Saguaro National Park

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March 14th 2010
Published: July 31st 2018
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It was 11:00 am on Saturday morning, Desire and I had nothing planned for the day so we decided to go hiking. We needed new hiking grounds besides Sabino Caynon and Mount Lemmon both of which we are exhausting. Saguaro National Park was our choice for the day, off we went. It was a beautiful day with temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. From where we live the park is less than 25 minutes drive. Being a Saturday, the park was busy with bikers, hikers, visitors from within and out of state. The Saguaro National Park protects the forest that is home to giant plants, particularly the ones known as the Saguaro. The saguaro cacti are found all over the state of Arizona, they are a symbol of the American west and Arizona is one of the southwestern states that has a great many of these cacti with the largest concentration right here at the Saguaro Park, hence the name. The saguaro cactus is renowned for it's size and the odd shapes it takes as it grows. Did you know that they have a lifespan of 150 - 200 years? I have visited this park only twice even though I have lived over six years in Arizona.

There is an information center as you go up the drive way off of Old Spanish Trail road. Inside the information center you will find all necessary information about the park and souvenirs to take with. We stepped in briefly to get some additional information, looked at a few ranger hats for purchase, I think the smaller size was $11.50 each. We looked at the display of the entire forest in the next room, it showed the entire park and part of Rincon Mountain which overlooks the park. The entire forest area was officially designated as wilderness in 1976. It is a large back country with no roads through it except for a short loop (the cactus Forrest Loop) that gives visitors great overlooks of the entire wilderness. The entire area is comprised of 57,930 acres within the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park. It is also surrounded on three sides by Rincon mountain ranges which are part of the Coronado National Forest.

We paid $10.00 park entry fees for a one week pass, along with the pass we got a detailed map of the entire Saugaro wilderness and all hiking trails. A one year unlimited pass costs $25.00 which is a really good bargain if you are an avid hiker like I'm. The lady at the ticket booth told me I could turn in my ticket within a week and pay the difference of $15.00 to get a one year pass, which I'm considering doing. The fees are per vehicle.

From the information map and flyer we were given, Desire and I learned quite a bit about the growth process of the saguaro cacti and their lifespan. Apparently they do need nurse trees in their early years to protect them otherwise the chance of survival are slim. The nurse trees we saw in the park included the mesquite and the palo verde.

Additional history in the wilderness is the Manning cabin built by one of Tucson's mayors name Levi Manning, he built the cabin in 1905. Desire and I did not go to the cabin, but we plan on taking the adventure soon enough. We did however go on two hikes on two separate trails totaling five hours in the Saguaro National Park. The weather could not have been any perfect.

They do offer junior ranger programs for children too.

Information on visiting the park:

*Hours: 7:00 am to sunset daily

*Seasons: all year round

*Fees: $10.00 for privately owned vehicle valid for 7 days, $5.00 Individuals or bicycles. Commercial vehicles pay a higher

Hiking Desert Ecology Trail

The Desert Ecology Trail is the simplest and easiest trail within the Rincon Mountain District in the East. Desire and I hiked the rather short and well marked trail (quarter of a mile) with no elevation gain. This trail is more like an introduction trail which offers an introduction to the climate of the Sonoran Desert and the adaptations which give the animals and plants the means to survive and thrive here. The hike was pretty pleasant with about 8 people including Desire and I on the entire trail. The trail has well marked interpretive signs with information on what goes on within the wilderness of Saguaro park including storms, life balance, water in the desert and variety of plant life. The benches along the path are such a welcome treat, allowing even the elderly to walk and take frequent breaks, there is a paved wheelchair access too. i particularly loved the information signs.

Additional photos below
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