The Eagletail Mountains in Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson

Courthouse Rock, Eagletail Mountains, Arizona. PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Dooley. This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

“Not long ago I went backpacking in the Eagle Tail Mountains. This range is a trackless wilderness in western Arizona that most people would call Godforsaken, taking for granted God’s preference for loamy topsoil and regular precipitation. Whoever created the Eagle Tails had dry heat on the agenda, and a thing for volcanic rock. Also cactus, twisted mesquites, and five-alarm sunsets. The hiker’s program in a desert like this is dire and blunt: carry in enough water to keep you alive till you can find a water source; then fill your bottles and head for the next one, or straight back out. Experts warn adventurers in this region, without irony, to drink their water while they’re still alive, as it won’t help later.”1

In Barbara Kingsolver’s nonfiction essay “High Tide in Tucson,” from a collection of essays with the same title, she discovers that she has accidentally brought a hermit crab home with her, hidden inside seashells she collected while in the Bahamas. Like Buster, Kingsolver has also drastically changed the scenery of her home, moving from Kentucky to Tucson. She reflects on humanity’s animalistic nature, and the subsequent modern refusal to admit that we are animals.

The Eagletail Mountains serve as a backpacking destination for Kingsolver and her friends. She details an afternoon where she discovered what used to be a Hohokam settlement – complete with mortar and pestle, grinding stones, and shards of pottery. Located about 65 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona, the mountains are now a popular recreational spot. Courthouse Rock, a prominent mountain at Eagletail, is over 1,000 feet tall and perfect for rock climbers. The Eagletail Mountains also host a wide variety of rock strata, plants, and wildlife. Coyotes and great horned owls are native to the area, but remain well-hidden from visitors like Kingsolver and her group.

Read more about

the Eagletail Mountains on Wikipedia. Find Hide Tide in Tucson at a local library or on Amazon.

1Kingsolver, Barbara. “High Tide in Tucson.” High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995. 1-16. Print.

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Author: Emily Pearson

Emily Pearson is a junior at the University of Arizona who is studying English and creative writing.