Sunset in Saguaro National Park

And this is the final post, because I promised it would be.  After eating and resting, we drove the Cactus Forest Drive Loop.  I felt like the west park seemed to have more of a cactus “forest” myself, but still, the drive was wonderful.  The loop closes at sundown, so you’ll have to be sure to sneak in just before the gate to the drive closes.  Then take your time.  Find your sunset spot.  Hold down on that shutter button until the clouds are no longer glowing oranges, purples, pinks, and blues.  Then drive away with a sense that everything is right in your world, if only for that one hour.

(There is one lack luster paragraph below–because there was a massive jackrabbit in it, thought it does not look massive in retrospect–and Jordan and I both are SDSU alum, so it had to be included.)


Saguaro National Park

Okay, so I will finally wrap up our Arizona trip, I swear.  But there were so many exciting photos to choose from.  And if I was being honest in my title, this would be Part I of a two-parter.  Soon, I’ll have all of Arizona out of my blogging system.

Saguaro National Park is split into two sections: West and East.  Often, I think of National Parks having been dedicated as such many, many years ago.  But Saguaro only became a national park in 1994 (’twas a national monument before that).

If you’re starting you day with a whirlwind trip through the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum like us, hit up the west side of the park first.  I loved seeing the architecture of the Visitor Center.  Of course the buildings in the parks should reflect the areas they are in, but I guess I am just getting to used to the Smokies Visitors Centers.

Stop here to pay your fees (10 dollars covers both sides of the park), grab a park map (what?  you guys don’t collect the maps from the NP/Nat’l Monuments you visit?!), and get the low down on the trails you have time to hike.

Since our time was so limited, we took the park guide’s advice and chose three very short trails to the highlights of the Western side: the Desert Discovery Trail (.5 miles), the Valley View Overlook (.8 miles), and Signal Hill Petroglyphs Trail (.5 miles).  Sure, I would have like to have logged a nice 5 mile trail in the park at least, but we just wouldn’t have seen much besides the one trail if we had done so.  Plus, this way, I could hike in the moccasins.

Desert Discovery Trail was neat, fast, paved.  If you skipped the museum on your way toward the park, then I would recommend taking a quick walk around this trail.  There are signs and labels for the type of plant life you’ll encounter.  There are also many benches scattered throughout, so it’s accessible/walkable for people of all abilities.

Clearly, we hadn’t gotten over how huge these cacti can become. 🙂

The Valley View Overlook was my favorite of the three trails.  For seeing so many people at the museum that morning, we were surprised by how few people walked the trails.  We met only two other folks on this trail.

(That one ^ is maybe my favorite shot from the west park adventure).

One picture of us both:

The valley view the trail is named for:

And finally we’re onto the petroglyphs trail.  These glyphs were created by the prehistoric Hohokam people.  This trail, and the picnic area nearby seemed to by much more crowded.

No, you couldn’t simply walk up to the glyphs; the pictures seem a little deceiving now that I’m looking at them.

After we finished up our drive through the west side, we were starving and tired.  We grabbed some queso fresco, coconut waters, crackers, and sweet potato chips for a little picnic a la hostel.  We took a quick nap, and cleaned up before heading out to the east side of the park to catch the horizon at sunset.

Sunsets coming your way tomorrow (or the day after or the day after…you know how I do).

Morning Trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Just a wee bit excited to be freshly pressed for the Tucson post!  Welcome to any new followers who have decided to come along for the rest of the Tucson trip.  Glad to have each and everyone of you as readers.  I had so much fun reading all of the comments yesterday.

Day 2 of our Tucson adventure produced entirely too many photos to choose from.  Thus, I’m splitting into a few posts.  Let’s hope you don’t get sick of me too quickly….;)  In the morning, before too many people had a chance to pile into the museum gates, we braved the windy, intimidating while driving a rental car, roads to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The museum is an outdoor museum/zoo/arboretum, with friendly volunteers and water fountains around every corner.  On top of having water fountains all around, there is courtesy sunscreen in the bathrooms.  I was so pleasantly surprised that I SPFed harder than ever before.  The museum really is amazing.  I had more fun looking at the Sonoran Desert plants more than the animals.  Which was a good thing, since all animals besides the birds were shy.

Found this guy working hard in the “pollination exhibit area.”

Same hummingbird from above giving us the stare down:

It took us a long time to get over how tall these Saguaros could grow to be:

In flight:

Eye contact with the otter:

As we were almost to the exit of the museum, we spotted a cardinal nearby.  I snapped the below photo.

That’s with my standard lens on the maximum optical zoom.  A good Samaritan lingered while I took my photos, and offered to let me change lenses.  He did tell me what the specific lens was, but I couldn’t remember afterward.  Mainly I remembered how heavy the lens was and how much better my photo with his lens was.  Both the photo above and the one below were taken in the exact same spot.

So beautiful.  Caught the bird below with its lunch.

Since I’m kind of a bird person, I didn’t mind the other animals hiding from us too badly.  And seriously, the friendly fellow lending me his lens was amazing.  If only I could spend some money on one of those!  We were very impressed with the museum, and suggest it to anyone looking for a good half-day exploration from Tucson, AZ.

In a couple days, I’ll finally be posting about the great Saguaro National Park.  Cannot wait to show you the sunset pictures.  Of course, the sunset was so perfect that taking bad photos seemed almost impossible.  Still, half of the battle of taking good photos is being in the right place and the right time, right?  So maybe I’ll steal a little of the credit 🙂

Two Days in Tucson, Arizona

Hey, hey.  Long time, no post.  Life’s been a bit of a whirlwind as of late; I’ll explain in due time (when I have time to catch up).

We’re always on the hunt for bargain flights to places we’ve never been.  Over Easter weekend, we decided to celebrate with a quick trip to the desert since tickets from Knoxville were under 275.

I felt like my feet fit in there.

The first day of our trip was spent exploring within the city limits.  We visited the oober-trendy, ec0-friendly Sparkroot Cafe for a mid-morning (lunch-time with the time change) pick-me-up.  We moseyed down 4th Avenue and visited University Ave, and the University of Arizona campus.  A library visit was had!  Hard to go in a library without snooping.  In the afternoon, we headed back toward our hostel (Roadrunner Hostel–great, clean, cheap place), and stopped at Hotel Congress for some refreshments.  Can’t remember why Hotel Congress sounds familiar?  John Dillinger’s capture, my friends.  After showering, we headed out to eat some Mexican nearby.  I should have taken photos of the courtyard, which seemed festive and authentic, but I had a blogger fail.  Still, I hope you enjoy photos from our day in Tucson.

The Friday of our visit was very low key.  Saturday was a bit busier, especially as far as photography was concerned.  I’ll be back soon with a few posts of desert landscapes from that day.

Happy start to the work week.