It seems we journey a step deeper into the dessert with each passing day. We’ve already encountered an introduction to the human presence in the region, in seeing the rising city of Phoenix, sprawling Tucson, and sites like Casa Grande and the San Xavier Mission. The last day and a half, however, has gently directed us toward the natural world surrounding these human establishments.
The Desert Museum provided a carefully constructed and managed summary of what natural Arizona holds. While it was fascinating to see the variety of dessert creatures right before our eyes, this obviously wasn’t the real nature of the land. The animals, many of them rescues, were there to be observed in a controlled setting (as is the nature of zoos), not seen interacting with the landscape and doing what they would do in the wild. The Dessert Museum was an amazing learning experience, extremely educational, and at its core, an introduction to the greater dessert we’ll likely encounter as the trip progresses.
This morning’s hike took us tentative steps further into the paradoxically harsh and bountiful landscape. Though there were trails and a set path, no longer were we able to look at a map and know exactly what we were about to see. A trickle of wilderness found its way into the trip. Professor Guse made a point to check for snakes at several spots, a moot point while at the Dessert Museum. Wild hummingbirds and lizards crossed our path, and for much of the trip we walked not on a paved pathway, but in an arroyo carved by water over thousands of years. As we progressed to the mountain pass, even trails were abandoned in favor of scrambling up jutting rock formations to get a better view of the expanse of dessert and farmland on one side, and urban sprawl on the other. While not truly in wilderness, today allowed the group to dip our toes in, and begin to see the landscape as a dynamic entity, not just scenery from a plane window.