27 Jun The Sky Islands: The Desert Paradise
Popular culture often depicts the Southwest of the United States as barren wastelands which are incapable of producing any sort of life, yet in my four shorts days, I have captured nothing less than a fountain of diversity in the desert of Southern Arizona. Coronado National Memorial is not just biodiverse, but culturally diverse as it is one of the first sites of contact between Europeans and the Indigenous of what would become the Southwest. This point of contact developed a new blend of foods, language, and cultures which would define the future of Northern Mexico and Southwestern United States. Set in the in the middle of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts and the Rocky and Sierra Madre mountain ranges, Coronado is a paradise of diversity in the dry desert. On the Biodiversity, Sierra Vista, a nearby town to Coronado National Memorial host the largest diversity of hummingbirds which feed and enjoy the warm sun of Arizona year-round. In the park, Coues white tailed deer, the Mexican jay, black bears, javelina, mountain lions all enjoy the man-made water feature just on the other side of a glass window of the visitor center, allowing all travelers passing by to admire the life the park has to offer. Geologically, surfing back in time, we would have been standing in the middle of a volcano developed just about 4500 million years ago during the Precambrian era under a very similar process as the Hawaiian islands are forming. Soon after sediments of and ocean life began developing new geologic records of a once shallow sea bathing the floor with limestone which can be seen through the multiple trails throughout the park. These are the Sky Islands on a sea of scorching desert One of the shorter, yet moderate intensity, trails is the half-mile hike to a 600 ft deep cave which drops 40 feet created through the erosion of limestone and, through time, painstakingly grew stalactites and stalagmites and many other geologic features for visitors to discover, and even more fun for the young geologists seeking to earn their Junior Ranger Cave Geologist badge. Even with the heat of Arizona, people find their way to enjoy the outdoors whether it is by coming to the visitor center and learning about the Coronado Exploration of the 1540’s or to hike and get out for the day.