…the trail rounds rocky corners and hiding hills and rises gently from the desert floor as the sun eases from below the far horizon and lights anew this sharp and prickly land…the glow and flare inside the lens is equaled among the red spines and golden stems of cacti and brush and grass alike…the morning fire quietly waking the harshly coated earth…sweet light fading soon with the ascent of day….
I’ve only been hiking about two dozen times since I moved back to Arizona almost two years ago, and all of the hikes have been on different trails…or on different sections of the same larger trail…with very little overlap of covering those sections, and on only one occasion, hiking the exact same trail. When I was hiking in Utah, I covered many of the trails several times, five or six times, and even more than ten times on another two trails…they were compelling locations with easy and quick access, short drives from the house, where minutes later I would find myself in the woods…alone, or with very little company.
You might remember from various earlier posts that I’ve hiked several segments of the Black Canyon Trail…and on some of those occasions, I went past the “formal” or designated section’s length and continued onward for another mile or two onto the next section….this is some of the “overlap” that I mentioned above.
When I found myself about 100 yards to the left of the location on the trail where I made this photograph, I had an overwhelming sense, a physical knowing, that I had been there before. It actually caused me to stop and turn in slow circles looking for something that was familiar…some landscape feature that was significant and placed somewhere in my memory. I found nothing…there was nothing that I recognized…and I can usually recall sections of most trails that I’ve hiked, both here and in Utah…the stuff just gets cataloged away, mental images…. Anyway, I “felt” that I had been here before…and I’ve never “felt” that way before when out hiking. Yes, certainly, I’ve visually recognized and absolutely “known” where I was out on hikes that I had made before…but this is the first time that I “felt” or physically “sensed” that I was somewhere where I had been previously…but didn’t visually recognize….so it was odd…strange…made me wonder about juju and voodoo and other related and unrelated things.
Maybe it was a physical memory as a trauma response to the last time that I was at this location…at the spot right there in this image. I had hiked north to this point…and then went off trail to go exploring in what looked like the chute or body of a rock-lined water-course and water fall…the point that you can see immediately to the right of the large light-colored rock that is just left of center in the image. I went off trail…something that I don’t do unless I leave a note saying that I’m going to do it…something that maybe I shouldn’t do, shouldn’t have done…something like that. But…I did…bush-whacked it right through the desert and climbed over the associated boulders and scree, balanced on shifting rocks with my full back-pack…and then there was a buzzing and flying creature screaming into and around my face, darting at my eyes, nearly clinging to my glasses with wings flashing and whining face-close and loud…my hands swatting at the winged-beast, trying not to knock the glasses off my face…and finally, the bastard landed next to the outer corner of my right eye and JABBED its stinger into my face flesh and then its poison or toxin lightning-darted and ran and flew through the nerves and up into my scalp, Real Lightning Darts, not any of that fake shit you see on TV or read about in pulp magazines…but the real stuff, right through the muscles and upward…screaming WOW WOW WOW!!!!!
So…after I steadied myself, assessed the minimal damage to my confidence that I was really somewhere that I should have been…realized that my eye wasn’t going to blow-up…realized that I could still see…with just a little bit of blur…I sat on a rock, had a bit of water, and then continued my explorations….cautiously…listening….watching. There were no hissing and rattling snakes or attacking Gila Monsters…no circling round of buzzards aloft overhead…and no banjo-playing hill-billies…..just a dried desert waterway that hadn’t been visited by any creatures that would have left tracks since the last rainfall. After looking around in the wash and making a few photographs, I climbed back up the hill to an area close to where I made this image, and then continued up the trail, still heading northward, the same direction I was going before stepping off the trail to go exploring and getting my face stung.
I think my spirit of adventure had been abated somewhat…and I didn’t actually continue very far up the trail. I had already gone more than a mile past what I had planned, so I did a 180 and then started back to the truck.
In my post-event analysis of this experience of “feeling” that I had been there before without actually recognizing it, I think that this must have been where I turned around…where my body decided for me that it was time to go home…that my still hyper-alert mind had probably cataloged the whole surroundings and then recognized them before my conscious mind did when I returned to the place while hiking south from a different trail-head….some seven months later.
So…that’s the photograph…that’s the place…that’s my little bit of desert deja vu.
I hope it was fun for you, too. 🙂
Anyone who has been following or visiting this blog for at least two years will know that I spent a few years hiking in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons of the Wasatch Mountains…just east of Salt Lake City, Utah…so it’s a bit of a departure from that norm for me to be hiking in Cottonwood Creek…in Arizona. But, alas, here we are anyway. I had researched hiking in or near Hell’s Canyon Wilderness Area and found a related post for hiking nearby Cottonwood Creek, something that was more feasible, given my lack of a four-wheel-drive vehicle that is needed to gain access to most of the wilderness area.
