March 1, 2010 — We spent a lovely day hiking around this beautiful desert landscape in the Tuscon Mountain Region of the Saguaro NP, otherwise known as the West Region of the park. Icon of this area, the giant saguaro cactus stands up to 50 feet tall and can take 100 years to reach full height. Here in this park, approximately 1.6 million saguaros can be found.
After an enjoyable and informative visit to the Red Hills Visitor Center where we viewed a movie about the Sonoran Desert and learned more about this amazing ecoregion, we selected several hiking trails and set out for our day in the desert. We saw only one hiker all day long, making this park feel like it was ours alone – a truly special experience.
Each trail was spectacular as we wound our way past all kinds of cactus varietals including barrel cactus, ocotillo, staghorn cholla, prickly pear, hedgehog, and fishhook, and, of course, the mighty saguaro, whose human-like arms reach to the sky or twist and contort into odd shapes.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch during which Fred read and I sketched in a wonderful ramada (open shelter) built by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers during the 1930s. We truly owe a debt of gratitude to this organization, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and funded by Congress during the Great Depression. Ninty-four of our nation’s national parks benefitted from the projects some two million men worked on — from fighting fires; revegetating and landscaping; constructing trails, roads, bridges and dams; stabilizing ruins; building picnic and campground facilities; and building restrooms, tables, and ramadas such as ours. As the placard at this site noted, although it lasted less than ten years, the CCC left a legacy of good will and good works, and we should all take pride in these historic structures and help protect and preserve them for future generations.
Another highlight of our day was our short hike to Signal Hill. Here we saw centuries-old petroglyphs that had been etched into volcanic rock by the historic Hohokam people.