Mohave desert sand dunes by travel photographer Ella Sophie

Camping Adventures, Road Trip to New Mexico, Day 1

Road Trip to New Mexico

Recently I went on a mini road trip to New Mexico. When Clara commented on my Facebook post saying she wished I could take her photos I decided to reach out to her. I’m always looking for excuses to travel. Especially if it means going to a place I’ve never been before.
Chris and I packed up our camping gear and my camera equipment. On Thursday morning, we got up early and started driving.
Our first stop is in the Mohave desert, taking it in at 114 degrees. Being acclimated to Bay Area weather 114 feels really hot. I was in for a few days of feeling hot actually. After climbing some dunes and taking in the view, we continue driving. In the late afternoon we arrive at the California Arizona border. Near Needles there is a reservoir – ok more like a swamp, but it is so beautiful. As we are walking, suddenly there are 3 coyotes standing in front of us. They were about 15 feet away, we all stand very still for a minute, and then they saunter off. I always feel like encountering wild animals in close proximity is a gift. And its one of my favorite parts of road trips that take me off the beaten path. 
Mohave Desert, Road Trip travel photography by Oakland photographer Ella Sophie
Photographer Ella Sophie, Mohave Desert sand dunes photo
Oakland photographer Ella Sophie, Mohave desert sand dunes
Sand dunes in the Mohave Desert, road trip, by photographer Ella Sophie
Chris at the Mohave Desert Sand Dunes, personal travel photography
Cacti in the mohave desert, personal blog post by photographer Ella Sophie

Nightfall, heat stroke, wild burrows.

We cook dinner, a dehydrated homemade organic camping meal. Adding some fresh chives and Sriracha. I’m really hot at this point, stripped down to my underwear, sitting in the dark after sunset. I’m not getting any cooler. I wrap myself in wet cotton. It helps, but only as long as I keep doing it. I check the weather, it’s still 104. So we start checking the topographic maps. There is a road not far that goes about a thousand feet up in elevation. So we pack up and head that way.

We watch the temperature drop, 1 degree at a time, as we start driving up. Driving on a winding narrow desert road. Suddenly we are in a town, it’s deserted despite it being only 10:30. There are some glowing neon lights for a bar. I see a post office, and a candy shop, everything looks like an old western movie. We wonder if we’ve driven into a movie set, or some strange forgotten town that never left the past.

There are donkeys standing in the road. That’s the first of many donkey sitings on this trip. Donkey’s, also known as burrows, were brought in to work the mines, and left to roam the wild. They are beautiful, and make very funny yelling sounds. We make our way up a steep winding road. On one side we can see a rock cliff, on the other side it’s completely black, we assume it drops off into an abyss.

Finally we reach the summit of the pass, to my delight I see a spot where we can set up camp. The temperature is now 97 degrees. Sweet relief.

I crawl into my tent, and fall asleep on my zrest, no need for a sleeping bag or anything else.

Needles Arizona reservoir, road trip sunset, photographer Ella Sophie
Adventure photography by Ella Sophie, Needles AZ sunset
Arizona sunset, travel photographer Ella Sophie
Pastel sunset in Needles, personal travel photography by Ella Sophie
Sunset over the reservoir, photography by Ella Sophie
Chris at dusk, personal photography by Ella Sophie
Portrait of photographer Ella Sophie
Camping meal, dehydrated meal with fresh chives
Chris eating dinner


5am, I wake up just before sunrise, I have to pee. After drinking a ton of water the night before, there is no waiting. So I crawl out of my tent, check my sandals for scorpions and other unknown bugs, and greet the day. Wow, what a fucking view. The sky is just turning colors, the air is warm but not yet hot. And here I am, looking down a mountain side, the road precariously winding down into the distance. I see a car far down the hill. Possibly from the 50’s still sitting where it finally stopped after crashing off the steep mountain road. I wonder if the driver survived.
Once Chris wakes up, we make breakfast, homemade cereal. We add some ice cubes from the cooler to our coffee and cereal. It’s delicious. The I wash up before getting in the car and driving on to our next destination.
Camping breakfast, cold cereal.

Sunrise over the Arizona desert, travel photography by Ella Sophie

Check out my other personal posts to see more images from my travels! Days 2 and 3 from this road trip will be coming soon! Also, please see this as an open invitation to talk to me about photographing you, your brand, or event anywhere in the world, I’m passport ready folks!
© Ella Sophie
Oakland CA boudoir photographer

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All images © Ella Sophie | Commercial Photographer | Oakland, CA | 510.844.4191