Desert Sun Overlook


At last, the sun rises – burning off a few remaining clouds floating among the mountains, and it remains exposed for my final full day in Tucson. It is a glorious send-off, revealing the saguaro forest that had previously been hidden in a gray mist. Now, their green arms stretch high into the sky, steadily marching along the limited climate bands in which they can survive. From a distance they look like little sticks – only when you get closer does their colossal form reveal itself – soaring fifty feet into the air, towering over all around them. They are amazing life-forms, some of which have seen a century and a half of our earth’s history.

I climb a trail in an attempt to reach an overlook – a small stone building that looks to afford a better view. In the late morning light, some dew still clings to the enormous spider-webs that dot the landscape here. They are larger and thicker than any I’ve encountered, and the clinging droplets lend an even more prominent and ferocious quality to the intricate webs. I dread running into any of the occupants, and I am equally rapt and repelled by the sight of their homes.

More prickly pears and chola line the meandering trail that leads higher and higher. When I finally make it to the overlook, I discover the remnants of a fire. Even when I’m alone, ghosts remain. Surveying the land, such a foreign and alien scene to this northeastern guy, I’m entranced by the beautiful strangeness of this world, and its gorgeously infinite variety. The desert begins to work its mystical magic on me here.

The way the clouds hung so low before dissipating, it felt like I was climbing closer to heaven, of such a thing exists. As odd as it may seem, it brought to mind a book I read on one expeditioner’s search for Shangri-La in the mountains of Tibet. Worlds away in climate and landscape, the notions of breaking through the clouds and ascending were what made me think of the tenuous correlation. Still, further wildness and wilderness was in store. The day was young. The sun was on the rise. The raptors were coming…

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