Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 11: Saguaro National Park East and West

We finally relaxed upon waking up on our trip.  We took our time, enjoyed the conversation and the coffee, and promptly paid for it with our first hike. 

Even if we had been to Tucson many times we had never visited Saguaro National Park, which is divided between the Tucson Mountain District west of Tucson, and the Rincon Valley District an hour away east of Tucson.  We decided to drive out to the east end of Saguaro because most reviews stated that the east end had better hiking.  This means a lot of driving because Tucson and the burbs around it are very spread out.

At the visitor’s center we stopped to take a look for some stickers my wife is hunting for when we found about a half dozen javelina dozing underneath the large windows looking out from the building.  Javelina look like boars that have been flattened sideways between two large stones.  They are not particularly cute and cuddly, and golfers in this area hate them because they often tear up the course foraging for food.  Most patrons of the visitor’s center found the creatures mildly interesting and the park rangers didn’t seem all too concerned with them at all.  Then a couple of more Javelina started to wander into the clearing from the desert scrub.  Then more.  Finally a mother appeared with two tiny babies in tow, both with part of their umbilical cord still attached.  The place went bananas.  People started with the “ohhhhhhh, so cute” and madly flashed pictures.  The rangers immediately stopped what they were doing and started to oogle over the little Javes.   “They can’t be more than a couple of days old” one of the older rangers exclaimed.  The energy was quite impressive.  Me?  I was stoic as usual. 

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Just kidding.  It was actually a pretty damn cool moment.  The babies were introduced to the rest of the javelina clan and the whole thing became a celebratory mood within the building.  It was kind of a special moment.

We drove to a different area of the east end of the park and hiked a nice series of trails that wove through a thin Saguaro forest within the hills of east Tucson.  It was nice, it wasn’t terribly hot (mid-80’s), and the trail was fairly simple.  The problem?  It was 10:30 and it was unbelievably humid.  By the end of the hike we were whipped only because the air was thick and we were sweating like sponges.  It ended up being a hike that shouldn’t have been difficult but was. 

We decided to head to the Tucson Mountain part of the park on the west side of the city to hit a couple of very small, mellow hikes.  No long ones.  The west side of Saguaro doesn’t have the great plethora of hiking trails but it did have a much more dense saguaro forest, and much more natural looking areas being farther away from civilization.  We hit the Visitor’s Center, the Desert Nature Trail, and a series of petroglyphs on a rock pile before we were ran off by approaching thunderstorms.  Since the petroglyphs were on a dirt road we didn’t want to be caught off in the wilderness in a flash flood or in muck. 

We are whipped.  Damn humidity.

Trails hiked:  Garwood/Carrillo/Douglas Springs loop, Desert Nature Trail, Signal Hill petroglyphs.

Total miles:  6.3

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