Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lessons Learned in Arizona

As time quickly approaches for us to leave Arizona, I started reflecting on what I've learned about Arizona and living in the desert.  I joined the Air Force to see the world, so I was game for an adventure.  Looking back, though, I'm surprised at the number of misconceptions I had about the desert.  Things, indeed, were not what they seemed, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I beg my Arizona friends to indulge me, yet enjoy this post thoroughly as I'm sure you'll take every last remaining opportunity to rub in my stupidity.  In my defense, though, I really haven't spent any time out west.  In fact, all of my assignments thus far have been east of the Mississippi River (except for Little Rock, which hardly counts as west of the Mississippi).  Anyway, here we go:

1)  The desert does not look like Tatooine.  I expected to see vast fields of sand.  It turns out I actually had to go search out sand dunes like that.  I've only found two such areas in the Southwest.  Both of them were relatively small pockets of desolation, and neither of them was in Arizona.

2)  The desert is not flat.  It is not the Great Plains.  You cannot see the Pacific Ocean from our house -- not even from the second floor.

3)  Not all desert is created equal.  I was amazed at how the landscape changed from place to place.  Yet it's all called "desert".

4)  Arizona is not simply one vast desert wilderness.  The pictures below were taken on two different hikes close to home.  Additionally, it is said that you can go from Mexico to Canada in landscape change in a short one-hour drive from our house to the top of Mount Lemmon.

5)  The wildlife has no problem invading your space.  Since I've been here, I've been closer to javelinas, coyotes, squirrels, jackalopes, spiders, and scorpions than I ever thought -- or wanted.  Fortunately, I managed to avoid the rattlesnakes and bobcats.  The pictures below were taken in our neighborhood.

6)  Every plant -- Every. Single. Plant. -- is capable of putting a hurt on you, no matter how cute or benign they look.  Not content with simply a defensive posture, the Jumping Cholla will actually attack you with so little provocation, you didn't even know you did it.

7)  The desert actually has color (albeit only during certain times of the year).

8)  You may think that the days of the wild West are over, but everyone out here still carries a gun.  I never heard of a shootout outside the Dry Gulch Saloon, but everyone would be prepared just in case.  Since I don't carry, maybe I was just lucky...

9)   A monsoon is not just a heavy rain.  Think of it as taking all the rain that comes down in a typical heavy rainstorm in a city that lasts a couple of hours and focusing it on about two city blocks in the space of 15 minutes.  The very first night we were in Tucson, a monsoon hit, and lit a palm tree on fire less than a block from us.

10)  The desert has the most beautiful sunsets on the planet.

If you've never had the opportunity to visit the desert, I highly recommend it.  While I have missed having four seasons, the rugged beauty of the desert southwest is absolutely stunning, and we have enjoyed taking in all this area has to offer.  We treasure our time here and will miss it greatly.  Alas, adventure calls once again!

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