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Picacho Peak, Arizona


Black Eye Susans and Desert Sage in Arizona
Black Eye Susans and Desert Sage in Arizona

Departing Tombstone could not have been more uneventful. The wind died down, so the tumbleweeds were at a minimum. The RV parking spaces that faced the street made it very easy to depart, and the roads were wide with light traffic. These conditions are ideal when you are parked close to a city center. With our crew loaded out properly, we had little time to notice the morning chill. Somehow, with all our planning, we hit a cold spell in the spring. The drop in temperature is nice in the desert, especially when one is armed with the information that summers are often brutally hot, adding to the Old West ambiance.


We are heading to Picacho Peak KOA, a little more than halfway between Tombstone and home. The return down the highway is essentially the same, only in reverse. The mile markers and gas stations are helpful reminders that we are headed in the right direction. Border Patrol waived us through the checkpoint, which likely only slowed our roll by five minutes. It's Monday at around 10:00 AM. Commuter traffic, if any, has ceased, and the roads are mostly open. This is the ideal image of a perfect road: barely any vehicles ahead of us and vast expanses of land to either side. Vito has taken up residence in my lap while Jamie drives the truck. Hair Nation is playing on Siri with tracks I've heard so many times that I even know the punchlines the DJ repeats during his skits. As I try to distract myself with the landscape, I look forward to our next location.


Pulling off the highway, we are pushed onto a well-paved road that saddles up against the highway and deviates left towards horse property and ranches. The KOA is beautifully maintained, and following a swift check-in, we drive around the outskirts of the campground and load into our space. The time is about 2:00 PM, about an hour after check-in time opens. Most residents appear to use this as an overnight stay on their journey, so there aren't many ATVs or loud "toys" pulled out at this location. The lack of these machines makes for a quieter stay. Surrounding the camp are horses that can be seen with their tails flicking the afternoon flies as they lazily chew on grass and feed. In the backdrop are Arizona hills and bluffs leading to Picacho Peak State Park -- this is why we selected this campground. Picacho Peak is known for the wildflower spray that cascades over the valley.


We will head to the park after unhitching Maryanne (our Airstream), which is an easy task this time. The openness of the RV park allows for drama-free parking, and despite the number of trees for coverage, there's plenty of clearance. We settled into site 79 on Tarantula Trail, loaded the dogs back in the truck, grabbed our water containers, and went. We all need an excuse to stretch our legs and take in the scenery, and since the park is less than five minutes from the KOA, we have an ideal setup. What a significant difference from the gun shows, dusters, and children covered in ketchup and sugar in Tombstone.


Road leading to Picacho Peak State Park
Road leading to Picacho Peak State Park

Rumbling down the county road that flanks the highway, we turn right into the entry for Picacho Peak. The line for the park is steady but not too long, and our dogs are clearly over the truck ride already. Desperate for attention, they bellow when we reach the checkpoint. Jamie grumbles as he searches for his wallet while I try to hush our mighty defenders in the back. Everyone needs a good, long walk and a break.

Steps as part of an outdoor hike in Arizona.
Staircase path at Picacho Peak

The park's loops are short, with many turnoffs for parking, so guests can picnic and wander, taking in the scenery of the wildflowers and cacti. This truly is a sight to see in a place as dry as the desert, and one can find deep meaning in the oasis descriptive. The foliage manages to sip up the very last bits of hydration and step forward with beautiful colors and strong roots, which, amongst the vastness of the terrain, makes me very comforted and equally quite small.


Desert flower at Picacho Peak State Park
Desert flower at Picacho Peak State Park

Benny and Vito curiously inspect the grounds while staying on the trail. We are mindful of enjoying what we can yet still keep an eye on them so we don't disturb the wildlife or risk one of them getting bit or stung.

The desert's plant life leaves a lasting impression on me as we pile back into the truck and depart the park, passing the tourists, hikers, and a few cars that seem to be on an endless loop and unaware of their disassociated state. Perhaps it is the heat and the sun that has stolen their attention.


Having fulfilled our desire to explore, we wearily return to camp for an afternoon nap before we give the dogs a final tour and dig into supper. Walking around the grounds the sun is starting to set, and the light makes the valley glow with a soft golden light. Jamie prepares the Smokey Joe, and I prepare chicken and zucchini to grill. Just a bit of olive oil and lemon pepper to season, but not overwhelm.


I grab my phone to take a photo of the sunset and recall that, for some, it is the first night of Passover. Quickly, before the sun sets, I send the picture and wish a few friends a beautiful Pesach, then put my phone away and tuck in for the night. It's evenings like this that I appreciate going to bed early so I can embrace the morning with vigor. We will be on the road tomorrow, our last stop before we head home, and I don't want to miss a moment.


A picture of the sun setting in the southwestern United States.
Sunset at Picacho Peak, Arizona

 

Jamie and I do a lot of planning for our trips. We are heavy on research, checking reviews, location attractions, cost, and safety. What is important to mention is that no matter how much one plans, there must be a certain amount of space saved for error, accidents, and discomfort. If we weren't prepared for the occasional incident, we might as well just stay home in Nevada. Travel is for those who love adventure.


Upon leaving Picacho Peak, everything was perfect. We had an issue with our water tank that we would have to resolve before our next jaunt, but all in all, things were looking pretty good. We made it all the way to our following location, and that's where things went wrong. The directions to the park were unclear; the park was "not as advertised/photographed" and just looked poorly maintained. Indeed, it was not for us. I won't give the park's name, but it was somewhere around Laughlin that we had not been to before.


Tired and ready to be home, we decided to do just that. We didn't even park the rig. After taking a pit stop at the nearby gas station to fuel up and let the dogs roam for a few minutes, we got back on the road and ventured home. What could have been a four-hour drive turned into seven with traffic, but we were in our own home before sunset.


The following morning, we stripped our laundry and cleaned Maryanne from top to bottom before returning her to storage, where she would wait for our next adventure.


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