Wednesday, May 10, 2006


After our trip to Sedona, we decided to drive south to Tucson. Tucson is about 140 miles south of Glendale and a mere 60 miles north of the Mexico border. The drive time is about 2 hours and thirty minutes. Tucson has many interesting attractions. The one we chose to visit was the Saguaro (pronounced ‘Sauvaro’) National Park, part of the Sonora Desert, home to a wide variety of cacti, including the famous Saguaro cactus. The park consists of two sections, the east and west sections.

The eastern section of the park, also called the Rincon Mountain district is the one we visited. The Saguaro National park has a dry rugged personality of its own. The Saguaro, the giant cactus, has been described by many as the monarch of the Sonora desert and has been a symbol of the American Southwest. It is famous for its odd shapes and huge size. The tallest ones can be up to 50 feet tall and 150 years old. The National park is also home to many other types of cacti and desert trees and shrubs. Many animals and birds also live in this vast desert land. The Gila Woodpecker and gilded flicker are two common residents of the Sonora desert. These birds live in nest holes they make in the larger branches of the saguaro. Some other winged inhabitants of the saguaro are the red-tailed hawks, American kestrel, western kingbirds, elf and screech owls to name just a few. Some animals that live here are roadrunners, the desert tortoise, Western diamondback rattlesnake, the cactus mouse and the jackrabbit. Many of these animals are nocturnal and venture out at night, thus avoiding the desert heat. Some animals venture out in the cooler morning and evening hours while a few that have special adaptations for dissipating heat like the jackrabbit(radiates heat from its oversized ears) comes out at midday.

The Saguaro begins its life as a shiny black seed, the size of a pinhead.
One saguaro produces tens of thousands of seeds in a year. Of all the seeds, only a few survive and grow to adulthood. The growth of the saguaro is extremely slow. By the end of a year, a saguaro seedling may measure only a quarter of an inch. At about 30 years, the saguaro begins to flower and produce fruit. This fruit was used by the Tohono O’odham Indians to prepare jams, jellies and even wine for their ceremonies.

We took a road that lead to several trails and started driving slowly along the winding path. It was an interesting trail with many types of desert plants growing on either side. There are smaller trails leading off from this one where one can go hiking. There is only one trail in the national park where one can ride a bicycle and this is the Cactus forest trail. The kids were trying to spot some snakes or other animals, while I was more than happy not spotting them! Being around midday, we didn’t see much animal life, much to their disappointment. However, we did go on a short walk where we saw a few small creatures scurrying away from us. We were told at the visitors center that just a couple of days before we visited the national park, a mountain lion was caught on the park camera drinking from a water hole!

We could see the Rincon mountain range all along the trail. It was beautiful in the afternoon sun. As we drove along slowly, the sun began to go down bathing the valley and the hills around in a golden hue. The warm temperatures and the golden light had a mesmerizing effect. Being the end of March, the temperatures were not too high and were very comfortable. However, temperatures are typically over a hundred degrees in the afternoon during the summer.
The Saguaro National Park was proclaimed a National Monument in the early 1930s and later declared a National park in 1994.
The Saguaro National park is not the only attraction in Tucson. The Biosphere, which is located a few miles away from the city of Tucson, is a 250-acre facility. Guided tours of the science exhibits are available. Also one can look at the upper and lower grasslands and the ocean under the glass. Guided tours of this are also available.
Another family attraction is the Old Tucson Studios. The Studio brings back memories of the old west. Kids enjoy cowboy adventures and simulated gunfights and action packed stunts.
Again, we had only a day at Tucson and our adventures were limited, but wonderful! There is so much to see and so little time!!

Coming up…The Grand Canyon.


At 11:36 AM, Blogger Mridula said...

What tall cactus! I have seen such huge ones only in pictures!

At 12:12 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Yes, they are really huge! I was surprised at their height. I always thought Cactus were small shrubs! We learn something everyday.

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have traveled quite some. Nice pictures. I live in arizona so it was nice to see it from your prespective.
nikki in az

At 8:52 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thanks so much Nikki, and welcome to my blog.
I loved our time in Arizona. It is so beautiful and colorful.
Do visit again:)


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