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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Urban Encroachment, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona

Houses in Tuscon encroach on the edges of Saguaro National Park, Arizona. Pictured beyond is Gibbon Mountain (I think).
Not all US National Parks are in the wilds, and Saguaro National Park is a good example. Just east of the Tucson, Ariz., city limits, houses go right up to the park’s border. But that suits the people of Tucson just fine.

Saguaro's windy, hilly Cactus Forest Drive is a popular ride for bikers. When I was there, many bikers – mostly older folks – were gathering for some kind of group ride, Lycra shorts and all. I didn’t see any hikers when I was there, but I bet after work, plenty of Tucsonians take to the trails.

The biking event also attracted a couple of old church ladies, too, who’d set up a display in the parking lot promising to inform us on “What the Bible Really Teaches Us.” Fortunately, the noonday sun drove them off before they could solicit me.

Yes, there are saguaro cacti here – lots of them! But that only scratches the surface of the dryland biodiversity in the park. It’s a veritable garden. Unlike the ranched lowlands along I-10, the park, on the better-watered foothills, is exploding with desert plants: saguaro, barrel cacti, hedgehog cacti, cholla, palo verde trees, grasses, herbs, and much more. The mountain peaks have pine forests, and being February, the highest peaks even had a dusting of snow, even as it was 85 °F (30 °C) down by the visitor center.

Since I was there around noon, I didn’t see many animals, which tend to come out more at night. I mean, daytime temps are well over 100 °F (40 °C) much of the year. Wouldn’t you stay inside until nightfall?