The western half of Saguaro National Park sponsors special ranger led hikes around the time of the full moon. You hike to a high point, watch the sun set and hike back in the moon light. These hikes are popular and you must sign up ahead of time. We joined about twenty other people. You could tell which ones were newly arrived from points north. They were younger than the snow birds and levitating with joy at the warm weather. On the other hand the ranger looked old enough to be my father. But he was still fit enough to set a good pace as we worked up a gentle incline to the base of the mountains and climbed more steeply to the view. He deplored the fact that there were no ranger hikes in November and December due to budget cuts. I wondered if all the younger rangers were gone due to budget cuts and seniority as well.
Along the way he stopped to point out the unique plants of the desert and the coping mechanisms they have to survive the harsh climate. Tiny wild flowers are beginning to bloom already, about six weeks earlier than normal, due to the unusually warm weather. I almost could have given his plant talk myself since we have learned a lot about the vegetation in our two winters here. But his background was in geology and on that topic I would have little to say. The area where we live is geologically uninteresting once you get past the glaciers carving out the Great Lakes, but in the west the rock formations and energy that caused them to be the way they are is always in your face. He said that the area where we hiked had been a shallow lake bed at one time. It left a nice mixture of rocks and sand that holds the infrequent rains well enough to give the saguaro a chance to soak up all it needs for months to come.
You might think that walking though prickly cactus in the dark would be a bad idea and it probably could be, but the moon light was so bright, we cast long shadows as we returned to the parking lot. The glow of the city lights counterbalanced by the colorful rays of the setting sun made for dramatic views.