This picture of the Sonoran desert hardly looks like Oregon, despite the fact that Oregon does indeed have desert – it’s just that Oregon’s desert is high desert, and it looks drastically different from the Sonoran desert. But what, you might ask, does any of this have to do with marine reserves?
Every winter, I get the itch to travel to the Sonoran desert, not because Oregon’s winters are difficult to handle – but because the desert is so alive in the late winter and early spring as migratory birds begin to arrive. In a good year, when there has been a great deal of rainfall in the fall and early winter, the Sonoran desert explodes with flowers and greenery – and people.
Snowbirds of all kinds – from Ontario and Alberta, Canada as well as northern United States, such as Montana and Maine – can be found populating most of the campgrounds in late winter near Tucson, Arizona. And it is there that we usually bump into the occasional Portlander or Oregonian, who just couldn’t take the rain anymore and had to head south – even in a winter like 2015 when I’ve been able to bike hundreds of miles on crystal clear bluebird sunny days.
This year, during a brief foray south, we ran into a couple from Portland at a campground just north of Tucson. They had lost their older dog during the winter, and were starting afresh by hitting the road, experiencing some sun, and stopping at the local humane society to welcome a newcomer to their family. It was at this campground that I met “Tuscon Tuck,” a mixed breed 5-month old dog that took to his new owners like he had been traveling his entire life, even though they met him a mere two weeks earlier.
We chatted about Oregon, sharing political and other views. And at some point during the conversation, the Oregon couple shared their hopes for their new dog. It wasn’t about him getting the opportunity to be at one of Portland’s many dog parks, or enjoying the cool, summer days Oregon offers. No, this couple wanted to share their favorite Oregon place with their dog – a place where there’s sand between the toes, incredible vista’s, and the ocean – their favorite beach, which coincidentally happens to be located near one of Oregon’s five marine reserves.
Even well over 1,000 miles away, Oregonians feel the attachment to their special Oregon places, and enthusiastically describe in detail the special elements of those places that define us as Oregonians and illustrate our commitment to the state and its wealth of natural resources.
I don’t know who came up with the song, “Georgia on my mind,” but for this displaced Oregon couple, after spending more than a month on the road, Oregon was definitely on their mind.
When you walk the beach near your favorite marine reserve this spring, you may see a little dog that looks like he’s part wire-haired terrier, poodle, and a little bit of something else. Enjoy sharing the beach with Tucson Tuck – he’ll have come a long way to experience what Oregon has to offer.