So, the day's plan was Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon, both 15-20 minutes northeast of downtown Tucson. It was a cool and sunny morning, perfect for hiking. Sabino Canyon is a place of spectacular beauty. People were out on the trails, more than any other place I've been - families, old and young, serious walkers and hikers. Words and photographs can show some of this stunning land, but one doesn't feel or smell the desert air, or the sand and rocks underfoot, or the sharpness of the thorns and cactus spines, or hear the sound of Sabino Creek as it spills over the dam and finds a way through the desert.
|Sabino Canyon - AZ|
I am now reading a book by Craig Childs - The Secret Knowledge of Water - telling of his time walking in the desert, finding water. The author and the desert are intimate. His words are lyrical and tender. born of this love affair. Obviously, the desert seduces certain individuals and they can't stay away; others are willing and occasional visitors captivated by its diversity and beauty; others need to travel through as best they can to get somewhere else; and others die in this need.
Also, I can't get The Devil's Highway (El Camino Del Diablo) out of my mind, the book about the "undocumented entrants" by Urrea.
I now know the names of the ocotillo (which Childs described as "arms reaching for the sky,") saguaro, palo verde, mesquite, creosote, chollo... I know that a tinaja is a pocket of water, that the rough roads near the border are smoothed so "sign cutting" or looking for footprints is easier, that "hoodoos" may roam the desert at night, that humans have been mapping water points for centuries, that the Sonoran Desert is the historic home of the Tohono O'odham, who, of course, have been divested of their aboriginal lands. They live now on four separate reservations: the Tohono O'odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community and the Salt River (Pima Maricopa) Indian Community. Their web site is www.tonation-nsn.gov.
There is a road to the summit of Mt. Lemmon, but I only drove part of the way, stopping several times to look and listen for birds as I climbed higher and the habitat changed, and to savor the immediate surroundings without having to keep an eye on the road, which, although precipitous, is easy to drive, with guardrails and pullouts. At one stop, I head a tremendous thundering boom, followed for the next 15 minutes by regular, more distant explosions or whatever they were. I still don't know. The first one startled me enough so I jumped; the others were farther away.
|Kestrel on saguaro - Sabino Canyon - AZ|
The temperature dropped as I climbed. It had been in the 20s at the top this morning. If we have time, DHC and I can go to Summerhaven, the small village up there on privately owned land. The rest of the mountain is part of the Coronado National Forest. Bicyclists were slowly and methodically pedaling up the mountain and others were coasting down with speed and concentration. It's 27 miles to Summerhaven and the temperature is 30 degrees cooler than in Tucson, making it very popular in the summer.
Modern Tucson or old Tohono O'odham.... lycra or clay.....
I spent the night in a motel in Sierra Vista, 100 miles southwest of Tucson, in the broad San Pedro River Valley between the Huachuca and Chiricahua mountains. I stayed at the Windemere Hotel and was checked in by the most friendly and pleasant person I have encountered on this trip at a motel reception desk. Her name was Regina. She asked questions about why I stopped in Sierra Vista, listened to the answers and printed out information on local birding areas which she slipped under my door within the hour. While the accommodations were not extraordinary, she was the reason I elected to stay a second night. I also had a day's worth of housekeeping and paperwork to tend to, AND this is one of the best areas for birds in Arizona.
Dinner at an Applebee's across the street, along with stops at Best Buy, where I checked whether Canon cameras were on sale for Christmas, and Wells Fargo where I deposited a check.
|Sabino Canyon - AZ|