If you’ve been part of the Koala Eco community for any length of time, you’re probably well aware that this is an enterprise with a real family at its heart. Founders Jess and Paul are partners in life as well as business; and Jess’s twin sister Adrienne (Dee) is managing director of Koala Eco in the United States. With years of corporate and operational experience in the products industry, Jess and Dee’s uncle, Sam Daniels, has been a valued mentor and adviser for Koala Eco since the company’s earliest days.
Sam also happens to live in one of the wildest and most beautiful ecoregions in the States: the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, 87,000 square miles of glorious wild landscape which extends to the Baja, Big Sur and northern Mexico. Home is in a remote location in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains, the ancestral land of the Hohokam people.
Here, nature is all around, perfect for the family’s two large dogs, who need and enjoy long daily hikes in the foothills and on the desert floor. Yet, as Sam remarks, the hiking vibe here is very different to a meditative (and chilly) Robert Frost-style “stopping by the woods on a snowy evening”!
On a hike through the desert, ‘you don’t get lost in your thoughts, yet the beauty of your surroundings is otherworldly in every sense,’ Sam says. ‘Whatever concerns you might initially bring on your trek soon evaporate. The Gila monster [a venomous lizard] and the western diamondback rattlesnake live here, along with 100 other reptile species, 350 bird species and 1000 native bee species.’
‘On our desert hikes we follow small “farm to market” paths created by horses, mule deer, javelina [skunk pig], coyote, antelope jackrabbit and the occasional mountain lion,’ he adds. ‘These same critters can be found every day peeking out from any direction in our home.’
Not only that, says Sam, the Sonoran Desert’s bi-seasonal rainfall—or monsoon as the locals like to call it—results in more plant species than any other desert in the world. A common sight is the unique and ubiquitous Saguaro Cactus, an instantly recognizable and majestic tree-like species. All of this plant life supports, feeds and shelters flying, burrowing and quadruped creatures in varieties as extensive as the plants.
This desert life is rich, yet magnificently uncompromising. As Sam observes, no painting, sculpture or architecture can compete with the grand palette and continuous physical metamorphoses of the landscape. Yet he concedes that soon after setting up home in the region, his family learned to appreciate ‘we are privileged guests and exist by virtue of the steel roof on our house, dependable source of water, security fence, snake fence, four-wheel drive, heat pumps and nearby Whole Foods!’
So if you are ever passing near Phoenix or Tucson, why not factor in a visit to one of the world’s most vibrantly alive desert areas? Or (top tip from Sam) visit the country around the Grand Canyon and kayak down the Colorado River.
Or simply take inspiration from Sam and go walking daily, somewhere in nature. Just focus on the moment, and let your concerns evaporate.