Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Welcoming Spring

     We’re currently on spring break at the university, and as much as I’d like to hang onto what passes for winter here in the Sonoran desert, spring indeed appears to be upon us, both by the calendar and with the glorious weather we’ve been enjoying the last several days.  I hope for a few more rains, though, to encourage more wildflowers.  California poppies and African daisies have exploded along the roadsides, the cassias have turned into huge fluffy bubbles of yellow blossoms, and the hummingbirds in the backyard must be deliriously happy with all the Mexican honeysuckle and zauschneria.  The nasturtiums are also leaping into bloom, and the yarrow I transplanted last year, that disappointed me for months, has come into its own and seems ready to burst into bloom soon as wel. 
     It’s been a busier break than we’d planned, though I’m glad to have had the time to handle some unforeseen obligations, even though it’s meant sacrificing the days of relaxation I’d been hoping for. But yesterday we left all that behind, and our little garden as well, for a hike with friends in nature’s much larger garden.
     The Wild Burro Trail winds into a canyon north of Tucson, following a wide wash through that part of the Tortolita Mountains.  It’s classic southwest desert, and a good place to show non-desert dwellers how full of life the desert really is, especially after a series of rains that have left it greener than usual.  Unfortunately, a large new Ritz Carlton resort recently opened alongside the early stretch of the trail – my apologies to anyone who thinks I’m mad to suggest a downside to such development.  Fortunately, it’s possible to pretend it’s not there, if you can manage to avoid looking left while walking the few hundred feet it takes to put it behind you.
    The Wild Burro appears to stick to flat ground, but we didn’t stick to it.  At an intersection Rie pulled out her map and we decided to take a loop hike on the Lower Javelina Trail.  We discovered that the word “lower” in that name is misleading, as we climbed higher into the rocks, and then climbed some more.  At some point we decided it would be farther to turn around and retrace our steps, so we followed in the steps of Samuel Beckett’s character – maybe it’s Malone - who says, “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” And it was just fine.  Rie and I went ahead; the men lagged behind, no doubt discussing weighty matters, and after a couple of false hopes were dashed, we finally got to a high point and then started down, just at the moment when our knees were letting us know they hadn’t had a vote on which trail to take.

    We took a "scenic" route driving back, past lots of new construction and locked gates, to our friends’ much lovelier and more welcoming home in a non-gated community, where we lunched on excellent homemade black bean soup and salad. Keith and Rie’s yard is a lovely example of xeriscaping – I wish I’d taken pictures there.  We exchanged a few books (we're all voracious readers) and made plans for another low-elevation morning hike and lunch in three weeks, before the hot breath of encroaching summer forces us up into the mountains (where today we can still see a little bit of snow clinging to the highest peaks!).

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