I thought I’d seen a lot of saguaros in the Sonoran Desert, but Saguaro National Park is a forest of giant cactus people.
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.
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.
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 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.
Saguaro National Park is composed of two distinct districts, the Ricon Mountain District east of Tucson and the Tucson Mountain District to the west.
To many, these giants symbolize the American West yet saguaros only grown in southern Arizona and northern Mexico.
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.
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
I saw many of the parks 25 species of cactus along the .5 mile Signal Hill Trail.
Which took me to a rock pile with various petroglyphs left behind by the Hohokam people.
Imagine pecking away at the desert varnish to leave a message behind.
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.
There’s some very crazy cactus out there.
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.