“[Texas Canyon] was a kind of forest except that in place of trees there were all these puffy-looking rocks shaped like roundish animals and roundish people. Rocks stacked on top of one another like piles of copulating potato bugs. Wherever the sun hit them, they turned pink.”1
The protagonist of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, is Taylor Greer, a young woman raised in rural Kentucky who takes her first chance to move away. As she drives across the country as far as her car will take her, she finds herself as the unexpected guardian of a Cherokee baby she calls Turtle. Her cross country drive is near its end as she enters Arizona and is struck by the site of the rocks in Texas Canyon, which are so much different than the landscape she knew in Kentucky. Shortly after passing through this area, she finds herself in Tucson where her car gives out and her journey really begins.
Texas Canyon took its name from a group of settlers in the area who began arriving from Texas in the 1880s, but most people know of it now from traveling along Interstate 10. As the highway goes over a pass between the Little Dragoon Mountains to the north and the Dragoon Mountains to the south, boulders shaped by spheroidal weathering rise up on both sides of the road. A rest area placed among these rocks invites the travel weary to take a break and capture some photographs. After a few more minutes of driving in either direction, however, the rock formations give way to a more subtle desert landscape.
[Note: I made a similar drive across the country when I moved to Tucson. I entered the state on Interstate 10 near Las Cruces and still distinctly remember first seeing Texas Canyon and thinking all Arizona would have similar features. I quickly realized my mistake as the rounded rocks disappeared in my rearview mirror, but Taylor’s response to this stretch of road seems familiar to me.]
1Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. New York: Harper & Row, 1993. 35. Print.
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