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? – “Nixon Head Rock” Essay, Research Paper

Snow in the desert. Pine trees among the cactus. There are thunderstorms that you can see and hear but not feel. Your emotions run through your veins like your blood after a marathon. If there is another place like it in the world, I don’t know where it could be.

The Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson Arizona are the Mount Sinai of the United States. Specifically, Mount Lemmon. Your journey begins at the base of the Catalina Mountains just past the aptly named, “Bear Canyon Road”. Once you reach the Catalina Highway, you begin your nine thousand foot ascent towards heaven. The Catalina Highway isn’t really much of a highway. It winds and curves tumultuously, there are two lanes, and both seem smaller than the last alley you drove upon. As you drive, you can see that something is different about the air; it lacks smog. Even though you cannot see the air, it feels pure. Maybe it is the fact that Tucson is becoming smaller and smaller behind you and you are able to breath a little easier. Maybe it is because the temperature seems to be dropping and the coolness of the air is refreshing to your lungs. Regardless, there is a sense that you are healthier and you continue your quest up the side of this lumbering mountain.

A little more than half way up, the scenery changes from brush and Saguaro cactus to the beginnings of a lush forest enhanced by the most full-bodied, towering pine trees you have ever laid your eyes on. This area is marked by a geological oddity of sculptured rocks worn by wind and time. The elevation you are at is about 6,600 feet above sea level. The wind seems to have picked up by the time you arrive at this area. If you stop your car at the “pull-off”, as the locals like to call these emergency-stopping areas, you will find Windy Point. This area of the mountain certainly lives up to its name. The warm breeze briskly brushes your hair and forces itself into your chest to remind you that you are alive. Strange carvings made by centuries of wind and dust form unusual sights. Huge boulders are shaped into seemingly human or animal characteristics. Here is where you will find the famous “Duck Head Rock”, or “Nixon Head Rock” (named after our President), depending on your perspective. The view from Windy Point overlooks the Tucson valley. Views of ten mountain ranges can be seen from this vantage point.

After your continue your drive and reach the end of the road, you are met by temperatures some thirty degrees cooler than the blistering one hundred degree temperatures you left behind. Patches of snow on the ground loom above you. This is wear you will jettison your vehicle and grab your pack to continue beyond the pavement into this forest towards a monstrous clearing. It takes the better part of a strenuous hike to reach the makeshift camp. By the time you reach this point you body tells you that you are exhausted, but this is when you see it; the clouds hovering over the valley are embodied with thick, white air taking on the appearance of massive cotton balls that you could rub against your face and sense the feeling of goose down. The bottom side of these clouds is a dirty gray, signaling an impending thunderstorm. You make camp and sit looming over the valley in a position that makes you feel as if you are in control of the destiny of the earth below. The storm begins with a strong breeze. The breeze causes the pine needles from the evergreens to brush against each other sounding as if you were rubbing your hands along a silk sheet. Your eyes capture a burst of color off to your left. You think to yourself that it could not have been lightning because you swear that you saw red. Could it be a forest fire? Then you see it burst in front of you, a massive lightning bolt out over the valley. The bolt is a deep shade of fire red. After what seems an eternity the booming report of the thunder catches up to the lightning. You continue to watch the storm and see lightning in colors of green, blue and yellow. At about this time you realize that you are not wet, nor have you been displaced by the winds. You are strictly an observer to this storm and it is not out to get you. The feeling is that you and God are in on this together. Never will you be so close to nature. Never will you be so close to your emotions.