On 4/29/2017 we left Salt Flat, TX and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park bound for Arizona. Since this leg of the trip would be over 400 miles and we had the time, we decided to split it into two days. We’ve found that we like to keep the daily driving under 300 miles when we can. So, after about 200 miles of wind-blown driving, we stopped in Deming, New Mexico to provision and do some free WalMart camping. After an uneventful night (thankfully) we departed for our first stop in Arizona at Saguaro National Park near Tucson. We arrived on 4/30/2017 after about four hours of easy highway driving on I-10.
This park is physically split by the city of Tucson. The eastern portion of the park is referred to as the Rincon Mountain District which is where we stayed at an RV park named Adventure Bound Camping Resorts. This RV Park was less than 30 minutes from the entrance to Saguaro East and yet still near a residential part of town with plenty of services nearby. This RV park turned out to be a decent place to spend three nights. It had a good laundry facility, friendly guests and a fair number of full time residents. They even had a Tiny House on site! (Our daughter has a Tiny House so we thought that was cool to see.)
Just after we arrived and set up our camp, we drove over to the visitors center at the park to get the scoop on things to do the next day. Turns out there is a paved eight mile one-way loop that goes through the desert, providing great views of the Saguaro cactus forest. We drove the loop that afternoon, found it to be pretty hilly and decided to take our bikes for a spin in the morning when it was a little cooler. We spoke with a local biker who just happened to be starting the loop when we arrived and he shared the location of a good bike shop in town. I had somehow gotten two flats on my bike while it was on the bike rack…I’m choosing to believe it was the heat that caused it. Anyway, we had some fun talking to the people at the bike shop, running the Jeep through the car wash and getting some provisions at the grocery store on our way back to the RV.
The morning bike ride was a blast. We both got some much needed exercise and really did consider taking a second lap around the loop before giving way to Mother Nature as it was already over 90 degrees at the end of the first lap. Siobhan did spot three deer grazing off in the distance but that was about it for wildlife on this ride.
The following day we toured through the city of Tucson with the Jeep, doing some errands while on our way to the west side of the park, called the Tucson Mountain District. To us, the west section of Saguaro National Park did not appear too different than the east section. Getting there seemed to bring us higher in elevation and we enjoyed seeing the residential neighborhoods built into the side of the mountains. However, we opted out of a hike that day since the area looked so similar and it was too just hot for us to enjoy another extended hike in the desert.
Now, for some interesting facts from the area that might interest you:
- this NP is located in the Sonoran Desert which surpasses all other North American deserts in lushness and variety of life yet is still one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent;
- High temps in the summertime are commonly over 100 degrees;
- On average, less than 12″ of rain falls here annually;
- Between the winter and summer “rainy seasons”, it’s not unusual for months to pass without a single drop of rain;
- Saguaro catci have a lifespan of 175 to 200 years, reach a height of only 12″ after 15 years, begin to flower and produce fruit after 30 years, reach 7′ tall after 50 years, sprout its first branches or “arms” after about 75 years, reach 25′ tall by 100 years and if they survive to 150 years old may be 50′ tall and weigh 16,000 pounds.
- The Saguaro’s root system is generally only about three inches below the desert floor yet extend as far away from the trunk as it is tall. This root system is capable of soaking up as much as 200 gallons of water from a single rainfall, enough to sustain that cactus for an entire year.
- When the Saguaro flowers, it’s blossoms are creamy-white in color, big, bold and numerous, coloring the desert from mid-April through June. However, each individual blossom opens after sunset in the relative cool of the evening and wilts by the middle of the following day. This process lasts about four weeks as each cactus produces approximately 100 blossoms during that time.
- The correct pronunciation of Saguaro is (Su-waar-o) as I was informed at the Visitors Center.
Back at camp, we chilled out a bit and looked forward to our next stop in the Phoenix / Scottsdale area.