Why Yuma?

We waited a little too long to start planning where we would stay at the beginning of our 2023 trip. Yes, it was my fault; I didn’t think it was a big deal.

We knew we were heading to Arizona and that this year, instead of moving to a different state every three weeks we’d stay in one and see more of it. Three weeks in one place is not a bad amount of time to explore the area, but it certainly isn’t enough time to explore a state. By the time we started looking for a place to book, and there weren’t any. Not in Arizona, and not in Florida (where we were while planning). Well, except for in Yuma. There were a couple of RV places we could get in Yuma.

I was raised in Arizona, and I do not ever remember anyone saying they were going to visit Yuma. I couldn’t even think of anything to do there. We looked it up on YouTube and the only thing that came up was a park and an old jail. But, not like we had a choice so it was off to Yuma for three weeks.

We didn’t make it to Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, though we intended to go. We did make it to the East and West Wetlands. Honestly, I don’t know where one ended and the other began (or for sure if they are even next to each other), but they have a great trail. It winds along the Colorado River, switching from dirt hiking trails to sidewalks through parks full of people. Keep walking long enough and you’ll pass the jail, Colorado River State Historic Park, and wander downtown.

As far as I could tell downtown was one strip of shopping, restaurants, and bars. I’m not a big shopper, but the stores here are really interesting and fun to wander through. We did just that, then had an Italian dinner and walked back to the van in the wetland park. It turned out to be a really fun night and there was a lot more to do than we had the time for. Walking back in the dark between where the shops and people were and the desolate road back to the park felt a little shady though.

While in Yuma we went across the state border to California and boondocked in the Imperial Sand Dunes. I really wanted to get some good pictures of the dunes and I figured if we stayed the night we could get some pictures at dawn with great light.

I did a great deal of preparing, and even cut up peppers and onions for chili so we could just throw dinner together quickly and easily. Too bad I forgot a pan, bowls, and all utensils. Fortunately, there is a store right before the park that has just about anything you might need. We were also able to pick up a park pass while there.

We picked a spot in the wilderness area, took a walk around, and spent the evening in camping mode. The moon was full and there was no need to use a light when walking around at night. We only saw one car out there well before we decided on a place to stop for the night; we had the world to ourselves. And the animals. There were SO many different animal tracks.

Even the rabbits out here look tough.

The next day we went off on the hunt for the perfect dune pictures. Easy, right? Well. It turns out that the night before they had a Star Wars viewing. Parts of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi were filmed here after all. Between that and the typical weekend ATV activity, we couldn’t find an unmarked dune anywhere. It was still an amazing place to be though!

We left amazed at the beauty of the place but kind of disappointed we weren’t able to get the pictures we were looking for. But. Before leaving we talked to someone who said to come back on a Wednesday when there would be a lot fewer people, and the constant breeze would have had a chance to clean up a bit. Always talk to the locals!

It turns out that across the road from the ranger station (I don’t know if it was technically a ranger station, but close enough) you can walk on the dunes and take pictures to your heart’s content. Walking on the dunes is a bit of a workout, every step up involves slipping back down at least half as far as you just stepped up. I wore beach shoes and they filled with sand so fast that I finally got tired of stopping to dump them out and just took them off and walked barefoot. It’s really fun and the dunes are so different from anywhere else that you kind of feel like you are hiking on another planet (hence the Star Wars filming).

I did get some great pictures that I think I can use for some artwork, now I just have to put aside some time for editing and painting. Soon!