By Trevor McLam, field school student from Washington State University
As one might expect of a place that has been called the Great American Desert, the first thing one notices upon arrival is that it is hot. But it truly is a dry heat, which helps immensely. When we arrived in Mule Creek, it was cooler than Tucson or Safford, due to elevation. Still, to the best of my knowledge, we have not had a day that has not topped 90 degrees, with many topping 100.
The weather was consistent for the first five weeks of the field school. Clear skies meant high daytime temperatures and cold nights, with wind picking up around 3:00 p.m., which, after about a week, was pretty easy to adapt to. Much more challenging has been the recent arrival of the monsoons.
Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I thought I had a good handle on rain, but the monsoons are a different beast entirely. In the span of about an hour, one realizes that there are clouds, then that it’s getting windy, and then the heavens open and massive raindrops start falling from the sky. This rain soaks everything in a matter of half an hour (in most cases) and moves off to rain on someone else’s day.
The winds that accompany the storms have a nasty habit of knocking over our tents, or at least blowing them in a way that diminishes the effectiveness of their rain covers—most of my stuff has gotten wet at least once. A damp sleeping bag can make for a rather miserable night.
The thunderstorms the monsoons bring are a source of nearly endless entertainment, and they make what would otherwise be a nasty rainstorm truly exciting. Long story short, if you come here next summer, do not neglect to bring your rain gear or your hot weather gear, or it won’t end well!