris, and the burning sun purifies. I have discovered peace in this knowing. Through my desert ramblings and explorations, I came to understand how nature serves us so well. The sun comes up and goes down- we don’t even think about it.

Luckily there are incredible conservation groups like the Desert Foothills Land Trust which, at the end of 2022, in great partnership with Maricopa County and the Town of Cave Creek conserved 30 critical acres from development.  This property sits at the trailhead of the 2,200-acre Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. The Land Trust negotiated the purchase, and the Town and County provided the funds for it. The Town and County now own the land. And the Land Trust holds a conservation easement, ensuring its protection in perpetuity.

This is exciting news. The work that has been done means parts of this landscape that we all love so much will be preserved not just for a few decades, but forever. I, of course, won't be around to witness this desert then but I sure am going to savor it now. It has been my privilege to explore this land and I am planning on doing it for as long as I can, especially at that wild and quiet spot on the Agua Fria.

  • Havasu Falls is the most famous of the aqua-blue Havasupai Waterfalls that spill over deep-orange, travertine cliffs in a desert oasis of stunning beauty. The s
  • Covering over 160,000 acres, the Superstition Wilderness contains an abundance of cactus, wildflowers, and perennial water sources interwoven with the soaring m
  •  Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located in central Arizona near Payson. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge
  • This primitive campground offers a scenic view of the San Francisco Peaks and dry camping in the cool aspen trees that surround Lockett Meadow. This is a terrif
  • Sycamore Canyon Wilderness encompasses the second largest canyon in Arizona’s red rock country and was designated a wilderness area in 1972. A lesser known, but