7 days, 2300 miles: December 2022 Arizona road trip

The last seven days went by in a blur. I drove 2300 miles and made it to within two miles of the Mexican border while looking for Agave parviflora in habitat.

Here’s a quick roundup of my December 2022 Arizona road trip. Many detailed posts to follow in the next weeks.

This is what I did:

Visited new and old friends

Nancy Mumpton has been an online friend for years. On this trip, I finally got to meet her in person and see her Phoenix-area garden.

➤ Click here to read my post about Nancy's garden

Nancy and me next to a very large Ferocactus wislizeni in her front yard

Jenny Stocker (many of you know her from her blog Rock Rose) and her husband recently moved from Austin to Tucson. They live in an area of jaw-dropping beauty, surrounded by large boulders, saguaros, and other desert vegetation. The view from their house and garden is magical.

➤ Click here to see where Jenny lives and gardens now

Jenny Stocker in front of her house in Tucson (Agave weberi decorated for Christmas on the right)

Jeff Moore is the most amazing succulent grower I know. His greenhouses hold 200,000 plants in over 2,000 taxa. He’s one of the hardest working people I know, and one helluva good guy.

➤ Click here to read my post about Jeff Moore’s Arid Adaptations Nursery

Jeff Moore and two of his four dogs

Ron Parker is a desert explorer extraordinaire. He has seen more Arizona agaves in habitat than anyone else (not an exaggeration) and has written an amazing book on domesticated agaves and their ethnobotanical context called Chasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest (see my review here). Ron took me to Agua Fria National Monument 40 miles north of Phoenix where we saw hundreds of petroglyphs dating back to 1200-1400. This was an outing I will never forget.

Ron Parker at Agua Fria National Monument

Enjoyed gardens

While I didn’t go to any botanical gardens on this trip, I still saw plenty of plants.

Aloidendron dichotomum in full bloom at Bach’s Cactus Nursery. Bach’s has beautiful plantings on their 11-acre property.

Flowering silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) and Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ at Bach’s

Agave parryi and petrified wood at Bach’s

Cactus wonderland at Bach’s

Nancy Mumpton’s backyard in Phoenix

Nancy Mumpton’s backyard in Phoenix

Totem pole cactus with Santa hats in Nancy Mumpton’s front yard

Agave ‘Emerald Envy’ and others in front of Ron Parker’s house

Agave ovatifolia in Ron Parker’s backyard

Agave marmorata in Ron Parker’s backyard

Ron Parker’s backyard

Jenny Stocker’s patio in Tucson

Jenny Stocker’s patio

Vignette in Jenny Stocker’s front garden

Jenny Stocker’s front garden

Opuntias at Jeff Moore’s place

Opuntia santa-rita at a street corner in Tucson

Checked out nurseries

I stopped by Bach’s Cactus Nursery in Tucson...

➤ Click here to read my post about Bach's Greenhouse Cactus Nursery

...Arizona Cactus Sales in Chandler...

8 ft. Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) may seem expensive at $5,000, but a specimen this size is almost impossible to find

...and Jeff Moore’s Arid Adaptations north of Tucson:

Jeff next to a humongous Agave xylonacantha growing in one of his greenhouses

Bought plants and rocks

I didn’t leave the nurseries I visited empty handed. Here’s my haul—not just plants, rocks, too:

I bought 200 lbs. of petrified wood at a rock shop in Quartzsite, AZ

Agave chazaroi and Euphorbia canariensis

➤ Click here to read about my plant haul

Saw agaves, cacti, and other succulents in habitat

The main focus of this trip was to see desert plants in habitat. Ron Parker took me to Agua Fria National Monument where we found Agave chrysantha and Agave parryi in addition to breathtaking petroglyphs. Jeff Moore took me on a walk in the Tucson Mountains where I saw saguaros, chollas, barrel cacti, and Mammillaria grahamii. And did some exploring on my own along Ruby Road in far southern Arizona to scout for Agave parviflora (successfully).

➤ Click here to read my post about petroglyphs, agaves, and cacti at Agua Fria National Monument.

➤ Click here to read my post about looking for Agave parviflora along the Mexican border.

