Originally Posted on April 12, 2015 in the Times-Georgian by Morgan Cantrell
Arizona has twenty-five locations under the National Park Service, ranging from National Monuments to National Historical Sites to National Parks, like the Grand Canyon. In my research for things to do in Arizona, I looked up the listing of all of the National Parks in that state (a life goal of mine is to hit all of the National Parks). I found that Arizona has three: the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and the Saguaro National Parks.
Of course we were going to the Grand Canyon; that was a given, but what about the other two? The Petrified Forest was too far away from Phoenix for my dad and I to logically make the trip. The Saguaro National Park was two hours south of Phoenix on the way to Tombstone, which my dad wanted to visit. We decided to nail two birds with one stone.
Sometimes the best experiences you have while traveling are the ones where you have zero expectations. All I knew about Saguaro National Park was that it was an actual National Park with a bunch of cacti. My dad and I traveled south to the park with the GPS giving us directions and hoping that it was worth the detour.
It was worth the detour.
Daddy and I entered the drive to the park sounded by cacti. Big ones, small ones, fuzzy looking ones. Some had flowers blooming while others had died. The paved, black road cut a straight line through the dusty earth. We were in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Jaws on the floorboard, we kept driving to the visitor’s center.
Upon entering the center, a nice crew of staff and volunteers welcomed us and were more than happy to answer all of our questions. We were directed towards the movie room where we watched a fifteen minute narrated slide show about the Sonoran Desert and Saguaro National Park. After the film, Daddy and I were set free to roam the park.
We were given a map and instructions to follow the Valley View Trail. Hopping back into the car, Daddy and I were now in search for the trailhead of our hike.
When we parked, we walked up to a gentleman with a thick beard and a camo hat who was perched on a small fold out chair. We noticed his camera atop a tripod. As we talked to him, we learned that he was there to capture a woodpecker family going in and out of its nest inside one of the Saguaro Cacti on film. This guy was going to simply hang out in the desert all day bird watching and taking pictures! Sounds like the coolest job to me!
Daddy and I walked on the trail pausing every few steps to awe at the size of some of the cacti. They were massive! I stood next to one and had to point my nose directly at the sky above to see where the cactus ended.
The spikes jutting out of the cacti reminded me of small swords. Flowers the color of bright yellows, oranges, and reds bloomed from the cacti. To see something so beautiful come from something to harsh, words do not do it justice.
Cacti were everywhere.
Think of a field full of wild flowers. They grow and spread everywhere taking over your field of sight. The Saguaro National Park is exactly that but with cacti. These cacti only grow in the Sonoran Desert, which is located in parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Mexico.
Daddy and I ventured to the Saguaro National Park looking only to mark another park off the bucket list; instead, he and I came away shocked at the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
The Saguaro National Park really is the best kept, not so, secret site in Arizona.
Click the images to make them larger! 🙂