After Monsoons on Big Rock Candy Mountain

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Though we live in the middle of the desert, we live in what’s called the “high desert,” which means that there are lots of trees: pinon and juniper;

Juniper, Cholla, and wildflowers in our yard, after 2 months of monsoons

cactus: prickly pear and cholla (pronounced choy-uh);

little Cholla (knee-high)

Cholla, almost 6 ft tall, about 5 ft wide

Cholla and Piñon growing together at the edge of an arroyo

and, if there are regular monsoon seasons or enough rain, as in this monsoon season, which broke a 7-year drought, wildflowers.

wildflowers by the barbed-wife fence and rock wall next to our yard

wildflowers just outside the gate

wildflowers just outside the fence

The monsoons, with the floods running down from the mountaintop, created an arroyo across our yard long ago (the original owner built a walking bridge over the 8-10 foot deep ravine, which is filled with rushing water during the rains: every year that there are monsoons, people die in the arroyos, trying to cool off in the waters but getting carried away & dragged under the powerful floods).

arroyo running across our property, 8-10 ft deep, with steep sides pocked by rattlesnake dens

Even with the monsoons, the “low desert” contains nothing but sand, rock, and rolling sagebrush (“tumbling sage,” they call it out here), which gets tangled up in your drive shaft and around your axles if you drive over it since some of them are several feet in circumference. So, compared to the low desert, the high desert can be quite lovely during monsoon season.

This morning, on my walk with SadieDoggie, I took some photos to share with all of you who don’t live on Big Rock Candy Mountain. Since the state has been in a drought for the last 7 years, this is the loveliest the Mountain has looked since we moved here.

wildflowers, Juniper, & Piñon in our yard

We’re at 8500 feet above sea-level; the top of the mountain behind us is 9500 feet.

the final 1000 feet of the mountain, green after two months of monsoons

We’re the last house on the mountain: there are only 4 or 5 up here because there are no wells: all the water comes from rain which runs off the roofs into cisterns which are plumbed into the houses; if there’s no rain, the water has to be hauled in. Lots of people don’t last long up here: they leave after only living up here a few months. Especially if there have been years of drought.

The top of the mountain, with Cholla, Juniper, and barbed wire fence in foreground

Since we moved here, Big Rock Candy Mountain has never looked as lovely as it does this year. There aren’t as many wildflowers as there were when we first looked at the property, but that was long ago, when there was a good monsoon season, and this mountain didn’t even look like it was in the middle of a desert.

wildflowers in the yard

Gotta run: SadieDoggie’s outside, barking her “snake-bark,” which means she’s run across a rattlesnake, which are rampant up here, and though she’s been vaccinated, we do not want her to get bitten since the anti-venom shot costs between $1,000-3,000, and since it’s Sunday, our vet’s not open, so we’d have to drive over two hours to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic. I doubt she’d survive the trip, even with the rattlesnake vaccine.

Later, my Lovelies… Enjoy the view, albeit vicariously.

And because so many people ask where “Big Rock Candy Mountain” is — next to the “lemonade springs where the bluebird sings,” I’ve included this version of the Depression-era American folk-song — made popular by Burl Ives — most lately from the Cohen Brothers’ film O Brother Where Art Thou, and sung here in 1942 by Harry McClintock (complete with lyrics).


(Unfortunately, Burl died before the popularity of YouTube, so there are no videos of his classic take on this wonderful song.)

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