When minds get clogged, the clogged get outside.
The car grabbed its way down a washboard desert road that might have had a gravel surface at one time. The afternoon sun was heading toward a rendezvous with the horizon.
You’ve seen the road, or one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands like it. It’s that dirt road you see cut into the desert below you when flying at 35,000 feet across the American West. It’s the road that veers off the road that turns off the gravel road that veers off the main highway somewhere in the landscape.
Ironwood Forest National Monument, located in southern Arizona, is a gem of the Sonoran Desert. It is a place where visitors can experience the beauty and diversity of the region’s flora and fauna. Camping in the Monument is an excellent way to fully immerse oneself in the natural wonders of this unique landscape.
Over the last few years, I camped in Ironwood Forest National Monument on weekends. This road was one that I passed, and this trip at the last minute, I decided to make that left. This road was less traveled, and the bumps and thumps emphasized that condition. There was a rise in the road, and my Honda CR-V EX nicely handled the deep drop into an arroyo, and a slow, steep climb up the other side.
There was a wide spot in the road at the top and the remains of an old corral and cattle chute. The sun was lower now; I pulled in to check out the site. It looked like an excellent place to camp; there was no sign of anyone else camping in this area. I set up the tent and got the campsite ready.
The Monument offers various camping options, including car camping and backcountry camping. We opted for backcountry camping, which required us to hike a short distance from our car to our campsite. It was a bit of a challenge, but the payoff was worth it. We were able to set up camp in a secluded spot, surrounded by beautiful desert scenery. The night sky was clear, and we were able to see an abundance of stars, which was a magical experience.
During the day, we explored the Monument on foot, hiking along the trails that wind through the area. We saw a variety of wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, coyotes, and various bird species. The plant life was equally fascinating, with a mix of cacti, wildflowers, and ironwood trees.
One of the highlights of our camping trip was a visit to the Ragged Top Mountain Trail, a challenging but rewarding hike that offered panoramic views of the surrounding area. The trail took us through rugged terrain, including a steep incline, but we were rewarded with spectacular views of the desert and the mountains.
Fire blazing, I made a quick dinner grilling the defrosted salmon over the mesquite wood fire. Basmati rice on the Coleman stove and some steamed broccoli completed the feast. Sitting at my table and enjoying the meal, I looked at the darkening sky. My back was to the tent in my camp gear, and across the table, the sky was fire orange, silhouetting the stand of saguaro cacti all around me.
Ironwood Forest National Monument is located west of Interstate 10, exiting at either Eloy or Red Rock. It is a virtually undeveloped national monument open to dispersed camping anywhere. While protecting a unique landscape thick with saguaro cacti and pockmarked with jagged remnants of volcanoes, Ironwood Forest also protects remnants of ancestral populations. There is no visitor center, two designated group campgrounds, and the rest is for people like me wanting to drink in an Arizona sunset. Check out Where have all the wildflowers in gone Ironwood Forest National Monument?