Sutherland Trail Wildflower Meander

Deanna Hyland

Poppies! Thousands and thousands of poppies, interspersed with majestic saguaro, and a picturesque backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The yellows and oranges blanketed the ground for as far as we could see, the colors exploding in front of our eyes.

On March 28, 10 members of the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club were fortunate to accompany Ruth Caldwell on her Sutherland Trail Wildflower Meander right down the road in Catalina State Park. Meander we did! It seemed that every few feet one of us felt compelled to stop and take a photo of another new floral discovery. The wildflowers were out in full force. Our group saw about 30 different varieties. Some were tiny and delicate, and others spoke more boldly. The pinks, whites, purples, yellows, and oranges popped out of the brown desert landscape, shaking their colorful heads, demanding our attention.

The first couple of miles, we moved slowly due to all the photos we were taking. Ruth kept saying, “Just wait. Just wait. You haven’t seen anything yet.” But what we were seeing was wonderful! How could there be something better? As we rounded a bend on the unnamed horse trail Ruth led us down, we suddenly understood. The poppies! Fields of poppies spreading up to the base of the snow-dusted mountain tops. The explosion of color was accompanied by gasps, sighs, and murmurs of “Spectacular,” “Awesome,” “Wow,” “Amazing.”

We spent quite a bit of time in this magical spot with our mouths agape, taking photos, admiring the stunning view, and posing for our group picture. Eventually, Ruth got us moving again, and our pace picked up a bit as we left the poppy fields behind and made our way past wildflowers with whimsical names like pincushion, chicory, lupine, miner’s lettuce, and scorpion weed. Along the trail we spotted a bright red cardinal perched on a tree surveying this magical kingdom of color. After all of that visual excitement, we stopped to eat and rest. The group quietly chatted, and a few of us slipped off to take more photos. We couldn’t get enough of the bold beauty of nature.

We continued down the trail past more wildflowers to Dripping Springs. The falls were flowing gently and were a welcome relief. It wasn’t a hot, desert day, but it was warm enough that a splash of cold water on our faces and necks felt very refreshing. We lingered there for a while, pausing to appreciate this water in the desert.

Sated with an abundance of wildflowers and the glory of a desert day, we picked up our pace to make our way back to our cars and civilization. But surprise! Nature wasn’t done with us yet. Some unexpected vibrant orange aloe appeared next to the path, followed by a large saguaro with a rare crested arm.

If you get a chance to glimpse Arizona wildflowers blooming, grab that opportunity and hold on. The season is brief but immense in its beauty. It will take your breath away.