A Visit to Arizona

The Arizona desert is a beautiful place and my next few blog posts will feature my recent trip there to visit family and the local wildlife. My mom and dad are currently outside of Wickenburg, Arizona for the winter. My uncle lives in Payson, so I put together a trip that combined visiting the family and doing some photography. I hadn’t been out to Arizona in about 5 years or so, so I was due for a visit. When I was last there, I wasn’t into photography like I am now. I didn’t have the equipment that I now have, and I had no interest in wildlife photography. So this was an excellent chance to take a few days to recharge the brain and body, visit family that I rarely see, and add a few birds to my life list. And possibly take a few photos along the way.

First, here’s a few statistics about the trip:

5 days on the ground
970 miles driven (far more than I had anticipated)
68 bird species seen (not bad considering I only had 1 full day and 2 half days for photography)
27 new life birds (and some cool ones at that)
2 reptiles seen (1 Clark’s spiny lizard and one rattlesnake I almost stepped on)
3348 images taken (ok…that’s more than a few. Surprised?)

I’ll have plenty of wildlife pictures to post in the days to come, along with the rattlesnake story but first, let me introduce you to the folks. Click the images to view larger.

Meet the folks. Bill and Barbara Libbe

Mom and dad live in a 5th wheel, which is really a recreational vehicle that has to be towed by a big pickup truck. This sucker is 36 feet long, and when parked, has slide outs that makes for a comfortable living space for 2 people (and 2 Siamese cats). They travel back and forth between Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida and manage RV parks run by the Escapees RV Club. They love the lifestyle, and I have to admit, I have a bit of wanderlust about the lifestyle. Imagine the places I could go with my camera and just spend as much time enjoying the area and shooting photos as I want. When I’ve had enough, pack up the “rig” and move on to the next destination. Sounds great … except for the part about working and managing the RV parks.

After meeting up with mom and dad, we drove up to Payson to visit my uncle and his friend Carla. That’s a 150 mile, 3 hour drive, so you can see where the mileage came from. We spent a night at my uncle’s and had a great visit. I hadn’t seen them in 4 years since our Alaska cruise, so it was really nice to get to spend some time with them.

The Family. Can you tell how bright the sun is there?

My uncle has a great house with a spectacular view of the Mogollon rim. The backyard faces east, so the sunrises there can be spectacular. The morning I was there I did a time-lapse of the sunrise with my GoPro, and I took some stills as well. There weren’t a lot of clouds in the sky, so the sunrise wasn’t anything spectacular. But it was great standing out there in the 42 degree temperature with my mom standing next to me and a hummingbird feeding on a feeder just 10 feet away. I could get used to that!!

Payson, Arizona
Payson Sunrise

I shot the sunrise with my 5DIII which has an HDR setting and creates the HDR jpeg for me automatically. So this one is straight out of the camera. I like it when I don’t have to spend a great deal of time processing the image. The time-lapse came out OK, but I placed the GoPro in a really poor spot. There is some ground clutter in the images that I didn’t see while setting up the camera in the dark. Oh, well. I’ll just have to try to do better next time.

On the way back to Wickenburg from Payson, we drove through Jerome, Arizona. Jerome is an old copper mining town built on the side of a mountain. It looks like a really cool place to spend an afternoon walking through the shops, or drinking a cold beverage and watching the shadows move across the desert below. We stopped at a viewpoint and took the traditional photo with the gorgeous background.

My mom with her favorite son.

Back in Wickenburg later that afternoon, we had to have some of the local Mexican cuisine. Our family loves Mexican food, so we will almost always pick a Mexican restaurant when available. Anita’s Cocina in Wickenburg serves fantastic Mexican dishes. Mom and I enjoyed the fish tacos (one of my favorite Mexican dishes) while dad had a couple of enchiladas. After driving 150 miles back from Payson, the margarita was especially tasty!!

Bellies full of good Mexican food bring big smiles!

In my next posts, I’ll talk about the places I went for wildlife photography and some of the images that I took. Overall, I had a tremendous time and I’m really glad I could put the trip together. I had been working on the trip for 6-8 weeks and just couldn’t find the right combination of dates, flights and time off to make it all work. It finally all fell together in mid-February and I’m so glad it did. Although Faith wasn’t able to go with me, and I missed her while I was out there, the time in the desert was quite cathartic.


  • Debbie Tubridy

    March 27, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Nice trip so far Michael … can’t wait to see more of the images 🙂

  • Josh

    March 28, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Very nice Michael! Look forward to more!

  • Jess Yarnell

    March 28, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Nice to see you having fun with your family. Now hurry up and finish with your bird IDs so you can finish making your photographer friends jealous! 🙂

  • Uncle Don

    March 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    You did a GREAT job as usual. Great sunrise with no clouds. Enjoyed your visit very much. Hope to see you in the near future. Looking forward to your future post.