CouchSurfing in the Desert

After a weeklong pit stop with family and friends in Williamsburg, I flew into Phoenix and discovered an amazing new resource: Couch Surfing. The concept of couch surfing is not new to me, since I've been doing it for years as many of my friends may already know. What is new, however, is the website,, where people post available couches and invite strangers to crash at their pads. After browsing the Phoenix Couchsurfing pages, and there were many, I came upon Annie, who not only looked friendly and nice but offered to pick me up at the airport!

She did just that, and I ended up spending two nights with her, her roommates, and her adorable and crazy little dog. While everyone was at work during the day, I headed over to the Desert Botanical Garden, about 20 minutes from the house on foot. The Gardens were extremely busy because there was an exhibit of blown glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly. The eye-patch wearing artist creates works that look like alien plants and are often integrated into the landscape. They've been touring botanical gardens across the US for a while now, but I never thought I'd get to see them in person.

I spent the day between sheer wonderment at the artwork and ingdignation because it was preventing me from seeing the plants (I'm not sure for how long this link will work, but see here for a gallery of glass at the garden). I did, however, learn a few cacti and other desert plants, among them the cholla, the organ pipe cactus, the senissa or old man cactus, palo verde and palo blanco. I learned about some of the native people of the sonoran desert, and noticed over and over again that their traditional dewllings offered little if any rain protection, which I guess makes sense if it hardly ever rains. Overall, I felt at home in the landscape and even more excited about crossing the border.

*Image credits: first two images are from Annie's couchsurfing profile and used with her permission. The last image is by Bernard Gagnon and comes directly from this page on the wikimedia commons.

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