Monday, June 2, 2008

Saguaro National Park

On Sunday we decided to take a tour of Saguaro National Park. Good decision and bad decision. The bad part was the road. We checked a map and thought we would go in the back way so that we could see as much of the park as possible. Well, we did see it, when our eyeballs stopped shaking. The back way in was a 'graded' dirt road about 8 miles long. Have no idea when the last time it had been graded was but we think that the car might need an alignment now.
Despite the bouncing, shaking and rattling, it was a wonderful drive.

Of course the park contains more than just saguaros. We saw barrel cactus, fishhook cactus, teddy-bear cholla, prickly pear, creosote bushes, ocotillo, palo verde and a host of other plants. The few animals we saw were rabbit, cactus wren, curve-billed thrasher, white-winged dove and unidentified hawks.

But we were there to see the saguaros and they surely dominate the landscape. Saguaros have a tough life. It is estimated that only one in 250,000 seeds will survive to maturity. Once germinated, the young saguaro seedling has a life expectancy of less than six weeks. Most are killed by extreme weather, eaten by rodents or insects or uprooted by foraging javelinas. For those that survive, they grow only 1-2” per year for 10 – 15 years (at the end of 1 year they are 1/4” short). After that the growth speeds up some. At age 30 – 40 they are 7 – 8 feet tall and start to produce flowers. At age 75, branches will begin to develop. If a saguaro survives lightning, frost, severe drought, wind, and all the other forces that mother nature throws at it, it can survive as long as 200 years, reach a height of 50 feet, weigh as much as 6 tons, and support as many as 50 arms.

To top off an already good day, we hit the local casino. Let's just say that Shelley won enough to cover Monte's losses, pay for lunch, fill the car with gas, buy us an ice cream, and have $5 left over.

Is this a great country or what?

Monday we are continuing west. Will be in San Diego on Wednesday.

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