Tag Archives: mountains

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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Love Where You Live

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Love where you live. No matter where you live, learn to love it. When I was a kid, we moved from Flagstaff to Phoenix, and I spent a lot of time wishing we were back in Flagstaff, in the country, in the mountains. It took me a long time to learn to love where I lived. Too long. When I finally decided to stop looking North and start looking around me, do you know what I learned? Glendale is considered the best US city for taking walks. Greenbelts, winding paths to duck ponds and play grounds– that is hard to beat. I learned that Phoenix is one of the most diverse cities in the States with a great number of different people groups, many refugee communities, and immigrants from around the world. This means wonderful opportunities to meet people with interesting stories, valuable insights, and the smorgasbord of worldviews and experiences. You can attend a church in any language. You can shop at a supermarket specially designed to reflect the tastes of any continent. You can take classes in any language. You can eat at a restaurant with authentic food from any country in the world. Every subculture lives here; every opportunity for learning, entertainment, or community service exists here. And let us not forget to mention the mountains! You have not experienced Phoenix until you have climbed our mountains. I read yesterday that Phoenix has the best urban hiking anywhere in the country. In the western Valley, you can hike Deem Hills, Thunderbird Mountain Park, or, if you don’t mind the drive, the White Tanks. In the East, the Superstition Mountains offer endless trails and hide the gem that is the Salt River. In the South, South Mountain rises high above the horizon. And central Phoenix, of course contains my personal favorites– Camelback, Piestewa, Shadow Mountain, Dreamy Draw, North Mountain, and the beautiful Phoenix Mountain Preserve trails. “Mount Wasabi” is a Phoenix Mountain Preserve peak that was just three-quarters of a mile from ACU and from our apartment. We spent a lot of time running and hiking there. Phoenix has a lot of indoor points of interest, too. The Science Center, the Musical Instrument Museum, the pro sports facilities, the art galleries, and so much more. And our sunsets! But I digress.

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I loved living in the country. I loved living in the suburbs, once I learned to. And when I moved to central Phoenix, I loved living there, too. And wherever we go from here, I’ll learn to love it there. No matter where you go, there is something wonderful about where you live. I encourage you, don’t let your location get you down. You’ll never be happy if you can’t learn to love where you live. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” He wasn’t taking about superpowers. He was talking about contentment. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Vs. 11-14). What is the secret of being content in whatever situation you are in? Allowing God to give you the strength to be OK with wherever you are. Spend time with Him daily in prayer and in your Bible.┬áSo if you’re struggling with where you live, don’t look behind you to where you used to be or pine for some future place. Instead, look around and find the beauty in your hometown and look above you to find your strength and contentment in the Lord.

Photos copyright Breana Johnson