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The desert blooms

In the middle of March, when the winter has been wet enough, the sonoran desert around Phoenix transforms itself into a flower garden. My brother-in-law Dee and I decided to check it out. We pitched our tent in a small mesquite forest (the technical term is actually "mesquite bosque") at the edge of the Verde river, just below the Horseshoe Dam. Considering that it is a desert, the Tonto National Forest was quite green, a good sign.

We planned to walk up the Davenport trail into the Mazatzal wilderness. First we had to cross the Horseshoe dam. That is done by walking along a small path under the spillway, with water coming down as a cataract. After that the trail goes up to the top of the dam, giving us a nice view of Horseshoe Lake. The trail follows the river and we saw a bald eagle perched on a big rock, oblivious of us and the fishermen.

From there on, we started seeing flowers everywhere. Here is a sample:

It was too early for the cactuses to be in bloom, but there were wonderful specimens of saguaros. A little after lunch the trail disappeared and the clouds started buiding up, so we decided to turn back. A last surpise was waiting for us along the road: a Gila monster (Heloderma suspectus), almost as colorful, if maybe not as pretty, as a flower. This is quite a rare sight since these animals are not common, spend most of their life in a burrow, and usually come out at night. Unlike most lizards the Gila monster is rather slow moving and we had plenty of time to admire it. As thunder started to rumble we admired a last patch of California poppies before reaching the car.