Monday, February 11, 2013

Favorite Place?

"What's been your favorite place?" or "What has been the most interesting stop?" or similar questions have often come up in conversations with family members as well as with fellow travelers and people we meet at various stops.

The most recent request for a response to this question came up on a walk through Tohono Chul Park in northwest Tucson. On the park's Desert View Trail, I met a docent and began a conversation about the desert plants that soon led to questions about our travels.

In answer to THE question, I responded with my usual brief--and, perhaps, evasive--answer: "Our travels have been primarily in the Midwest and West over the past 4+ years, and we've found many places and sights that we've enjoyed."

I realize if someone is kind enough to ask that question, they would like some specifics, but once I get started, it's hard to stop the recitation of a list of a number of favorites. For example, do I list and elaborate on the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the beauty of the snow-covered hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, the majesty of Yosemite and Glacier, the impressive figures on Mount Rushmore, or the serenity of the Great Smoky Mountains;

or do I talk about the vastness of the plains viewed from a hillside near Roscoe, Montana, the powerful sounds of waves crashing along the shore in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Carmel, CA; the dance of light and shadow in Antelope Canyon, AZ, the solemnity of the Atchafalaya Swamp near Breaux Bridge, LA;

or do I talk about the people we have met: Douglas, the Guatemalan shoemaker to Hollywood stars whom we met during a break from his driving the shuttle to Sequoia National Park; Jerald, the duck carver who demonstrated his craft in his workshop near Lafayette, LA; Robert, co-owner of Chef Roy's in Rayne, LA, who invited us to his sister's wedding reception after we had talked with him on a few
occasions after dinners at Chef Roy's; or the gentleman who presented a soliloquy on the meaning that a man's hat has to its owner after I complimented him on his ten-gallon hat during a brief conversation at Our Place, a restaurant in Cody, WY.
Or do I talk about our fascination with the deserts of the Southwest. Kate and I have shared this new-found love of the desert, ever since our first walks through the Sonoran Desert around Phoenix. We marveled at the unexpected beauty of wildflowers and blooming cacti during our spring visits, but it wasn't until my walk along this half-mile trail that I really thought about the desert.
Perhaps it was the dozen or so quotations in stone along the Desert View Trail that encouraged deeper reflection on the desert.
To say nothing is out here is incorrect; to say the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth is closer to the truth.
William Least Heat Moon*

Visitors to Tohono Chul Park owe a great debt to Richard and Jean Wilson, for preserving this 49-acre desert "oasis" with in the city and withstanding several inquiries by developers to sell the land.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Tohono Chul Park was formally dedicated on April 19, 1985. At the dedication ceremony, the Wilsons expressed their vision for Tohono Chul:"We dedicate this park to those who come here, who, we hope, will not only admire and find comfort in the natural beauty of the area, but will achieve greater appreciation of the ways of conserving all our precious desert region and obtain a greater understanding of the people native to these areas" (

The desert is no lady.
She screams at the spring sky,
dances with her skirts high,
kicks sand, flings tumbleweeds,
digs her nails into all flesh. Her unveiled lust fascinates the sun.

Pat Mora

Thinking back to my assumption about the desert, I thought of the desert as a vast depository of sand, a few saguaro, a lots of tumbleweeds. Early exposures led me to a state of curiosity and discovery of the beauty that required some more attentive glances. And slow, thoughtful studies of the inhabitants (both plants and animals) of these lands have brought me into an appreciation for the mystery, history, and relationships among these inhabitants.
Most Favorite Place? Add the Sonoran Desert to the list of many favorites.

*William Least Heat-Moon is the author of Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. His account of his journey along the back roads of the United States (marked with the color blue on old highway maps) was the source of my infection of the travel bug.

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