In the above photo you can see the shadow of the only person I saw for the entire five hours on the trail….
And in these next two photos you can see what a great majority of the trail looked like…it wasn’t a trail…it was literally the creek-bed…mostly wide open with easy passage, but at other places it was so congested with cacti and trees that I was forced out and up onto the bank where I occasionally found game/burro trails that ran parallel to the creek and still headed in the direction I wanted to go.
This was the first of my three “firsts” of this particular hike. I had previously never seen a petroglyph while out hiking. I was hoping that the center image wasn’t some type of foreboding message telling all passers-by to turn around and go back the way they came….
I’m guessing that these are raccoon prints….
…and pretty confident that these below are coyote prints, given that there were no human footprints aside from my own since the last rain, so they wouldn’t be from a domestic dog.
…and below, you can probably discern the form of a wild burro near the upper center portion of the image.
I was surprised to find so much yellow/green lichen out in the desert on this trip. It was mostly on the red rock, the old sand-stone that likely retained water better than the other basaltic rock. I also found some of the more typical flat gray lichen on some granite-appearing rocks, but that was not so unusual.
I found several examples of cacti growing out of the side of rocks or rock cliffs along the creek-bed, but this set was the most interesting.
And here is a handful or cluster of the Fremont Cottonwood trees that give the creek its name. After the first group of a couple dozen near the start of the hike (not shown yet), there was only another handful scattered along the way, this one being a significant grouping, even with its sparce offering.
The following two images are of my second “first” for the hike…while I have caught a few night-time glimpses of Great Horned owls flying over my backyard, I had never seen one when I have been out hiking…and further, had never seen one, period, that was perched somewhere that would allow a closer look…or photograph.
This second image might actually be of a another bird…it was coming toward me (not toward “me,” but in my direction) within seconds of my having seen the other one going off in the opposite direction.
It was shortly after taking this next image that I climbed out of the creek-bed and up onto the ridge to the left. The desert was easier to walk through and I still had the creek on my right the whole time, so it was easy to know “where I was” in the vastness of the landscape when it was time to head back. I probably went another couple of hundred yards before finding a large enough Saguaro that provided enough shade so I could sit/stand for a while, re-hydrate, and make some photos before starting the return trip down the creek.
Facing southeast in the below photo, it was only about 9:30, so the sun was still shining aslant into the cacti spines, giving them their morning glow.
It wasn’t at this exact spot, below, but probably about a third of the way back to the truck, I heard the sound of a body crashing through the brush to the right of the stream, turned to look really quickly, and saw the rear-end of a brown something disappearing over the ridge. When I turned to look back into the creek-bed, I saw a small Javelina exiting the bed and going into the brush on the left side of the stream. I had thought the first body making it into the brush could have been a burro, as I had seen and heard one earlier, but after seeing the very distinctive pig body running the other direction, I would guess that the first body making it into the brush was also a Javelina. At any rate, this was my third “first” of the hike…I had never seen Javelinas while out hiking. It would have been sweet to have actually captured an image of one of them, but they were gone too quickly, so if you’re interested, you can click on the highlighted name above to be taken to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s page on the animal.
I don’t think this was the same burro that I had seen earlier, as this one was much darker…but it sounded exactly like the other one with the snorting noise that it was making as either an alarm or as a signal of its irritation with me.
And lastly, this is the mass of Cottonwood trees at the beginning of the trail…but this is the view on the return, so they are not half in and half out of the sun, and therefore easier to appreciate.
So…it wasn’t like hiking in the Cottonwood Canyons of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, but it was still a good hike and a nice way to spend five hours on a Sunday morning.
We’re used to seeing them like this, out in the desert wilderness of Arizona and other southwestern locales, or possibly even in other parts of the world….
Or we take a closer look and see the spines in their protective glory and the plump fruit that is awaiting harvest by desert creatures…and humans, too.
But we don’t often get a view of what is inside those cactus “leaves” to witness what must be the vascular highway that provides the overall structure while transporting water and nutrients from one part of the plant to another as the seasons demand….
I think there is a particular “something” about the structure of the cactus’s leaves…a sort of compelling and abstract beauty….
I drove north and east this morning…this false first-Saturday in this new and old place. The true first-Saturday found me unloading moving trucks, you might remember…so this was the first one that was unoccupied with moving and other commitments. Like I said, I drove north and east, trying to get closer to a huge mesa in that direction which has been unimaginatively named “Table Mesa,” which to my understanding of Spanish, ends up meaning “Table Table.” At any rate, I found myself only in the vicinity of that place, several miles, really, away and away from the redundantly named mass of earth and rock that rises table-like from the lower desert floor. The below image is not of that so-named bit of earth and rock, it is of other bits of desert hillsides and ridges and crowning greenery and thorns and chunks of volcanic waste that was left behind after their own genesis in the eons of millennia passed.
