The Student Conservation Association's Online Community
Saturday, October 7
It's my first full weekend off! Naturally, what do I decide to do? Visit the one and only Saguaro National Park in Tucson!
I woke up and left around 10 a.m. I drove about two hours to Tucson. The drive was nice and I got to pass the Texas Canyon and Dragoon Mountains. As I was drawing closer to the park, I noticed saguaros in the field next to me. I was so excited! I have never seen one before. Saguaro National Park is in two parts: the east side (Rincon Mountain District) and west side (Tucson Mountain District), separated by the city of Tucson. I was visiting the eastern side because it was closer. I dropped by the visitor center, and watched their brief video describing the history of the park, its people, and the cactus itself. I purchased a magnet, stamped my passport, and asked the park ranger what brief hikes are best. I didn't want to push myself today, as I was actually in Arizona Arizona, as opposed to a sky island. While there, the highest temperature I experienced was 95 degrees.
The Cactus Forest Loop Drive is a 9 mile scenic drive that gives an overview of lots of the cactus forest. Along this drive there are a couple of brief trails. I started the drive, and instantly made sure to pull off at any opportunity that I saw. They were AMAZING! I got stunning views of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Saguaros were so close to the road, and each one was absolutely unique. Some of the ones I saw were around 40 feet tall! Some had no arms, some had a couple arms, some had a dozen arms, some had arms growing on arms growing on arms. I saw one saguaro that was tall and had a very small little bud on its side. It was growing its first arm, which means it had to be around 75-100 years old. There were a lot of small baby ones as well. I also found one that was me-sized!
I took the quarter mile Desert Ecology Trail where I could learn more about the desert ecosystem. Then, I started along the Cactus Forest Trail, which split across the loop drive. I got pretty hungry and there wasn't any shade, so I eventually turned back to drive to the nearest picnic spot.
As I drove around the loop, I saw views of the Rincon Mountains, which feature several day-long hikes that I may be interested in for the future. Looking out, you could really see a forest of saguaro cacti -- I saw thousands. I stopped at the picnic area and ate, then decided to head back so I could make it home after dark.
I stopped in Willcox to get a couple needed groceries and then went back to Chiricahua. I rested the rest of the day, made some cookies, and was content.