Sunset in the Valley of the Sun

Valley of the Sun

Valley of the Sun, Valley of Fire, Death Valley, Yuma, notice a trend in our travels? All these places are hot, way too hot in the summer. Winter never really arrives in the Valley of the Sun and this is ideal for us and our RV travels. While every other state in the nation faces winter storms, we are hoping that it stays cool enough to be outside.

November in the Valley of the Sun is hot enough for us. Don’t expect to find us here in August.

This spring we spent most of our time in the warmest sections of southern Arizona and southern California. This fall we went from almost freezing in northern Utah and arrived in Saint George about a week too early. It was the second week of October and it was still hot in Saint George. Not nearly as hot as it is in the summer.

Now we are crossing southern Arizona again. We arrived just as the temperatures cool down and it is a wonderful time to be here.

Valley of the Sun, sunset

Wandering slightly off-topic

While writing my Valley of the Sun post I found that I was wandering off this topic and describing how we decide where we want to be. So I stripped it out of this post and put it in a stand-alone article. This new article belongs to the subject of planning. Even though it was written after my other planning articles, it is an overview that describes how we decide where we want to go. So here is the link. Chasing 70 degrees

Valley of the Sun islands (mountain peaks}

Geography and Geology

The Valley of the Sun sits on about 15,000 feet of “brash”. No, I am not talking about brash attitude (adjective) but rather the noun brash. Yes, the noun brash has nearly fallen into antiquated use. It means a pile of loose objects. In geology, the brash describes loose objects delivered by water. The Salt River washed all of this fluvial geomorphic deposit (brash) from its 6,300 miles of drainage. The Salt River filled the valley of the sun full of rocks, sand, and silt.

looking from White tanks into the Valley of the Sun

So the valley of the sun is filled with brash which has washed down from Tonto Mountains which are just to the north. Eons of erosion have flattened the mountains and filled the valley so effectively that we don’t even notice. The fill is so effective that the valley of the sun has a few mountain peaks sticking up out of the valley like islands in a flat ocean.

White Tanks Mountain
White Tanks Mountain

Sonoran Desert

We have been in the Sonoran Desert since we left the mountains east of San Diego. The Sonoran is different than the Mojave Desert mostly based on elevation. The Mojave Desert is at a higher elevation than the Sonoran. The Sonoran Desert reaches all the way into northern Mexico. The northern dividing line is around the area south of Joshua Tree. One of the big distinctions is that in the Mojave Desert there are no columnar cactus — such as the saguaro in the picture. All the pictures you see of the saguaro cactus, with outstretched arms, mean that these cacti are at least one hundred years old.

Columnar Saguaro Cactus
Saguaro Cactus

Hohokam 

The valley of the sun was first inhabited by the Indians now referred to as the Hohokam people. They were known for crop growing and their extensive use of irrigation systems along the area of the Salt River and Gila River to the south. Even though they used primitive tools, the irrigation systems rivaled Egypt and China. North of here the Ancient Pueblo people (previously described as Anastasi) were trading with the Hohokam for about the previous two thousand years. Even two thousand years ago the valley of the sun was extensively used for agriculture.

Hohokam Petroglyphs
Hohokam Petroglyphs

Islands

As mentioned, mountain peaks dot the valley of the sun like islands. Each of these islands provides for a different habitat for various plants and animals that are not on the desert floor. I wanted to get a picture of a Gila Monster, but since they are nocturnal we didn’t find one. Gila Monsters are moving into winter hibernation about this time so chances of seeing one are decreasing.

As a side note we spent a couple of days on the very south edge of the valley of the sun in Gila Bend. There we learned that the word Gila means crazy thus the Gila Monster is a crazy lizard. Probably because it is most abundant in Gila Bend.

So since I couldn’t find a Gila Monster, you will just have to do with a nice picture of these mule deer. The only way we saw them is that one of them was “calling”, probably for a fawn, making a sound like “mehh”. I have seen lots of deer but heard very few. I’m glad they stood still long enough for me to take a picture.

Mule Deer
Mule Deer

Marketing to snowbirds

Marketing efforts, by developers in the 1920s coined the label “Valley of the Sun” as a description of the entire Salt River Valley. The valley includes Phoenix and all the cities in the metro area. Presumably, the label “Valley of the Sun” appeals to people from both every state (except possibly Hawaii and maybe Florida) and all of Canada. I’m sure that other monikers were discussed but “Valley of the Sun” prevailed. Perhaps “Crazy Hot” was presented and rejected. Gila Hot would have meant the same thing but “Valley of the Sun” was the winner.

Huge

The Valley of the Sun is really big. The size is similar to the Los Angles Basin (without as many people) and dwarfs Las Vegas. The Valley of the Sun is at the corner of Interstate 10 and Interstate 17. My guess is that it is about 70 miles across the metro area. If you are driving, the freeway system is excellent. Make sure to take advantage of the loop roads 101, 202, and 303. These roads bypass the oldest parts of Interstate 10 and save lots of time.

Besides being a golf mecca in the winter, perhaps one of the most attractive features is during major league spring training. This is professional baseball at its best. Every player is really trying hard to make it on the roster.

Last spring we couldn’t stay long enough to see any of the games, because every RV site we could find was already reserved and our new RV wasn’t ready for off-grid camping. So we left the Valley of the Sun quickly for Las Vegas. After our departure, the Covid Virus canceled most of the games anyway.

I am stunned at how many people live here. I am certain that I couldn’t handle the summer heat. Staying outside in the summer would just not be an option.

14 thoughts on “Valley of the Sun”

  1. I’ve lived in the Phoenix area for nearly 20 years and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve learned about it in your post – well written, Scott!

    1. You are very kind. We had a great time seeing you and Lynda — for the very first time. Hope to see you out on the road.

  2. I am always amazed at the depth of your knowledge and research. you bring to travel blog.
    We really enjoy vicariously the places you travel.

  3. Nice write up on the Valley, Scott. That’s where I spent My first 18 years and then dozens of visits in the years since then. You should have shown some of those mountains sticking up from the Valley floor. Camelback, Squaw Peak, and South Mountain were all of our haunts as kids and teens. Thanks and best for the upcoming Holidays. Chip

  4. I just want you to know it has been fun watching and reading about this amazing adventure you have been on. Blessings to you both. Florella Georgie

  5. Great article Scott, we really enjoy your blog and look forward to every post. Thanks for taking the time to write, keep it up!

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