Tucson Boys

Hot Boyz / Cold Desert

A Chronological recap

Photos by Sam Copeland and Alex Wallbaum. Words by Hannah Burtness.

Day 1

We start out from Chicago in the cool grey light, ready for southwestern adventures. We land in Tucson and spend our first hours grabbing tacos, picking oranges and spending time readying our supplies for what we think will be four nights of camping. Roughing it in the great outdoors, here we go!


In the grand way that adventures will unfurl with little attention to the plans that have been set, we spend one night on James’ cousin’s floor, with running water and a bathroom and everything, instead of camping out in the desert. We then spend only two nights camping, and those two nights camping were so very cold that we are fine with kind cousins and very grateful for them and light a candle in their honor still today. Thank you James’ cousin.


“Everything out here wants to attack you.”

Munching on Cheetos and staring at the many ways a cacti can hurt you is quite a way to get in the mood for a photo shoot. We’re not saying it’s a good way, it is just a way.


We are told that there are edible parts of some of these desert plants, like the tiny little pineapple-looking fruits that grow out of the top of the barrel cactus, which are supposed to be delicious. We try them. We conclude that it is either not the right season to eat them or that they are gross.

Day 3


“I’ll ask for directions.”
“He’s gonna die.”

James has just hopped out of the van and headed for the front door of a modest but fully unknown-to-us desert dwelling, pushing his way through what looks to be a herd of dachshunds and other small dog-like animals. Kyle is worried that James’s optimism and belief in the good of all mankind will be his undoing. The rest of us wait. In the van. For a full version of this story and for what happens next, Kyle’s gonna take it away in his own words:

“Okay so, we were driving through the desert to find some sweet spots to take picture of James and I boom boom huck jamming off of rocks and somehow we end up on this dirt road that looked pretty sketchy to be driving our rental van down. As the road continued we ended up on some cattle ranchers’ land. We drive up to the house to ask for some directions to where we needed to go. Everyone in the car was like “we are going to get murdered out here” and at that split second James jumps from the van and starts walking right up to the axe murderer’s house without skipping a beat. As James made his way up the house an ARMY of dogs (I mean like, twenty dogs!) come running out from the house and everyone in the car (Sam, Alex and I) was like “OH MAN JAMES IS GOING TO BE EATEN ALIVE!” Soon after that all the dogs had surrounded the car and were like “Hey, hey who are you guys!” But there was one little wiener dog that ruled them all and he jumped right into the van and was like “Hey guys! What’s going on in here, oh! This bag of snacks looks pretty good, think I’ll help myself, yum yum yum.”

Loss of snacks aside, our new desert friends with lots of dogs do give us directions. James’ faith in humanity is vindicated! All’s well that ends well, we decide, as we move back out into the desert for more photos.