An introvert in the desert…in need of something green

The morning’s air is heavy with smoke from a nearby brush fire, and an unusually large cluster of dragonflies are jiggling together rather nervously, mid-air, near my front door. Stepping out of my apartment, I wonder what kind of day this is going to be. The days leading up to this one have been the kind that test your resolve. (We’ve all had days like that, right?) And in my exhausted, glass-half-empty mood, I’m not expecting this one to be any different. Perhaps the fire is coming to engulf the last of my earthly possessions, I think, or the dragonflies are plotting to steal my car and take it out on a joyride into the desert towards Mexico. One never knows what lies ahead when you wake, but I’m setting off on a little exploratory adventure–so I’m already feeling my glass fill up with each passing minute.

Lately, I’ve been wanting the minute-hand to slow down a bit but life has a different agenda. It has chosen to raise its nose in defiance of my pleas, and has pushed the gas pedal to the floor. Life continues to speed on by. I know that when life is in the fast lane, it’s time to seek out the emergency hand-brake and go find some nature. I need green. Living in Tucson, I have to be clever about getting out–especially from May to October–because it warms up super fast and I feel ill in anything over 110 degrees. So, needing a little respite, I research early-morning opportunities that might have some green, and choose Sabino Canyon.sabino3

I am, for the most part, one of those travelers who reads every drop of available information about a place before visiting it. If you’re an introvert too, perhaps you can relate. Occasionally though, I will point to something on a map, say “that'” and figure it out as I go. This is one of those times. Since it is a local destination, I figure if I mess up somehow, I can have another stab at it on some other day.

Arriving at the park ranger hut, I pay my entry fee and in a quiet voice, thank him. But deep within, nothing about me is quiet. Ready to explore, I’m internally shouting, “Show me the nature!” How wonderful it will be for just a few hours to switch my brain over from “stressed-and-riddled-with-anxiety” to “pleasantly-distracted-and-a-little-more-educated”.

First stop, is the restroom near the main entrance. Then, it’s off to buy tickets for a tram ride.

sabino6For an hour, I zip up through the canyon on an open tram. Sitting around me are visitors from England, and I join them in being thankful for every rare breeze that comes along as we listen to the driver narrate what we are seeing. There’s notable landmarks being pointed out that are shaped like a sewing thimble, or Snoopy’s round belly as he rests on top of his doghouse…and there’s even a solemn note–a story about a Marshall who fell to his death after rescuing another.sabino2

At the end of the tram ride, I exit to visit the little museum and then the gift shop. A salesperson invites tourists to stand near an air-conditioning vent. Cooled down, I feel refreshed. But it’s not just the air-conditioning that’s making me feel inspired to take on the world again–it’s been the experience of being out-and-about again, seeing and experiencing something new. I feel I am once again in the driver’s seat of my own destiny. Still, I’m wondering…if my quest for green sent me here, what else is waiting to be found? Keep looking, you say? Challenge accepted!

sabino4Summarizing my experience, these would be my tips for fellow introverts:

  1. Visit in the morning if you visit during the summer. The first tram leaves at 9am but the visitor’s center opens an hour earlier giving you plenty of time to park, use the restroom, and to figure out the lay of the land. Get yourself a bottle of water at the nearby vending machines while you wait for the tram to arrive. There are places where you can sit.
  2. Bring cash. The little hut where you buy tickets for the tram won’t accept anything else. There’s a little ATM near the gift shop, but remembering the advice from the gatekeeper out at Boothill Cemetery, never trust that those mini machines have money if you’re visiting during peak seasons or on the weekend.
  3. Remember the sunscreen! If you’re not lucky to be one of the first to board the tram, you might not be able to select a seat on the one car that has shade cover. I burn very easily, and SPF 50 has become a dear friend of mine. Locals are especially concerned with skin cancer.
  4. sabino5Wait to visit the gift shop, and the little museum located next to it, until after your tram tour. Refresh yourself with that air-conditioning before enjoying the rest of your day.
  5. I was glad to have gone on a Friday, catching the first tram of the day. When we returned to the starting point, it was 10am and a small crowd was waiting for us. I really wondered how everyone was going to fit! If your energy drains quickly, like mine does in crowds, the mornings are peaceful and it’s a much more enjoyable experience riding along when you have a little more wiggle room at your disposal.

Next time I visit, I would like to go during a different season other than summer. Possibly after a rain when there might be some water in the creeks. I mentioned this to a couple of locals, and they warned me about all the deaths during monsoon season in the canyon. I’m not a hiker, so the warning didn’t seem to really apply to me, but safety is always an important thing to mention. The tram does allow you many opportunities to get off at various stops along the way if you do want to explore any of the trails.


To everyone, all the best and have yourself a wonderful day wherever you call home.

(All photos in this post taken by Jennifer R Monroe.)