It happens at least once a week.

The sky over the Valley of the Sun puts on such a spectacular show that I am awestruck, compelled to pull my car over to the shoulder to stop and take it in. 

As I fumble for my camera phone to capture the beauty, the twilight sky tints from baby blue to mauve to pink, to orange and red.  A color show that ranges from pastel to florid happens in a mere matter of minutes. During the monsoon season in late summer, the cloud-studded skies are particularly breathtaking, and I’m not the only one who’s pausing. 

When I drive north on Scottsdale Road, I routinely see other drivers with Arizona plates doing the same thing. Sometimes we nod or wave to each other, a camaraderie that communicates our shared delight.   

See, even though we’ve seen this spectacle many times before, it never fails to stop us and command our attention. We snap photo after photo. When I post sunset pictures to Facebook, they always get the most “Likes” and comments. 

Sunsets are not all Arizonans brake for.

The non-migratory Gambrel’s Quail with their characteristic plumes and27_MONUMENTVALLEYS_Final.jpg squeaky chew toy voices quick-step more than they fly, often with their chicks. Yellow yield signs with the birds’ image are common along roads in more rural parts of the Valley, and so are bumper stickers and t-shirts bearing the phrase, I Brake For Quail.

Many of us also regularly brake for and photograph other desert creatures including snakes, coyotes, roadrunners, javelina, gila monsters, rabbits, tortoises and bobcats. 

And this is completely normal when you’re lucky enough to live in a place as beautiful as the Sonoran Desert. In fact, it’s a point of pride. 

I’ve been to cocktail parties, on hikes, to galas and to business meetings where small talk starts with, “Did you see last night’s sunset?” or, “I dodged a coyote on my way home yesterday.”

It’s not just visitors to our state that appreciate our eye-popping surroundings and wild creatures. It starts with us as fortunate residents, stewards of this patch of paradise we call home. 

Suzanne Wright is a nationally published travel writer. She’s visited five continents, 53 countries and all 50 states.