After our great day at Joshua Tree and an Oakland As baseball game, we headed off early to Tucson, for Saguaro National Park. In the 1920s, as more mining and cattle grazing occurred in the area, there was a push for preservation due to the Saguaro cactus. A National Monument was established in 1933 with 62,000 acres east of Tuscon known as the Rincon Mountain District. From 1933 to 1942 the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) constructed picnic areas and water control dams. In 1961, President Kennedy, added the Tucson Mountain District west of Tuscon to the Monument. In 1994, both monument districts were combined to form Saguaro National Park and now encompasses almost 92,000 acres. We were going to explore the western Tucson Mountain District.
Our first stop was the Visitors Center for some information on hiking and a park stamp.
The rangers told us to drive the Bajada Loop Road to Ez-Kim-In-Zin to see the best concentration of saguaros. The saguaro is a tree-like cactus and that can grow 40-60 feet tall. It is native to the Sonoran Desert and it’s blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona. They grow at a very slow rate, with the first arm not appearing until 50-70 years of age. They mature at 125 years but can live to 200 years. When a mature Saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh 4,800 pounds.
The saguaro was not in bloom however, the barrel cactus was just starting.
Ez-Kin-In-Zim is a very nice picnic area that has replicas of early buildings.
On the Bajada Loop Drive you return to the main road on Golden Gate Drive, as Hohokam Road is one way. This road’s main feature is Signal Hill, which is a short hike
This was important area to the Native Americans and the hill is covered in petroglyphs.
We do not know if it is called Signal Hill due to the drawings, or its prominent location overlooking the valley.
The visitor center had told us that the southern portion of the park was experiencing a small wildflower bloom. We still were early in the afternoon, so we headed to Kings Canyon Trail.
The plan was to hike the upper trail and then come back down the dry wash. However, somewhere we took a wrong turn and ended up in the upper wash. We could see the trail above us, but the wash was very interesting.
We had to do a bit of rock scrambling…
We did see a variety of wildflowers.
With the sun starting to set in the west, we made our way down the lower wash and had our last glimpse of the impressive saguaro.
It had been an awesome day at Saguaro National Park. We were now heading east. Tomorrow would be another day and another park.