Orion's Photos: places - Arizona - 2004 - south_mountain_park

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This is the South Mountain Park, just south of Phoenix, New Mexico. We got there by taking I-10 south from downtown, east on Baseline, south on 48th Avenue, and east again on Pima Canyon Road. There's a small parking lot at the end of Pima Canyon Road, with a large gated gravel road cut into the solid rock, heading east up the mountain valley (0015), with immense numbers of trails heading off in every direction.

0000-0042 are from Sunday afternoon, November 16, 2003. Chee Wai Lee and I abandoned Gengbin Zheng (0007) and Chao Huang (0009) on top of the first mountaintop (0016), and continued up the ridge. We passed several amazing structures, including a natural arch (0032-0033), until sunset, when we circled back down a valley.

0044-?? are from Monday, November 17, 2003. The other guys had tutorials, so I went alone, passing what looks like a sweat lodge (0046-0051) at the end of the gravel road, then coming up the valley (0052-0096) just south of the national trail. I came up to the national trail at a prominent outcropping (0091). At the top of the national trail, I took a panorama of Phoenix, starting from viewing north (0103-0115). I climbed back through the Hidden Valley tunnel (0116, 0144-0149), then worked my way up the Hidden Valley to an interesting peak. I ate my lunch and read the free hotel paper on a huge, flat slab (0127), then worked my way back down.

The mountains themselves are weathered metamorphic rock---mostly granite. The rock is fractured along several axes (0001-0006, 0027), sometimes in faults running at least dozens of meters long (0124) and seems to break down quickly to a gravel/sand mix. The rock is a grey granite where initially fractured or weathered (0084).

I was amazed by the variety of plants, animals, and insects. There were slow, purposeful black 2cm beetles (0017). Furtive 5cm lizards skittered in the shadows (0135-0136). An energetic black, white, and grey bird (0062), possibly a shrike, bathed in a rock cleft. I didn't manage a picture of an unidentified 4cm flying insect, black with red wings and a stinger (near 0091); and I think I saw a large brown coyote (near 0141). Deadly-looking desert thorns (0142) were fairly common.

The most obvious plant is of course the saguaro cactus, which reached easily 8m tall (0020). Cactus were present in all stages of development, including this healty adult (0098-0102), and decomposing adult (0131-134). There were also other varieties of cactus, such as this young (0005) and decomposing (0067-0071) barrel cactus; as well as huge quantities of cholla (0011).

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All images taken by Orion Lawlor and placed completely in the public domain.
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