Rhonda's father brought us on a hiking tour of the Tonto National Monument. We began at the base of the hill and climbed more than an hour toward the old cliff-dweller ruins. Along the way, a National Park Service guide showed us all the many flowers currently in bloom. We often think of Arizona as a barren desert, but quite the contrary, it is a place of abundant natural diversity and beauty.
I believe the guide spoke of this plant as miner's lettuce. It was the only plant on the tour we were allowed to eat, and to me it did in fact taste like a combination of spinach and lettuce.
Dakota standing with Rhonda's father on the trail.
A cactus flower.
Indian paint brush.
The teddy bear cholla looks all soft and cuddly until you get a closer look. It's tiny spines have small hooks that burrow into the flesh of any person or creature foolish enough to get tangled in its branches. Our guide made this warning, "If you're falling in the desert, it would be far better to land on a sharp rock than a cholla."
Certain birds nest in the cholla because they know that snakes will not even attempt to brave the cactus spines.
The desert is blooming with wildflowers. The Mexican poppies create patchworks of orange along the hillsides.