Saguaro National Park

Posted on March 3, 2016. Filed under: American Southwest, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Getting out of Wisconsin for a week in February always seems like cheating old man winter, but I didn’t feel bad about bright sunny days, blue skies, and temps in the 80s a couple weeks ago!  DSC02256

Saguaro National Park has two parts with the city of Tucson, Arizona in the middle.  The Saguaro cactuses there are striking as they punctuate the arid landscape.  Growing up to 70 feet tall and living over 100 years at times, these cacti are worth protecting.  Their range is quite small as they only grow in the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico, southern Arizona and a small area of southeast California.  Thanks to the conservation efforts of laws that prevent harming a saguaro, their numbers are not threatened.

Saguaro National Park has fine trails which take you up close to the saguaros and other desert plants like the barrel cactus.  It was nice to have utter wilderness just a short distance from the amenities of Tucson.

No, I didn’t miss winter at all for a few days!


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Hiking the Grand Canyon

Posted on November 23, 2015. Filed under: American Southwest, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

DSC04008The Grand Canyon has been on my hiking bucket list for some time now.  My husband hiked it years ago and I’ve been a little jealous ever since hearing the story.  So this was the year!

We decided on October to avoid the heat and crowds.  I knew I had to call very early for reservations at Phantom Ranch at the bottom.  The Park Service website confused me when it said I had to call on the first of the month, 13 months prior to my desired reservation.  I started calling  September 1, 2015 where I found out I should call on October 1 for any date in the following October.  So, October 1, 2015 I started again.  In this age of technology, I was dismayed at the arcane process one must go through to obtain a reservation.  It is a matter of starting the calling when they open, which one must determine and which is tricky due to time changes and whether or not the call center observes daylight savings!  At 8:00 a.m. my time I started the repetitive calling and calling and calling.  I received busy signals for 90 minutes and I was just about to give up when my call was answered.  I got the last 4 spots for my desired date (full moon night) and the last 4 reservations for beef stew for dinner.  It was very irritating.  I cannot understand why it must be such a painful process.  An electronic queue would make so much more sense.

My group and I were happy to finally have the secured spots, however, and we booked everything else around the Grand Canyon hike.  We did the South Kaibab Trail down to the bottom.  The picture above is me on this trail.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, of course.  We had perfect weather, sunny and about 60°F.  With rain predicted later in the week this was such a blessing.  The trail is wide and easy to follow.  The 5 hours of almost constant downhill steps was a challenge, though, and I was again very thankful for my trekking poles.  Sometimes people wonder if they create more work than they are worth, but the answer is no.  They help provide stability and extra support especially going downhill.  I would never want to do a hike like this without them.  Anytime we have significant elevation gains and losses I want my poles!

Nevertheless my knees and hips were talking to me by the end and I was ever so glad to reach Phantom Ranch.  Our dormitory was clean and comfortable considering it housed 8 women for the night.  That’s another oddity:  no co-ed dorms.  In European mountain refuges this wouldn’t be a requirement, but we had no choice.  We missed out on the private cabin reservations so this is what we had.  I must say it was better than I expected.

That stew was fabulous too.  I was glad it was all-you-can-eat because I was ready for a serious refuel before the next days haul up the canyon to the rim again.



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