The Sonora Desert Comes to Life

Trip Start Aug 16, 2009
Trip End Dec 25, 2009

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Ellen and Richards

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Friday, December 11, 2009

December 11, 2009

Our weather karma holds, we watch the sun come up over the mountains, revealing another cloudless sky.  

As we leave El Paso we notice wide channels intersecting the highway with tiered stacks of rock that we suppose turn into waterfalls during heavy rains.  Landscaping, as we know it, with trees, shrubs and flowers is nonexistent, the climate too inhospitable.  Rockscapes take the place of greenery in yards, parking lots; along the highway and rock walls derive interest from the patterns created with different colored rocks.

Entering New Mexico we pass miles of feedlots, separated by hayfields, right next to the highway with hundreds if not thousands of cows being fattened for market.  The landscape of southern New Mexico is very similar to east Texas.  We did, however, notice periodic roadblocks set up by the border patrol on both sides of the highway.  We passed through two of them, reminiscent of the roadblocks in Mexico that Nancy experienced years ago and thought how strange to live in a country where the police could stop cars en masse and search them, hmmm how times change.

We passed through New Mexico quickly and entered Arizona the home of our friends Ellen and Richard in Oro Valley near Tucson our destination for the evening.  We arrived at their lovely desert paradise late in the afternoon and settled in.

December 12, 2009

After breakfast Ellen and her sister, Kathleen, took us on a walk around their desert community.  One of the things unique about New Mexico and Arizona is the architecture and the way homes are tucked into the surrounding landscape barely visible, usually no higher than the surrounding trees.  It gives one the feeling of openness and more of a connection with nature. 

Nancy has never been enamored of the desert landscape in general, it seems to be the sort of place that one has to look at through the macro lens to find the beauty and beauty does exist here.  From a plane at 40,000 feet or the window of a car at 60 mph it looks like a barren wasteland but walking among the plants ones sees the infinite diversity and adaptive genius of Mother Nature.

When seen through the eyes of someone who loves it, like Ellen, the desert reveals its subtle beauty and one cannot help but appreciate the plants that cling to life in this harsh but fragile environment.

The afternoon is spent doing laundry, catching up on emails, sorting photos and then enjoying another wonderful dinner, a joint effort by Richard, Ellen and Kathleen.

December 13, 2009

Little did we know how delightful our days excursion would prove to be, a visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, a natural history museum, botanical garden, and zoo all in  one place with interpretive displays of living animals and plants that are native to the Sonoran Desert region.   The volunteers and staff are well trained, friendly and plentiful.  The natural setting appears to have been disturbed little as we follow the path through the different desert zones. 

The most amazing part of the afternoon was a free flight demonstration by Harris Hawks.  They are one of the few hawks that hunt as a family and we watched in awe as the two females and one male performed aerial maneuvers right above our heads.  The handlers were close by and kept a close eye on them, luring them in on occasion with food.  They would swoop down so close we could feel them as they flew over our heads, inches away.  It was a beautiful sight and their eyesight is enviable.

In the evening it was such fun to share a slideshow of our trip, condensed version of course, with friends who share our love of photography and exploring new places.
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