Extreme Social Distancing

April 2, 2020

Dennis and I began practicing social distancing around March 1, before there was even a name for it. At the time it was considered an extreme over-reaction to a threat no more serious than the seasonal flu. But as of April 1, physical distancing is now the law in Arizona, although there is a host of exceptions for essential services. Hiking is specifically exempt from the requirement to stay home, so long as one practices physical distancing. But when the schools and many business closed their doors on March 20, popular trails quickly became extremely crowded, and in our experience, NOONE — not one person — observed social distancing. We felt like lumatics, diving into the cactus to avoid pelotons of hikers 3-4 abreast on the trail. Gradually, the National Forest and state parks closed campgrounds and restrooms, and the Grand Canyon closed altogether on April 1. So now the challenge is finding but the trick is to find a hiking destination so remote you don't have to worry about all the "covidiots" who refuse to practice social distancing. Fortunately in Arizona, that's pretty easy to do!

We gave ourself a vague destination: bushwhacking cross-country to a canyon on the north side of the Catalina Mountains. But all these canyons are so braided, and so often deeper and more sinuous than you expect. It was a more-or-less random brush-bashing, with lots of opportunities to exercise our navigational skills!

Lunch on a knoll overlooking the San Pedro River Valley, in a field of owl clover, apricot mallow, dalea, tackstem and blackfoot daisies

Blackfoot daisies were really out in force today. And notice the rock — some kind of limestone, wrinkled as an elephant's hide, and covered with petrified plant debris.

A knoll of "elephant hide" lit up with desert marigolds. There was a significant cave at the base of the cliff.

These tiny yellow-green flowers were everywhere! My friend Barb W identified them as Chamaesaracha sordida (false nightshade).

An intact desert tortoise shell. First time I've ever found one in nature! The carapace is white like any skull, but then covered in hexagonal "tiles".

The final resting place of all Mylar balloons!