We are still on our national park tour of the Southwest. We’ve gone from Arches to the Grand Canyon to Sedona to Tucson so far. Today, we travel to the Petrified Forest National Park, completing the three parks that are in Arizona.
The last two days have been spent exploring Saguaro National Park, outside of Tucson. In truth, visiting this park was the reason the whole travel plan came into being. I’ve been a fan of cacti since my 6th grade science project when I did a cactus garden and explained the unique aspects of this ecosystem and plant adaptations. Despite this interest, I’ve never been to the Sonoran Desert, until now! The trip started with a desire to see the Giant Saguaros, sentinels of this Arizonian desert. The plan to visit the rest of the parks evolved around this one place.
I had two goals during this visit. 1) See the Giant Saguaro in its natural habitat, and 2) chase down some of those famous Tucson sunsets, often featuring this tall, armed cactus. My husband was game to get me where I wanted to go to accomplish these goals.
Driving in, on our way down from Sedona, I became excited when we first were able to see Saguaro cacti from the road. I believe I noted them just past the town of Bumble Bee. (Yes, that is an actual town in Arizona!)
After arriving at our hotel, which was strategically picked to reach both parts of this national park within a reasonable distance, we decided to venture out to capture a sunset. We did a brief internet search and decided on driving to Gates Pass which is a favorite of local Tucson residents. We checked the sunset time, 5:41 p.m., and set off for Gates Pass, planning to arrive an hour early.
Nature’s show did not disappoint. However, we ended up just missing Gates Pass (we drove through the pull off an since I listened to the GPS, we left) and instead captured the view from another trail head just down the road, more into the valley. Again, Saguaro Cacti were everywhere! It was amazing! The trail head parking lot filled and soon people were parking along side the road to capture the setting sun and developing colors over Tucson Mountain. I came back to the hotel very happy with my photos and first day in the Sonoran Desert.
Yesterday, our second day here, we visited the west side of Saguaro National Park in the morning. It was easy to get to and well marked. We hiked 3.5 miles through the trails that bordered mountains lined with thousands of cacti! It was 91 degrees! Yes, on October 25th, it was hot! The views were amazing, as was the plant life – all adapted to survive in the arid conditions. The visitor center was closed, due to COVID, but the bookstore was open. We perused that briefly, bought a few stickers and a patch and left to rest for a few hours.
Towards evening, we went to the East portion of Saguaro National Park to view the sunset. I had read that were were several places to capture nice sunsets in that section of the park. Saguaro National Park is two separate sections split by the city of Tucson, one on the west side and one on the east side. We needed to visit both. We found the visitors center and got maps. Then we headed to Mica View Picnic Area – an internet suggestion I found for great views.
Meh. It was a nice trail but the view was just not there. We did manage to snap a few nice photos on the way back to the car. It gets dark very quickly here, once the sun goes down. We did not want to be still on the trail when that happened.
In short, I accomplished both of my goals will at Saguaro National Park. Why don’t you see for yourself in my photo gallery!
Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. This weekly forum was created and is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.org. I thank them for developing this wonderfully supportive community to which I’ve been a part since 2017.