Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

More on Saguaro National Park -- West & East Districts

In my last blog post I mentioned that I made a quick visit to Saguaro National Park (SAGU).  But on Monday-Thursday of last week, I was able to spend more time exploring the park. 

Also, Tucson Mountain (Pima County) Park, adjacent to the southern border of the West District of SAGU, deserves a big honorable mention here.  I loved driving the roads of the county park -- Kinney, McCain Loop, and Gates Pass -- fun rides with outstanding vistas.  Since SAGU only has backpacking camps, I found Gilbert Ray Campground within Tucson Mountain Park as well.  Although it's geared more toward the RVer with hookups, it was a pleasant stay and my tent site was private enough.

Visitors are greeted with a framed view of a saguaro forest upon
walking up to the Red Hills Visitor Center of SAGU's
West-Tucson Mountain District.   2/5/14

The panorama looking beyond the saguaro forest to the mountains at the
Red Hills Visitor Center SAGU West.  2/5/14
While in the West District I explored the Scenic Bajada Loop Drive.  A "bajada" is the deposits of several alluvial fans that combine at the base of a mountain.  Most appropriately it means "foot" in Spanish.

Notice the holes in one of the cactus.
 These are mostly made by birds (like cactus wren) for their nests,
and often used by other birds (like elf owls) for shelter. 
Bajada Loop Drive, 2/4/14

Saguaro cacti come in all shapes and sizes.  This one lost its top! 
Bajada Loop Drive, 2/4/14

While on the Bajada Loop, I took a side trip on the Golden Gate Road to the
Ex-Kim-In-Zin picnic area.  Here I found some handiwork of the CCC
(Civilian Conservation Corps).  See the picnic table shelter on the ridge.  2/4/14

On Wednesday afternoon I headed toward Saguaro East-Rincon Mountain District, on the opposite side of Tucson.  Since it was getting late, I passed the entrance to find a place to camp at another Pima Country facility, Colossal Cave Mountain Park.  This park was more rustic and the roads are in serious need of repair.  After a bit of exploration (at the cave entrance, a cattle/horse ranch, and the picnic/camping areas) I found a private campsite and enjoyed taking a few pictures both at sunset and sunrise. 

Looking up at a saguaro forest from my campsite.  The sky is dark with clouds and I
heard some thunder that night.  Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 2/5/14

Prickly pear, a dead tree and a saguaro forest.  Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 2/5/14

A campsite, all to myself.  Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 2/5/14

Close up of a dead saguaro trunk laying on the ground.  Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 2/5/14

Another close up of the same dead saguaro trunk laying on the ground. 
But, this time, showing a place where its "ribs" are showing. 
Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 2/5/14

Looking up at a 20+ foot saguaro cactus.  Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 2/5/14.

This morning shot seems to capture the feel of the place best for me.
It felt kind of sad there ... don't know why exactly.  But, I was glad to leave.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 2/6/14.
I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon exploring some of the East District of SAGU.  Here I took another scenic drive on the Cactus Forest Loop.

See the budding arms? 
Arms or branches begin to appear when a saguaro cactus is between
 50-75 years old.  Average life span for saguaros is between
 150-175 years old.  (SAGU flyer)  Cactus Forest Drive, 2/6/14

The top formation on this saguaro is called a cristate.  It's rare and about 25
are within SAGU.   (SAGU flyer)  Cactus Forest Drive, 2/6/14

As you may be able to tell from these last few pictures, it was jacket-wearing weather.  I was, however, craving some sunshine.  So, I checked out the weather for other places in AZ and headed toward the warmth.  More on that little venture on my next blog.


  1. We love that area too and have spent many a night at Gilbert Ray CG in fact had a rattlesnake experience there in our campsite one fall night before they hibernated.......
    Thanks for the memory tweeking.....

    1. Good to hear from you Bri! Nice to know we've enjoyed some of the same places :)

  2. We were so thankful to have you visit us in Tucson- Glad you enjoyed the area and all it's beautiful unique features (like the cristate saguaros). We had a great time while you were at our house and at the Desert Museum. Very interesting place- quite different than the NW. !!! Way fun !

    Teresa P

    1. Totally my pleasure to be able to spend some time with you both. Yes, as soon as I saw that cristate, I thought of you! How 'bout those Seahawks :)

  3. We left AZ waaaay too early. It's been cold and wet, here, in TX. That won't happen again!!!

    As usual, I'm enjoying your pictures and travelogue. Thanks!

    1. It seems strange for me to be hovering in one place, more or less. I'm just craving the warmth right now ... living the life of a snowbird. Thanks for checking in :)

  4. Marvelous, Suanne. Marvelous. Weather is finally getting really really nice here in Quartzsite and I've been sleeping with doors opened for three nights now. I'll be heading west the end of the month. Happy Trails.

    1. Thanks Charlene. I've been sleeping with my windows mostly open too. It hasn't been quite warm enough at night yet to keep the hatch all of the way up ... maybe when I get to Florida. Safe travels as you head west.

  5. Have been following your adventures in your prious while car camping. What kind of tent do you use when you want a tent? Yes know you mostly sleep inside the prious

    1. Kevin, Glad to have you following along. So far I haven't used a tent while in the Prius. I carried one of those pop-up dressing rooms once, but never put it up. Suanne


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