Saguaros & Rock Art

To most of the world, these prickly giants symbolize the American West. To me, they seem like a large family, gathered together after a long time of absence, merrily chatting away. Their posture, their gestures – expressive, daring, even obscene, the way they lean on each other; I feel at home among the Saguaros, never mind our differences (mainly in size).

We traveled a long way to meet them, because they gather exclusively only in small parts of the U.S. West; Tucson is one of their favourite spots, especially for the ”younger” among them.

Did you know that their branches begin to grow when saguaros reach 60 to 75 years of age? That is for those growing in the Saguaro National Park; in areas of lower precipitation, it may take up to 100 years before arms appear.

An adult saguaro is generally considered to be about 125 years of age. It may weigh 8 tons or more and be as tall as 50 feet. The average life span of a saguaro is probably 150 – 175 years of age. However, biologists believe that some plants may live over 200 years. The estimated number of saguaros in the Saguaro National Park is 1.8 million.

With such a long lifespan, it is only fitting that Saguaros would have chosen to gather here, in a land dotted with archeological sites spanning more than 8,000 years of prehistoric and historic-period occupation.

One of these prehistoric sites, accessible to visitors, is Signal Hill; a small hill with petroglyphs created by the prehistoric Hokoham people on the boulders that cover the hillside. Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ

January 29th, 2019

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I love cacti. The way they grow to enormous heights in harsh environments where other plants simply dry up and die; the way they preserve water and keep the desert alive; and the way they bloom, producing some of the most beautiful flowers on the planet.

Whether in a ”controlled” habitat like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum or in the wild, cacti command respect and admiration in equal parts – and, come to think of it, they can also teach us a thing or two about the virtues of social distancing.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery & classes, natural history museum, and aquarium all at once, dedicated to the education, protection and conservation of nature in the Sonoran Desert Region.

The David Yetman West Trailhead leads to a 3,9 loop trail of moderate difficulty, with sweeping views of the desert – that is, if you start early enough to beat the heat.

January 27th, 2019

We Stand in Awe

In White Sands.

Like a mirage, dazzling white sand dunes shimmer in the tucked-way Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico. They shift and settle over the Chihuahuan Desert, covering 275 square miles—the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. White Sands National Monument preserves more than half of this oasis, its shallow water supply, and the plants and animals living here.

The sand feels like satin and is surprisingly cool to the touch, even on a hot summer day. Gypsum does not absorb heat.

When it rains, it dissolves in water and flows down on the basin floor where it stays until it dries up and becomes sand forming the dunes that surround us, in a perpetual cycle.

We simply stand in awe as this divine natural beauty unfolds before our eyes.

(In stark contrast to the destructive powers prevalent in the adjacent military site; the White Sands Missile Range.)

Good to know: apart from unexpected closures due to weather conditions, the park may also be inaccessible due to missile testing! Because of the adjacent White Sands Missile Range, the road is occasionally closed for safety and closures can last up to three hours. U.S. Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces is also closed during times of missile testing.

Please always consult the park closure web page  before visiting, to confirm access.

White Sands National Park, NM
(formely a “National Monument”, it transitioned to a “National Park” in 2019)

October 11th, 2018