NESCONSET, NY (15 December 2019) — Excited to be getting ready for the first major roadtrip with the new Jeep. The goal is to use the holiday roadtrip to get out west and reconnect with the desert. Or rather deserts, plural. There are actually four distinct deserts that meet in the southwest of the United States. I won’t be visiting all of them during this journey, but I will be hitting three of the four over the next several weeks. And the starting point for this journey is actually New York!
For the first time since our “Great American Roadtrip 2010” I will be driving completely across the US from east to west. However, this time the focus will be on getting out west as quickly as possible. That will make the journey a very different experience than our earlier roadtrip where we followed Route 66 and took the slow road savoring the journey along the way.
As I load up the Jeep and review the maps I am a bit concerned about the weather as it is winter and there is the potential for snow to create some serious issues, notably on I-70 in Colorado where the route goes over the high Rocky Mountain range. I have sketched out a “Plan B” for an alternate route via New Mexico but that will take longer and mean I would miss celebrating Christmas in the Valley of Fire…
ABOUT THE EXPEDITION
JoMarie Fecci, of USnomads, sets off on the first holiday roadtrip with the new Jeep, overlanding from New York to the deserts of the southwest. Once out in the desert, it will be time for some scouting and pre-running in preparation for an upcoming adventure. The primary goal of this journey is to get the Jeep pre-positioned in the west, and to assess terrain, logistical concerns and approximate timeframes for future travel.
WHERE WE ARE
There are four deserts that connect across the southwest of the United States — the Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan. The Great Basin Desert is “high desert” which can get cold and see much snow in winter. This desert covers southeast Oregon, a small portion of northeast California, most of west Utah, part of southeast Idaho, and the majority of Nevada – all except the southernmost 150 miles which are within the Mojave Desert. All this land is characterized by long, thin, parallel mountain ridges running north-south, separated by wider valleys, often containing dry lake beds (playas) or salt basins. The few rivers run inwards, with no outlet to the ocean; their waters ultimately either sink below ground or evaporate. The Mojave Desert covers the southernmost 150 miles of Nevada, a tiny area of southwest Utah, lower elevation regions of northwest Arizona (bordering the Colorado River) and most of southeast California. The topography is generally similar to the Great Basin, with isolated mountains and wide, flat plains, but temperatures are hotter, vegetation sparser, and the hills are less numerous. The Sonoran Desert of southwest Arizona and the south-eastern tip of California has perhaps the most archetypal desert scenery in the Southwest, with vast flat plains and abundant cacti, especially the giant saguaro, which occurs most densely in Arizona towards the higher elevation reaches of the desert, between 1,500 and 3,500 feet. The Sonoran desert continues a long way south into Mexico, nearly 500 miles down the east side of the Gulf of California. The Chihuahuan Desert is the second largest in the US, and also extends a long way into Mexico. It covers the southern third of New Mexico, excluding several mountain ranges, and all of far west Texas, west of a line between Del Rio and Monahans. Elevations are generally higher than in the Sonoran Desert (2,000 to 6,000 feet), and precipitation is a little greater, with most rain falling during the summer thunderstorm season. Cacti are still quite numerous but are generally smaller than to the west; instead, the dominant plants are yucca and agave, though even so, as with many other desert regions, large areas have only the ubiquitous creosote bushes and mesquite trees. For more information and a list of interesting places to visit in each desert see the American Southwest website.