>The Retreat Site
This section is a
broad overview covering the type of location, weather,
animals, where to put things (house, water supply, etc.),
security issues and more.
checklist of criteria to consider when selecting a suitable
site, go here.
survival retreat is in the Arizona desert. Lots
of Saguaro Cactus, Cholla, Prickly Pear, Ocotillo, Barrel
Cactus, sand and sunshine. The area is hilly, even mountainous
(no sand dunes) and prone to flash flooding in winter and
during summer monsoon rains. Dry washes abound and only flow
after heavy rains.
Rodents probably outnumber water
molecules (kidding): Jack rabbits, cottontail's
mice, rats, pack rats, desert rats, gophers. deer, wild horses,
javolinas (peccaries), lizards, some mountain lions and plenty
of rattlesnakes in summer.
The landscape is full of exposed magma,
black stone from intrusions (magma flows between rock layers
below the surface), lava flows and volcanic rocks litter some
areas. The other dominant material is quartz-laden, pinkish
The average yearly rainfall is about 7
inches and has been as little as two plus inches
and as much as 18 inches in the past 20 years.
Insects abound, more so near
water. Those that you will notice most are
honeybees (the new improved aggressive kind), fire ants (you'll
wish you hadn't stepped on them), wasps (busy burying worms),
flies and gnats (busy bothering you) and nocturnal beetles that
are quite dexterous with their front legs.
On many flat washes, tamarisk (or salt cedar) is the
invasive weed, while mesquite dominates low areas,
especially river basins. I bought my first 10 acres on eBay in
the mid-90s the second 10 adjacent to it a few weeks later,
giving me a total of 20-acre rectangle 660 feet on the east-and
west side, 1320 feet (1/8 mile) on the north and south
boundaries. Altitude is about 2200 feet.
Rugged and deeply eroded, probably 95% of my land
slopes toward one or another of the several
branches of my main wash which is the lowest feature, catching
all rain runoff from my land and from hundreds of acres
upstream. During full flood, the water in the main wash leaving
my land is about 3 feet deep and 10 feet wide and moving
quickly, probably about 300 to 600 gallons per second.
The 5% of the property which doesn't slope contains more
than 20 places where soil washed down, over and around
outcroppings of rocks, filling in the area, creating an almost
flat surface where one can easily build.
For my first house, I chose one of these flat
areas near the northern boundary. Near means
perhaps 150 feet away, because two important items must be
uphill from the house: the water storage tank, and above it the
rain catchment surface. That way, I catch water on my northern
boundary, it flows into a tank, and that tank is still 15 feet
above my house, so water is gravity fed to the house.