Renewal and Healing

The Four Peaks Wilderness area, just East of Phoenix, is one of my favorite places to explore and take pictures. Once you travel past the ATV and target practice areas, you will find rugged Sonoran Desert with countless ravines and nameless canyons ripe for exploration. There are very few trails, but traversing the hidden places in the wilderness offers solitude and breathtaking scenery.

During wet winters, several of the canyons are a source of running water and waterfalls — sometimes well into the month of May. It was at Four Peaks that I encountered quick sand for the first time. It was February and I was attempting to photograph water cascading over the prodigious boulders in a ravine. I stepped onto what I thought was a section of perfectly dry ground and was shocked to drop to my hips in a mixture of ice cold water and sand. Until this episode, my only experience with quick sand had been from episodes of the Lone Ranger. It made for an awesome story and a cold ride home.

The proximity of this wilderness area, its rugged terrain, natural beauty and solitude have continued to draw me back, to explore and take pictures.

On June 13, of 2020 the Bush Fire started and unfortunately swept directly across the Four Peaks Wilderness area. The fire would not be fully contained until July 6 — after it had burned approximately 193,000 acres. The visuals of the fire consuming Four Peaks were disheartening.

This morning I took my first trip back to the wilderness area since the fire. Months after the its containment, the devastation remains startling. Blackened ground, desert plants consumed in their entirety leaving nothing but piles of ash, and the charred barrels of the great Saguaros. It’s hard to imagine that it will ever be the same.

But it will heal. It will take time, but the desert will reclaim the area and life will return in full force. As I walked up one of my favorite ravines, I could already see signs of the recovery. Small plants and grass taking hold on the side of the hill. Shoots of green emerging from the blackened limbs of manzanita. Majestic saguaros, tall and strong, bearing their scars but keeping watch over the desert.

The evidence of the fire will be there for some time — years, even decades. But, the land will heal and the abundant life will be renewed. While the fire was devastating, the wounds will fade and the healing process will be a beautiful thing to watch — as nature slowly gets a foothold and reclaims the charred wilderness.

It’s possible this is a metaphor for life in general (especially the past year).

A few photos from this morning’s trip.

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