Lessons in Weather

On February 16, 2018, 9 students from Edge High School in Tucson, Arizona, headed to Oracle State Park on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. This was their second expedition with Seeds of Stewardship. We hiked about 4 miles in total via the Granite Lookout Trail, Bellota Trail, and Mariposa Trail. Our main goals for the day were to get away from the “city life”, escape the rain, and simply enjoy some hiking!

The changing forecast in the days leading up to the expedition also leads to changes in the trip’s location, mostly due to safety reasons. If you haven’t noticed, most of the trails in and around Tucson tend to be in arroyos, in canyons, or above the snowline.  Ultimately, we decided on Oracle State Park, a quiet, desert grassland on the north side of the mountains. Although it is relatively close to Tucson, most of the students had not been out there before. It also proved to be a great location to enjoy the cloudy day, since the mountains held back the rain clouds.

The students set off on the Granite Lookout Trail and up to a high point that gave us excellent views of the cloudy San Pedro River Valley and Galiuro Mountains. A red-tailed hawk darted from behind some granite boulders and flew just above the astonished group. We took breaks to investigate all of the new plant life that appeared over the past couple of days of rain. When given water, the desert thrives. As we hiked through the oak-woodland habitats, the students went at their own pace to take in the views and scenery.

Later, we lunched under the shelter of some large oak trees. The students checked out the hidden life just below the fallen leaf litter, and a pair of Northern Cardinals visited us! Their bright red feathers stuck out among a sea of muted yellow, tan, green, and grey. This wouldn’t be the end of our wildlife sightings. After lunch and further up the trail, a student scouted a group of Javelinas. We silently watched them from a ridge top while they snuffled and grazed about the tall grasses. One of the best parts of the day was climbing up a pile of granitic boulders and just looking. Sitting and looking at things outdoors has become a wayward pastime, and it truly conveys a sense of peace.

Rainy days tend to have a bad reputation. Nobody wants a rainy day because of its perceived negativity. They supposedly make life harder, are inconvenient, cold, & gray, and you get wet. On the contrary, rainy days are even more important in the desert and should be celebrated. Rainy days bring life, growth, and needed moisture to the environment. They bring the smell of creosote and ozone. Rainy days bring the birds and the animals out of hiding. They also bring immense opportunities for solitude on the trail because everyone else is stuck inside, unhappy about the weather. The students enjoyed this solitude and were happy to be outside. However, driving in the rain is an entirely different story! We safely made it back to Tucson and were exhausted from the fun day.