If we were going to be in Tucson, we were going to Saguaro National Park, that was quite obvious. But there are TWO sides to the Park, which means decisions must be made! Okay, the truth is that some decisions are very easy to make. I was NOT up for hiking. It was late June. Hot. Sunny. Already past 10 am. We were going to do a drive-through tour, not a walking tour. That means the East side of the park – the Rincon Mountain District.
When my son moved out to Arizona 3 years ago, he and his friend stopped in Tucson. Adam, his friend, is a marathon hiker – totally fit, used to hiking high elevations, low elevations, acclimated to all types of trails. My son – not so much. They began hiking on the west side – the Tucson Mountain District. As it happens, I was “watching” them on my Life360 app on my phone at the time. I’d made them promise to have it on the whole trip from Orlando, FL to Tempe, AZ.
I saw the little dot moving in the middle of nothing. I zoomed in. Still just nothing. Zoomed, zoomed, zoomed – finally a skinny little white line indicating a path in the middle of NOTHING. It was July, it was mid-morning. My son turned back at his half-water mark. Adam made it all the way to whatever is at the end of that trail and back. 🙂 Adam rocks but we are NOT Adam. We drive.
It’s always fun to drive to the trails. Long before you get to the rangers’ welcome center you are always deep into the desert/park and surrounded by beauty. We did stop at the welcome center to make sure our water bottles were full. Even in an air-conditioned car it is dry dry dry. I knew I’d be bopping in and out for photos so enough water was a must.
Truth to tell, I don’t remember any individual WOW moment on the loop. While it is starkly beautiful, it did not move me the way the red & white rocks of Sedona do. What I did love were the flowers holding their own against the climate, the way the bushes twist and grow, the unexpected green in the midst of dust.
When we started the loop we were alone – no other cars entered just before or after us. Shortly after our first few pull-offs, however, a van from NC caught up to us. Two women and children in the car. We began by nodding and waving as we passed in the pull-offs, but did ultimately progress to chatting. We talked cameras, national parks, travel in general. 🙂 It was quite companionable and NOT intrusive. Of course, I LIKE chatting with people.
There was another car that came in shortly after we did but I think they either had different expectations or they’d taken a wrong turn. I don’t recall them pulling off and shortly after seeing them they sped off. I know there were not a lot of other vehicles nor did we see any wildlife, but even for this NJ gal who can really open up on the NJ Tpke, I think they were going a bit fast for the venue.
I’m so lucky I do these trips with my son. Either I’ve brow-beaten him into submission or he enjoys the stops as well as I do (unlike my husband and my friend Honour, both of whom seem incapable of slowing down or stopping when I call out -ooo THERE!!). He was doing the driving and he was very patient about pulling into the side spaces or stopping in the middle of the road. Maybe one day I’ll have a very good camera, some talent/instruction, and his forbearance will be rewarded by excellent photographs.
Until then, you get what you get. 🙂 Yes – getting a new camera IS still on my to-do list. The NC van tired before we did and soon disappeared in the distance. We continued along until even I had had enough of rocks and cacti. I’d expected a lot more cacti than we saw. One of the pull-outs had a sign by the viewpoint explaining that there HAD been many more cacti decades ago. Grazing and fires and invasive plants had killed off a lot of the saguaro cacti. The fires were actually a bonus because they killed off the invasive flora. Once the cattle were removed as well, the saguaro began to thrive.
One day I would like to go back and do some hiking on the western side. I’ve learned in the last 3 years, howev16er, that hiking in AZ is nothing like hiking in NJ. I need to get in better shape to deal with the altitude and I need to stop trying to hike in the hottest months of the year. 🙂 One of these days I’ll get out there in the cooler months.
Although we did take a LONG time to traverse the 8 miles, when we had finished we still had plenty of time left in the day. We checked to see what there might be to see in Tucson that was close, easy, and didn’t require preparation. We discovered we were not too far from John F. Kennedy Park, which had a LAKE! After the sere beauty of the cacti, a lake sounded perfect.
We got there with no trouble, but had to do a bit of circling to find the entrance. This is where relying solely on your phone for guidance can land you in the wrong spot. AFTER we extricated ourselves from the gravel behind the Pima County Public Library, we ignored our phones and relied on our inherited sense of direction (thank you, Ernie!). That was MUCH more successful. As you can see, JFK park is lovely. There is fishing, boating, swimming and ducks. 🙂 Not to mention a view of the mountains. Once we’d relaxed and cooled down in the shade of the tree, we headed out to Culinary Dropout for dinner!