Ah the glorious desert southwest! It’s hard to describe the pleasure of dry camping in the middle of the desert southwest during the winter to someone that has never done so before. The joy of waking up to clear skies most every day, the freedom of living off the grid, enjoying life at your own pace – no bills to pay, no schedule, no daily camping fees to consume your bank account, wearing shorts and feeling the warm rays of the sun on your legs as you plan the days adventure, and oh the adventures, the desert is a cornucopia of things to see and do. Let’s look at five activities you can enjoy in the desert that don’t include watching TV or Wi-Fi connectivity!
– Wildlife watching. With an environment as harsh as the desert, you wouldn’t think there would be much to look at, but you will be surprised at the birds and animals that have learned to survive. Large mammals like bighorn sheep can be found throughout most of the deserts southwest including places as harsh as Death Valley. Coyotes can be found stalking mice and other small mammals. Many fascinating birds can be seen in the desert including the cactus wren, hawks, owls, ravens, vultures and of course the roadrunner. Rarely seen animals to keep your eyes open for are the desert tortoise, the occasional tarantula and those that might cause injury like rattlesnakes, scorpions and Gila monsters, though typically dormant in the winter. Horses and burros that were turned loose by miners over one hundred years ago still roam free and are likely to be found near water sources. Don’t be surprised if you are awoken during the night by a braying burro.
– Photography. There is no shortage of subject matter in the desert. The dramatic landscape and vegetation offer many opportunities for award winning photos. As mentioned above, you may come face to face with a bighorn sheep or other desert critter that wants its photo taken. Then there are the spectacular sunrises and sunsets to capture. Be sure to have the camera ready during the golden hour after sunrise and before sunset each day as the desert glows!
– Soaking in your surroundings. Sitting around the campfire enjoying the wide open space with your loved ones while sipping a hot beverage as you are being serenaded by the coyotes howling at the rising moon. And yes, witnessing a full moon rising over the desert will cause you to hoot and howl to your loved one to “come look”.
– Daily explorations: It’s amazing how many unique and interesting places there are to explore in the desert via jeep, ATV, motorcycle or on foot. There are old mining camps, native America ruins, petroglyphs, old Spanish trails, abandoned stagecoach stops, pioneer inscriptions carved in stone, plane wrecks, old railroads, forgotten graves, old forts, coke ovens and a host of unique and interesting geological formations like; slot canyons, spires, caves, hot springs, odd rock formations, buttes, arches, grottoes and more.
– Rock hound / prospect. The unique geology of the desert is heaven to those that like to scratch in the dirt for treasure. Many precious metals including gold have been successfully mined through the years. Precious stones along with petrified wood can be found in different locations as well. Old tailing piles from mining days are favorites for both prospectors and rock hounds to score a nice find or two.