earlier today i sent out an email to my southern arizona correspondents, noting that on tv i had stumbled across a golf tournament being played in tucson (coinciding with tiger woods' return to the tour after an injury), at a place i'd never heard of called dove mountain, and was enjoying the views of the sonoran desert. it has been twenty years since i lived in tucson, and fourteen since i visited. in the interim the city has undergone metastasizing sprawl, unwisely following the examples of los angeles and phoenix. this i can intellectually grasp by simply looking at a tucson street map in a book store, noticing the many square miles of roads, houses, shopping centers, and other eyesores where once there was only desert.
but when two of my friends wrote back, telling me the actual location of the golf course on tv, i was stunned. it lies at the southern base of the tortolita mountains, which was virgin desert and far from tucson's outskirts when i lived there. in may of 1972 my then-partner drove us on miles of sandy desert trail to the mouth of wild burro canyon, and dropped me off there for a three-day solo hike into the heart of the tortolitas. the trip was remarkable for (a) the many rattlesnakes i encountered, with no harm done to person or snake; (b) the unexpectedly cold nights, through which i shivered with only a space blanket (remember them?) and a brilliant full moon for cover; and (c) a day hike up a side canyon, during which i sensed i was being watched, and looked up the canyon wall to see the resident herd of wild horses standing partway up, spectators to my intrusion into their world. their existence was apocryphal, few peope having ever seen them.
now golf courses have sprung up all over, water hogs that should be outlawed from any desert environment. and dove mountain and other golf courses effectively block the entrance to wild burro canyon. this is more offensive than words can encompass. edward abbey said it best, on the back cover of his seminal novel The Monkey Wrench Gang: "desert, o my desert, yours is the only death i cannot bear." it's enough to turn one's thoughts (again) to eco-sabotage. if i were younger, and didn't live 1500 miles away, my first target would be abbey's favorite object of scorn, glen canyon dam, which wrecked the colorado river through the grand canyon. after that, time to brainstorm a way to discourage those who build golf courses and other "developments." to borrow from a handy phrase we used to use in vietnam, i've got your development for you, right here.