Saguaro National Park, West (Tucson Mountain District)


Click on any picture to see it full-size.

Saguaro NP is divided into two parts; the eastern part is the Rincon Mountains district, is right up against the expanding Tucson suburbs, and is much bigger and less rocky/mountainy/deserty than the western, Tucson Mountains, district. Jo Nell chose the western one for Friday; I came back a few days later and hiked in the eastern side.

The drive to Saguaro West was amazing too; neither of us got pictures of it, evidently, but one way in goes over Gates Pass Road (not recommended for large vehicles) which goes through a beautiful twisty windy pass onto a cactus-filled vista that was breathtaking. I think we were too busy saying WOW to even pull out our cameras. We decided to drive the loop and hike the half mile Signal Hill trail to see petroglyphs, and that's what we did.

Visitor's center.

This is what the inside of a saguaro looks like; there's a ring of actual wood in there.

And it's really pretty, all weathered and shiny.

Jo Nell's pictures start here
We had been reading that saguaros live to about 150 years old, and they start out as tiny seeds the size of the head of a pin. It takes them a year to grow an inch, and fifteen years to be a foot tall. They also like to grow under palo verdo or mesquite bushes, which is why the young ones are hard to see...so we started looking for the smallest saguaro we could find. This was pretty small! with my big ol' hiking boot for contrast.

We were wandering around looking for cactus, and a chain fruit cholla had attached itself to my hiking boot, unbeknownst to me. When I stepped forward with that foot, it brushed against the other leg and stuck there. I walked out from there toward Jo Nell yelling OW OW OW TAKE A PICTURE OW OW ow! This is what she got before we pulled it out with a dead ocatillo branch used as chopsticks (because we couldn't pull it out with our fingers, of course!) It hurt a LOT, but was fine as soon as it was out. I found three tiny spines in my leg that night, and that was it. It barely brushed me; it must hurt like CRAZY to get one really stuck in you...