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Extreme Survival

Living Where Nothing Should

The desert is an interesting place with its own right to beauty. The oddities of plant and animal life draw thousands, if not millions of people, yet no one stays. It’s a harsh environment. As I guzzle 1 liter of water per hour in 115 degree heat, I wonder how all this life around me survives. Grass may not grow, but there is no absence of life. The Saguaro’s grow over 20 feet tall and may live for over 150 years. Dozens of other cactuses survive, insects, lizards, birds and mammals. Even the whitetail deer may be found in this inferno, as well as mountain lions. Where do these guys get water? For me, even eating makes me thirsty, but for some of these mammals such as the Kangaroo Rat, eating provides all the moisture they need.

I have an admiration for these plants and animals. The cacti produce elegant flowers with sometimes staggering heights. The flowers seem random and sometimes a bit obsessive. The Yucca’s grow stalks of flowers well over 10 feet tall, yet the plant itself is only a foot or two tall. It’s almost that it is the cacti’s flowers that keep all the birds and animals around. Certainly unusual, the beauty of the flowering cacti and yucca entice birds and insects, pleading that they do not migrate away.

The vast southwest is full of harsh environments. Deserts seem to separate one desert from another, each identified by a slightly different landscape. Rocks stand exposed. With only a few plants growing here, the wind strips all sand and soil off the mountainside, leaving it bare with majestic colors exposed. Humans don’t belong here. While the Anasazi lived in some of these places, they left – for some very good reasons. And as beautiful as this place is, I too must be leaving shortly – I’ve never had to fight so hard to stay cool before.

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