Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Superstition Mountains

Ken and I traveled to visit our cousins in Apache Junction for their anniversary. It sounds much better to say "Superstition Mountains" than "Apache Junction," doesn't it? It's a marketing thing, I guess. Their house sits at the base of the Superstition Mountains. We hadn't visited there since moving to our own desert home.

When we first started visiting Joshua Tree I had a certain stock view I labeled "desert" and I applied it whenever I found myself anywhere called "desert." It took me some time to look at the desert around Joshua Tree and actually SEE it, to begin to distinguish the creosote from the cat's claw acacia and bladderpod, to notice the white bursage, alyssum, paper bag bush and ephedra. It was some time before my stock view of the desert was replaced with what was actually there.

I hadn't realized that I'd applied the same stock view to both the Sonora and Mojave Deserts, so when I saw the Sonora Desert again I fully expected it to look just like the Mojave. It didn't. It was practically lush with countless palo verde and ironwood trees and brittle bush and bursage sprouting from the ground like grass.

I took the opportunity to forage and was able to gather both encelia farinosa (brittle bush) and ephedra (Mormon tea) in a wash on my cousins' property. We cleaned it and tinctured it and then took this photo with the mountains behind.

Pretty, no?

We drove home to Wonder Valley via Highway 177, through Chuckwalla Valley, stopping in Desert Center and driving past the Desert Lily Preserve. We stopped briefly at the entrance to the Colorado Desert.

Road leading to the Palen/McCoy Wilderness Area
We then came back to Wonder Valley from the east, a first for me, having always approached Wonder Valley from the west.

I mentioned my one stock desert reference. Living here has replaced that with countless deserts, all with their own micro-climates.  North Joshua Tree is very different from Joshua Tree and both of those different from the monument and from Wonder Valley. Micro-climates here change very quickly, affected by distance, elevation and other conditions. There is not one desert. There are probably thousands of deserts. I'm glad to finally be developing eyes to see them.