Learning From South Phoenix



A Desert in the Desert?


       For our first field trip into South Phoenix we met at the South Mountain Environmental Education Center.  After living in Arizona for the last seventeen years, I had forgotten that Arizona is still a desert!  When I was a youngster living in the very rural town of Gila Bend, the desert was pretty tough to miss.  It was Gila Bend.  However, once I moved to Phoenix, those memories faded away right along with what is left of the desert in the bustling metropolis that is known as Phoenix.  Bulldozers and cement trucks are the most common sights to behold these days in our little section of the world.  High-rise buildings, heavy traffic, and smog are what we live with nowadays.  However, once upon a time in a land not so far away (believe it or not, HERE in Phoenix!) there was once a desert landscape as far as the eye could see.  Oh sure, many residents try to recreate that desert look with the landscaping in their front yards, but it certainly lacks that feeling that the desert can invoke when completely surrounded by nothing but. 

I never knew that we still had a little section in our busy city that was real desert, untouched by the hands of mankind.  The South Mountain Desert Preserve is that place.  It boasts seventeen hundred acres of unspoiled desert wildlife and botanical life.  There are horses available for rental at the fabulous price of just twenty-two dollars an hour to take out on the trails over the mountain, which is actually three mountains, all connected.  Along the way one may see such creatures as Chuckwallas, and guess what?  Until 1997 the Phoenix South Mountain Park actually allowed visitors to take up to four Chuckwallas a year with a hunting and fishing license.  Another creature that many suburbanites have never even heard of is the Gila Monster.  Believe it or not, they are not mythological creatures made up to scare children into behaving.  These are real reptiles that are very dangerous and to be avoided at any and all times.  These are just a couple of the various animals that are rather exclusive to the park in the urban area of town. 


The visitor center is an excellent facility boasting a history of the park with a guided walking tour of the main lobby.  There is also an interactive three dimensional miniature scale mountain with red lights all over it to show visitors exact spots in the park that are worth seeing.  Telegraph Pass was one area I was particularly interested in checking out at some point, as it was the very first point in Arizona that telegraph wires were brought through.  Of course, there are so many interesting and beautiful features to the park that they are too numerous to name here.  But be sure to drive to the summit on the mountain because I can guarantee you will not regret it.  It is the most breathtaking view over the mountains and it overlooks the entire city.  It is then that I finally come back to reality and our world and must remind myself that I am still in Phoenix because for at least a moment, I truly felt that I had stepped into another time, one long gone from what we now know.  This is what we call the desert today.     



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Contact Charity Spivey at (moongoddess230@lycos.com)