Recently Claire and I were lucky enough to catch a hike guided by the park paleontologist and an interpretive ranger. The short, two mile or so, hike took us away from the road and interpretive signs and into the washes and flats where dinosaurs died 225 million years ago in the late Triassic Period. We found pieces of bone and Claire even found an intact tooth. The stark landscape adds to the mystery and amazement of the realization that you are holding a thing, that was once part of a living Stagonolepis so long ago. Nothing like science to put one’s lifespan into perspective.
Saguaro Blossom Time in Arizona By mid April the prickly pear buds swell, turn a soft peach, open and slowly turn lemon yellow. The mix of colors on the green (or purple) thorny pads is a joy. By now, early May, the cholla begin to bloom; my favorite combo is one with burgundy arms and bright bronze blossoms Our bicycle rides already begin early, to beat the heat and the afternoon spring winds.
Still, the nights are in the 50’s and evenings are just right: the scent of orange blossoms and barbeque mix. Gambels quail couples, he with the outrageous topknot, scurry across streets, surrounded by peeps about the size of your thumb, organized chaos, they manage to follow their parents soft exclamations. When they reach the opposite curb, the fun begins: the little balls of fluff throw themselves at the top of the curb, three times their stature, some make it the first time, most bounce off, some more than once, and finally arrive; no time to celebrate though, mom and dad are off into a patch of desert, looking for food, and a place to hide the night away from hungry coyotes, hawks and owls, all plentiful in the city of Tucson’s washes.
I’m always amazed when people seem to think that the Southwest deserts don’t have seasons. I don’t think we have been anywhere in the world that doesn’t have distinct seasons. It’s just that you have to spend a couple of years in a place to fully perceive and appreciate the seasons on offer. We bicycled past snowy patches on our weekly Mount Lemmon ride in late April, at between 7,000 and 8,000 feet about 20 miles from Tucson; we descended into high 80’s on our way home: vertical seasons are always available where there are mountains
Trevor Weekes parked his pickup truck near this spot forty years ago. He unloaded a couple of surplus searchlights, aimed them at the dark clear Arizona sky, and launched an influential branch of science. Trevor has skillfully moved his observations from those surplus searchlights to a bank of four state of the art telescopes that could just possibly be the instruments that answers the all important question: just what is the stuff that makes up the majority our universe?
Claire was invited as independent journalist representative of Smithsonian Magazine. She has been following closely the progress of VERITAS for more than two years, and each visit to the site, about an hour south of Tucson, I have taken photographs to support the article. The Smithsonian has made no promises to publish what Claire writes; Smithsonian supports so many scientific projects that they can’t publish something on each, without boring their readership. We think VERITAS is special, and have reason to believe that important findings will be announced