fitness · hiking

Photography, philosophy and friends while hiking solo

This week I was in Tucson, AZ for a conference on information ethics  (see here for program).  Tucson is great.  It’s surrounded by mountainous desert beauty, and in town are lots of cafes and good Mexican food everywhere.  I got to meet some cool people, hear about current work, present some thoughts of my own, and hang out with friends.
We were all pretty well occupied through Friday night, but I reserved Saturday morning for a solo hike in Sabino canyon.  Now I’m not a mountaineering type by any means; for me, it’s sufficient to walk around in nature, looking at naturey things.
Today I was by myself, stopping on my way to the airport.  I love the freedom that solo hikes bring– I can choose to go fast, slow, take pictures, listen to music, dawdle at the visitors center, whatever I want.  And I don’t even have to choose– I can meander and let the adventure unfold of its own accord.
So I did.  And the nature was stunning; the ocotillos were in bloom, along with cactus and other bushes whose names I don’t know.  Photography felt like fun, so I took pictures as I made my way up the main trail.
Here’s a desert scene from the canyon.
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Here’s some flowering ocotillo.
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As I noticed it was time to turn back, I saw four women setting up for some group shots.  I offered to take pictures of the group, and they immediately commenced questioning– who was I? What did I do? Why was I in Tucson?
For many people this would be most unwelcome, an intrusion into one’s tranquil hiking experience.  I’m not one of those people.
As soon as they heard I was a philosopher, one of them said, “oh good.  We were just talking about Kant’s Categorical imperative yesterday.”  Hmmm.  That doesn’t usually happen in these sorts of trail side chats with strangers.  But I went with it, and we had a fun philosophical conversation on the way back to the visitors center.  They’re not philosophers, but one of them reads theology, and moral philosophy was on their minds.  Well okay then.
I veered off to take another trail, saying farewell to my new friends.  I saw a sign up the path, explaining that baby saguaro cacti are often surrounded by “nurse” trees (often palo verde or mesquite) that help protect the cactus until it can stand on its own, in solitary splendor.
Here’s a nursery of baby saguaros with their protector trees.
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Here’s a full grown saguaro cactus, standing on its own.
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And here are my nurse hikers, accompanying and amusing me until I was ready to go back off on my solo way again.
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What a great time that was.  Thanks nature!  Thanks, phone camera!  Thanks, new hiking friends!

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