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Ode to the Sonoran Desert

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Ode to Canyon Hiking in the Sonoran Desert
Leslie Veirs
April, 2019

Arizona sycamores twist and turn,
bleached white with geometrically patterned bark
above ephemeral stream beds.

Always watch where you step.
Septuagenarians don’t want to fall, so use trekking poles to carefully cross streams with slippery rocks.
Avoid venomous Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes and beaded Gila Monsters.

A White-nosed Coati, raccoon relative with bottle brush tail,
darts for cover in the Oak and Sycamore woods.
We pass many Foothill Palo Verde trees with their distinctive green bark.  
Iconic tree of the Sonoran Desert,
bursting with fresh leaves or bright yellow blossoms.


Get up early one day and walk through a Saguaro forest at sunrise. 
The Tahono Oldham people believe that humans can be turned into a Saguraro,
so walk lightly on the land while in the arid wilderness.

Use your binoculars to observe a Broad-billed Hummingbird with its long, orange-red bill.
“Hummingbirds are quarter notes which have left the nest of a flute” (Alberto Alvaro Rios)

Watch the blazing canes of an Ocotillo swaying gently in the coolish breeze. 
Crush and sniff the small leaves of the drought-tolerant Creosote, boon to many bees.

Listen to the varied, melodic repertoire of the Curve-billed Thrasher, 
Mockingbird relative perched atop a monumental Saguaro.
Know that its many songs increase its chances for a successful courtship.

The Hopi believe that the Greater Roadrunner protects them from evil. 
In classic cartoon fashion, one flashes across a sandy path and disappears into the brush,

carrying a lizard in its beak.

We search for the elusive Javalina or Collared Peccary,
remembering that it is not a pig.
We fail to hear it snort, snuffle, sniff, or squeal – except in the Desert Museum.

Turkey Vulture, black dihedral in the sky, 
circling high, now lower, lands.
High rock tower hosts.
The circle of life restarts.

Spend an hour with several other birdwatchers. 
Follow a resplendent Elegant Trogan down canyon with
heavy telephoto lens making shoulders ache.

Appreciate the temperature variations and ephemeral qualities of the bajada, scrub, riparian, and forest areas in this diverse desert. 
Value each species and celebrate our connection to this amazing place of bountiful biodiversity.

Wandering, watching, listening in the wilderness with
dear friends along as guides.
A memorable time and place.


5 Responses to “Ode to the Sonoran Desert”

  1. susan nevin says:

    Beautiful, poetic commentary. Sounds like a wonderful hike! Or many wonderful hikes! xoxox

  2. Robin Donnelly says:

    Appreciated the wonderful, sometimes hard won photos and great descriptions, especially the ethnobotany ones and animal lore. Your great blog will improve our quest next time we are in the desert. Sure looked like fun.

  3. Stormy says:

    What wondrous photos! Kudos to you all for going into the desert and extolling its beauty. I love the photo of Carol, Dave, Leslie, and Val birdwatching. (I assume it’s not the Avengers movie you’re looking at.) lol

  4. Ellen Fisher says:

    This is a wonderful set of photos and comments–very much appreciated. I sympathize with your aching shoulders but send thanks for having the tele-photos.

  5. Eric Adelberger says:

    congratulation- you two always take such beautiful photos. Where was the place where you had to cross the water?

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