Tucson

While we were in Tucson we visited the Saguaro National Park. Pronounced Sah-WHA-row.

Duwan

As we left White Sands we were on target to reach The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite, AZ by January 10. But first we made a little stop in Tucson to visit a friend, Deanna. Deanna just moved back to Tucson from Greenville, SC a few years ago. She used to live in the city some 25 years ago, which is when and where I met her.

I came to Tucson from St. Louis where I had grown up. A friend there had lived in a cabin outside of Santa Fe in New Mexico. Her description of the southwest and the simplicity of her living conditions intrigued me. It was a good time to hit the road. My father had died 6 months previous and my mother was moving to Greenville to be closer to family. I told my boyfriend I wanted to explore the southwest and he was game. We drove around and car camped for a month and a half exploring New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. When our money started to get too low we made a decision and settled down in Tucson.

I lived in Tucson for 4 years, so it was kind of interesting for me to go back and realize how little I remembered about the city. Of course I remember where I worked and I can visualize the places I lived in, but I couldn’t drive you to any of those places. Street names seem familiar, but I can’t remember anywhere I shopped or hung out. Perhaps we were too poor to shop – but I am pretty sure we bought groceries, I just don’t know where.

After my second year in Tucson I found a place to live in a tiny trailer way out of town in an area called Picture Rocks on the edge of the Saguaro National Monument. This was what I had come to the southwest for. Looking to east from our tiny tin abode, all I could see was desert, which would turn purple and blue and orange after a storm. You could hear coyotes howl at night somewhere nearby. Families of quail would trot down the driveway. A couple of times I found a scorpion in my washing machine and once a wolf spider (like a tarantula, only gray) walked across the ceiling of the trailer. And once my basset hound licked a psychedelic toad. Wild flowers would bloom in the spring out in the yard and we would lie in a hammock and watch the stars on the darkest of nights.

Perhaps I just remember the good stuff – like driving around the city amazed all the time that we were surrounded by mountains. They seemed unreal, like a backdrop someone had painted. It is impossible to get that first impression of amazement back, but fortunately I was able to drag another guy (Greg) out here, so we could make some memories together and he could be amazed at all of this astounding beauty.

Greg

What do I like about Tucson? It’s a city that wants to fit into its environment. One-story homes and wide streets allow you to see the real skyline — the nearby mountain chains. Rooftop swamp coolers use a quarter of the power of air conditioners. Gravel yards sport the same plants found in the surrounding Sonoran Desert. And low lighting allows you to see constellations at night.

The flat cityscape rests on a plane of rubble that has crumbled off the mountains for millennia. An aquifer lies under the city, filling the gaps in the rubble. The city, realizing that the aquifer can’t keep with the population’s needs, now replenishes it with water from the Colorado River.

Saguaros produce thousands of seeds each year. A seed has a greater chance of surviving if it germinates under a “nurse” plant. The nurse plant can give it a head start by shielding it from harsh sunlight and other threats.

Looking through a cholla cactus at some saguaro.

The plant blooms at the top and at the ends of the arms. For centuries local Native American tribe, the Tohono O’odham, have used the ribs of dead cacti to harvest blooms by knocking them off. From the fruit they make jam, syrup, and ceremonial wine.

The Tohono O’odham word for the saguaro is the same as their word for people.

These cacti thrive in the Sonoran Desert’s basins and up the sides of the many mountain ranges.

They appear everywhere, but will grow more thickly on the sunny side of a hill.

They may drink up to 200 gallons per year out here where only 10 inches of rain falls annually.

View from one of Deanna’s favorite hiking trails in the western Saguaro National Park, where all these saguaro pictures were taken.

Just a long slender trunk with arms, but there is a lot of variation in the shapes.

The Saguaro is supported by a wooden ribcage. Water travels up from the roots through a pulpy center.

These guys could live to be 200 years old. The first arms sprout at around 70 years.

Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers drill holes into the Saguaro to make nests. The cactus develops scar tissue around the holes making a “cactus boot” which stays behind long after the cactus dies.

Howdy from The Saguaro National Park, West.

Duwan and Deanna.

Streets of Tucson. Bob wonders how all those coconut palms got into the middle of the desert. Carried in by swallows?

Up to now we have camped where there were bathrooms. In Tucson we made a composting toilet. #1 gets diverted into a jar in front. #2 goes into peat moss in yellow container. Moss dries it out. Container will be lined with trash bags. Now we can really boondock.

**** All pics are click to enlarge

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