Phoenix Mountain Preserve
“You are not afraid of snakes are you?”
Among the questions that I don’t want to hear at the beginning of a hike that question ranks well up there. The irony is that I was being asked that while I was right in the center of the sprawl that is Phoenix Arizona. Phoenix is at least 20 miles across but trapped within that cityscape are still some pockets of desert landscape.
One such pocket of desert is the Phoenix Mountain Preserve where you can easily escape the city and hike into the cactus and scrub brush of the Sonoran Desert. The Phoenix Mountain Preserve is surrounded by housing developments but less than a quarter of a mile from one of the parking lots on its border you can lose yourself in a desert adventure… or perhaps like in our case a misadventure.
Teddy Bear Cholla Attack
One of the more common plants in the preserve is the Teddy Bear cactus or Teddy Bear Cholla. A common nickname for this plan is the “jumping cholla” as many people claim that this plant has jumped at them and grab them. Our friend Kathy wanted to prove once and for all that the Teddy Bear Cholla has no such self-propulsion so she stepped off the path to taunt the plant into attacking. “Ha!” she said when she was apparently unscathed.
What we quickly noticed though was that she now had part of the plant attached to her shoe. The Teddy Bear Cholla has harpoon-like needles that do not easily give up their grip. Pulling at it with your fingers can easily leave you bloodied so my wife pried off this piece with a nearby rock. What happened next is open to some debate. Some will say that the cholla does indeed have a form of self-propulsion. I would tend to say instead that in my wife’s zeal she managed to fling the cholla grenade straight into my leg. In any case, I soon found that needles were stuck into my leg to a depth of about an eighth of an inch.
When you go to Phoenix, take advantage of the quiet of this inner-city desert, but keep a wary eye on the Teddy Bear Cholla. They might just be lying in wait.