After completing something of a circle of exploration of that land to the north and east of my current desert home, I headed further north and east along new, yet known roadways…heading toward another desert town that lived in my mind as a memory of only a brief visit that occurred nearly 30 years ago. Along the way, however, I encountered a sign that said “Seven Springs,” a notion of a recommended place that I in particular might enjoy…”It’s green,” she said, “with a stream and cottonwood trees…,” things that reminded me of another place, one that I have only recently left behind…. The last image in the below gallery shows what the area looks like from above, rather…a nearby area that is strikingly similar to the visited Seven Springs….a flowing greenery that lives in the narrow draws and folds that lie between rolling hills of raw and scorching desert sand and rock.
I don’t know the name of the delicate flowers in the below image…but I found the plant along the waterway of Seven Springs….
…and a yellow Columbine, too…a different version of my favorite flower ever, the Colorado Columbine that I shared in this post if you’d care to see a similar and beautiful creature in pristine, alpine white….
This Saguaro Cactus is probably close to 25 feet in height…one of what must be hundreds and hundreds of the amazing plants that populate the vast Sonora Desert of Arizona.
Forgive the slightly washed-out white of the Saguaro’s blossoms in the below image…today was one of those days that my sons refer to as “severe clear,” meaning that there was not a cloud in the sky as the June sun beat down upon the desert….
Roadside Prickly Pear Cactus…under a near-noon sun….
Hmm…maybe a little fuzzy on the yellow….
…and lastly, looking down the hillside into one of the desert draws…you can probably make-out the dry waterway…a sandy pathway that leads to the greener foliage in the upper left of the image…early Spring rains and Summer monsoon storms bring the stream-beds to life again….
Thank you, Rachel….
While I prefer living near the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah, I still find an undeniable beauty in the Sonora Desert, pictured here in images from the area just north of Tucson, Arizona.
This post is a carry-over from the earlier one, Found in the desert…a little bit of a photo album from a relatively recent trip to Tucson, Arizona, USA. Again, the backdrop for the first image is the Santa Catalina Mountains…it used to be considered a geographic boundary of the greater Tucson area, but housing developments and commercial interests have moved or spread to this side over the years.
The photo contains representations of the well-known Saguaro cactus, Prickly Pear cactus, some Cholla, and even a bit of what I believe is a small Yucca in the bottom right corner…as well as what might be Greasewood bushes/shrubs.
Twin (?) Saguaro cacti that have seen better times…I believe they are approaching their end….
A nice patch of Prickly Pear cactus….
While the below photo isn’t nearly as impressive as the array of hummingbird images you’ll find when visiting Emilio at Disperser Tracks, I thought it was still pretty cool…. You can click on the highlighted words in the previous sentence to see his two posts on the Hummers of Summer 2012. Wonderful photos…..
A little bit of Cholla cactus skeleton in the below shot….
Fruit and not-so-friendly spines from a Golden Barrel cactus….
And lastly, a clutch of Saguaro cacti with some Prickly Pear in the foreground….
Thank you for visiting…I hope you’ve enjoyed the glimpse into the desert life of Tucson, Arizona.
I recently spent a few days in Tucson, Arizona, USA…visiting with my wife’s mother, walking the morning-quiet roads of her desert neighborhood, and taking a new perspective when viewing the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Those are the Santa Catalina Mountains in the background, with Mount Lemmon at the highest point, some 9,157 feet in elevation. A Prickly Pear Cactus with fruit is in the foreground and the iconic Saguaro Cactus is prominent toward the left of the photo…I believe that might be a Palo Verde tree beneath the Saguaro with its green bark…and I’m not sure about the larger tree/shrub to the right…maybe a Greasewood.
Owls and woodpeckers often live in the holes that you see in the Saguaro’s limbs.
I believe these are Harris Hawks…they were mostly immobile when I was photographing them…but that only lasted for a minute or so….
Again, if I’m not mistaken, these are a variety of Cholla Cactus…and those spines can cause quite a bit of discomfort….
Wikipedia says that there are seven sub-species of Mule Deer…with the Rocky Mountain sub-species ranging the western portion of the United States and up into Canada. Aside from the Saguaro Cactus, you can also see the Ocotillo Cactus (the other tall and very skinny plant), Palo Verde, Prickly Pear Cactus, and directly behind the deer, what I believe might be more Greasewood.
Prickly Pear Cactus with fruit. You can purchase Prickly Pear jelly and candy in local stores…or you can “Google-it” and find them on-line, as well. 🙂
Desert sunsets can be beautiful…lighting the mountains with rose and orange hues…and bringing-out greater definition of the mountain’s many surfaces as shadows grow….