Safari Nights

Hello my name is Kelly, I am a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador working with the Saguaro National Park Trail Crew and Outreach Programs. (I’m the gal in green) I have a Degree in History and a Minor in Native American Studies, but what really qualifies me to tell you about Saguaro National Park’s secrets, is the fact that I have spent my entire life in Southern Arizona. My childhood background split between the Coronado National Forest and the Sonoran Desert. I explored canyons to tree tops and found a sense of wonder every time.

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My Parents’ small farm hosted a menagerie of animals we raised for food and 4-H. I rode pigs as well as ponies on the weekends during the school year, but each Summer and Christmas break¬† my sister and I would stay with our Grandparents (2 sets + 2 Great Grandmothers) in their homes along the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. We were often allowed to explore the boulders, trees, and cacti on our own. The Heat of the Sonoran Desert in Summer is often a brutal 110 degrees or more with the humidity seldom stretching above 10%. Your sweat evaporates before you can feel it, so you have to drink a lot to keep up, but you soon find your self mimicking the activity patterns of the Native Wildlife. Settling into comfortable rhythm of dawn and dusk exploration separated by sedate afternoons. Getting up before 5am not because you have too but because you want to. You want to see the Inca Doves searching for seed outside your window. You want to hear the Mourning Doves call, and spy quail herding their brood between the spines of the Prickly Pear. At night the cool air welcomes everyone out of their boltholes and into the open. The Cottontail rabbits box in the moonlight. Bats swoop between cactus blossoms, and exercising exquisite grace, they twist and flip inches before your nose to claim a mosquito. I used to catch moths from our barn and release them before me as my ticket to their strange ballet.

Just when you think you have Desert’s pattern mapped and laid out a routine to match it; she transforms into the Paradox we know as Monsoon. Clouds appear promising shelter from the sun, but the heat only climbs higher and humidity skyrockets. For days your sweat soaks your clothing, it clings like cellophane, trapping the smothering heat with it. The only sound is the incessant drone of cicadas.¬† Just when you think you can take no more, you notice the clouds sink lower reaching out to the mountains in a gentle caress.

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The Dark Clouds which have teased their way just out of reach of the Saguaro’s arms finally relent and deliver their life-giving cargo of of water. Their gift is not given equally but rather in patch works of drought and flood. It is a common occurrence (and source of amusement) to step outside and discover it is pouring on only one side of your house!

As we work trimming trees and brush along road leading to the visitor center we notice the birds starting to sing their morning calls even though its mid afternoon… Then the smell of sweet rain surrounds you as tiny droplets massage the leaves of Bursage and Creosote Bush releasing their fragrance. Your breathe it in deeply and hope it is working its way toward you. You scan the horizon looking for it’s source and are surprised to discover a Haboob building on the horizion.

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Thankfully the haboob came just as our work truck full of tools was pulling out of the drive. We were lucky, the haboob did not erase our days labor brushing the side of the road. Instead the storm-system propelling that sandstorm released a micro-burst into the heart of Tucson a small historical site called Valley of the Moon. 70 mile an hour winds randomly tore away roofs, fences, and old growth trees. Most of those historical buildings remained in tact but the debris was a hazard to children and wheelchairs. Thus, my husband and I, as well as 8 other volunteers helped clean up the mess for several hours of our holiday weekend. We celebrated what our country has given us, by volunteering our time and skills to preserve the past for our future, what could be more American?

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