Home Soon

A white-winged dove, its face matted with fruit juice, sits atop an unripened saguaro fruit with its mouth open as it prepares to preen in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

We close on our house in a couple of days. We have a walkthrough around lunchtime with the owners then take possession on Thursday and move in a couple of weeks. The white-winged doves will be home soon too, at least their summer home, although I’m not exactly sure when they’ll arrive. This one was feeding on saguaro fruit in July, I felt so much sympathy for them as their faces were matted with juice as they stuck their heads into the fruit to feed. As much as they like to be clean, they were going to be migrating soon and had to strike while the iron was hot.

One Year Ago

Looking down into a teddy bear cholla along the Pinnacle Peak Trail in Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, Arizona

I took this picture one year ago on my first foray into the Sonoran Desert. I had interviewed the morning before on my first to Arizona and they called a few hours later to let me know they were going to make an offer. I already knew I was likely to accept so I wanted to make sure I’d enjoy hiking in the Sonoran Desert, although I didn’t have much time before visiting some neighborhoods and then flying back to Portland. I headed up to Pinnacle Peak Park for an hour or so to get a taste of the desert.

The last note in my hiking journal is simply this: “Can’t wait to hike more here, will always miss the Northwest of course, but the desert will be amazing to explore.”

I accepted when the offer arrived early the next week, setting in motion a frantic month getting ready to move. A year later we are getting ready to move again, this time from our rental house to our new home. It’s been a busy month but nothing compared to last year, a cross-city move is so much simpler than a cross-country move, especially since then I was also starting a new job, we were finding a rental house, all while getting ready to sell the old house.

I’m excited and nervous and happy and tired and above all, grateful. I loved my 21 years in the Pacific Northwest and I’ve loved my year in the Sonoran Desert. Here’s to many more.

The Old House, The Old Subaru

Our 2000 Subaru Outback sits in the driveway buried under snow in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

I took this picture a decade ago after a rare snowfall shortly before Christmas at our old house in Portland. Under the snow is our beloved old Outback, our first Subaru. You wouldn’t think I’d be able to take such a picture here in Scottsdale but I almost could as the part of the city where we bought our new house got over half a foot of snow this morning! When we were house hunting and visiting the house for the second time I thought to myself I’d be less likely to buy the house in a colder climate because you have to drive up a hill to get to the house and I remember what a nightmare the ice in Portland was for people on hills. We don’t take possession until the end of the month and we only got rain, lots of rain, at our rental house so no snow pictures today.


The spines of an Engelmann prickly pear cactus cast shadows, looking like little windmills, along Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I’ve been fascinated by the plants of the desert and have enjoyed taking pictures of their various shapes and textures. I’ve held off a little bit though since I didn’t know what would be growing in our yard when we bought a house, where it would be much more convenient to take pictures. I took this picture of Engelmann prickly pear back in April during the first month after we moved here. We have some cactus growing in the yard of the new house but not this lovely species.

Remarkable Red

A male house finch perches on a chain fruit cholla at sunrise on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I arrived before sunrise to get into place to photograph this chain fruit cholla at first light. As the sun crested the mountains clouds in the east slightly softened the light just as a male house finch flew onto the cholla. I have been surprised by so many things in the desert it’s hard to say what has surprised me most but the finches are near the top of the list. These are the same finches that fed year round at our feeders in Portland yet they also thrive in the desert. When I first saw their little groups flying around I assumed they could only survive near subdivisions but then I noticed them miles out into the desert, like this lovely little fellow on a winter morning.

Sitting Idle

Our tortoiseshell cat Trixie sits on my orange rain jacket on the tile floor

Coming from Oregon I have a handful of raincoats I use for different purposes. They’ve mostly been sitting idle since we moved to Arizona although I do stuff one in my backpack if there’s a chance of rain. One morning I took the raincoat out since it was going to be dry all day but I returned to find it had been put to use after all.


My Tom Bihn Guide's Pack backpack with my tripod underneath sits on quartz rocks on the Quartz Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A week ago I went to a trail near what I expected was going to be my second choice in houses to help cement my opinion. I went further than I’ve gone before, continuing on to the Quartz Trail and wandering up to this outcropping of quartz that looks out over Scottsdale. I had a fun morning and confirmed the other house was my first choice but also that I’d be happy living in the second if we didn’t get the first.