The desert is a tough environment. The heat, the dry, the little to no rain. As they might say, life is different here. It is a tough existence on plants and animals. Cactus and creosote, and other things that sting seem to be the life found here. Yet, with a little bit of water life and green can be found here.
In the "sky island" of the Guadalupe Mountains the elevation rises from the desert floor over a mile and the peaks hit around 8,900' elevation. That creates an area of cooler temps and that elevation rise makes its own rain. Where as the desert might get 5" of rain, the mountains of the Guadalupes might get 16-20". Now 16" of rain is not much water but it is a vast change from the salt flats to the west.
That rain keeps alive stands of big tooth maples, relics from the last ice age. I have posted images before of the vivid fall color one can find in these desert canyons. This time I wanted to show how that life hangs on from a different angle. I made my way to the top of McKittrick Canyon and was able to look down the length of the canyon and see these narrow strands of color clinging to the canyon floor and gullies.
Here are a series of views to take in the tenacity of life and how these trees survive this dry desert environment thousands of years after the end of the colder climate of the ice age.
Those extra few inches of rain funnel down into gullies allowing trees to cling to north facing canyon walls or into intermittent streams along the canyon floor. The south facing walls are not so lucky and the hot summer sun means few, if any, maples can survive that heat. However, those north facing walls bring just enough shade that the trees can survive the heat and the trickle of water from the occasional seasonal rain sustains life.