Hiking in Saguaro National Park

Danny, Priscilla and Hannah

Can Tucson be the Asheville of the Southwest?

Although Tucson is so much bigger than Asheville with over 500,000 people, it’s cool and artistic like Asheville. And it had a national park, Saguaro National Park which borders the city on both sides.

I’m on a short vacation with my granddaughter Hannah.

Today,  our first full day in Tucson, we climbed up Wasson Peak, elevation 4,687 feet, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains. The  variety of cacti is the big attraction.

Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro cactus is the one with all the arms.  It’s supposed to be the symbol of the Southwest Just like couples with varying number of children, some have no arms and others can have four or five.

They’re everywhere, which was the big surprise. I thought I would have to hunt them up.

Saguaro NP was created in the 1930s to protect the saguaro cactus.  The park has a modest number of trail miles.

The trail to Wasson Peak was well maintained and signed. But I find the openess of a western trail disconcerting. I want the security of walking between two  rows of trees.

But Hannah and I weren’t on our own. Priscilla from Carolina Mountain Club who lives in Black Mountain is spending some time in Tucson at the Desert House of Prayer, a contemplative Christian retreat. She joined us on the hike.

It may be just the beginning of March but this is the desert – hot and dry. So we started early and loaded up with two quarts of water each. And we drank most of it. Just like in the Smokies, we met people who started to go up just as we were coming down.

But unlike the Smokies, Saguaro NP had put up a trail register at the beginning of the hike and at the top of Wasson Peak. I guess they want to see how many actually make it to the summit, as well as use the information for possible searches and rescues.

It took us five hours to walk about eight miles, with lots of stops for photos and talking to fellow hikers. When we signed out, we saw several groups who had started after us and signed out way before us. Some could have been runners but others might have just turned around.

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