Tag Archives: desert

Hike in the Desert

Talk about fifty shades of gray. For much of the year, the entirety of the Sonoran Desert is more or less some variant on gray or brown. In spring, however, the desert landscape bursts into color with the awakening of the flowers.

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Brittlebush
My parents and I decided to take advantage of the spring weather and hike one of Phoenix’s big mountains. Phoenix is unique in many ways, but one of the things I love most about this city is the mountain ranges that rise from the center of the metropolis. In fact, Phoenix has the best urban hiking in the entire United States.

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We decided to hike Piestewa Peak, the second tallest mountain in the Phoenix Mountain Range. Piestewa used to be called Squaw Peak, but many people felt that this name was not respectful. It was renamed to honor a Native woman who died in combat in Iraq.

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Piestewa Peak stands at 2,612 feet in elevation. Its prominence is 1,175 feet. We made it up in 36 minutes. At the top we enjoyed the sweeping views of the Phoenix area. No ocean anywhere… just miles and miles of dust and hills. What a difference from the view from Pic Paradis back home! I do have to say that I love both the watery disk of Caribbean mountain top views and the endless layers of mountains in the Southwest.

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We could even see Arizona Christian University (my alma mater), Ben’s and my first apartment, and the Cardinals stadium from the peak.

We met a small, furry resident at the top of the mountain. I don’t see many squirrels in the Valley of the Sun! He’s so cute.

 

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Later, at the bottom, we saw the squirrel’s smaller cousin: a chipmunk.IMG_0305

The top of the mountains are a butterfly’s paradise. Each spring, they flit and flutter at the peaks, away from the oppression of dust and pollution.

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Black Swallowtail
At this time of year, the cactus begin to bloom. My mom says that cactus blossoms are God’s grace on an ugly plant.

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Engelmann Hedgehog
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Ocotillo
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Cholla
They certainly do add beauty to something you’d rather not hug. Still, cactus are interesting and have their own kind of charm, whether they’re blooming or not.

Desert wildflowers are gorgeous. Some years, they barely show up. Others, they carpet the hillsides in vibrant pinks and yellows. They are at the mercy of the droughts.

The quiet stillness of the hills are a refreshing break from the hurry and busyness of city life. I think that’s how we all keep our sanity. A hike to the top of the mountain puts everything in perspective.

 

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A Garden in the Desert

Ironically, I had to go back to the desert to find the garden.

One strange thing about living on Saint Martin is the lack of cultivation. You’d think that a tropical paradise would be dripping with succulent fruit, but this one’s not. And I can’t try to grow anything myself, because the only dirt I can call my own in the soil in the dustpan.

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Early this morning, I landed in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up and where my family still lives. When the sun rose, my mom took me on a tour of her garden.

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I have never been able to coax more than a sad cactus to grow in the hard clay we Arizonans like to call dirt. My mom, however, has a true green thumb. She and my dad have conquered the bugs, rats, birds, hard soil, and lack of rain by building two beautiful raised gardens near their citrus trees.

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The sunflowers are recovering from a storm

The first raised garden is full of vegetables and a row of giant sunflowers. We picked some carrots and lettuce. Fresh carrots hold some many good memories for me. We planted them in our garden when I was small, and I remember feeding the root to my cousins’ horses and the greens to their rabbits. Horses thought carrots were treats, so I was convinced that they were basically candy.

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We enjoyed the fresh lettuce and tomatoes in our sandwiches at lunch. In Saint Martin, lettuce is expensive and goes bad more quickly than we can eat it. I never buy it, so it was a treat. Especially since it was fresh picked.

 

 

 

The flower garden is beautiful. Can you tell what my mom’s favorite colors are? She grows daisies, poppies, and other bright blossoms. The hollyhocks, sadly, did not decide to grace us with their presence this year.

Last but not least is the little orchard. My parents have an orange tree, a lemon tree, a grapefruit tree, and a tiny lime tree with one baby lime. They’ve recently planted a peach tree. They also have a strange lemon tree with an orange branch grafted in. The fruit looks like an orange but is bitter like a lemon. It makes interesting lemonade but is not very good eating. Citrus actually grows very well in Arizona. It’s one of the state’s five main sources of income, along with cattle, copper, cotton and Grand Canyon tourism.

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Here, in the middle of the desert, good and beautiful things grow. I left behind a land of lush greenery and little produce, and found myself in a dry place with much fruit.

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I think that our Christian lives are like that at times. Sometimes, we find ourselves in an oasis in life, but we discover that we bear very little fruit in that rich season. Then, we may find ourselves in a desert place. We don’t expect to find growth in our lives in those seasons, because they’re so dry. But when we look at ourselves and our lives, we suddenly realize that the very place that promised so little is the place that cultivated the most growth and fruit.

Are you in a dry season? Don’t slip into discouragement, dear friend. You may not realize what great things God is doing in your life until you come to the end of the wilderness.

 

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus.”

-Isaiah 35:1