We chose the Saguaro National Park (Arizona) for our
Thanksgiving vacation this year because of the nice climate in
winter. The images of Saguaro Cactus in "John Shaw's
Landscape Photography" are also one of the main reasons why
I wanted to visit there.
Getting there ...
We had an early morning flight from San Francisco to Phoenix.
Although it was the Thanksgiving holiday, the flight was pretty
much on schedule. There is about 100 miles from Phoenix to
Saguaro (Tucson). Saguaro National Park is part of the Sonoran
Desert. The park is divided into two districts: West (Tucson
Mountain District) and East (Rincon Mountain District).
The First Day ...
- Saguaro West (Tucson Mountain District)
||We got to the Saguaro
West at about 3:00pm, so we have plenty
of time before sunset.
We first went to the visitor center,
walked around and watched the slide show.
We then took the Desert Discovery Nature
Trail to take a close look at the
saguaros. Saguaros are much larger than
we thought: A 150 year-old saguaro can
reach as high as 50 feet. These are the
largest cacti in the US.
The 9-mile Bajada scenic loop drive
passes through a dense saguaro forest. We
didn't spend too much time here because
it's time for sunset.
The Second Day ...
- Sunrise at Tucson Mountain
|I got up before 6AM, and headed
toward Tucson Mountain for sunrise. In fact, I
lost my sense of direction on the winding
mountain road, so I was not sure where the sun
would come out. I stopped at a vista point, and
walked up the hill. It turned out it was not the
best place to photograph sunrise, but it stilll
let me enjoy the first light of the day.
- Tucson Mountain
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Desert Museum is more like a zoo than a museum. It
has more than 300 animal species and 1200 kinds of plants
on display - alive in their natural desert settings. It
is a good place to get to know the desert in one day.
- Saguaro East (Rincon Mountain District)
Saguaro East is more diversified than the West
biologically, however, I personally like the Saguaro West
better than the East because I didn't get any decent
photo of the East this time :-( It was cloudy in the
afternoon, and the sunset was dull without glorious
The Last Day ...
Although the weather forcast said it will rain today, I
still decided to go out for sunrise. I stopped by the
road just passed the Tucson Mountain area. It was cool
and cloudy. Suddenly the sky turned golden red and the
cloud looked like burning. I knew I couldn't even record
one percent of my excitement on films, and I just tried
to do my best.
- University of Arizona
We stayed in a motel very closed to the University of
Arizona. So we passed by and spent about 10 min walking
around in the campus.
- Biosphere 2
Biosphere 2 is the world's largest glass-enclosed
ecological laboratory (a big greenhouse) which contains
five ecosystems: a rainforest, desert, savanna, marsh,
and ocean. It covers 3.15 acres, and has more than 3000
species of living organisms. Biosphere 2 was created to
better understand Biosphere 1 - planet Earth, and now it
is under the direction of Columbia University. It began
to rain after we started the tour. We couldn't stay
outdoors too long to see the building structures, but
most of the tour were indoor activities; so it was not
too bad for a rainy day.
Going Home ...
We drove back to Phoenix and it was rainy most of the time. We
stopped by the Casa Grande
National Monument which is a foure-story ruin built by
Hohokam in mid-1300s. But it looks weird with the protecting
roof. We arrived in Phoenix early enough to catch the earlier
flight. We were very lucky that everything was so on schedule on
this Thanksgivings holiday (i.e., the SFO was delayed by more
than 3 hours the next day).
[Back to Photo Page] [Go to Saguaro Gallery]