Desert wanderings

I’m not sure I could ever live in the Phoenix area year-round. Besides being 100+ for six months out of the year, it is a city of clogged expressways (grew too fast), endless stop lights on surface streets, and one strip mall after another. People who have lived here for 30 years will tell people that they are from Nebraska or Minnesota or Iowa or where ever it is they came from. But what it lacks in character and civic pride, it more than makes up for in natural beauty.

People who have never been to the desert tend to think it is a dead, ugly, desolate place. I know I did. Then I came here and discovered that the raw desert is my favorite thing about Arizona.

On the 4th, we had an usual day of drizzle and high humidity. It felt more like Seattle in the summer. It was about 15 degrees cooler than Pittsburgh. They call it the monsoon season, when storms roll up from Mexico to the south. Because the ground is baked to a hard crisp, the rain, when they get it, can run off and create flash floods very quickly. Today, however, the rain is gone. They sun is out. The dry heat has returned. All is right in the world, once again.

I set out for a short walk into the desert. I meant to leave earlier but it was about 11 a.m. and heating up. You need to always have water with you. It’s so dry that you will start to get dehydration headaches in a matter of minutes. I usually come down here in the winter when things are greener but I was pleased to discover that, even in July, there is still plenty of life out there.

My parents’ house backs up to a wash that leads to the edge of a reservation for the Pima and Maricopa indians. It’s nice because that means nothing will ever be developed out there. I guess the Indians could sell it off but they never do. Here is the entrance to the wash. Not too shabby, eh?

Which leads to a pathway beneath a canopy of mesquite and palo verde trees…

And into the wash. Nothing but dead and brown things in the desert? I beg to differ.

Near the end of the wash, you can see the back of my parent’s house — the one with the red-tiled roof.

On Wednesday night, there was a pack of coyotes out here. I could barely make them out in the dark, but they were darting back and forth, hunting. The only sounds they made were the pads of their feet and a lot of sniffing as they looked for quail and rabbits. They came within about 15 feet of that green fence I was standing at. I first realized they were there because my parents’ little dog, Charlie, was growling and trying to be tough. This morning, however, all the wild animals were off seeking the shade. The wash then leads up a little hill to the edge of the reservation.

And then, nothing but reservation. In some ways, it can resemble the surface of some alien planet from Star Trek.

You can see some stubby, lighter-color bushes toward the front. Those are called teddy bear cholla. They look all cuddly, but those quills will mess you up if you even brush up against them.

I still don’t fully appreciate/get Instagram. I guess it’s supposed to make all your shots look like Poloroids or something. Anyway, I tried it on a shot of Camelback Mountain in the distance. I’ve hiked to the top of that one one a couple of occassions. I guess it’s supposed to look like a camel lying on the ground with his head to the far right. My parents’ first house in Phoenix was right at the base of the nose.

Now, it seems as thought the Indians have revolted and claimed back half of the trail for their reservation. For decades, the boundary was a three-strand, barbed-wire fence right along the line of brush to the right of the trail. It was very old and western looking. Now, they have reclaimed half of the trail by erecting an ugly metal fence (as easy to get through as the old barbed-wire one, by the way) that stretches all the way down the length of the reservation. In all my nearly ten years of walking this trail, I’ve maybe seen a pickup truck with 2 or 3 Indians in it 2 or 3 times. Other than that, nothing. How much could it have cost to put this fence up, that will keep nobody out who wants to cross it? All I can say is the casino business must be very good.

Isn’t that crazy. The Indians will never use the portion of the path on the other side of the fence. They just want to make sure that the gringos don’t use it. Now, when bikers zip along, it’s harder for the hikers to make way. Same for the horses. Because there is a hierarchy on the trail, and it goes something like this…

Horses are king of the trail. And let me preempt Bluz Dude’s suggestion that they replace the dump truck graphic with a shot of a dude squating. That’s a no brainer. Despite the fact that this trail parallels a gated community, don’t think that this isn’t rough country.

And don’t think it didn’t cross this Pittsburgher’s mind, as I got close for this shot, that the snake might just be faking it, playing possum until some numbnuts tenderfoot comes near with a smart phone camera before springing back to life like in a Samual L. Jackson movie. Mother effin’ snakes on a fence!

Okay, that’s it for today. After about 45 minutes on this trail, I started getting all light headed from the dehydration. And I had a bottle of water with me. I’ll end this post with a couple more shots featuring some color from the summer desert. Enjoy.

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About carpetbagger

Tom and Jean are just a couple of Chicago transplants in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Posted on July 6, 2012, in Misc and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I come by it honestly… I have a picture of my Dad fake-dumping, beside a No Dumping sign.

    At least the snake proves that the fence isn’t a mirage.

  2. And I complain about Louisiana heat! At least the humidity is so high here that we can just drink the air when we get thirsty.

  3. Ooo, pretty. I would never think of living out there but I sure do want to visit someday!

    Maybe the fence is just covered in invisible snakes…and that one just became un-invisible… D:

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