Growing up in Los Angeles meant that I could go to the beach, the desert, and the mountains. We didn’t spend a lot of time at the latter two, however, as I’ve written about in The Sound of Series #1: The Sound of the Ocean, I did spend a lot of time at the beach as a kid. And, my affinity for the ocean is vast.
Yet, in the past 12 years, we’ve now lived in two other geographies where access to desert and mountain landscapes, and soundscapes, are readily available. Let’s take a look at a few of these and the sights and sounds that I’ve most enjoyed.
There are a couple of different desertscapes that I’ve lived in. When we were in Phoenix, there was the Valley, which is full of hills and desert plateaus, which are often hiked. There is a certain majesty to desertscapes. Not something that I had ever noticed, nor really connected with prior to living in the Valley.
On the trails, you get to see many different types of cacti, low bushes and shrubbery. You also get to see wildlife, such as snakes, scorpions, and rabbits. They are rather common. Though, thankfully, snakes don’t come around often, at least not when I was hiking. Which, I was grateful for.
The sound of the desert is a quiet that is a bit different than the quiet of the mountains. The granular sound of dust as it is kicked up as you traverse the trails, getting all over your shoes, and all over you, really. Fun.
Rabbits moving here and there, swishing through the brush, in search of their prey, or simply avoiding you. The wind, as it howls through the Valley, whistling through the shrubbery and low bushes, brushing your face and body. Enjoyable, and feels so good, especially on hot days, of which there are many in the Valley.
The sound of lizards as they scurry across the trail, moving ever so fast, avoiding you as you continue up and around the bends in the trails. Birds moving from one rock and tree to another, perching themselves, sitting, and waiting; looking, and calling other birds in the area.
What I didn’t know a lot about before moving to Arizona, was just how different the Valley was from the northern part of the state. Though considered high-desert, it is really a completely different landscape, with similar, and yet very different sights and sounds.
The high desert in Northern Arizona is full of trees, many of them, especially in Flagstaff. A vast pinetree forest. You can get lost in there quite easily, and it is fun. Much of Northern Arizona, however, is mostly desert, like the valley, though the weather is quite different. Cooler, and of course lots of snow in the winter.
I remember being on a hike when we first moved to Flagstaff, just around the apartment where we were living at the time. I was on a trail and was looking down, noticing all of the lovely flowers to my left and right, and when I picked my head up, there was a huge stag about 50 yards from me.
Heart racing, I began to slowly back away from the animal, back the way I came, looking toward the stag to ensure it didn’t follow or run at me. I was completely unaware at the time, that running into a giant deer was even possible. Remember, I grew up in Los Angeles. You have to travel to see that kind of beauty in LA. Phew. What an experience.
I especially liked hiking in the winter. There’s something quite tranquil about being out on a hike, when everything is white with snow, melting and dripping in the afternoon sun. Quite lovely.
Of course, the Grand Canyon is also in Northern Arizona. Majesty. I’ve only been once or twice, and I have to say, looking out over the canyon is one of the most awe inspiring sights I’ve ever seen. It is so vast. Amazing. And, there really is no sound. Not needed. It’s as if time stands still as you look out over the vast gorge. Phew. The coolest thing.
The Willamette Valley Scape
Have you ever been to the Willamette Valley? I hadn’t either until about 12 years ago. It is located in Western Oregon, and is very green. The first time I flew into Portland, we were living in Phoenix at the time, I didn’t know geography could be that green. I remember looking out the window from the plane, and being in awe of all the green. Everything was green.
When we moved to the Valley about 8 years ago, I remember thinking about the rain a lot. Would I be able to handle all of the rain? Was very unsure. Turns out, there’s been only one year, about 2 years ago, when there was so much rain, and lack of sunshine, that I thought moving might be best. Mostly, throughout the year, you get sun here and there, and, yes, you get a lot of rain. It’s part of living here.
With the rain, you also get the opportunity to get out and into nature. Easily. Trails, and hiking abound, where you can, dependent on the time of year, get hard pack trails, or muddy and slippery trails. You have to be careful. You also get tons of moss. Moss grows everywhere, and is on everything. Seriously, moss is also part of living in the Pac Northwest.
You also get deer. Friendly deer. Meaning, that they come down from the hills at certain times of year, usually during spring and summer, and they love to eat your flowers and vegetables. Be careful. A couple of years ago, I had three awesome looking tomato plants when I left for work, and when I got home, they were gone. Really. Gone. All that was left were a few stubs. Kind of funny actually.
There are also lots of waterfalls in the Valley. Hiking plus waterfalls equals a super cool experience. There is something quite exhilarating about the sound and sight of water rushing towards a precipice, then falling, falling, down to the water awaiting below. Separate, yet connected. Super cool.
You also get the coast in Oregon. Lots of coast to visit. As was aforementioned, I’ve previously written about the sound of the ocean, yet mentioning the sight and sound of the ocean here also seems appropriate.
The sound of the ocean reminds me of our own breathing. The coming in of the waves, the going back out of the waves. Waves that are also seemingly separate, yet completely connected. Lovely. There is also something quite special about looking out over the vastness of the ocean. Just looking. That’s it. That’s all. Love it.
The sounds and sights of nature are everywhere, even where I grew up in Los Angeles. One of the things I loved about the sights and sounds of nature in LA, was that of the crickets during summer time. I love that sound. I remember laying in my bed as a child, listening to that sound, thinking and dreaming about the next day.
Crickets singing, singing the song of summer in Los Angeles, to a boy that was ready to create something anew each day. To play, live, and have fun. All the while the sights and sounds of nature surrounded him, as they surround you now. All you have to do is stop, listen, and take them all in.