Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! I’m only a little tired after staying up well past my old-lady bedtime to watch the eclipse last night. I haven’t had a chance to really look at my photos from the event, so the jury’s still out on whether it was worth it. If nothing else, maybe I learned a few tricks for the next one (smile).
I think I’ve mentioned on here in passing that I’ll be meeting my two favorite guys (aka brother & dad) in Montana for a week long adventure in Yellowstone National Park. It’s finally getting close enough that I can allow myself to get excited (smile), and full planning mode has been activated. I love parks – local, state, and national – I believe they are all a treasure to society. So I thought it would be fun to focus a few Tuesdays on those national parks that I’ve been lucky enough to visit so far. First up – and in keeping with my accidental Arizona April theme (like that alliteration there?) – Saguaro National Park.
Saguaro National Park is located in Tucson, Arizona and is actually divided into two sections – east and west of the actual City of Tucson. The park as a whole hosts over 1.6 million individual saguaro cacti on just over 91,000 acres of land. Officially established as a National Park in 1994, the park receives approximately 800,000 visitors each year.
You can drive through the park, hike one of the numerous trails, or even pitch a tent for a few days if you’re so inclined – just watch out for the spines! The Sonoran Desert boasts one of the largest varieties of life, both in animals and plants, yet it is also one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent. Temperatures in the summer often (okay, almost always) climb well over 100 degrees and less than 12 inches of rain fall in a typical year. The fact that so many plants and animals have adapted to thrive in such an environment is absolutely amazing to me!
As the name implies, the park protects the great Saguaro Cactus. I wrote a post about those spiny giants the other day, which you can read [here] for more information. On the west side, you can also stop in and visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This place is more like a living museum and has many hands on activities for those interested. I highly recommend a stop in if you’re in the area – it’s well worth the time!
Visiting the Park:
The Tucson Mountain District (west park) is open to vehicles from sunrise to sunset daily. The Rincon Mountain District (east park) opens the gates to vehicles at 7:00am and closes at sunset. As I mentioned before, the two portions of the park are separated by the City of Tucson. It can take 30-45 minutes to drive between the two portions. You only need to pay the entrance fee once, however, as the pass is good at both locations.
The entrance fee to the park is $10 for a vehicle and is good for 7 days. If you’re biking, it’s $5 per person.
There are visitor centers at either location and both also offer various guided tours to the public.
Words of Wisdom:
Water! As always, take so much more water than you possibly think you could need. If you exit your vehicle and take more than a few steps away, take that water bottle with you! I know it seems extreme, but it’s quite an easy place to become disoriented in certain areas.
Dress appropriately! Yes, it is sometimes incredibly hot. However, should you get lost or be out for an extended hike, longer clothing will keep you alive for well…longer. At a minimum, bring along a light button up shirt that you can wear over tank tops, etc. Also, depending on the time of the year, the temperature in the desert can plummet right along with the sun. It’s always best to be over prepared.
Sunscreen! It’s sunny out in the desert (go figure), so make sure you have plenty of sunscreen. If you’re out and about in the park, make sure you take it with you for re-application.
Watch out for the wildlife! In addition to rattlesnakes, there are also these lovely creatures called Gila Monsters. Sure they look like cute little lizards, but they are actually quite poisonous. There are also a number of large spiders down in the Sonoran Desert.
Watch out for the plants! These guys haven’t survived this long in the desert without some pretty good defense mechanisms. In my experience, I’ve always found it better to just assume everything can and will bite back.
Watch out or the people! Although the area is generally quite safe, there is a bit of an issue with the border being relatively nearby. If you see anything suspicious, do not investigate. Generally no one will bother you if you don’t bother them (much like the animals and the plants – smile).