suburban_paradise_christopher_smith.jpg

Suburban Paradise
Mountains Edge photo by Christopher Smith

My Wildish Suburban Paradise

Desert Companion

Right outside my subdivision, reminders of the wild Mojave abound

The moment I came across the Desert Globemallow and its striking orange blossoms along a rocky dirt road in a vacant lot, I dropped to the ground as if I’d found gold and photographed it with my phone. The gorgeous wildflower, with petals that form little orange cups, is less showy and prevalent than the boastful lantanas and verbenas staking claim to nearby yards and landscaped drives. Her green-gray, crumpled leaves accentuate her rugged beauty. A few days later I painted its portrait, and the next day I brought my girlfriend and our dog to see the flower.

It’s not lost on us that to enjoy this common brush plant, we had to meander through our neighborhood, catch the Tenaya Paseo Trail between two other neighborhoods, then walk half a block east to the edge of a private, undeveloped lot. The desert landscaping in our kitchen-size front yards barely resembles the raw feel of the actual desert. And it’s a matter of time before lots like this one fill in and the stucco goes up — which means we’ll have to search farther to find Desert Globemallows in their natural habitat. But maybe not much farther, because where we live is where the development abruptly ends and the natural landscape continues.

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For years I complained about living at the outermost rim of Mountain’s Edge, far from everything, including the freeway. The piecemeal development of neighborhoods and infrastructure, combined with its distance from the center of the valley, made for bizarre and heavily trafficked routes home.

But now that I work from home, I can’t recall the last time I was on a freeway or drove more than five miles from here. Mountain’s Edge, touted as the region’s first drought-tolerant community — banning grassy yards and incorporating the natural landscape into its parks and hundreds of acres of trails — has quelled any desire I might’ve had to explore or live elsewhere in the valley. The community’s border along undeveloped (for now) desert allows us to cross into the open land, catching a break from what my girlfriend refers to as The Truman Show or The Bubble because of its contrived and proplike appearance.

But what I love most about Mountain’s Edge is that developers let the Mojave be the Mojave. Exploration Peak, a restored small mountain adjacent to an 80-acre park, has trails leading up 3,000 feet on multiple sides, and offers a panoramic view of the valley. On any given morning, friends tackle fitness routines together, artists paint the mountains, or families stop for a water break. From there, I ride my bike to Mountain’s Edge Regional Park Trail, which offers a two-mile loop that breaks into the quiet, open desert. In the other direction from our home, a pedestrian bridge off of Rainbow Boulevard is being built over the railroad tracks. Eventually, it will connect the area with the outer edge of Southern Highlands, home to Goett Family Park and its shaded greenway, which slices northwesterly through quiet neighborhoods.

But what I tend to fall for most are the remaining patches of BLM land around our neighborhood, open to dog walkers, young explorers and the like, as well as the private undeveloped lots (the “eyesores”) that can’t be trespassed but provide a breather in the sea of subdivisions. I’ve hauled small boulders home from natural areas where they’re legal to collect, and we frequent the nursery for even more drought-tolerant plants, hoping to capture in our yard the wild beauty of the vast and relatively undisturbed natural playground. I’m researching how to best accommodate Desert Globemallows when planted from seed, to keep growing our yard in step with the wilds of the Mojave, which it once was.

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