Monday, September 8, 2014

Desert vs. Desert

After spending the better part of two weeks away from home, I'm once again being reminded of why I like Tucson in the first place. On any trip it's common to start longing for home, but I do believe I appreciate Tucson itself. I've jokingly referred to this as Stockholm Syndrome, but I think that access to self-deprecating humor is part of the charm.

In particular, though, I want to discuss Tucson's status as a desert.

When I awoke at a hotel south of Bakersfield on the last day of my trip, I looked out the window at the desolate landscape and thought, "now this is a desert!" I took this picture from the parking lot.

The fence is there to keep out the tumbleweeds.

\I'm sure some people living in that area have found the beauty in their environment, but as someone passing through I thought it was rather funny that Tucson could be considered a desert when places like that exist.

For reference, here's a picture of the Tucson "desert":

Even the desert's going green these days.

It's worth noting that it's currently monsoon season, so the plants are a bit greener thanks to all of the rainfall from the past month.

Heavy rainfall, in fact. For the past month at the Fangamer office we've been having to keep an eye on the warehouse doors to try to prevent flooding, and we haven't always been successful. It's actually raining as I type up this post. What a desert!

A desert is defined as an arid climate that receives an annual rainfall of 10 inches or less. For reference, my hometown of Houma, Louisiana has an annual rainfall of ~62 inches. That's for a hot, humid, perpetually wet climate right on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, within the Mississippi delta.

Tucson's annual rainfall, by comparison is ~12 inches, which is higher than standard for a desert, though it apparently still qualifies due to its high rate of evaporation.

Moreover, though, the term "desert" which technically means that nothing lives there. A desert is deserted, abandoned, for one reason or another. In that sense, Tucson isn't a desert at all. Even if you removed the city, the wilderness is populated by tons of life. Not just scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes either; there's tons of different sorts of lizards out there, mice, rabbits (including massive jackrabbits), longhorn sheep, tortoises, bears, mountain lions, frogs (!), fish (!!!), and tons of birds including hawks, jays, and quail. I've personally seen most of these things on my hikes, except for the sheep, bears, and mountain lions. They're all too shy, and I'm not terribly interested in getting too close to the latter anyway.

Tucson is a place of abundant life, greenery, and half-decent rain (with some rather magnificent storms, I must say). It's basically not at all what I would think of when I think of a desert. That Bakersfield picture is much closer to the image I have in mind.

Though I guess Tucson has cactus and Bakersfield doesn't, so there you go.

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