Painted Rock Petroglyph Site to Sierra Vista

On day two, we woke up at the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and stayed as long as we could in the shrinking shade beside our truck, wishing we had hats with bigger brims.

We stopped to see the petroglyphs and headed out again, driving on I-8 until it met the I-10, through Tucson and down to Tombstone, which may be the most touristy town in the west, walking the line between historic landmark and amusement park. It’s the site of one of the most famous stories of the Wild West—The Gunfight at OK Corral.

As we wandered the historic main street to the sounds of gunfire from reenacted gunfights, we were greeted by cowboys, gunslingers and stage coach drivers.

From Tombstone we headed over to Sierra Vista on a country road, with views of golden grasses, green hills, red dirt, and a purple sky holding up dense rainclouds raining on distant mountains.

From Sierra Vista we took a winding dirt road that rose 2,000 feet into the mountains, the sun gone except a haze of pink, the full moon veiling and unveiling herself with the thick clouds, the drop-offs beside the road growing increasingly steep as the road narrowed to a single lane of unrelenting hairpin turns on sand and rough rock.

Just as the last of of the light disappeared we arrived at our campground, Reef Townsite, an undeveloped campground with a pit toilet and several camping spots. We weren’t alone this time, there was one other truck, but we camped far enough away that it still felt private.

Whoever had the campsite before us left their coals burning and a few pieces of wood, so we soon had a cozy campfire to sit around as we ate our dinner, the cold wind picking up and a drizzle of rain falling.

We were up at 6:30 the next morning. We splashed some water on our faces and headed out to find a waterfall we heard was nearby. The waterfall was dry, but we stood for a while watching the view from the dry creek bed at the point where it turned to cliffs. Red rock faces painted lime green with lichen, giving way to a soft plateau where Sierra Vista was waking up as the sun rose.

I think my favorite part about camping is being outside so much, waking up to the light filtering in between the trees, getting out of bed to feel the fresh air on my face first thing.

It brings a freshness to daily routines — making tea outside while the wind whips around, or brushing my teeth under the stars.

We stretched and went for a run along the road by the campsite, through bursts of cold wind and sunshine, the sun chasing in and out of the clouds and the rocks sharp through the soles of our shoes.

Later we visited the Ramsey Canyon Nature Preserve and hiked up to a grotto where we sat beside the water enjoying our picnic lunch. We didn’t see many birds, despite its reputation as a birding spot, but we did get up close to some insects.

We tried unsuccessfully to determine if Sierra Vista had a “downtown” or a “main drag” but didn’t find much of interest and so we headed out of town toward Bisbee, AZ.



Melissa is the co-pilot, list-maker, and truck-packing-tetris-master of the trip. She hopes to do yoga in the fresh air every morning of the trip, weather permitting. At Apple Canyon Designs, she’s the project manager and copywriter, as well as working with Jim on photography and video.