El Paso is located in the Chihuahuan Desert
What comes to mind when you hear the word desert?
Many images of a dry barren wasteland of cacti and tumbleweeds spring to mind. While this can be an accurate generalization, the desert is also a place vibrant with life and beauty.
For me and many other El Pasoans, this is true about our home. Sometimes it takes being gone from your home for a while to appreciate the true beauty of your home.
El Paso is located in the Chihuahuan Desert which covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, and Northern Mexico. From mountain ranges to forests the desert that I grew up in never seemed like a barren wasteland to me.
I've lived on the coast and enjoyed the change of climate from the arid desert to the humid winds coming off of the gulf coast.
For a time I lived in the Texas hill country with lush green hills and Ashe juniper, or “mountain cedar,” trees in Austin.
But as they say, there's really no place like home.
I moved back to El Paso in 2017 to help take care of my aging parents. El Paso, a close-knit community that prides itself on friendliness and family.
Were used to the heat. Actually were used to all kinds of crazy weather and wind. With long hot summers and short winters, it's mostly always dry. For as long as I can remember we've gotten at least one day of snowfall per year.
There's just something about the desert. The beauty of the Franklin Mountains standing majestically in the center of the city built around it is a landmark that ensures if you're from El Paso you can never get lost.
From hiking, bike riding, birding, and more there are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors when you're in El Paso.
There's one thing that sticks out in my mind more than any other when I think about the place I call home. At least when it comes to the outdoors.
I love the smell of the desert after it rains!
Although El Paso usually has a dry climate, there is a monsoon season in the summer months that typically lasts from June to September. I remember the days starting off with sweltering heat, and gradually as the day progresses fluffy white clouds begin to gather and start to block out some of the sun's blistering rays. It was almost as if it was a reward for having to put up with the extreme temperatures.
By dinner time the white clouds were beginning to look grey. Now more cloud cover than sunshine, you could hear the thunder rumble and see a white streak of electricity in the air. This relief from the summer heat is welcomed but can be dangerous as well. Like many areas that don't usually get a lot of rainfall, this could mean flash flooding. El Paso has had its fair share of flooded areas in the past.
The dry desert soil would soak up the overnight rain if it lasted that long. The rainfall could sometimes be so short-lived that it was gone before you even had a chance to run for cover. With the skies cleared and the sun shining down once again wether, it was after a few minutes or in the morning, it brought a calmness. For me a sense of serenity.
More than anything, I remember the smell. A beautiful earthy smell like nothing else. It was the smell of the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). If you're from El Paso, you've smelled it, although like me you may have had to look it up. I grew up here. I was so used to seeing this bush, yet I had no idea that it was the reason behind one of my fondest memories of home.
No matter where life takes me, the West Texas desert in El Paso will always be my home, and the smell of the desert after the rain I will never forget.