Overland Route - Sonoran Desert Traverse


Gone Traveling
Dec 31, 2020
Yorktown, Virginia
Sonoran Desert Traverse
by Chet Szymecki​

The Sonoran Desert Traverse spans 320+ miles using the Godwin Jeep Trail, Bradshaw Truck Trail, and Agua Caliente Road to link the Salton Sea, in California, with greater Phoenix, in Arizona. My amazing adventure lasted six full days although it could have easily lasted a few longer and been even more enjoyable - there is just so much to see along the way!

This morning I am many miles deep into the desert and I am expecting to travel another day without seeing anyone else. There's something special that you feel traveling alone in the desert so far away from the rest of humanity. If you are male, female, young, old, etc., I would encourage you to venture into the unknown natural world, alone. This was an unexpected tight spot in a wash just south of Box Canyon. It was so tight that both of my mirrors were folded in and the Maxtrax on the side of my Four Wheel Camper were less than an inch from a section of the wall. It was an easy obstacle to clear provided you crawl through.

Sunsets in the desert seem to distort time. Everything slows down as the sun dips below the horizon and those final few rays of light reflect off the atmosphere racing towards a darkness they will never reach. This will be another night sleeping alone in the desert - I can't explain how peaceful and relaxing it is sleeping in a remote area where there is no noise or man made objects to clutter the surroundings. To me, large cities represent the greatest failure of all mankind.

Venturing deep into Red Canyon after dark was a surreal experience. The mud canyon walls were easily 100+ feet tall and my primary concern was the remote possibility of a section breaking off. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore in hear I could have spent an entire day. Next time I visit I plan to camp down in here for at least a few days.

Camping high on a hill overlooking the desert twenty-five miles west of Quartzsite, Arizona, the day prior to arriving at one of two upcoming adventure events. The desert has begun to bloom in some areas and the colors are beautiful. You know I'm a crawlin' king snake baby, and I rules my den...

Once I passed the Red Canyon and continued east, the roads smoothed out and my pace through the Sonoran Desert picked up. In many areas I was able to cruise through the desert at 20-25 mph. My plans included stopping in Quartzsite, Arizona, to attend the 2024 Truck Camper Adventure Rally and Desert Rendezvous which were one week apart! I had an amazing time at both events, examined hundreds of rigs, and met so many wonderful happy people.

After stopping in Quartzsite I jumped onto a section of the Arizona Peace Trail to a point where I would rejoin the Sonoran Desert Traverse to complete the miles I have remaining. This photo is of a section of the Arizona Peace Trail which passes under I-10 east of Quartzsite. Maybe a stock full size truck could squeeze through but my AEV Prospector and FWC combo could not. Fortunately, I found an old barbed-wire gate nearby and used it to continue moving eastward.

I slept in the Gila Bend Mountains last night and took time this morning to prepare myself a fine breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice and milk. Earlier, my eyes slowly opened as the sun began to rise - I listened to birds and insects begin their daily chores. It was a cool but comfortable night, it is becoming warmer now as we move towards spring. For lunch I stopped in this wash, chased lizards, and took time to enjoy a fine and relaxing meal. One of the things I enjoy most about overland adventure is no longer rushing to squeeze in a meal - my meals are healthier and I now have the time to enjoy every single one. Slow down and enjoy life - you deserve it.

I stopped to explore another ghost town, this one is named Sundad and served as a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients a century ago. This may sound funny but I am beginning to consider rusty shot-up metal objects in the desert a type of art.

Once I completed the trail I resupplied and began to quickly head east to complete another trail and attend my third Starship launch - the first two were two much fun! I stopped to sleep at Texas Canyon in New Mexico. Just a few miles south of here in the Dragoon Mountains is where legendary Apache warrior Cochise fought his final battle. He is buried "in the rocks above one of his favorite camps...now called the Cochise Stronghold." I will return someday to sleep in those same mountains.

After spending the past few months exploring the Sonoran Desert it feels strange knowing that I have begun my departure. The desert is slowly waking up after hibernating for the winter and now I am saying goodbye. I will return and I will remain longer next time - I hear some never leave. If you have an aversion to pin-striping you might want to avoid travel in the desert. I guess I'm indifferent to dents or damage on my Prospector although I do make a reasonable effort to minimize it. The payoff is worth it in spades though considering the places I have visited that few others have ever seen.
hey chet,
i enjoy your posts but, when i see the 'shot up' targets in my travels, i dont think of :
"This may sound funny but I am beginning to consider rusty shot-up metal objects in the desert a type of art. I would guess that this art form exists mostly in these United States since few other nations respect our God-given right to defend ourselves and our property."

i see mostly public signs, and other non-target practicing shooting targets. And i am hopeful, that i am not driving over the crest of a hill, when another shooter is shooting at a speed sign as i come by.
i would hope folks would respect the past, and not shoot things up to put holes in things.

good luck with your travels.

I have been around shot up road signs and old cars most of my life. I have known a lot of those shooters. Invariably they are either drunk, stupidly careless or both.

I have been shooting since I was about 7 and own rifles (5), shotguns (3) and a handgun -- and have a few iron-clad rules:
1 - when the booze comes out the guns are locked away -- always.
2 - always shoot into a topographic backdrop like a hill or such.
3 - never shoot up public or private property, even if it looks abandoned.
4 - pick up my brass and casings.
5 - a gun is a tool not a toy.
6 - assume all guns are loaded and chambered all the time.

We do not travel with a firearm of any sort.

Over the years some of my relatives, schoolmates and acquaintances have been killed with guns. Except for some suicides the deaths have been from violations of either rule 1 or 6, above.

Shot up road signs are not art - no more than finding human excrement on the trail is art.
I don't like that kind of art, but art is strange and appeals to people differently. Personally I do not like seeing bullet holes in things... even or maybe even especially old things. (maybe that's because I'm old?)
Thanks for your TR - nothing like the desert to reflect on the beauty of the natural world!!

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