Not anxious to do another 12 km hike today, but wanting to see the eastern sector of the Saguaro National Park, we decided to do the scenic drive and then do a couple short easy hikes. It was a perfect way to experience a totally different side of the park and enjoy it. We woke up to almost freezing temperatures, with frost on the car. But with the intense sunshine, it felt warm for the entire day, so we were thankful for the clear blue skies and warmth!
The eastern sector is larger than the western one, and nestles up against the Rincon Mountains, and provide wonderful views of the Catalina range to the north. The rain earlier in the week, was snow at the tops of these mountains, so it was a pretty spectacular backdrop to the cactus forest in the park. This part of the park was created in 1933, to preserve the unique saguaro cacti that were being decimated by ranchers and their animals.
The drive curved its way through the park, up and down, with lots of great viewpoints to enjoy the scenery. There are lots of trailheads and many, many kilometres of trails of varying difficulty, but we stuck to short and easy ones.
Our first hike was just 3 km on sandy path up to an abandoned lime kiln. The operators would cut down the mesquite (very hard wood) trees in this area for the first to make lime for mortar to build the city of Tucson in the late 1800s/early 1900’s. We saw the old stone kiln. But was was more interesting, along with the many varieties of cacti that we can now name, was the huge variety o shapes of the saguaro cacti. It seemed that there was a higher percentage of very tall ones (ie – very old) with many arms and arms from arms. The shapes were endless and fascinating. It was a lovely walk. See the video by clicking HERE to see the highlights.
We did another very short walk at another trailhead. This one did not have as many cacti, but we did find one that I think was the largest and most complex we have seen. We also came to Monumental Wash, and there was a lot of water running in it. We are not sure if that is just because of the melting snow from the mountains, or if there is water here year round. But it was a bit surprising to find water in these dry parts!
We stopped for lunch at one of the overlooks and enjoyed the hills with lots of cacti. We listened to the babbling streams running with water. We finished the rest of the 12 km drive through the park, being a bit sad this is our last day here, but thoroughly enjoying the very different views and thankful for the warmth of the sunshine and blue skies. We will store it for the rainy, darker days that may come when we are back home.