Category Archives: National Parks

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.

Ryan Zinke confirmed as Secretary of the Interior

While all the divisive political news was swallowing the airwaves and headlines, Ryan Zinke was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior on March 1. The next day, he rode a horse to his first day at work. He will be in charge of the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management.

The former Montana Congressman calls himself a Teddy  Roosevelt Republican. It turns out that Pres Roosevelt was also a horse rider.  But Roosevelt didn’t have to deal with climate change – which Zinke says is real. [I don’t want to say “believe in climate change”. It’s not a religion.]

Will he protect our public lands? Well, he did say clearly that our public lands are not for sale. So what do I hope he does?

Like the drawing on the right says:

  • Invest in our National Parks
  • Fund the maintenance backlog
  • Hire more permanent rangers
  • Protect our future generation (of trees and mountains)
  • and get out to our parks

I designed the card and my talented friend, Mica, drew the card. I then created postcards which I’m giving away to anyone who is willing to send them to their representatives. You can download your card here.

Visiting Buford’s Massacre Battleground

Buford Massacre Site

When I first signed up for Nicole’s Sleepaway Writing Camp in Waxhaw, I knew I had to find Buford’s Massacre Battlefield. In Forests, Alligators, Battlefields, I wrote about this Revolutionary War battlefield in South Carolina where the Patriots were massacred by a British Regiment led by Banaster Tarleton.

But the battlefield isn’t a national park unit or a state historic site – hard to tell who protects it – so I never felt the need to search it out.

When I drove to the writing retreat, I stopped at the Museum of the Waxhaws and asked where the battlefield was. The first woman I spoke to didn’t have a clue and she had to bring out the historian. It turned out that the museum had a big display on Buford’s Massacre. Here’s the story:

Lt. Col. Banaster Tarleton on the British side meets Col. Abraham Buford with the Southern Continental Army on May 29, 1780. The American Patriots were badly beaten. But the legend is that Tarleton continued to slaughter the Americans after they surrendered.  This infuriated the Americans who came out in greater numbers for the Battle of Kings Mountain.

The site isn’t as obscure as I thought since my iPhone map app could find it. It’s south of Buford, SC on US 522. A field with a large sign, several monuments and plaques and a couple of graves. But one monument got my attention and was worth the search.

This monument was first erected on June 2, 1860.

Now why did the good people of Lancaster County wait so long to erect a revolutionary war monument? This was part of a movement to remember the revolutionary war just as the potential of a Civil War was heating up. I have seen similar monuments at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park. The message was

If we could unite to beat the British, why can’t this country stay together now?