#10 Saguaro West National Park, AZ
I don't think a hotel room ever felt so wonderful as the one in Tucson that night after 3 National Monuments and 1 vicious dust storm! Thank you Fred for finding the perfect place!
After cleaning up and being rejuvenated by a wonderful mattress I was ready to tackle both Saguaro National Parks (east & west) in 1 day!
I was at Red Hills Visitor Center before they opened reading all the warnings on the bulletin board. The long list of dangerous things in the desert was disconcerting. Did you know they have 7 different kinds of rattlesnakes?!? I am not a fan of snakes of any kind; especially the ones that can kill me. Also, I have a fear of needles. Cactus and snakes; does it get any better? But a promise is a promise; and I promised all of you that I would do at least a 5k (3.1 miles) in every single park. The Saguro's tempted me in every way to just stay inside the car, but I didn't. I really did try to enjoy the beauty around me; but felt very much like a cat trying to sneak through 3.1 miles of sleeping dogs without getting bit.
That being said, I learned a great deal about the Sonoran Desert and saguaros in particular. I thought saguaros only grew in the Tucson area; but they grow only in the Sonoran Desert, which reaches into Mexico also. They were experiencing a decline in numbers due mostly to some killing cold snaps that have occurred in the last 50 years. Another factor that hurt the numbers was grazing. Once the parks obtained the grazing rights to the land, the numbers improved. As of today, the giants of the cacti world are making a stunning comeback!
The health of the desert shrubs is critical to the health of the saguaro. Shrubs/trees like Mesquite, Ironwood and Palo Verde are called "Nurse trees". Saguaro and other cactus get their start in the world under the sheltering branches of these shrubs. Without them, the saguaro populations suffers. On my hikes, I would look for the "babies" under these trees. It was encouraging to see so many!
A baby Saguaro
A saguaro being hugged by it's nurse tree
A dead saguaro
I'm just so tired!
There are also many other forms of cactus in the Sonoran desert. The one I thought was the cutest is the Teddy Bear Cholla. It's adorable...for a cactus.
Pretty cute teddy bear cholla
Barrel cactus almost ready to bloom
There were also petroglyphs at a place called Signal Hill. They believe these to be from the Hohokam Period (450-1450 CE) It was a curious site.
Made it out of Saguaro West in one piece; on to Saguaro East!