Traveling through Arizona, it’s difficult not to become obsessed with the Saguaro. They are like snowflakes … no two are alike. Each cactus its own personality, and much like people watching in the airport, I find myself creating a life story for every one I see.
A visit to the Saguaro National Park has been atop my bucket list for sometime, even before our 2014 goal of 12 national parks. This April, we had a trip planned to Arizona for another workation and we thought the timing might allow for us to witness some blooming cacti.
In preparation to visit the park, I learned a few things:
- Even in my years of Spanish language training, no matter how hard I try not to pronounce the hard G sound, it comes out SAGarrrow.
- The park is divided into two sites, separated by the city of Tucson. It’s not a quick jaunt between the two, and the East park is quite a different experience from the West.
- The park is home to MANY more cacti than just Saguaro.
- There are lots of great activities and tours of the park.
With so many fun options for a park tour, we were able to plan for the two-mile guided hike in the east park. Of course, we happened to choose the hottest day of the year. Luckily, it was spring and the high was only supposed to be 95 degrees (instead of soaring above 100 like it does in summertime).
Loaded down with water, sunscreen, big hats and an umbrella we set out down a trail with our volunteer guide, Greg Leitmer from Illinois who winters in Arizona. A couple also accompanied us from Virginia.
When we initially set out, we thought that we’d be surrounded by Saguaro. But, we learned that in the East park, since it was once grazing land, the Saguaro are older but not as plentiful. However, there is more diversity of cacti and I found it provided us a chance to get to really get to know each Sagauro and an individual basis.
For example, there was “Mister Perfect.” As we stood in awe under this towering icon, we got to see all his special traits, as well as a few flaws. Then, there was “Twisted Sister.” Talk about unique characteristics, she had taken some twists and turns over the years for sure.
We also paid homage to a few of our fallen Saguaro heroes. The elements and age have taken their toll and back to the earth they returned. Our tour guide Greg, remember the year this one has taken his fall, feeling fortunate to have seen it once in it’s glory.
Once we got to know some of the special Saguaros and see their surroundings in the East park, we made our way across Tuscon to the West park. As you start up the Sonora Desert hillsides, that is when the Saguaro forest starts to almost overwhelm and we were surrounded all right. Just like the dense forests of the Rockies Mountains, it became difficult to see the trees for the forest.
The desert began to show off its beautiful qualities, as you are greeted with the song of the Cactus Wren and the rattles of a Diamondback. We were there just before sunset, so the diversity of colors started to reveal themselves.
Alas, it was time to make or trek back to town, taking with us a revived passion for the desert and all its succulent celebrity.