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.