Thursday, March 21, 2013

Way Out in the Outback

High Desert Near Tubac, AZ
Las Cruces, NM.  3/21, 13:  I fell in love with mountains early in life. Then, it was the Appalachians, a gently rolling, heavily wooded landscape whose near horizon would cozen you.  Later, I discovered the Rocky Mountains and those of the desert southwest and fell in love all over again.  The romance has been growing for years.

  Wednesday, my hosts, John and Marsha Taylor, sent me into the outback..way back in the outback.  John has a bright little All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) called a Rhino.  Nothing stops a Rhino..nothing.  We went south of his home in Green Valley to a spot in the  Tumacacori Mountains, near the US/Mexican border.  It's public land; cattle graze there--but for the most part, it is just a vast, empty, wonderfully beautiful landscape.  I take a lot of pictures where ever I go..but I always feel there's more of the story they could tell.  I'll do my best. As follows:
  They call that (left) the Elephant's Head.  See it?  Squint your eyes and use your imagination.  It adds to the mystery.  

  The wonderful thing is the clear air and the great distances you can see so effortlessly. The mountains surround you in the distance and frame the nearby.  

  At this writing, the desert in that region had just begun to bloom.  Wildflowers were just showing color, the Ocotillo were starting to bud and the Mesquite will leaf out soon.  Which reminds me:  the Mesquite is not really native to the region--its seed was imported by cows from other states.  Their manure spreads it.  I told John that makes a cow a "Johnny Crappleseed."  

  Well, HE thought it was funny.

Rainbow Cactus
This is a little "Rainbow" cactus.  It was 6 to 8 inches high, just soaking up rays at the roadside. 

  Other than cows, we saw no wildlife that didn't fly,
although I'm certain it was looking at us.  The desert has snakes of all kinds and stripes, big cats, coyotes and who knows what else.  Humans make a lot of noise--particularly humans with machines.  So, the animals keep their distance and I have no idea how welcome we were--but we all got along.
                                      Prickly Pear and Mesquite

  Of course, there's other traffic in the desert.  Being that close to the border, we met the Border Patrol.  They work the area on ATV's, horses and helicopters, doing their best to control the human flow out of Mexico.

  The picture above is not only aggravating, it is sad. Hoping to fit in or, maybe become invisible, the "Illegals" exchange the old work clothes they wear to get into the US for better clothing brought across in backpacks that now lie abandoned in the path.  We saw packs, shoes, hats, shirts..even blankets discarded in the mesquite.  We were told there is drug traffic over the same trail, but of course we saw no evidence of that.

 (Left) Lost Crutches, Arizona.

  When John goes into the desert, he rides with friends.  It's more fun that way, there's a tailgate party somewhere along the ride and, since the run will be several miles long through very rugged and steep terrain, it's safer.  We did about 32 miles.  You could get hurt out there alone, although the ATV's are remarkable little vehicles that have no fear of anything.  They can tip over if you do something stupid, but stupid is discouraged and everybody has a real good time.  At the end of the run, they literally drive them back onto their trailers and tow them home.

Da Gang
John Taylor photoing Jim Slade photoing John Taylor


  You do see evidence of past habitation out there.  There are stone foundations, dams, corrals and water tanks.  Some of the water works are still used for cattle who run freely..but for the most part, the structures are silent markers of a time gone by.  

  They stand lonely now, in a place where people lived their lives..or sought their livelihood.  

 When I stand there and look around, I often wonder why anyone would try to make a place for themselves in such physically demanding country so far from the rest of the world.

  I wonder.

  And then I take a quick breath, look around again, see the mountains,  desert landscape, tiny flowers among the mesquite...and I think I know. 

  Peace, Friend.