Arizona

Nature Photography: White Tank Mountains

My recent visit to the Phoenix area included a hike at White Tank Mountain Regional Park. My hiking host, Judy Vorfeld, selected the Waterfall Trail, a two-miler.

Being an Arizonan who’s quite concerned about our state’s long-term drought, I was curious to see how the native desert plants have been holding up. Sorry to say, the answer is not very well.

One of the more pernicious effects of drought is the stress that it inflicts on plants. This stress makes them more vulnerable to infestations like mistletoe. See the big, dark clumps in the middle branches of these two trees? That’s mistletoe. Over time, mistletoe kills its host.

Nature photography - mistletoe-infested tree, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

Back in “civilization,” trees like these would probably be considered too far gone to be saved. They’d be cut down. With mistletoe, the best thing to do is to remove branches as soon as they show signs of infestation.

Then there are the various species of cactus. Although these staghorn cholla don’t have that tumble-down, severely shriveled look, they’re way too pale for plants that are just coming out of the summer monsoon season…

Nature photography - pale cholla, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

But, then again, we didn’t have the best of monsoon seasons this year. It was more like a non-soon that was gone too soon.

You can’t hike the Waterfall Trail without stopping at Petroglyph Plaza. Here the stress is man-made. Note the chipped off parts of this rock. That wasn’t done by nature — it was done by thieves…

Nature photography - petroglyphs, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

Our hike was cut short by the heat, so back to Judy’s car we went.

At the eastern edge of White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a LEED-certified public library and nature center. According to an Arizona Republic story written before the facility opened, “LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a nationally recognized rating of the environmental friendliness, or sustainability, of a building.”

The sustainabilty extends to the parking lot. Nice to see that it isn’t another sea of asphalt that aggravates the urban heat island effect…

Nature photography - parking lot using minimal asphalt, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

If you’re going to have a sustainable parking lot in the desert, what better plant to have than Arizona’s state cactus, the saguaro? This transplanted specimen is being supported while it adapts to its new home…

Nature photography - transplanted saguaro cactus, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

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