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Backpacker Magazine – May 2000

Arizona's Sky Islands: Harmonic Convergence

Arizona: Every year millions of ladybugs head to Arizona and coat trees, rocks, and brush like a layer of living paint.

by: Dennis Lewon

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Every spring, ladybugs head to Arizona in a dazzling display of togetherness-upwards of 100 million per acre-and coat trees, rocks, and brush like a layer of living paint.

The best place to witness this phenomenon is on the peaks of southern Arizona's sky islands. These isolated ranges jut a vertical mile or more above the dry desert floor, giving rise to a green world where ponderosa pines, maples, and wildflowers thrive. In the late spring, after gorging on aphids and other insects in the desert, the ladybugs head for the cool high country to escape the searing summer heat below.

To join the migration, hike to the 9,466-foot summit of the Miller Peak Wilderness in the Huachuca Mountains. The 11.5-mile Crest Trail starts amid alligator juniper and piqon pine, then quickly climbs into a subalpine zone dominated by ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and an occasional stand of aspen. The path hugs the spine of the Huachucas, forming the backbone of a small but extensive trail network.

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