I just got back from a spring collecting trip to southern Arizona. The bad news is that the collecting was really dismal on this trip. The good news ist that the weather was, for the most part, beautiful and I had a lot of fun hiking around that part of the world.
Trailhead to Sycamore CanyonOn Friday, I visited Sycamore Canyon, which is someplace that I have been visiting for about 15 years now. Sycamore Canyon is located right on the Mexican border. It runs mostly north to south, and terminates right on the border. I have never been all the way to the end. It's a place of incredible beauty in the Atascosa Mountains that are part of the Pajarito (Little Bird) Wilderness.
Low walls in the upper part of the canyonThe hike begins where the canyon is little bit mroe than a small stream bed. The trail parallels the canyon for about a quarter of a mile, then drops down into the first part of the watercourse where the word canyon really applies. It's still very shallow here, and the walls are only about 15 feet high.
Spring trees in the canyonAs you walk downstream, there is more an more permanent water, and the walls become progressively higher. One enjoyable feature of Friday's hike is that the cottonwood trees were newly leafed out and the fresh grean was a striking contrast to the towering dark canyon walls and spires.
Canyon walls and spiresI walked about an hour downstream before I encountered the first of the trees for which the canyon is named. All along the way, I was dazzled with a profusion of blooming flowers.
One of the canyon's many sycamore trees
Hedgehog cactus, a desert species, grows just a few feet away from...
Monkeyflower, a wetland species.While down in the wetlands of the canyon, it can be hard to remember that you are actually in an arid region. For the most part, it's not quite desert- the high elevation reaults in an open oak woodlands. There are even endagered species of fish. The Sonora Chub can be found in the many pools that dot the canyon floor.
Sonoran ChubsThe other fascinating thing about Sycamore Canyon (and other, similar north-south oriented canyons along the border) is that it's a place wehre numerous species of plants and animals make their only appearances north of Mexico. Although I did not see one on this trip, I have encountered elegant trogons (gorgeous tropical birds) on several visits. On this trip, I captured a beautiful chestnut-colored species of grasshopper called Tomonotus ferruginosus that is predominantly Mexican. I turned around at a pint where one is confronted with a choice between wading through a waist-deep pool of water ar scrambling across a very steep, slick rock. As I was by myself and the canyon was otherwise deserted today, I opted for prudence. Right at the turnaround point, there is yet one more indication that extreme southeast Arizona is getting somewhat close to the tropics. Ball moss, an epiphitic bromeliad grown all over the juiper trees here.
Ball MossAfter enjoying the delights of the MExican border area of southeast Arizona, I headed up to Phoenix on Saturday to spend some time with friends. It all made for a most excellent travel adventure.