Friday, August 25, 2006

Fascinating Tucson, Part One

Your Weekend Assignment #126: What is the most interesting thing about where you live? "Thing" in this case would be a famous landmark, a famous current celebrity or historical personage from your home town or county, a notable celebration or sports event -- basically, anything that makes where you're from interesting and unique.

Extra Credit: Are there any books that feature your home town (or someplace nearby) in any way?

THE most interesting thing about Tucson?  I don't think I can pick one thing. (Big surprise, huh?)  I will tell you right off the bat that it's not Flandrau Planetarium, the Diamondback bridge or the statue of Padre Kino. Nor is it the fact that Lee Marvin lived here, John Dillinger was once captured here and Linda McCartney died here.  Some Tucsonans might point to the University of Arizona basketball team, but I don't watch basketball. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is the largest in the country, but I don't care. No, no.  None of the suggested ways for a place to be interesting are even in the running as reasons I find Tucson interesting.

As far as I'm concerned, Tucson is most notable for the following:

  • The desert, including the critters, the cacti, the washes, etc.
  • The mountains that surround the city
  • The climate, so different from the Syracuse weather I grew up with
  • The history and culture of the place

As an experiment, I'm going to write about two of these at the Outpost, and the other two in Musings. Each of the bullet points above will have its own entry, one per blog per night.

The Desert

When we first came to Tucson in 1986, we fell in love with the desert here. It was full of interesting new birds like pyrrhuloxias and phainopeplas, curve-billed thrashers (like the one shown here) and brown towhees, and fun mammals such as coyotes and javalinas. We learned about rivers that only have visible water when it rains, and riparian habitats where water supports trees and certain kinds of birds.  We found out that a palo verde is a tree with green bark and yellow blossoms, and how an ocotillo looks very different during a rainy season (such as the monsoon) than the rest of the year. And we learned that when it starts to rain at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, getting under a ramada may not protect you much. A ramada is basically a roof for providing shade, and sometimes it's made of saguaro ribs (the sticks inside a saguaro cactus that hold it up) laid side by side.  That's good for shade, but it doesn't do much to block precipitation, when there is any.

A very green patch of desert in March 2004, across from the Target on Grant Rd.

Yeah, we liked the desert a lot. About two weeks after we got here, we bought a house in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains, where the desert was in our back yard.  We had saguaros and sagebrush and palo verde trees, coyotes and tortoises and javalinas and over 50 species of birds.  I like the house we're in now, but I really miss having the desert out my door.

Toward the bottom of Mount Lemmon, March 2005

On the Outpost: Climate

Tomorrow night: Mountains.


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coelha said...

I learned never to go to Arizona during the month of August.  My inlaws live in SunCity West..  Loved seeing the quail, and little rabbits hopping about!  Hot place!!  Julie :)

lurkynat said...

good job Karen!