January 3, 2009

Saguaro National Park

To start the year off right (exercise more), and to get my body moving again after the holidays, I went for a hike yesterday in Saguaro National Park with my friend Barbara and her daughter. Tucson is fortunate in having mountain ranges on its north and east side that are too steep for urban expansion and thus have become its recreation areas. Mount Lemmon is high enough to still have snow after our last storm, and it even has a ski lift.

Tucson is located in the Sonoran desert, which is lower than our Chihuahuan desert. I love both these deserts as the variety of plants is much greater than what I was used to in the Pacific Northwest. Here Ma Nature has excelled in landscape design. So many plant varieties have found their niche in this "hostile", for humans, environment. There are many ways to adapt to high wind, huge temperature swings, and little rainfall. Small leaves, or no leaves, shallow root systems, spines and thorns to ward off hungry wildlife all contribute to plant survival. The picture hardly does it justice.

There is little water erosion in our deserts which means that the mountains are steep and rocky. Our trail was like the treads on stairs, and we climbed rapidly with views of Tucson below. We got high enough that the terrain changed from desert scrub to desert grassland, like where we live. There are more shrubs in this desert and different plants dominate, such as agave and Arizona rosewood.

We had lunch along the trail and several parties passed us, which should not have surprised me as Tucson is just minutes away. I am just spoiled with being able to ride my horse in the Coronado National Forest all morning and never see another human soul. It was a great day spent with friends, and I am sure my calves will not be as sore tomorrow.

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