South Mountain Park and Preserve


Today I made the trek to a large nature park I’ve been seeing on the map, southwest of where I’m staying. It’s right near the city lines of Tempe, Guadalupe, and Phoenix, and it’s called South Mountain Park and Preserve.

One thing I’ve noticed on this journey, especially now that I’m here in the Southwest, is that I have to re-train my brain when I see greenspaces and parks on maps. My brain sees something like that and thinks, “Oh, a place with forested trails.” Haha! In the Northwest, yes. In the Southwest, no. It’s always a desert place here. I mean, duh… but my brain has to keep re-learning this by experience.

It took me at least an hour to bike to this place, and I got a late start, so the sun was starting to descend a bit even as I arrived.

Another thing struck me again: golf courses! Golf courses are absolutely everywhere here. I biked through miles of urban thoroughfares, and then finally saw some hills covered in cacti—and even went through a gatehouse indicating the park’s entrance—so I was pleased to know that I had reached my nature destination. And then… what should I see? A bunch of golf carts and golfers out playing right up next to the park. (See photo.) As I cycled along the paved bike trail, I had to dodge many golf carts, to the point where I wondered if someone was going to ask me to leave because it was a private course. No one did, and I think that path was shared right-of-way. But once again, I was struck by all the water use a golf course takes in a desert, and yet just how many of them there are in the Phoenix area.

When I got past the course, I arrived at the official park entrance, and selected a trail. Looking back toward the city, I was surprised and pleased to see some purple mountains in the distance. (Another realization I’ve had by being on this journey is just how many major US cities are surrounded by mountain ranges.)

I enjoyed a short hike in the waning sun, and then turned around to head back.

Along the way, I was pleased to find another nice bike path between thoroughfares, which took me through a neighborhood park with a beautiful flowering tree, and then onward to a bike bridge across a freeway, with some nice public art woven into it.

So many juxtapositions here in the Phoenix area.

My time here is running short; I plan to leave Tempe on Saturday. I didn’t post a blog yesterday, and I might skip another before I go, because not every day is filled with photogenic explorations. But I’m appreciating the days that are.

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