Desert Beauty in February

After only a week at home, Electra, my black New World Tourist, and I flew to Tucson for a week-long educational program, part of my fellowship in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona.  I’ll post a little later about the joys (immense) and challenges (tiny) of traveling with a folding bicycle, but right now I’ll just share some photos of the desert in February.  With a little extra time on both ends of the program I had plenty of time to enjoy cycling and Tucson is a very bike friendly town.  (Will post later on this too).

The Saguaro National Park has two locations on the outskirts of Tucson, Electra and I took in the eastern one.  The ride out there and the 8 mile loop inside the park are very popular bike routes.  We saw cyclist of all stripes, from recumbents to mountain bikes, to serious roadies.  Sabino canyon was another day’s ride.  I love the rides out into the foothills as the trappings of the city disappear and the emerges desert in all its stark beauty.  The canyon has a narrow paved road about 9 miles long.  Much of the work done to make the canyon accessible was done by the WPA and the CCC during the 1930’s and ’40s.  A reminder of the enduring benefits of those taxpayer funded, public projects.  Due to the condition of the roads and the operation of a shuttle cyclists use of the road is limited to certain days and hours.  I missed the opportunity this trip but hope to do it next year.  I contented myself with a shuttle pass that enabled go deep into the canyon and spend my time hiking along the river.  Some of my favorite passages in Isaiah talk about water in the desert.  The sound of running water is always healing to me, but to hear it, see it, and bathe my feet in it surrounded by rocks, sand, and cactus under the hot Arizona sun was profoundly spiritual.  I sat on rocks and put my hands into the mortars carved into them by ancient Native Americans to grind their corn, watched a noisy duck make its way downstream,  marveled at the age of saguaro cacti, hundreds of years old backlit by the setting sun.  The pictures only hint at the deep beauty here.  West of town is Starr Pass, a beautiful stretch of desert, well worth the climbing.  Unfortunately marred by the Marriott and a massive most unnaturally green golf course.

If you are traveling to Tucson check out the Roadrunner Hostel.  I stayed several nights there.  $20 for the dorm, $40 for a private room.  Friendly staff, cooking facilities, free breakfast, internet, and lots of interesting people to talk to.  Location is fabulous, right on the edge of dowtown.  I was able to walk to theatre to take in a superb production of The Great Gatsby by the Arizona Stage Company.

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