When the southern Arizona desert gets just the right mix of rains at the right time in fall and winter, the following spring can produce a riot of wildflowers. People around Tucson said that the spring of 2010 was one of the best displays in decades--poppies and lupine for miles...perhaps the most vibrant 'show' in a generation.
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Lost in the Desert Spring
Many people still think of dunes and bleached cow skulls when they think of the Southern Arizona desert...While it is true that foolish summer trekkers can find themselves in deadly heat-traps, spring here can sometimes be carpeted with ephemeral beauty. Hiking in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains, just north of Tucson, you can get lost in the blooms.
It might sound strange, but for a desert-dweller, spring wildflowers can actually get your adrenaline going; it's not every year that the poppies put on a 'show.' As you hike among the color, you think, even as you try to get lost in the moment, 'when will I see this again? two years from now? five? ten? in a generation?
Depending on the winter rains and fluctuating temperatures, you might find fields of poppies carpeting the southern Arizona desert from mid-February to early April. They can be fickle; one hillside will have them, the next slope, nada. This year, right NOW, is a good time to see them.
A few spots to see them around Tucson: Catalina State Park, Saguaro National Park West, and on the way to Phoenix, at Picacho Peak, just off I-10.