SPECIAL REPORTS

Desert Landscapes

Arizona is full of wonders of all kinds.

Grand Canyon - what a wonder of the world. © Adam R. Cole 2000

Sendona, red rocks are all the rage here. © Adam R. Cole 2009

In the environments that host the extreme conditions—whether hot or cold—the beauty of these places lies in the life that springs forth amidst that extreme. In Arizona, a kind of dessert land, where temperatures get into the 100s often, cactus dot the land alongside sporadic pink flower patches, whose pink color gives a radiance as if it were its own flower garden. The area, overall, has a stoic nature to it, because of the mountainous, rocky terrain, and the barrenness of it too, as if was desert type of prairie. Within that stoic nature is peace, a quietness stretches here for miles and miles.

While the vast majority of earth here is desert, Arizona is unique in its variety of environmental venues. Travel north to Sedona and you’ll find picturesque red rock wonders. The color emits a mystic glow that catches the eye. Not only do the rocks have a beauty in their color but also in their shape, as if God sculpted them in a special way for all to view. There are different types here: coffee pot, snoopy, and even a small chapel built right into the rock. Inside that small chapel, a prayer time is inevitable: Lord, thank You for all that you’ve shaped for us.

Keep going north, passing through Flagstaff, and you’ll reach one of the seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, a place that brings on instant humility, as you meditate on just how small you are compared to the ever-spanning cavernous terrain below. The Canyon stretches 277 miles, ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles, and reaches a depth of 6000 feet (one mile). The eye loses itself in the levels, the way the rocks aesthetically descend below and the way the colors are portrayed in those layers, a true painting of God. According to scientists, the canyon was formed by the Colorado River’s slow and steady erosion, said to have taken anywhere from 5 to 17 million years, exposing geologic rock that scientists believe to be 2 billion years. Those that look to the Bible to unveil life’s complexities, conclude that the canyon was shaped as the result of the great global flood, the 40 days of water outpouring on the world about 4,500 years ago when God let rain wipe the earth as a sort of punishment on man’s sin; the same flood in which he chose one man, Noah, to re-populate the earth afterward (see Genesis 6-9). Those of this belief, point to ‘folds’ in the canyon earth, that instead of cracking, the canyon was shaped magnificently as it were clay, that gives signs that a great water might have ‘bended’ the earth, a bending made possible by the water ‘softening’ the earth enough to re-form it. We may never know the essence of time, in how things came to be or how long the earth really is ‘alive’ before us, but it remains clear in this layered rock of earth that time stands still here in the canyon. One realizes that our world may ever remain a mystery but this is true: we are just a speck on it and this Creator has given us the beauty, a layered rock of beauty, for us to marvel at and then in turn marvel at His overwhelming nature.

The scenic and historic highway known as the Apache Trail, just a bit north of Phoenix, offers an enchanting blend of desert, wilderness, canyon, and large bodies of water. The trail, officially State Route 88, is a 120-mile loop that begins and ends in Apache Junction; it was made in connection with the Roosevelt Dam nearly a century ago. The ‘trail’ begins with the Superstition Mountains to the right, a 3,000-foot set bold range of rock acclaimed by the Pima Indians to contain evil spirits. The Superstition Mountains, a wonder within the desert, is the first sight along what becomes a continual slideshow of natural beauty. Fish Creek Canyon is one of the most wondrous sights here, as canyon earth and blue water make for an incredible scene. You can rent (or bring your own) motor boat to cruise in the Salt River that runs through the canyon; as you blaze through the water, find a spot to kill the engine and the let the water gently rock under; it feels like the Lord is sweetly rocking you amidst His Kingdom. After the canyon escape, you will run into Tortilla Flat, an old settlers town, that now consists of just a candy and souvenir shop and a famous restaurant which goes by the namesake of the ‘town;’ the resturanat is a quirky joint, with good eats and where one can mark his territory there by posting a dollar bills with signature on the wall. The trail continues through so much more to see.

As the sun sets on this desert world, and a soft breeze settles in, one can almost feel the world coming to a pause.

Arizona is a place that captivates the mind in the way that so much beauty can come out of the desert. The splendor of the landscapes reside close to the heart.

Soak it all in, soak it all in. Like a drop of water…in the desert.