June 21, 2017

Saguaro National Park

"Together We Will"
Tohono O"odham Nation

There is no symbol more emblematic of the American southwest than the monarch of the Sonoran Desert, the saguaro cactus. Standing tall, their arms point to the heavens, as if in prayer to the universe for the light and moisture which they receive. The saguaro is renowned for the variety of fluky, all too human shapes it assumes...shapes that inspire wild and whimsical perceptions. The Tohono O'odham culture passed down beliefs that the saguaro cactus are actually the spirits of their ancestors, standing in the desert as watchful guardians, providing shade and protecting life-giving water. As I compare our own "fixed" paradigm of assumptions and rationale...I prefer the beliefs of the ancient ones, that all things are alive and spirituality is sought through intimate communion with the natural world.
We found that these monarchs of the Sonoran Desert are living monuments and a mirror of the past and examples for the future. In our walks through life, they remain steadfast and immoveable. And they truly are a reminder of the influence of our ancestors and that our true strength comes from the powers that reside within each of us. 
We spent a few days at a beautiful campground within the Tucson Mountain Park, Gilbert Ray Campground. After savoring the remoteness and peacefulness of the dispersed camping we experienced at Indian Bread Rocks, being part of an rv "neighborhood" created a brief jolt. But as we were surrounded by lush desert vegetation, a plethora of wildlife (each night we were serenaded by the local saguaro coyote tribe). Also, as there were countless distractions to explore within the Tucson Mountain Park, our tolerance level toward crowds was raised. 
One of our many highlights was actually a dream come true. Two of my favorite cravings in life broasted chicken and donuts, were found under one roof, behind one magical counter. When Imkelina first saw Queens Broaster Chicken and Donuts, I though she was joking...or it must be a mirage...or maybe I am on Candid Camera? But there it was and it turned out to be heavenly and worth multiple trips...surely a tease and brief glimpse of my afterlife. 
garden path of the Red Hills Visitor Center
Crested Saguaro 

We enjoyed another priceless national treasure. Saguaro National Park preserves over 91,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert. The park consists of two districts Saguaro West and Saguaro East, separated by the city of Tucson. Being camped close by, we were able to enjoy the scenic drives, trails and the beautiful Red Hills Visitors Center of the west district. We drove the scenic unpaved Bajada Loop Drive through the dense saguaro forest being treated to some very unique cactus and beautiful desert vistas. Prior to the heat blanketing the desert floor, we hiked the short Signal Hill Trail. The trailhead features a a historic CCC built picnic area that you would be hard pressed to find a duplicate. The short climb takes you to dozens of ancient petroglyphs more than 800 years old. As we were quite alone, we had un-intterupted time to observe with fascination and reverence these ancient carvings.  
nesting hummingbird in the Hummingbird Aviary
Cactus Wren nest in a Palo Verder cactus
yearning to be free

Burrowing Owl
Black Tailed Prairie Dog
Cambria Dog
Desert Loop Trail within the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
And finally, we did glance into the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I say glance, as we only spent the early morning to stroll the grounds before the heat and large crowds engulfed the grounds. Although we are not fans of contained wildlife in pens, we were told the Desert Museum rescued the majority of the animals they featured. The Hummingbird Aviary was our favorite. The trail system throughout the museum was well done, provided a complete description of the Sonora Desert habitat and highlighted endless desert vistas.
Although it was time to press the pause button on our little trip through the deserts of Southeastern Arizona, we coveted to end our trip with some "organic" boon-docking. So we headed to a waypoint that we had heard of from a fellow blogger, Technomadia, aptly named Saddle Mountain. Saddle Mountain is a landmark peak west of Phoenix in the town of Tonopah. The mountain peak which has a distinct saddle shape, summits at 3,037 feet with a few trails leading to a small saddle high on the ridge. The views from up there were spectacular. The whole area clearly showed evidence of volcanic activity. This was a perfect spot to end...and then begin our last leg to the Central Coast Hidey Hole.

At Waypoints 32.21999, -111.14129