I'm writing this post after the fact, as I'm no longer living in Tucson, Arizona. This was the last photography project that I completed prior to leaving. Tucson really is full of surprises, none more unexpected than the forest landscape that emerges from the mountains that border the city. While Arizona is one of the hottest and driest areas of the country, a gain in elevation is all that is needed to cut through the desert landscape and reveal a forest of towering trees.
I was able to spend a weekend on the summit of Mount Lemmon, a 9157' peak and was constantly struck by the stark beauty of this world. Trees grew from the dry ground and although the green was expansive, a view from the top showed how quickly this growth dropped back towards the desert valley.
Despite the trees, this forest could never be described as any type of Eden. The desert was always too close, encroaching at every opportunity. Lighting storms that frequent the summit had reduced many of the trees to greyed scarecrows, whose shriveled limbs appeared as if rain had never brought life through their bows. These corpses seemed a constant reminder of the harsh life below, perhaps even a warning, as if the desert was kept at bay only by the lack of oxygen.
There certainly was no lack of sunshine at this elevation. In fact, at times even though the temperature was less than in Tucson, the height of the peak was noticeable as one felt the gain in proximity to the sun. It felt as if it was resting on your shoulders throughout the day, forcing the visitors of the park to take cover under any shade the trees could provide.
As with most things in the desert though, the transition from daylight to dusk is more magical than in most any other part of the country. All the inhabitants breath a collective sigh of relief as the sun makes its retreat from the daily onslaught that is desert living. The beauty that comes from these sunset hours can only be explained as the sun congratulating those who have not perished on a battle well fought, while the colors emitted breath a beautiful warning of the harshness to return at next dawn.
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