Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Thursday, February 24, 2022

All Better

Sunrise near Twin Peaks Campground, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

I forgot my tripods.  Not such an auspicious beginning to a solo road trip, but there are quite a few possible mistakes and omissions on a trip like this and I'm working up to making them all, ideally not all at once. I can laugh now, but I’ll admit that when I realized they weren’t in the van I might have been a bit frustrated. Oh, well.  Lessons learned.

This voyage materialized around meeting a Tucson-based friend to camp a couple of days at Cochise Stronghold.  There seemed no harm in hitting southern Arizona on my own before our rendezvous.

Alamo Campground

I grabbed one of the four spots at first come - first served Alamo Campground in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. If I were superstitious I’d say that was significant omen of good luck.  I managed to use rocks and my camera bag as makeshift tripods and to use photo-voodoo (higher ISO, shallow depth of field, image stabilization, and shooting in bursts) to bridge the gap.  Oh, and it seemed the perfect time to do some ICM.

Backlight on the Desert View Trail, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

As tempted as I was to stay there, I moved to Twin Peaks Campground; 200+ spaces of parking lot purgatory.  I had an agenda for hiking and shooting nearby.  Last season I was shooting the (highly recommended) Ajo Mountain Loop for a magazine and made four trips around the 21-mile loop in a little over a day.  As much as I love that drive, I decided to explore other areas instead.

4-foot Border Wall Near Quitobaquito, 2018

30-foot Border Wall Near Quitobaquito, 2022

I had my first look at the 30-foot border wall on my way out. ORPI is so close to the border that I got a text from Verizon welcoming me to Mexico. I have lots of thoughts about the wall, but will let the image speak for itself. There’s no sense stirring the political pot here.

My friend who lives in Ajo was kind enough to offer her driveway to me and the Raven for a night.  She’s a ranger (though she’d say she’s more of an administrator) at the Monument. We shared wine (always a plus), took a little ride around town in her mini, and she was kind enough to share her insights about her park and its proximity to the international border. Check out the Sonoran Desert Inn for art and accommodations if you're in town.

Sunset on the Grasslands, Cochise Stronghold

I met Jeff at the Horseshoe Café in Benson.  A burger lunch tasted good after three nights of camping.  It seemed the right season to camp in Southern Arizona, and it really was my turn to come his way.  I loved my first real trip to the Dragoon Mountains.  These expansive oak grasslands are typical of Southern Arizona and offer a nice change for me. All the granitic rocks multiply the photographic possibilities, too, and what a joy to be dispersed camping, catching up with a friend.

And Jeff loaned me a tripod.  All better.

Yucca Sunrise, Cochise Stronghold

The road was just rough enough for me to appreciate the competence of the van’s suspension.  As is typical, it worsened as we got further out. The Raven did great.

Electric sunset, Cochise Stronghold

Not for the first time, nor the last, we were reminded that a sunset might not be a bust when I think it is.  We turned over the idea of giving up on the overcast afternoon when this started to happen. I’m feeling humble, and fortunate.

Thanks for riding along. Lets see what I can forget next time.

More images are in the Southern Arizona Gallery on the website.


  1. I always enjoy your posts <3 Thank you for sharing !

  2. Thanks for the read, L. It's nice to know that someone is out there paying attention!