We arrived at the gate of the east park a bit after 7:00 on a cloudy morning threatening rain. Even so, the Saguaro (pronounced “Sa-War-O”) stood tall and magnificent in the shaded morning light. There are two separate parks, east and west, on either side of Tucson.

Even the mean-looking cholla cactus was bright and beautiful on this winter desert morning. I understand that cholla can be really nasty by dropping their “pods” with sharp, barbed spines. I was very careful to make sure Abby didn’t  get into those, especially when we took the short Desert Ecology Trail. Of course, in the Sonoran Desert there’s an abundance of ways to get into trouble with cactus spines!

The park ranges in altitude from 2,180 feet at the floor to 8,666 feet at the top of Rincon Mountain. It truly is magnificent, but I qualify that comment by noting it’s easy to say that when looking at it through a truck or car window rather than passing through on foot!

At the Visitor Center, I learned the Saguaro actually have vertical ribs rather than the “horizontal rings” common trees have, which makes it almost impossible to determine the age of the cactus. The Saguaro can live up to 150 years, sometimes reaching a height of 45 – 50 feet by that time.

Even though the Sonoran Desert hosts such things as poisonous Gila Monsters, the Arizona black rattlesnake, javelinas and black bears, I’m happy to say we didn’t run into any of those on our visit.

We spent the night in Ajo in a comfortable renovated school now named The Sonoran Desert Conference Center. Very comfortable and a spot I’d highly recommend. Tomorrow, Yuma calls us. The farthest west we’ll go without crossing the state line into California. But who knows, at some point in the next week or so we just may do that.