National Geographic : 1897 Jul
THE FORESTS AND DESERTS 01 ARIZONA imaginable, the celebrated Garden of the Gods in Colorado being an insignificant imitation only. The manifold, curious, wind carved shapes of the red sandstone rocks rising abruptly from the ground, contrasted with the green of the surrounding plain, are worth a long journey to see. The few who have visited this secluded valley will also not forget the remarkable bouquet and aroma of the grape, raised by one of the more enterprising ranch ers on these sun-warmed sand bottoms, which promises some day to outrank the finest vintage of Bordeaux. Presently a wide view opens before our eyes; far below us stretches Verde valley, and we are looking over the rim into the borderland of the southern desert region. In red and white and yellow and brown tints glare the arid gravels, studded thinly with a scant, shrubby vegetation, dry and gray. The fresh, bright green spots that catch the eye we find afterward to be groups of opuntias, large prickly pears, whose red, acid fruit we appre ciate later in the season, after we have learned how to avoid the prickles which almost invisibly cover them in small tufts. Among the trees, the first we meet is a peculiar, leafless, shrub like form, with long, slender, green branches, the falsely so-called paloverde, Onotia holacantha of the botanists. The majority of the shrubs of the brush desert belong to the Acacia tribe, all with symmetrically rounded heads, and, like every other plant here, provided with thorns or spines, the peculiar adaptation to desert conditions making the labors of the collector a hard task. Many unfamiliar plant forms excite the curiosity of the new-comer. We have suddenly dropped to the 3,000-foot level, and begin to feel the difference in temperature ; the canteen is often called into requisition. By-and-by the heat of the early afternoon sun leads us to wish that camp were near. Uncertain of the road, we ascend one of the glaring, white limestone hills, and lo ! what an unexpected sight meets our eye. The contrast is so great that we think a mirage must have risen to mock our heated brain. There lies at our feet, stretching away for several miles, a land of green vegetation, rich and luscious as in the most favored spots of the Alleghanies in early summer, a broad river of foliage, in terrupted here and there by fields of alfalfa and corn, with orchards from which the red roofs peep out hospitably. We are looking into the valley of Beaver creek, one of the affluents of Rio Verde, which, like all these water-courses, hidden away under a dense cover of deciduous trees, are the surprises of the deserts through which they flow, and furnish the water for the irrigated fields of the rancher.