The Southwest desert has reminded me of the value of seeing things from many perspectives. We tend to think of it classically as a dry barren landscape. Some people even go as far to call it a wasteland. Many imagine lifelessness. However, in the mountains near the US-Mexico border exists a diverse mountainous landscape where seasons exist in their own unique way. Winter is relatively cool (albeit still much warmer than the rest of the US) and summers are scorchers. It’s summer that we’re really thinking of when we imagine that thirsty crispy landscape. But much unlike other ecosystems, the desert has its own set of “other” seasons. Day to night temperatures contrast greatly, from crisp clear star-covered 20-30s F to brightly intense 60-70s F by day. And dry parched land gives way to rushing waters, brilliant flowers, & an abundance of birds upon a fresh rain. Oh, and with it a signature burst
of a totally unique fresh smell. Owed to a plant informally called the Creosote Bush, after a rain the desert transforms into what I imagine as a landscape of fresh laundry. Its like a renewal, just like we think of seasonal change traditionally, but in the time of just a few hours! I’ve been to the desert Southwest many times now and each time is a completely difference experience.
In addition to surprising fresh bursts of life, the desert here is also home to some mystery. Periodically, within these mountains, someone spots the elusive Jaguar. Yep, that’s right. A few remaining Jaguars roam these mountains. We’ve camped in the regions where those cats have been spotted but we’ve not been lucky enough to see a Jaguar of our own. At least we didn’t see him. His presence may have been around. We did encounter 3 mountain lions, which is rare enough to be labeled exciting!
The desert boasts some pretty frightening critters – everything from rattlesnakes and scorpions to thorns and spines and several big cat species. Did I mention everything has thorns & spines? Yeah, so that alone is a humbling vibe the desert immediately gives you. And if that doesn’t work, the sun will certainly beat humbleness into you.
But among these frightening specimens you can eventually see another side – even a life giving one. So far, we still haven’t tried the desert delicacy, the Prickly Pear cactus. But it is something we’d like to add to our foraged food list. I just need to get over the fear that I won’t properly remove the spines and my stomach will punish me for that.
In summary, the desert has unveiled many surprising treasures that I never knew existed before we embarked on this journey. Living on the road full time has given us the greatest reward – time. Now, I don’t just visit places, I spend time with them. I get to experience them in different times of the year and different times of day. And just as the desert taught me, that can make a big difference in the experience and how well you really know a place. Spending hours hiking along the high desert with mountain lions prancing around, thinking about what it was like here when all those old miners worked in these hills, staring across a huge canyon wondering what it’s like to be those birds soaring to the next mountain range that glows in a red, green, & yellow pallet, then changes to red glow as the sun sets and the Milky Way shines bright like in no other sky full of stars. And my place in the universe is once again humbling thanks to these new discoveries.