Purple Mountain Majesties

The rising sun casts long shadows across the mountains in front of Weaver's Needle, taken from the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The sun rises to the left of Weaver’s Needle, casting long shadows across the mountains. It was a delightful morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail, I had gone for one particular shot at sunrise but couldn’t resist this quick shot of the distant mountains. The phainopepla were out in abundance along with other birds, just a lovely morning in the desert.

I Finally Found a Mushroom I Like

A close-up view of Mushroom Rock on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

While I believe mushrooms belong in the Mount Rushmore of Disgusting Foods along with green beans, quinoa, and brown rice, this mushroom I like! Weathered granite formations like Mushroom Rock are created by erosion, the granite pebbles that break away spread across the surface of the desert (my shins had an unpleasant introduction to these pebbles early on after we moved here when I slipped just a little on a hike).

A Little Light

Reflected light falls upon Mushroom Rock at sunrise on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A week ago I hiked the Marcus Landslide Trail for the first time and came upon Mushroom Rock before sunup. I decided to photograph the rock formation until the sun was up and then explore the rest of the trail. It took a while for the sun to fully clear the hills and not leave the left of the frame in shadow, but my favorite image from the series was this one before any direct light fell on the rocks. There are other places on the trail I found later that I would like to photograph in those fleeting moments of reflected light but I had trouble falling asleep this weekend so those pictures will have to wait.

There is a little light falling on my country too but in this case I’d prefer a lot rather than a little, that we be its source and its receiver. But a little is better than none.

Spirits

A black-tailed jackrabbit is visible through the desert scrub at the trailhead to Brown's Ranch in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I am amazed how effortlessly and silently mammals move through their home while I stumble down the trail. The jackrabbits seem like spirits floating through the desert, I often first notice the black tips of their tall ears moving while the rabbit itself is blocked from sight by the many plants of the scrubland. This lovely creature I found not on the trails but at the trailhead of Brown’s Ranch, we shared a quiet moment before sunup.

The rabbit you are most likely to see at the trailhead, and on the trail, is the desert cottontail (below). They too move silently through the desert but are so much smaller than the jackrabbits that you see them when you see them, there are no tall black tips dancing in the early light to catch your eye. Like all the mammals your best bet to see them is to arrive early, here also at the trailhead but just as the sun began peeking through to send one of us onto the trails and one to bed.

Walking in the Sonoran Desert at sunrise, seeing the desert both wake up and go to sleep, is a joy and a treasure even to this lifelong night owl.

A desert cottontail looks straight at me as it is partially lit by the rising sun at the trailhead to Brown's Ranch in McDowell Sonoran Preserve