|Monday January 28 2008|
The Sonoran Desert surrounding Scottsdale: one of the hottest of the North American deserts, with temperatures averaging above 100 for the three months of summer. It's also one of the wettest deserts in the world, with the area around Scottsdale averaging 9" of rainfall a year.
It's still a desert. The population is growing by 200,000 a year, spreading further out into the inhospitable, untamed desert. Where Kevin and Rusty live there's no city water or well water. Every single drop is hauled in by truck, for humans and horses.
It's good to not waste water anyway, but here in the desert, you really think about not leaving a hose on that drips, not taking long showers, not forgetting about that hose you left running to fill the water trough.
Yesterday I think we must have gotten half the year's rainfall. For 24 hours, we had a steady, heavy rain, all day, and when it wasn't a heavy rain, it was dumping. The washes became little flowing streams, which became little rivers, carving away at and widening their sand walls, creating miniature roaring rapids. It was an astonishing rain, heavier and wetter than any day in the Pacific Northwest, all the more so for being so rare in the desert here.
The horses turned tail to the heavy drops and drooped. Blankets were quickly soaked, as were human hats and raincoats and shoes. Hay was quickly saturated, sandy paddocks turned to big puddles with rivers running through. Nature came to a standstill, out-done and drowned out by the rain. Birds hid in holes in the saguaros and under the heavy brush and squeezed against vertical branches. The desert mesquite and palo verde trees - already rich and green from August's monsoon downpour, which came an inch away from flooding into Kevin and Rusty's house - drooped toward the ground. The gray skies obliterated the mountains to the west. And it rained, and rained, impressive, remarkable rain, heavy, soggy, gray.
Toward the early hours of the morning there was something different: silence. The rain had stopped. The horses knew it was over - some of them celebrated by trotting around the paddock and shaking off underneath their blankets.
The morning brought small teasing glimmers of blue sky, puddles everywhere, and artistic water-carved wet sandy roads and new sandy wash channels. Blankets came off and horses rolled, and heavy gray clouds moved around the sky to let us know this desert was not done soaking up water yet.
Expect the spring flowers to be stunning.
Note: One day on your travels, pick up the book The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs - a fascinating look at water in the southwest deserts.