The looming wildflower season

Harbingers of spring: A pair of lonely poppies along Quartz Ridge Trail.

Last Saturday, on January 28, I noticed a new crop of wildflowers emerging.  I was hiking the Quartz Ridge Trail in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, coming down off a saddle about a mile and a half south of the 40th Street Trailhead.  And there they were.  A pair of golden poppies by a rock in a narrow valley shaded from the winter’s afternoon sun.  That means the full-blown season is not far away.

On the next day, the 29th, hiking the Sunrise Mountain Trail in east Scottsdale, I found even more wildflowers.  Poppies, lupine and two or three others I didn’t recognize.  One, a dainty plant with tiny yellow flowers no more than 1/16 of an inch across.  Not in great profusion yet, but still a sign of what looms in February and early March, the height of the Sonoran desert’s wildflower season.

Not only are the wildflowers starting up, but the entire desert is coming alive with green, and other plants are starting to show color.  The ocotillo along the Sunrise trail were thick with their small green leaves turning red at the tips of branches.  Some brittlebush was sporting yellow flowers.  And I saw at least one creosote with a few tiny yellow flowers

This is the beginning of an exciting time in our desert, and the weather couldn’t be better for hiking.  January was one of the warmest and sunniest I can remember.  The last few days have seen temperatures rise into the 70s.

Driving home at sunset, the fuscia, red, dark blues and purples of the western sky were exhilarating.  As I admired the heavens,  three groups of geese flew over, bearing north, following their migratory paths of many, many moons.

All of it together, the wildflowers, greening desert, sunset and geese, might make one feel a tad nostalgic with a sense of commonality.  Even in this land of angry, racist citizens, loaded guns, disparate finances and divisive politics there are moments like these that give hope to America, hope that this nation might once again pull together and reach for its great potential.  Sadly right now we are heading in the opposite direction.

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