We were so happy to finally be in Arizona after our ordeal in Deming, New Mexico. Our first night in a Tucson campground was much warmer than any of the nights of the previous week. We got up early the next morning and headed to an adventure we had been waiting on for several weeks, Saguaro National Park.
After speaking to a very helpful neighbor in the campground, Chas found out the farmers market would be up and running. We decided to visit the farmers market to see what goodies we could find before going to the park. They had some nice, mostly local, produce and hand crafts available. The participants were very friendly, and loved talking with the girls. We got to try some local cuisine provided by some of the best food truck fare I had ever encountered. Lydia even purchased some lipstick that was made from flower and plant extracts. The lipstick was white in color until it touched skin, then it turned a light shade of pink and could not be rubbed off for several hours.
Once we entered the park, the fun and exploration began. We learned about several different cactus species, but the Saguaro was by far our favorite. We walked up to the first giant that was close to the loop in the park, and could not believe the size of it. The base was mostly scarred and thornless, and it looked a lot like a tree trunk at the very bottom. Chas and I together could not wrap our arms all the way around the trunk.
The saguaro is a slow growing giant, they are only 1/4″ tall at the end of their first year. They are tall and armless until their first arms appear at close to 75 years old. The oldest will reach the age of 200 years, and tower over 40 feet in the air. The National Park has much fewer giants than 50 years ago due to several factors. Cattle were allowed to graze in the park until a few years ago, since the cactus stay small for so long one stomp from a cow would end the life of many young cacti. A major freeze several years ago killed many of the older giants, they can’t handle temperatures that do not climb above freezing during the day.
We drove a little further around the loop and found another giant that had many more arms than the first. Standing at the base of this behemoth with its arms hanging over you made you feel very small. It was neat to see the young arm coming out of the thornless base, covered in protective thorns.
We stopped halfway around the loop to have a picnic and let the girls complete their Junior Ranger workbooks. Sitting among the giants, watching hawks and a single lizard live out their day. Near the end of our day, we hiked to the top of a trail and looked down on some of the cacti from above. It is amazing to see these saguaro’s towering above the rest of the landscape as far as the eye can see.
We had fun in the Saguaro National Park, but we had Quartzsite on our mind. We left Tucson the following morning with a stop in Phoenix in our future. We had to drop off Chas’ phone once again to have it replaced, this time due to a cracked screen instead of a swim in unpleasant blue water. Our accidental damage protection for our phones has definitely been worth it. We dropped the phone off, and aimed the bus west. Driving into the sun, we managed to get warm enough to open the windows on the bus. This was the first time we have needed to drive with windows down since fall in North Dakota at Brewer Lake. We were happy knowing there were many warm days ahead after our cold trip from Kansas. The sun was setting as we crossed the mountain, and Quartzsite came into view. It was hard to believe we finally made it, after talking about it for nearly a year. We can’t wait to meet some old friends in person, and see what kind of fun awaits us in this little patch of desert.