Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My World: Sunset Hike in Sycamore Canyon

Note: All of today's Photography is brought to you by Gus.
Click on any photo to enlarge the image for better viewing.

Part of the attraction to living here in Sycamore Canyon is the easy access to nature. On Saturday afternoon Gus and I set out on a hike right across the street. Within five minutes we are crossing the big wash, gravel crunching under our feet. A gusty wind tangles my hair and I have left my hat at home, for I knew I would be fighting the wind to keep it on my head. The wind also keeps the birds down, but a few are brave enough to fight it. In the slanting light of late afternoon, My World is all silhouettes and shadows.

A housefinch clings tenaciously to a twig as we head down the path.

A phainopepla guards it's cache of mistletoe berries from high atop its perch over the wash.

Soft shadows fall across the desert grasses, now brown from autumn's dryness.

A cholla cactus with a permanent tilt still holds the remnants of the summer breeding season with the loose strands of a nest entwined with its spines.

I feel my spirit rise with the wind and take flight like a bird across the desert.

We cross the wash and connect with the dirt road that runs up the west rim of the canyon. I turn and look back at the neighborhood, a sea of roofs in the desert scrub.

This is new territory for me. I have never hiked up this road before. I walk ahead searching for birds. Gus follows with the camera shooting whatever seems to catch his fancy. For the moment, apparently it is me!

We've had unusually warm temperatures the past few days with highs in the low 80's. With this brisk wind and the sinking sun, I'm glad I have a long-sleeved shirt on over my tank top. I breathe deeply of the desert air and glance around my world. The low angle of the sun turns the waving grasses to gold.

A glance at the sun through the mesquite branches turns twigs to filigree.

Grandfather cactus keeps watch from his desert seat.

A cholla skeleton is a familiar sight in the desert. Its lacy bones are often brought home to decorate a house.

I keep following the trail, always wanting to know what is around the next corner.

I see a few sparrows hiding in the brush, and I hear the laughter of a Gila woodpecker as it flies across the desert. It tries to hide in the branches of a leafless ocatillo. I marvel at how it manages to cling to such a thorny perch.

Farther up the trail Grandmother Cactus is silhouetted against the soft violet-colored Santa Rita Mountains. We are far enough up the trail, that if I look in just the right direction I can't see anything man-made and I can imagine that I am as wild and free as the birds.

As the sun gets ever closer to the horizon, I know we must turn back. We've gone quite a ways and it will be a challenge to get down the trail and across the wash before dark. We did not bring a flashlight with us, and there have been reports of a mountain lion prowling the area. I am a bit surprised at this, since I have never seen any deer in this area since moving here a year and a half ago. Deer are a mountain lion's favorite prey, but perhaps ours likes to eat jackrabbits. we have an abundance of those.

The setting sun turns to fire in the sky,

then softens to shades of salmon and blue.

The road back winds down the hill, past Grandfather Cactus in the twilight where we can see the lights of Green Valley and Sahuarita just starting to twinkle in the distance.

Afterword: Yesterday I took our little dog, Blossom, for a walk across the wash on a lower section of the same dirt road. As we came over a little hill my jaw almost dropped as three mule deer walked towards me. As we were downwind from them and partly obscured by the crest of the hill, the deer kept coming. I saw 3 does at first and then a 6 point buck came out of the brush to join them! I did not have my camera with me, but I did have my binoculars and I stood there breathless, just watching them. Their coats were sleek and silvery, the buck's antlers polished smooth. They walked softly and slowly on their slender legs, long, mule-like ears twitching, searching for sounds. I watched the male trot over and sniff one of the does, but she was not ready for his attention. I don't know how long we would have stood there or if they would have continued towards me, but I pulled out my cell phone to call Gus and tell him what I was standing there looking at. Though I tried to speak softly, the deer heard me, and melted into the desert.

I hope you enjoyed your visit here today. Visit MY WORLD to continue your tour of this amazing planet we all share.


Louise said...

A beautiful walk. I love the desert, and your area is fabulous. The light and the mountains really appeal to me.

And I guess the mountain lions DO have food! Glad you got back before dark!

Kathie Brown said...

Louise, yes we did get back before dark and I am so glad we were not the mountain lion's food!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Kathie: I certainly enjoyed the story and Gus's photo from your walk. what great country you are in. Thanks for sharing this part of your world. I loved the deer story and I had a similar incident with a doe and two fawns right beside the car with no camera. One fawn was a fiesty young buck.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful World when the spirit rises with the wind.
Great Nature and report.
Thanks for share.
Luiz Ramos

bobbie said...

You are doing a fabulous job of presenting your world, both in photos and words.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the story Kathie. Very interesting and something completely different to what I see on my walks. So you didn't have your camera with you again, (when you met the deer) you must not go out without it. {;)

Niar said...

hi, nice blog here..
you have write something interesting in it...and the pict is really stunning.
nice to meet you ^-6

Deborah Godin said...

So enjoy the photos and narration. I'm espeically fond of mule deer. We had both them and white tails in Alberta, and the mulies were very tame by comparison. There are white tails here in Ontario, but I rarely see them. And those cacti are incredible!

A Scattering said...

you didn't need photos of the deer, your words created the picture. What a moment!

abb said...

So different from the vistas I see...but just as beautiful. I miss the southwest!

Shelley said...

I loved your descriptions and the photos were lovely - especially the sunset!

Gaelyn said...

Excellent blog. I'm happily exhausted from joining on your desert walk. Beautiful.

Arija said...

Oh Kathie what a lovely, lovely experience, especially since they did not panic at sight of you but just melted away.
Wonderful countryside for a great wald with beautiful photos.
I can see you being as wild and free as the birds!

Doug Taron said...

Great story and photos. As I am in the desert myself at the moment, I can enjoy your post without feeling pangs of wanting to be there. I loved the update about the deer- that always seems to happen. I wonder if you could achieve the same effect by saying something about never seeing Trogons in your neighborhood.

Celeste said...

What a wonderful hike and stunning pictures too. I particularly liked the shot of the two cactii silhouetted against the sunset. The mountain lions clearly knew that they had a food source when they moved into the neighbourhood, aren't animals amazing?

Ruth said...

I enjoyed your story and pictures. Your world is beautiful indeed.

Anonymous said...

Lots of nice things in those pictures. My walk would be quite different.

DeniseinVA said...

Good morning Kathy, thank you so much for taking us on your walk. The photos and narrative have me right there along with you. Thanks to you I have discovered so many new things, today it was the phainopepla. I did a google search to find out more. Great post!

Texas Travelers said...

I somehow missed this last week. It's been busy here.

Great story and a nice walk with terrific photos.


Amy said...

Your cactus photos are so majestic. I hope to stand next to a grandfather cactus some day. Cholla skeletons are so interesting. I imagine it's illegal to take any, which would be a good thing actually.