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.

Watch the Solar Eclipse from Clingmans Dome!

I just got my four tickets to a once in a lifetime event – a total eclipse on Monday August 21, 2017.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is offering an opportunity to experience the total eclipse through a special, ticketed event at Clingmans Dome as well as informal eclipse viewing sites at Cades Cove and Oconaluftee. The park is partnering with NASA, Southwestern Community College, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to provide a special program with featured speakers and storytellers that help explain the science and cultural connection to this unique natural event at Clingmans Dome.

Clingmans Dome

At 6,643 feet in elevation, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and offers the unique possibility of seeing the moon’s shadow approaching across the landscape. The area will be closed to all public vehicle traffic to better accommodate a safe, memorable experience for about 1,325 ticketed participants.

Imagine, 1,325 of your closest friends.

The parking area will be converted into the special event site that will include a jumbotron screen for participating in a national NASA TV broadcast, telescopes, educational exhibits, and stage for special featured speakers.

“We are thrilled that the park lies within the narrow viewing band of this spectacular, natural phenomena,” said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan. “I have great memories of the time I experienced a partial solar eclipse as a child and I am thrilled to view my first total eclipse from the top of the Smokies in the company of a passionate group of visitors.”

Tickets have just become available through www.recreation.gov for $30.00 each.

You must have a ticket to attend the event at Clingmans Dome. Participants will be shuttled to the site from Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC by coach bus. The Clingmans Dome tower itself will be reserved for the media and live broadcasting teams to share the experience with the widest audience possible. Special presentations and activities will take place during the approximately three-hour period in the afternoon when the sun will be partially and, for a brief time, totally obscured by the moon.

With a full schedule of entertaining and educational programs, park rangers and partners are working together to provide a worthwhile experience, even if the sun is obscured by clouds on the day of the event. There are going to be crowds. However, if you are patient, sociable, and flexible, this is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a total eclipse from the heart of America’s most visited national park.

When I went online at Recreation.Gov, I only saw an option to leave from Gatlinburg. I couldn’t find the Cherokee option, so I clicked on it. If I have to go to Gatlinburg, so be it.