By Ian Adrian | January 9, 2019
Bathed in the light of the golden hour.
In the heart of the American Southwest lies a city that, since it’s 1860 founding (although it’s original inhabitants can be traced as far back as 10,000 BC), has grown from a small town of 915 residents to a thriving metropolis, with a population exceeding half a million (and that’s just within the city limits). This city is not only a melting pot of different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and political creeds, but is truly a mecca for the outdoors enthusiast. The place I’m referring to is Tucson, Arizona.
Only 60 miles north of the Mexican border, Tucson is famous for it’s rugged, yet beautiful natural landscapes. With every color ranging from crimson to lavender, the sunsets are “to die for.” On a drive through the city, there is virtually no spot lacking a view of the surrounding mountain ranges. Drive outside the city, and one is treated to forests of saguaro and cholla cactus growing from every orifice in their rocky terrain. Early spring introduces patches of wildflowers to the equation.
Nestled between Saguaro National Park’s East & West sides (and with state parks to the north and south), there is no shortage of choices for hiking, mountain biking, and general nature appreciation. Within an hour’s drive, one can shift from Tucson’s intense summer heat to Mt. Lemon’s cool conifer forests, offering quick relief as one near’s it’s 9000-foot summit.
Around, and even throughout the city, wildlife is far-ranging and abundant, offering residents a chance to see anything from mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats, to rattlesnakes, bats, and even America’s only venomous lizard, the endangered gila monster. In all but the coldest months, walk down a trail, and one will observe small (and occasionally not-so-small) lizards darting back and forth in search of food and shelter.
For the longest time my wife, Jeanette, and I had felt somewhat displaced in our small corner of Central Pennsylvania. Approximately 8 years ago, we tentatively opened the discussion on moving away. For several years, we thought Costa Rica would be the destination, but after a few eye-opening experiences during a former visit, decided to look elsewhere. This revelation led us to revisit a former camping trip in the Tucson area.
We reflected on a particular point in the trip. We were camping in Aravaipa Canyon, and it was the beginning of monsoon season. Drizzle began to fall for just a few minutes, right before the sunset. Aside from the few overzealous bats, beginning their evening hunts earlier than their kin, we were completely alone. The sky was miraculous, casting an orange glow across the surrounding cliff faces. The air smelled incredible. Despite our exhausted legs and quickly expiring water rations, at that moment we both felt completely at peace. It was the most beautiful scene I could ever imagine. Reflecting on that moment, we elected Tucson as our new home.
After 2 years of serious planning and prep, we now find ourselves as newly transplanted Tucsonians (having only lived here over a week, I’m not sure about the validity of that term, though). We are on the doorstep of Saguaro West, only a mile from the nearest hiking trails, and have already seen a vast assortment of wildlife. Coyotes and javelina are elusive, yet very present, a large covey of gambel’s quail are already making regular visits to their new food supply, and hummingbirds aren’t exactly scarce.
As an avid nature photographer and lover of the outdoors, this area is a dream! The people are friendly and inviting, the scenery spectacular and, after waiting so long, I can still scarcely believe this dream came true.
A couple of my backyard inhabitants.
A few interesting nature facts about Tucson and surrounding areas:
-Southern AZ hosts more species of hummingbirds than anywhere else in the US
-The Sonoran desert, which encompasses much of Southern AZ, has more species of bees than anywhere else on the planet
-The Sonoran appears to be the wettest desert in the world. In fact, some scientists debate whether it should even be classified as “desert.”
Tucson nature and wildlife.