Sunday, June 09, 2013

Nine reasons to love the desert in the summer

In honor of the present unprecedented heat wave, I offer this edited version of a post from several years ago that demonstrates there ARE reasons to love the Sonoran Desert even in the summer. [Please note that #7 and #8 have font issues that I cannot figure out how to fix.]

1. The pace of life is slower. Starting as early as May some years, the temperatures around here often soar well above 100. Any remaining winter visitors clear out, leaving the roads less congested and restaurants pleasantly un-jammed. Early morning and evening are when the town comes to life. And even if you don’t mind the heat, it’s hard to move fast when the temperature is over 105 degrees.

2. Cicadas announce summer, but don’t take over. Some years, including this one, many who live back east have complained of the onslaught of millions of cicadas, swarming the vegetation and deafening anyone near them. Here, the cicadas show up every year as soon as it gets hot, but in small, much more manageable numbers.
Cicada Chrysalis 5-30-2009 3-30-04 PM 1107x914Cicada chrysalis in palo verde

3. Our trees don’t get in the way of the scenery. My grandmother, who lived in the southwest most of her life, did not enjoy visiting the east coast, because “the trees cover up all the scenery.” I understand her point of view. Though we do have plenty of trees here, even out in the desert, they are generally not as tall and close together as those in eastern forests, and their canopies are more open, with fewer and smaller leaves. Besides, who needs trees when you have saguaros?
Ed hiking 3-6-2012 10-56-59 AM 3616x2712Hiking in Catalina State Park.
4. It’s a DRY heat. I’ve lived back east, in D.C. and NYC, for a total of around 23 years, and believe me when I say our hot hot hot DRY days are usually way easier to take than sopping humidity. Our current heat wave does present challengers (it's 110 already today, going up to 117 tomorrow), but its mere existence probably keeps our population from growing to 10 million.
5. Cactus flowers. Throughout the warm and hot weather, various cactus bloom, some by day and some at night. All of them are beautiful, some breathtaking.
alicoche 5-8-2010 9-30-37 AM 3616x2712This is alicoche, a kind of hedgehog cactus that creeps along the ground.

6. The sky is bigger, clearer, and bluer than most other places.
Sabino Blue Sky 1-20-2013 1-00-32 PM 2048x1235

7. The monsoon. I like to joke that we truly appreciate our rivers, so we don’t cover then up with water. As a rule, they only run wet in the monsoon season (generally July to mid-September), when the skies fill with glorious clouds and huge thunderstorms produce thunder, lightning, much-appreciated rain and glorious sunsets. Experiencing a southwestern monsoon ought to be on the bucket list of anyone who loves nature. 
DSCF1890My backyard just after a monsoon storm.
monsoon sunset 1Monsoon sunset.

8. Night-blooming cereus. The plants of Peniocereus greggii, known more popularly as Queen of the Night,  bloom en masse one night a year, in a glorious, splended spectacle designed to attract the hawk moths that pollinate them. This display is celebrated in a big party at Tohono Chul Park once a year, lasting from dusk to midnight. Click the link for more on the Queen's night. 

9. Baby quail
 Click on this link for a compilation of posts about quails, quail families, and the interesting adaptation that make hot weather the best time for watching quail chicks.

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  1. I understand your grandmother's perspective about those pesky trees. After living here in Tucson for about five years, I visited Austin, Texas. I love the city, but the first thing that struck me was that it had too many trees and I couldn't see the sky -- or much of the background scenery.

    Great post. Thanks for reminding me why I love summer in Tucson.

    1. Thanks, Edie! Yesterday at Tohono Chul Park I was walking around, enjoying the plants, lizards, butterflies, and so on, sweating like a pig and thinking, "This is as good as it gets."

  2. Thank you! I agree totally!

  3. Anonymous5:28 AM

    Loved this post. Some day i will be there doe the monsoon! Meanwhile we are back in Wisconsin and the humidity is here with us. So are the green trees, but i love them.

    1. Yay! I'm glad you made it safe and sound! And you can't help loving trees... it is how you were raised. By the way, the humidity is beginning to ramp up here. Nothing much so far, but soon it will render the swamp cooler useless.