Boyce Thompson Arboretum


The Salt River Canyon drive is always a traumatic experience. My latest trip through was no exception. Sunday morning was a planned trip to Boyce Thompson Arboretum. No problem there. I knew before even getting in my vehicle driving through the canyon might not be the experience I anticipated. So it goes.

My frustration with other elements in my life rubbed my drive through the canyon against the skill or lack of it, with less knowledgeable drivers in front of me. At the first opportunity I passed them both, shifting into excessive speed right past an ever watchful DPS officer. No, I didn’t get a ticket but I was served a warning to slow down and get that cracked windshield fixed too.

I thanked the officer for stopping me. I meant it, too. His admonishment gave me the pause I needed. It wiped away personal feelings and focused energy on the trip and destination. The rest of the drive was without incident.

Never having been to this State Park before, I didn’t know what I’d find. It was exciting to drive into a new place, a new photo-experience, a chance to see and explore a new horizon. By the time I arrived most parking places were being snapped up quickly. I found one on the outer edge of the facility. I liked that. The more I walk, the better.

Paid the entrance fee, took a few shots going in and lingered at the entrance. As a life long people watcher gazing at the multitudes strolling about, checking the gift shop, refreshing themselves and using the facilities, finding someone to shoot offered no challenge. A Park employee didn’t mind me taking his picture as he sprayed plants, watering them diligently.

Several families were standing around before entering the formal arboretum grounds, looking at the map, wondering and discussing which way adventure promised the most. I too, peeked about, looking around and musing on a path. I finally decided to go where everyone else wasn’t. Why follow the crowd?

Wandering down the Sonoran Path was a quiet walk in the desert, with many varieties of native plant life at every turn. Birds skittered about screeching for privacy and lizards darted from rock to rock looking to hide in plain sight. Despite being so close to Highway 60, this garden of many delights formed an invisible barrier against the outside world.

Numerous benches offered respite as the paths led around and about, like a mini maze, causing wonder at each new trail. So many kinds of agave, yucca, cacti, bean trees, and cholla. In a blooming flower of a prickly pear cactus, a honey bee looked totally intoxicated, staggering around, pollen covering his legs and sticking to his body.

Spider webs spread everywhere over the needles of barrel cacti, with insects and parts of flowers caught in every one. So many paths to take it didn’t matter where one went, each trail offered many treats.

Finally meandering back to the main trail, I followed it for a brief section and then wandered into the Australian area and sat down to watch butterflies flit about, hoping for a shot. Didn’t happen. By now I had absorbed about as much information as was comprehensible for one day. I knew it would take more than one trip to see and shoot the many wonders offered here.

On my way back to the main area I did discover a reproduction of the cabin and farm area of one Scottish lass, Agnes More Faul, who came from Australia and raised her family in Pinal County.  The simple cabin, corral, windmill and old truck used as a power source to drive other machinery, struck me as an authentic slice of how hard it was to survive in the desert landscape of the Southwest.

But people stayed and thrived. Something had drawn them here, grabbed them and held them fast. For me, it is the harsh landscape, so beautiful but holding potential for a sudden change of fortune.

On the way back to Linden, I didn’t care about the traffic, in the canyon or out of it. Satisfaction with accomplishment can make everything else seem trivial. I just needed to remember to make an appointment and get that windshield fixed before some other DPS officer saw it and might not be so generous.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

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