Step onto the Desert View Trail at Tohono Chul Park, and you’ll probably see cars zipping by on Oracle Road.
But glance to your left and right, and you’ll see yellow-blossomed creosote, a landscape of cacti and an engraved piece of sandstone with a quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery: “I succumbed to the desert as soon as I saw it.”
Walk a little farther, and the trail will take you away from the traffic and into a quiet, lightly used area of the park designed for contemplating the desert.
“I don’t think the park’s intent is to get everyone out to this trail,” park spokeswoman Darlene Kryza said.
The new trail opened last week. Construction is under way, also, for the park’s Sonoran Seasons Garden, which will show how various desert plants change as the seasons change. It will feature five planting areas.
Birders know the Desert View Trail as the site of the park’s old North Trail, which spanned a quarter mile and rang out with bird songs.
The trail’s new incarnation still includes the birds, but now it’s a half-mile long and wide enough to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair.
The dirt was stabilized with decomposed granite, which makes for a fairly smooth ride, and most of the vegetation on the trail is right where Mother Nature planted it.
Not far from the trailhead, a quote on an engraved sandstone slab asks passers-by, “How many humans have had the patience to know even one saguaro well?”
The quote is from Tucson naturalist Gary Nabhan. Those who glance up thoughtfully to consider the quote will discover a healthy, towering saguaro in their line of vision, one arguably worth knowing.
The 13 quotes that line the path are strategically placed to allow trail walkers to connect with their desert surroundings, Kryza said.
There’s Edward Abbey’s: “There are no vacant lots in nature.”
There’s John Muir’s: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
And there’s Janice Emily Bowers’: “I live in the tame and visit the wild and never forget the difference between the two.”
Staff members chose the quotes. Benches and pagodas along the trail give visitors a chance to sit down and contemplate them.
Sometimes, a breeze whistles through saguaro needles on the Desert View Trail. Sometimes, there’s no breeze at all. Sometimes quail, jack rabbits and spiny lizards rustle the underbrush, or the wind chimes from the nearby children’s garden ring.
Always, St. Odelia’s Catholic Church stands out on the horizon, adding its cross to the trail’s other contemplative imagery.
The park’s newest trail isn’t for everybody. Volunteers don’t water it, landscapers don’t use it to demonstrate their artistry, and any gardeners looking for hints about how to adorn their yards would learn more just about anywhere else in the park.
But the trail is honest. Some might even say unapologetic.
The last sandstone slab on the trail features a quote by Joseph Wood Krutch: “Love me or hate me, the desert seems to say, this is what I am and this is what I shall remain.”
Construction is under way on the Sonoran Seasons Garden at Tohono Chul Park.
The garden, consisting of five sections, will show plants’ best seasons and off seasons, and every gradation between.
Visitors will see the exotic blooms of the coral bean in June and, on that same visit, see how the winter-blooming Baja fairy duster adapts to summer heat.
Winter, spring, foresummer, summer monsoon and fall gardens will be surrounded by plantings of ironwood, desert willow and ocotillo.
To sponsor part of the garden, call 742-6455.