Hunting Spring Wildflowers in Arizona

Spring flowers in Superior AZ

Happy Spring!

April, 2014 – Roosevelt Lake is situated near several classic Arizona scenic drives, and during our stay the spring flowers were just coming into bloom.

Flowering ocotillo and mountain in Arizona

The ocotillo cactus light up with fiery tips

Saguaro and flowers at Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Parking lot shot!!

Flaming ocotillo flowers

Flaming ocotillo flowers up close

We went to Boyce Thompson Arboretum hoping for some awesome wildflower photos. To our surprise, the parking lot was so loaded with wildflowers that we got our fill of photographing them out there and never made it past the gate!!

Hedgehog cactus in bloom

A plain hedgehog cactus springs to life
with a magenta flower

Then we came across Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, a wonderful book written by two wildflower-loving photographers that describes exactly when and where the Arizona flowers bloom.

Bingo! We had a new travel guide.

One of the recommendations in Wild in Arizona is to take Route 288 from the east end of Roosevelt Lake and follow it up into the mountains.

This made for a fabulous day trip, as the road quickly rose from the Sonoran Desert floor up into the pines.

Flowers and cactus Arizona Route 188

Brilliant yellow flowers line Route 188

Stopping at least a hundred times to get photos of the landscapes, the flowers and the views, we soon found ourselves in the cool air of the mountains.

Saguaro cactus ribs and lupine flowers

Lupine decorate the ribbed skeleton of a saguaro cactus

This road is very little traveled, and it was a delight to do such a scenic drive and see only two or three other cars the whole day.

On another day we drove the immensely popular Apache Trail (Route 88 between Apache Junction and the Roosevelt Dam).

This old favorite of ours was packed to the gills with people out for a Sunday drive — on a Wednesday!!

Yellow flowers bloom above Roosevelt Lake

Four Peaks peeks out behind a spray of yellow flowers

The Trail was like Grand Central Station the whole way from the dam to Apache Junction, even on the rather gnarly dirt portion of the road.

For us, the most scenic part of this drive is the southwestern half that is paved.

Bridge by Roosevelt Dam

Brittlebush bloom by the Roosevelt Dam bridge

Mark and I used to participate in a wild summer bicycle race series that was an out-and-back, go-for-broke charge on this road between Apache Junction and the end of the pavement past Tortilla Flat.

The races were after work on Wednesday nights, all summer long, when the air temps were around 110 degrees.

The sizzling black pavement under our pedals made the air hitting our legs feel even hotter.

RVs on Arizona's Apache Trail

Even the dirt portion of the Apache Trail is full of traffic!

Invariably, if there was any water left in our water bottles at the end of this 39 mile race, it was like hot tea. Crazy as it sounds, those races were a blast!

This is a glorious road that is full of unprotected sweeping turns. It twists and winds and soars and falls through incredible climbs and descents.

The scenery is spectacular everywhere you look, perhaps even moreso when you are in hot pursuit of your rival up ahead!

But now, as Mark carefully steered the truck around one particularly tight hairpin turn, we saw a scene that you hope never to see.

Wrecker on the Apache Trail

The hairpin turns on the Apache Trail turn stargazing to tragedy

There was a wrecker with a crane stretched out over the canyon below.

A cop was waving the cars by. We rolled down the window as we passed and asked if a car had gone over the edge. He nodded.

“Did he live?” I asked.

“No.” He said flatly.

My breath caught in my throat.


Fairy Duster flower

A fairy duster flower

We peered over the side as we drove by but couldn’t see anything.

Later, we learned that a group of Chinese foreign exchange college students had come out this way in two cars to do some star gazing the night before.

They hadn’t been drinking, but the driver in the second car must have fallen asleep at the wheel in the wee hours of the morning when they were driving home.

The passenger in the front seat woke up as the car was going over the edge.

Miraculously, he crawled out from under the wreckage after it crashed 200′ below, and he was eventually lifted to safety.

Bee on a flower

The bees were out in force

Wow. This was a lot to ponder, and it stayed with us for days.

We have experienced so many different kinds of things in our travels, but encountering death on the road — or at sea, as we did off Acapulco — is something that sears the heart.

Spring Flowers

A spring flower bouquet by the side of the road

Cool flowers





Four wheelers on Hewitt Canyon Road

No flowers in Hewitt Canyon yet, but lots of ATVs!

Luckily, we had wildflowers to hunt down, and our wildflower book led us to some back roads we had never known of before.

Hewitt Canyon is a beautiful spot near Superior that is sometimes filled with little blue lupine flowers swirling around bases of the many cactus that fill the hillsides. The photos in the book are breathtaking!!

But we were too early for the lupine and they weren’t out yet when we visited! Nevertheless, the canyon was still gorgeous.



Diamondback rattle snake

We startle a diamondback rattler in the road

The rattlesnakes were out, however, and we came across one sunning himself in the middle of the road.

Not wanting run him over, but needing to get him to move, Mark snuck out of the truck to get a few pictures.

Mark’s footsteps were enough to rouse the snake, and as he approached, the snake quickly got into striking position and wriggled to the edge of the road.

Mark ran after him snapping photos!

Diamondback rattle snake

He hears Mark’s footsteps and gets ready to strike

Desert poppies

Lovely yellow desert poppies

As we wandered around central Arizona’s byways and backways on our hunt for wildflowers, we found many beauties.

Flowers lift their faces to the sun

Flowers lift their faces to the sun…

This might not have been the most spectacular wildflower season Arizona has seen, but the ones we found were as pretty as could be.

Yellow wildflowers

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