(Tucson, AZ) Hi 89 Lo 64 – Today was clear, sunny, and warm but not too hot. Just the type of day we imagined to be ideal in southern Arizona. We drove about 15 miles west of Tucson to the Saguaro National Park. The Saguaro has been called monarch of the Sonoran Desert, and the supreme symbol of the American Southwest. Ask any elementary school kid to draw a cactus, and he’ll likely draw a picture of a Saguaro.
It was a nice, scenic drive to the Park, on a rolling two-lane highway.
The Red Hills Visitor Center.
We saw the standard orientation video, picked up a brochure and map, and were on our way to the Scenic Bajada Loop Drive, a five-mile drive around the park that started about 1 1/2 miles from the Visitor Center. The road started out paved, but once we reached the loop drive it turned into a dirt road, and it was quite bumpy in some areas.
There were two short trails that we wanted to walk. On the way the scenery was incredible, with Saguaros everywhere, carpeting the countryside and mountain sides. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)
The first trail we walked was the Valley View Overlook Trail, which went four tenths of a mile up to the top of a mountain.
Once we reached the top we had a beautiful view of the valley below.
One of the most fascinating sights here in the Southwest is the dust devils you see off in the distance. They’re basically mini-tornadoes, which pop up at random and can last many minutes, and get quite big. We saw several of them from the top of the Valley View Overlook Trail.
This one kept getting bigger and bigger.
To show you how big a Saguaro is, we had a passerby take this “we were there” photo of us standing next to this average size plant.
They look kind of smooth or furry from a distance, but believe me, they have lots of nasty looking needles on them.
In fact, just about every plant in the desert has prickly needles. Many of the Saguaros have pretty flowers that bloom on the ends of their branches.
The Saguaros are holy to Native Americans. Their tradition taught them that Saguaros used to be a humans that God put here after death. It’s not hard to see how they look almost human.
This guy has a loooong nose!
These two seem to be fighting.
And some don’t look human, but just have unusual shapes.
Farther along the loop road we came to the Signal Hill Picnic Area, which had a short 1/4 mile trail to a rock field.
But what was cool about these rocks was the indian petroglyphs. These drawings were made hundreds of years ago. They were mostly drawings of geometric shapes, and animals.
We finished our drive around the park and returned home on a different route from the one we came. It was a moderately curvy mountain pass, and when we came down out of the mountains we had a nice view of downtown Tucson.
We went about five miles out of our way to have a late lunch at our favorite fast food place, Culver’s. We had no idea there was a Culver’s this far west, but we were happy to find that out!
We made it back to our cool home on wheels and relaxed the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Have we mentioned lately that we love this lifestyle? Well, we do!
See you tomorrow.