We were sitting in the patio of the Saguaro National Park Red Hills Visitor Center watching intently at a spot in the nearby hills, waiting to see the moon rise. Each month the National Park Service (NPS) does a moonrise program during full moon that features music and a presentation. Last month when we attended, there were two guitarists as well as a man who makes handmade Native American flutes. He brought about five different flutes to demonstrate. The music was hauntingly beautiful and went well with the desert scenery.
Although our flute player valiantly tried to conjure the moon into view, it was to no avail. The moon rose behind cloud cover so we couldn’t view its ascent. The usual clear desert skies eluded us on this evening, but the music, desert scenery and camaraderie was worth coming for. The setting sun cast enchanting golden light on the landscape around us.
We visited Saguaro National Park (SNP) a couple of different days and times. This is a beautiful place dedicated to the preservation and understanding of the park’s name sake cactus. There are actually two SNP’s, one on the west side of town and one on the east. Since Tucson is a big city, they are a bit of a drive from each other. In this post I am focusing on the west side since this was the one closest to our RV park. This is the 7th National Park we have visited since traveling in our RV. Although we had visited here some years ago, it is still a thrill to add another National Park to our list as full time travelers.
As the sign pictured above shows, saguaros are the “sentinels” of the desert, the largest cactus not only in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona, but also in the United States. They start out as tiny black seeds, usually germinating under nurse plants like palo verde and mesquite trees for protection from the elements. They grow slowly with few surviving life in the harsh desert environment. When they reach about 75 years of age they might begin sprouting arms. These cactus produce red fruit that feeds the animals of the desert such as birds, rodents, coyotes, and javelinas. The fruit is also favored by Native Americans in the region who boil it to make a syrup. Saguaros usually don’t live more than 200 years and walking through the desert one can sometimes see the skeleton of either a standing or fallen giant.
Late one afternoon we spent some time driving the Bajada Road, a great drive through magnificent scenery. Below is one of the trails we checked out.
When I took the photo below, I was thrilled to capture the almost full moon between the two saguaros.
We stopped at another trailhead called Signal Hill to see the petroglyphs and take in some desert views.
I took the photo below of one of the rocks with ancient drawings. Mark told me later that he felt compelled to say something to one young man who in spite of signs requesting that people stay off the rocks with petroglyphs decided to climb and sit on one. After Mark said something, he did get off the rocks. It is sad to see evidence of people not concerned about preserving historical artifacts.
Above is a photo of ocotillo stems and a saguaro with the moon above the cactus. We stayed on Signal Hill for the sunset and below Mark photographs the spectacle.
I hope you enjoyed this look at the beauty of Saguaro National Park. I am quite enamored with saguaros and each visit to the Sonoran desert I find myself amazed by their variety of sizes and shapes and commanding presence in the desert. They are one of the most interesting plant life- forms I have ever seen. I could never grow tired of them!
In the next blog we journey south of Tucson to visit a historic site and artsy town.