At 8 a.m. on a Saturday in Phoenix, coffee brews inside the city’s sprawl of desert-colored homes and apartments and a chorus of AC units starts a morning hum. About a dozen people with sensible shoes and water bottles gather in a parking lot near the banks of the Rio Salado. The nearly horizontal rays of sun hit the Palo Verde trees, making them glow.
In the shade, Angela Ellsworth, the founder and managing director of the Museum of Walking, takes a head count and passes around a clipboard asking folks to sign a liability waiver for a contemplative nature walk through the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. The activity promises an easy 3-mile loop. The paperwork, albeit bureaucratically par for the course, is part of the process—a commitment to a mostly-silent, two-hour hike led by our “curator of walking” for the day, a local musician and interpretive park ranger named Amber Gore.
Desert finches rustle in the brittlebrush as Gore leads us along the trail. She instructs us to listen to our feet crunching on the path, and as we do, the noise of the highway fades away and we’re surrounded by the sounds and smells of Sonoran wetland.