Friday, March 15, 2019

Snow in the Desert

15 March 2019

It SNOWED here in Tucson!  SNOW!!!  We're in the middle of the Sonora Desert, we're surrounded by saguaro cactus, we came here to have a nice warm winter, and then IT SNOWED!!!

It was crazy!

Okay, so it didn't last longer than a day, except on the nearby hills.  And the elevation in Tucson is about half a mile above sea level.  So maybe it isn't that strange. 

On the other hand, it snowed nearly all day long.  Long enough to cover the ground and the road, and turn our red car white.  

Just bizarre.

The temperatures have bounced up and down all over the place.  One day is sunny and in the 70s (or about 20 C).  Two days later the temps plummet to below freezing, and we get black ice.  Then the thermometer inches down and we get a day of snow.  Three days later, we're back up to sunshine and no jackets.

I'm including some photos of what it looked like snowing on the Catalina Hills, just north of Tucson.  And then the following day, when the snow was on the hills but it was nice and sunny once again.  Wow.  REALLY beautiful!!!

The river bed we drive across (on a bridge, not right through the river bed) has been bone dry for most of the time we've been in Tucson.  Just a dusty arroyo or wadi, depending on the part of the world naming the dry river bed.  But after this snow, the river bed was a tumultuous torrent of frothy brown water, full of mud and debris as it rushed down from the mountains.  So different from the usual dry and empty river bed as this flash flood rushed through!  It was easy to see why all of the low spots on the roads have signs saying "if flooded, do not enter" - this sudden wall of water after a heavy rain or rain after a snow is seriously dangerous and deadly!  Fortunately no one was caught in the flood, and I suspect most animals have some sort of sense with regard to the flooding.  At least, I hope so.

Between the crazy weather, we've done some exploring around the region.  I spent one afternoon wandering around in the Sabino Canyon Recreational Area.  This wonderful park is at the base of the Catalina Foothills (also known as the Santa Catalina Mountains), and is full of our friends the saguaro cactus.  So it was great getting photos of the saguaros with the mountains in back of them.

On the other hand, I didn't want to walk too far into the hills.  I was walking by myself, for one thing - never a good idea for hiking.

And then, I had picked up some brochures at the information center - including a pamphlet on what to do if you run into a mountain lion.  Don't walk under any ledges or overhangs, this is where mountain lions wait and jump on their prey.  If you see one, don't crouch or bend down, and don't run which triggers the chase instinct.  Try to look large and threatening, hold your coat open to look larger, throw objects, yell, try to scare the mountain lion off.  Back away slowly, but keep your eyes on the mountain lion at the same time.

Uh huh.  Part of me thinks that wild and dangerous animals will know I'm their friend, and will come up and rub their head on my knee and purr.  The more rational part of me knows this is rather insane, and that they would more likely see me as lunch.  

And then, there was that man hiking a few weeks ago in Colorado, who was jumped by a young mountain lion.  He managed to escape only by killing the mountain lion, because it wouldn't let go of his arm which was clamped tightly in its jaws.  Guy suffocated the mountain lion by holding his arm down on the animal's neck.  Park rangers later found the animal and said it was about four to five months old, and thus considered a "kitten."  Probably only weighed about 35-40 lbs (15-18 kg).  

Beautiful animals, and I'd like to see one not in a cage some time.

But yeah, I wasn't going to fight off a huge kitten who wanted to eat me for lunch.  Even less likely that I could fight off or escape a full-grown mountain lion.

So I walked around in the area where there were plenty of people, and admired the saguaros.  Always so fascinating to see the myriad ways that the arms grow - some curving outward and up, some curving downward, some growing nearly as vertical as the main trunk of the saguaros.

There's an austere beauty to the desert here.  Much more vegetation than one would expect in a desert, with the variety of cactus and other odd plants.  Chattering birds flitting around.  Quiet animals like butterflies, occasional lizards.  And nocturnal animals hiding, like the coyote we saw last fall, or maybe another mountain lion.

It definitely was atmospheric, with the lowering grey clouds looking ominous, the towering hills, and the austere spine-covered saguaros.

I didn't want to stay out there for sunset, or whenever the rain started.  But it was a wonderful afternoon.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful country. Looks so good with the snow on the mountains. I'm glad you didn't meet a mountain lion on your walks.