During our first week in Arizona we bought groceries, visited hardware stores, registered the Plucky Corolla, and did other chores necessary to set ourselves up as part-time Arizonians. Alas, getting out into the desert for a hike was not on the list. Until now.

We drove north about twenty miles to the site of a landslide that happened roughly half a million years ago. That’s about 6000 years if you’re a Biblical literalist.

The forecast was a high of 68 degrees with 10-15 MPH winds. By Seattle standards, a perfect day for a hike. To locals accustomed to warmer weather, an arctic blast. Perhaps I exaggerate.

This was a pretty easy hike, a little under five miles and mostly flat. We picked the route because Mary Anne has been feeling a little under the weather the past couple of days.

The first thing we came across were “mushrooms”. As I understand it, they form from solid blocks of granite when the forces of erosion work more quickly on the sides than the top. Or it could be desert gnome magic. In any case, they eventually fall when the base can no longer support the top.

Interesting isn’t it how a once solid mass of granite fractures then breaks apart and the pieces roll downhill to form “pyramids”. If you pour sugar or salt onto a plate, you’ll get the same shape. It’s the stable form.

My nemesis, the Jumping Cholla. But that’s another story. Let me just say that these things drop cute little spine-covered golf balls. Don’t touch.

Here’s another mushroom. According to the sign it’s not long before it will topple. “Not long” to a geologist does not mean “later this week”.

I like this one because when you look at it from the side, it reminds me of the hood ornament from an old (I think) Pontiac. The Chief’s profile is on the right and feathered wings on the left. Work with me in this.

We finally arrived at the scene of the landslide. The big brains who understand this stuff say that the mass travelled at about 44 MPH and the event lasted a couple of minutes. I’m pretty sure that 500,000 years ago anything that was around to witness this event had never seen something so big move so fast.

The rock flow is pretty easy to spot in person, not sure whether you can pick it out in the second photo. Look beyond the grass. It’s the jumbled mass of rocks behind.

In the third photo, we’ve climbed up into the flow and are looking up to where the landslide began. Notice how different the rocks look compared to the ones at the far right.

Mother and baby Orca, or Mama Bear and Baby Bear?

I see three things here, a head facing left and another next to it facing right. At the summit, I see a bird of prey, wings at its side and beak facing right. I clearly need more sleep or less Guinness.

In closing, let me point out that sometimes cacti, like people, make things harder for themselves than necessary.


  1. Thank you for the Arizona trip today! I have Florida friends who are there now also, but they don’t send pictures. Yours are wonderful and I love the cacti.

  2. I see the same faces facing left and right (slightly reminscent of Easter Island stone carvings) and the hunchbacked bird of prey at the top of the rock pile! I blame it on the 10 year Laphroaig and 16 year Laguvulin I sipped last night.

    The mushroom rocks reminded me of the valley of the mushrooms we saw near Creel in the Copper Canyon (el barranca del cobre?). We took the train from Chihuahua to Los Mochis in 1993, I believe. It was a wonderful adventure. I just googled the mushroom rocks/Copper Canyon and found a blog called Geo-Mexico, by Dr. Richard Rhoda (phD from Iowa U) and Tony Burton (Cambridge). It is fascinating, not unlike your blog Steve!

    The Sonoran desert goes all the way from MX to the southern Okanagan in BC! When our daughter Gabrielle was 22 months old (March 1996) we spent spring break in Scottsdale, our one and only trip to AZ. I loved the Botanical Garden and the Living History Museum; I wonder if the latter still exists?

    Yesterday Christian and I took a walk on the 4km spit at Iona Park in Richmond, near the airport. Out and back is 8km, roughly the same distance as your trek in the desert, but oh so different geographically and geologically!

    It was 12C yesterday and the tide was out, all the way to the end of the spit. No seals or otters to be seen, but an abundance of herons, a half dozen bald eagles, and sea gulls aplenty. The snow geese appear to have flown back to Russia. Spring is just around the corner, along with daylight savings time – hurray!!!!

    The next time we are at Iona Park I hope it will be on our bikes. Christian goes regularly, on his own, but I am purely a fair weather cyclist. Iona beach park is about a 35km round trip from our house, which is the upper limit of my comfort zone.

    Fingers crossed that we in BC will be vaccinated by end of July. That is still too late for YPL in 2021 for us, but perhaps there will be an opening in September, and you can motor up on Impromptu!

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