More on the Saguaro

A week ago we left Tucson and took a five-hour drive to Elephant Butte State Park in New Mexico.  We stayed two nights then headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico for another two night stay.  We are now resting in Southern Colorado.  Although its sunny, its cold, and I long to be back among my beloved saguaro cacti.Saguaro

Mind you, our four-month trip meandering around Arizona was abundant with inclement and unusual weather.  The rare snowstorm in Tucson was stunning.  This Colorado gal is used to snow, but seeing the saguaro and the desert topped with snow was a special sight to behold.Tucson Tucson

I would have enjoyed it even more if I had brought the proper attire along.  Who would have thought I could have used my snow pants in Tucson, Arizona?

Gilbert Ray Campground
Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson
Gilbert Ray Campground
Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson,  Arizona

I’ve talked before how the desert appears to come alive after a rainfall.  This was very true the day after the snowstorm.  During a heavy rain, or in this case….snow, a saguaro cactus will absorb as much water as its root system allows.  To accommodate a potentially large influx of water, the pleats of a saguaro expand like an accordion.  I was fascinated with the plump texture of the saguaro after the snowfall.  You can literally see the water trapped below the skin’s surface.

Tucson
The pleats are plump with moisture

Because the majority of a saguaro is made up of water, an adult plant may weigh as much as six tons or more.  This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs.  The number of ribs inside the plant correspond to the number of pleats on the outside of the plant.

Saguaro
the skeleton of a saguaro

Saguaro cacti are host to a great variety of animals.  The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest cavities inside the saguaro’s pulpy flesh.

saguaro
Gila Woodpecker
saguaro
nest cavity
Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

Large birds like hawks also use the saguaro for nesting and hunting platforms.  Their stick nests are constructed among the arms of a large saguaro.  In mid summer, the saguaro cacti provides a source of food for animals with its ripening fruit.  Jackrabbits, Javelinas, Mule Deer and other animals will eat the saguaro’s flesh during dry summer months, providing these animals with a water source.

Desert Museum
A sleeping Javelina – Desert Museum

No trip to Tucson would be complete without a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  This 21 acre parcel of Sonoran Desert is a fusion of; zoo, garden, museum, and aquarium.  Visitors will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the remarkable ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert region.

Desert Museum
Owl – Raptors in Flight show at the Desert Museum

The “Raptor Free Flight” was highly recommended by LuAnn of Paint Your Landscape and it did not disappoint.  Birds soar completely untethered and fly close overhead…. what a unique experience

Desert Museum
Falcon in flight
Desert Museum
Hummingbird

The Hummingbird Aviary alone was worth admission.  A volunteer, otherwise known as a Docent, was passionate about these little beauties.  She pointed out the tiny nests and shared details on their habitat.  Al had one flutter within inches of his face.  It was tough pulling ourselves away.

Desert Museum
Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum

We spent almost three hours strolling the Desert Museum and would definitely return.  Our time in Tucson was way too short and Al and I promise each other a longer stay next winter.Tucson

Valley of the Sun

Our journey takes us to Phoenix, Arizona, aka Valley of the Sun, the capital city of Arizona.  This sprawling city sits at an elevation of 1,117 feet surrounded by the Sonoran Desert.Travel

Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the United States and boasts a population of 1.47 million people.  I’m sure the population increases substantially during the winter months as the subtropical climate attracts thousands of retirees otherwise know as “snowbirds” – folks escaping the cold and flocking to the desert southwest for the winter.

Winter high temperatures range from 60 to 70 degrees with 85% sunshine.  Phoenix gets on average a mere 8 inches of rain per year.  During our second week in Phoenix we encountered a couple of overcast and rainy days.

Al and I watch the local news and weather on our television.  The rain was the main news story.  Folks on the street were interviewed…..Did you know they actually had to use their windshield wipers?  I know, wow – now that was news worthy!sunset

I will admit after the good drenching of rain, the desert appears more brilliant.  The cacti more colorful.  The trails no longer dusty.  The sky clear and blue.  The rain made everyone and everything smile (moi excluded).

The warmth and sunshine are always quick to return making Lake Pleasant, located northwest of the Phoenix valley, the perfect spot to call home for a few days.Travel