March 22, 2008

Saguaro NP- AZ Sonoran Desert Museum-Mark Visits

After finishing up with LOW on Friday about noon Kim Mark & I decided to check out the Desert Museum.

Located only about 15 minutes from Tucson, the Museum was a real treat, exposing us to many aspects of the desert and surrounding area in the natural environment. Interpretive exhibits, films and guides were around every corner providing a great opportunity to learn more about this unique part of our planet.
Just the drive over the nearby mountains provided insite into what was to come. The spectacular Saguaro "forest" in this area is unique, and unlike anything else I've seen. I had been to Phoenix many times for Honeywell, but the size and numbers of cacti these do not begin to compare with this area.
It was obvious from the overall plantlife and numbers that the Tucson area must get considerably more rainfall than surrounding areas.
First stop at the museum was the reptile area...hey this is great, we can look at these venomous creatures without danger of being bit!

Of course, the reptiles were housed in part of the "dark cave area"....I guess we just never grow up, we crawled around in there with the kids for quite some time. I thought we'd lost Mark, but one scream about a snake being loose in there produced a quick exit!
And reptiles aren't the only creatures living within the Museum. How often do you get to come face-to-face with a codi mundi?

Another surprise was the enormous height of some of the saguaros. Best I could tell, some reached as high as 35 feet. They say these giants don't start growing their first "arm" until 50 years old, so I guess the big ones have been around for hundreds of years...

After dropping Mark off at the Tucson Airport on Saturday, we joined our friends Alan & Michele on a hike in the Eastern section of the Park (Tucson is literally surrounded on both sides by the Saguaro National Park!). This side of the park gets even more rainfall, as evidenced by the amount of green plants and the huge amounts of flowers!

Alan & Michele hike this area twice a week, with a local group of friends. Pretty neat to have this kind of National Park environment 10 minutes from your house!

Another interesting aspect of the area is the contrast between the living and the dead. Most striking is the strange knarled look that the Saguaro trunk takes on after the cactus has died, and all that is left is this ghostly skeleton of that once beautiful plant.

As we ambled along, I couldn't help but notice the many small flowers in bloom on this side...a definite contrast to the plant growth on the West.

Well, as they say in show business, we save the best for last. Every now & then, us amateur photographers catch the late evening light at just the right angle, and something magical happens. So I'll close with one of those shots for you to enjoy....