Opuntia engelmannii 

Mammillaria grahamii

Escobaria vivipara

Echinocereus rigidissimus

Agave chrysantha

Agave parryi

Dasylirion wheeleri

Agave palmeri

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens, not leaved out) and Agave palmeri

Agave parviflora, one of the smallest agave species

Agave parviflora

Agave parviflora

Discovered pre-Columbian rock art

As I already mentioned, Ron Parker took me to a remote location in Agua Fria National Monument where there’s an abundance of petroglyphs near pueblos built by a mysterious people archeologists refer to as the Perry Mesa Tradition. The petroglyphs are typically on cliff faces, and to see them required some iffy scrambling around on rocks and through cat-claw acacia thickets. The next day, my body ached in places I didn’t even know I had!

Click here to read my post about petroglyphs, agaves, and cacti at Agua Fria National Monument.

Ron Parker scrambling down a cliff side

Man on Fire, a rare painted petroglyph

Sun, deer, shaman, and other petroglyphs

Deer are among the most common subjects depicted in these petroglyphs

One of many metates we found. They were used to grind corn into flour.

Immersed myself in the beauty of the desert

For me, simply being in the desert is incredibly invigorating. Beautiful clouds are the icing on the cake.

Colorado River near Parker

Colorado River near Parker

Mojave Desert along Highway 95 between Parker and Quartzsite

Mojave Desert along Highway 95 between Parker and Quartzsite

Near Parker Dam

Highway 95 near Parker

Rolling hills and grasslands in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, near the Mexican border

Saguaro in Saguaro National Park

Selfie on saguaro in Saguaro National Park

Encountered sketchy wildlife

I’m talking about these shady characters:

I encountered them in many places. They sure produce a lot of fecal matter. The biggest challenge while looking for petroglyphs in Agua Fria National Monument was avoiding their poop piles.

Filled up with cheap gas

Gas in Davis was $4.39 this morning at a discount gas station. Gas in Tucson:

The cheapest gas I saw was $2.91 at an ARCO next to I-10. This road trip would have cost me quite a bit more if I’d stayed in California!


Usually I start planning my road trips weeks or even months ahead of time. This one was a completely spontaneous decision. My work schedule was unexpectedly light, the weather was still good, I had a  newly minted California Middle Class Tax Refund debit card in my wallet, so I hit the road. The spur-of-the-moment aspect made this one of my best road trips yet.


© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. What a fabulous trip! (California Middle Class Tax Refund, what?!?) That Agave parviflora is HOT! And I can't wait to see your photos from Jenny's and Nancy Mumpton's gardens. Your adventures are almost as good as hitting the road myself. Almost.

    1. The tax refund appeared out of the blue. I had no idea it was coming. Felt nice to get a windfall :-)

      Someday you and I have to go on a desert road trip. It would be epic.

  2. What an amazing trip, Gerhard. I'm envious that you got to visit Jenny's new garden, and I appreciated the pics of it. Sounds like it was a wonderfully productive road trip.

    1. Oops, I published as "anonymous." Anyway, it's me!

    2. Jenny's Tucson garden is completely different, much smaller, but it's just as fantastic. And the location! I can't stop raving about it.

  3. Gosh, Gerhard, I had no idea that after you left my house you were off onto such a big adventure. What a trip! Such a joy to have you visit my garden!

    1. I always cram too much into my itinerary but I love it that way.

  4. I fully enjoyed your panoramic photos of the desert and sky. The Agua Fria National Monument in particular seems like an adventure of a lifetime. The hieroglyphs and metates suggest the area wasn't quite as arid back then.
    Looking forward to more!

    1. I tried to see as many new places as I could on this trip, and I'm happy with what I was able to cram in.

  5. WOW!!! To say that you make the best of your plant-related trips would be a gross understatement. I'm amazed you could pack that much into 7 days. The Santa hats on the totem pole cactus made me laugh; the huge sign for 'Arizona Cactus Sales' startled and impressed me; the petroglyphs awed me; and the scenic shots underscored the beauty of desert areas.

    1. I saw so many wonderful things, and I'll be reliving them for months to come through my posts.

  6. Spontaneity looks good on you! Mano and metate brings me right back to anthropology at Sonoma State. Such a beautiful time to be in the desert, incredible light, and selfies with petroglyphs! You are too cool, Gerhard!

    1. It felt otherworldly seeing those petroglyphs and imagining who their creators were. What a magical landscape.

  7. What a fabulous trip! When did you sleep??
    Wonderful taster - look forward to reading about your adventures in more detail.

    1. LOL, I did sleep, but got up early each morning. Too many things to see and do!

  8. You are super-talented when it comes to vacationing.


Post a Comment