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Thursday, December 22, 2016



Cave Creek
Art imitating life.
In his essay The Decay of Lying, Oscar Wilde stated: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” This concept has been fodder for arguments among philosophers and pundits since ancient times. Throughout history, notable minds have contributed to the fray.
 “Art is imitation and that’s bad.”  Plato
 “Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish. The artist gives us knowledge of nature's unrealized ends.” Aristotle
“Art is what you can get away with.” Andy Warhol

Genuine and imposter saguaros mingle on the hill.
The serene memorial gardens and trail at the Carol Bartol Preserve at Saguaro Hill is an excellent place to ruminate on the muddling of life with art and there’s a perfect subject waiting at the gateway--fake saguaros. At the top of the preserve’s entry staircase, visitors are greeted by an array of enormous sculptures imitating Carnegiea gigantean. At first glance, their too perfect, unblemished fa├žade and pure symmetry might make you think these are superb genuine specimens, but the not-quite-right-green coloring and suspicious seams reveal the ruse. Look a little closer and high voltage signs tacked around the back eliminate any lingering doubt.
The cleaver shells disguise cellphone towers. While the structures’ purpose and placement are cause for pause, consider of the big picture before condemning. Case in point, on a recent visit, I observed a couple making comments about how awful the towers look while snapping photos of them with their cell phones.  So, essentially we have an ersatz life form concealing the means to make visual facsimiles that will undoubtedly end up on a social media forum that apes actual living.  Ironic, methinks.
Moving on, there’s more to the preserve than the gallery of paradox. If the 6-acre parcel in Cave Creek isn’t the tiniest hiking destination in Arizona, then it’s certainly a contender. Situated on a mini ridge behind the town library, the site was the first property purchased by the Desert Foothills Land Trust, a nonprofit, all-volunteer conservation organization which protects over 680 acres on 23 preserves in the Sonoran Desert Foothills.  The teeny hillside features gardens with placards identifying plants, seating areas and a short hiking trail with interpretive displays about the life cycle and survival strategies of saguaros. Want to know how to tell the difference between a barrel cactus and a saguaro? There’s a sign for that. In addition to its educational features and adjacent media center, the trail showcases views of Black Mountain and the wild ranges of Tonto National Forest. After exploring, let the aroma of mesquite drifting from local eateries lure you to a cozy table to discuss the intersection of art and nature over drinks, grub and a smart phone.
Black Mountain seen from Saguaro Hill Preserve
LENGTH: 0.5 mile
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2240’ – 2280’
HOURS: open every day from dawn to dusk
From Cave Creek Road, turn north on School House Road and continue 0.1 mile to the Desert Foothills library parking lot.
INFO: Desert Foothills Land Trust

Monday, December 19, 2016



Tucson Mountain Park
View of the Tucson Mountain on David Yetman Trail
How exactly do people get a trail named for them? Well, there’s probably no one formula, but it certainly helps if you’ve made considerable contributions in the fields of conservation, outdoor recreational planning or the sweat and grind of construction and fund raising for Arizona trails. Or, maybe you become a celebrity scientist who stokes curiosity in desert biomes. David Yetman Ph.D., is that kind of guy. As a scientist, author, photographer and host of The Desert Speaks series on PBS, he’s been educating the masses for decades.  
The "stone house" is made from local rocks.
The eponymous trail is a roundup of all things desert-y offering a rich trip among Sonoran desert plants, animals and homesteading history wrapped up in the ragged peaks and jumbled washes of the Tucson Mountains.  One of the most popular attractions along the trail is the Bowen Homestead which is also known as the “stone house”. The still-standing walls and foundations of the 1930s-era ranch house can be found 1.1 miles from the Camino de Oeste trailhead. Built of native stone that mingles quietly with its surroundings, the structure appears more grown than built.
The trail is rich in desert plants and animals.
Large picture windows that lost their glass years ago, frame sharp-edged escarpments and softly rounded, saguaro-dusted slopes while the footprints of living areas hint at a life far removed from 21st-century excess. An interpretive sign at the site describes the homestead floorplan and gives some background about the Bowen family and their impact on the surrounding territory.
Bowen Homestead
The 5.9-mile one way hike is the longest route within Tucson Mountain Park’s 62-mile trail system. Because it’s anchored by two trailheads and linked to several other trails, it’s easy to customize a long out-and-back or shorter loop trips.
Mesquite trees flourish near washes that flank the trail.
LENGTH: 5.9 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2600’ – 3000’
Camino de Oeste Trailhead:
From Interstate 10 in Tucson, take the Speedway Blvd. exit 257. Go 4.5 miles west on Speedway, veer left at the Speedway/ Gates Pass Road fork then make an immediate left onto Camino de Oeste. Continue 0.6-mile along a narrow, dirt road that’s passable by sedan to the trailhead. Roads are 100% paved.
David Yetman West Trailhead:
From Interstate 10 in Tucson, take the Speedway Blvd. exit 257. Follow Speedway/Gates Pass Road roughly 9 miles (mind the narrow, mountain curves) to the trailhead/scenic lookout on the left.
Tucson Mountain Park
About David Yetman:
Arizona Public Media (PBS)