Saguaro National Park Arizona

I thought I’d seen a lot of saguaros in the Sonoran Desert, but Saguaro National Park is a forest of giant cactus people.

View from Gilbert Ray camp Tucson Mountain Park Arizona

Sunset from camp

I arrived in the late afternoon so stopped first at the visitor center where I watched the orientation film and picked up my Junior Ranger book. Then I went to the recommended Gilbert Ray campground in Tucson Mountain Park for the night.

Truckcamper Gilbert Ray campground Tucson Mountain Park Arizona

Great place with lots of private sites in the middle of the desert all with electricity for $20 and the only place to camp in this part of the park.

Hohokam Road Saguaro National Park Arizona

Hohokam Road

In the morning I returned to the visitor center to get my Junior Ranger badge and some information. There are many road and trail options so it’s wise to make a plan.

Ocotillo & picnic table overlooking Avra Valley from Sus Picnic area Hohokam Road Saguaro National Park Arizona

Ocotillo and Avra Valley from Sus picnic area 

President Franklin D Rosevelt first established Saguaro National Monument in 1933. Then in 1961 President Kennedy expanded the monument to include Tucson Mountain Park. In 1994 congress established Saguaro National Park.

Birds nest in saguaro Saguaro National Park Arizona

Birds nest

Saguaro National Park is composed of two distinct districts, the Ricon Mountain District east of Tucson and the Tucson Mountain District to the west.

Wash along Signal Hill trail Saguaro National Park Arizona

To many, these giants symbolize the American West yet saguaros only grown in southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

Saguaro National Park Arizona

Saguaros can grow to 50 feet tall and are the largest member of the cactus family in the US. They normally live for 150-200 years.

Young saguaro by nurse prickly pear cactus Signal Hill trail Saguaro National Park Arizona

For a saguaro seedling to survive, it needs the protection of a nurse plant which provides protection from the sun and freezing temperatures.

Fishhook barrel cactus Signal Hill trail Saguaro National Park Arizona

Fishhook barrel cactus

I saw many of the parks 25 species of cactus along the .5 mile Signal Hill Trail.

Petroglyphs Signal Hill trail Saguaro National Park Arizona

Which took me to a rock pile with various petroglyphs left behind by the Hohokam people.

Petroglyphs Signal Hill trail Saguaro National Park Arizona

Imagine pecking away at the desert varnish to leave a message behind.

Petroglyphs Signal Hill trail Saguaro National Park Arizona

Unfortunately it looks like some modern folks decided to leave their messages as well.  It is not only wrong but illegal to vandalize these archeological sites.

Saguaro National Park Arizona

There’s some very crazy cactus out there.

Bloggers Susie & Gaelyn El Molinito Resturant Tucson Arizona

After these explorations I had a Very important lunch date with fellow blogger Susie of Arabia at El Molonito in Tucson. We talked for at least three hours just like old friends. What a treat to meet this amazing woman who moved with her husband to his so culturally different homeland in Saudi Arabia.