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 The Trek: The Journals

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Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Monday, January 6
Sunny Weather
It's 78 degrees outside, not a cloud in the sky, and my friend John and I are seated in his living room complaining about the weather. We want rain, snow, hail, flash floods, anything to relieve the tedium of sun, sun, sun. Anyone listening might think we were nuts but we consider ourselves to be two of the more rational people in this town of winter visitors and midwestern transplants. We know that Tucson is in a drought.

Tucson sits on the northeastern fringe of the great Sonoran Desert in a region known as the Arizona Uplands. We typically receive about 12 inches of rain a year, half in the winter and half in the summer. Winter storms are born fierce and wailing in the gulf of Alaska, then charge southeast; although they usually wear themselves out as they sweep over the Sierra Nevadas and other ranges, they can provide us with a day or two of rain if the jet stream dips to the south. The high mountains surrounding our town---the Catalinas, Rincons, and Santa Ritas---will be dusted with snow which gradually melts to replenish our aquifer. In the summer, moist air drawn up from the Gulf of Mexico encounters heat rising from the desert floor and is bouyed as high as 30,000 feet, condensing to form impressive thunderheads. These storms are brief but spectacular, bringing torrential rains, hail, lightning, and flash floods. The cacti and other succulents in the desert must absorb the water they need during this time of year; in the winter, soil temperatures are usually too low.

The cause and duration of our drought vary according to who you ask, but in general we finished 2002 with about a 2 inch deficit in rainfall. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that 2 inches is a significant fraction of our usual total of 12. Since October a few storms have blown through, but most have delivered only a trace of rain, depending upon where you placed your rain gauge. Last year we received barely a quarter of an inch of rain in nine months. To observant residents the effects of this drought have been all too apparent. Instead of the carpets of poppies and lupines normally seen in the spring, almost no flowers appeared between February and April. Sabino creek, the major drainage in the Catalina Mountains, remained dry for months. The Gambel quail have had small clutches or no offspring at all and about three fourths of the manzanita bushes have died in the mountains. It's enough to make me wonder if we're being punished for something. Yet weathermen and disc jockeys continue to crow about the "beautiful weather".

People who visit Tucson or who moved here to escape the gloomy skies of the east seem to expect perpetual indulgence from the desert. Instead of welcoming what little rain we receive, they lament a day or two of overcast as if they are somehow not getting their money's worth. I think this demonstrates a profound disconnection from the land. I think Tucsonans have turned the weather into a commodity, something we are supposed to provide to those who drop a little cash on our eternally green golf courses. There is a time for every season, as the prophet said, and a little rain can mean the world to this land of rocks and rattlesnakes. It's a relief when clouds drift across the face of the blazing sun, when fog clings to the windshield in the morning. The sound of a running stream is a melody that calls out the deer and the javelinas and the drumroll of the summer thunderstorms tells the spadefoot toad it's time to emerge from his underground refuge. But anyone who spends his time in the city will miss these subtle favors. It's only by walking across the landscape, really looking at it and experiencing it, that one will find reason to be grateful for a little precipitation.

John and I are planning a backpacking trip for March and we know what another winter like last year will mean: no wildflowers, difficulty finding water to drink, fewer wildlife sightings... As it stands right now there is no rain in the forecast. But if you're crazy enough to love the rain, you're crazy enough to hope.
for Monday, January 6
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Bob Van Deven

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List of All Journal Entries
•
Monday, January 6
Bob Van Deven
Sunny Weather
   >> more...

•
Sunday, December 1
Bob Van Deven
   >> more...

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Wednesday, October 9
Bob Van Deven
The End of the Journey
   >> more...

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Friday, September 20
Bob Van Deven
A Little News
   >> more...

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Monday, September 2
Bob Van Deven
Middle Ground
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 28
Bob Van Deven
Disasters and other fun
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 21
Bob Van Deven
People
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 17
Bob Van Deven
August 17 or Thereabouts
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Saturday, August 10
Bob Van Deven
AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
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Thursday, August 1
Bob Van Deven
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