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Walking the Tucson parks

Since we are expecting to be residents of this area eventually, we need to figure out the popular sights for our occasional out-of-town guests. Living in Vermont, we accumulated dozens of brochures and guides of things to do in the area, and I bound all of the loose items in a three-ring binder entitled, “There’s Nothing To Do Here.” This proved popular with our occasional visitors, since we only included the good stuff and tried to mix in a lot of lesser-known but fun things based on our years living there.

Brett is our first official house guest, since he is sleeping on an inflatable mattress in the living room, and so he is also our first guinea pig. It is a little tricky advising him on things to see and do here since we have lived here only for about three months in total, and most of that time was spent either looking for a house or fixing it up. But I do know a few good spots near town and I pointed him in the right direction, then followed while he snapped pictures of cactus and canyons.


Saguaro National Park is one of the first places I’d point anyone who is interested in the desert. The second place is Sabino Canyon (a national forest site). Both are only a few miles from our house. Above, Brett is learning about the cacti that grow here. That’s a “teddy bear cholla” that he’s photographing. Also in the picture are saguaro, barrel cactus, prickly pear, mesquite trees and palo verde trees.


Sabino Canyon is another outdoor site not to be missed. The road is closed to vehicles but there’s a tram that runs you up the canyon, or you can walk or bicycle. If you have a national parks pass you get admission to both Saguaro NP and Sabino Canyon for free. We arrived after 4:30, too late to take the tram. There are always lots of people walking to road until sunset, so we just joined them and hiked a couple of miles up the canyon before turning back.

The hills around Sabino are filled with saguaro cactus, so many that they form a desert forest.   People expecting the desert to look like the Sahara are inevitably surprised at all the things that live here.   Along the way if you listen carefully you may hear the soft chuckling and hooting of Gambel’s Quail, an funny little bird with a tuft on its head. They run across the road on tiny feet, hardly ever flying, in small groups. People from out of town often assume they are roadrunners, but roadrunners are much bigger and look completely different.

Sabino Canyon contains a stream that flows much of the year. It was running today, filled with cold water from snow melting high up in the Santa Catalinas. The stream is a reminder that the desert isn’t completely devoid of water, it’s just drier than other areas.

As we walked back down the road after sunset, the full moon rose above the walls of the canyon, which was a nice surprise.   From all these experiences, I think that Brett discovered today how beautiful the desert can be. By taking him around to see these places, I’ve also been reminded of the reasons why I’ve been attracted to the desert as well.   So having occasional guests to show around is good for us too.


One Response to “Walking the Tucson parks”

  1. Judy Says:

    Ohhhh one of my favorite subjects! What to do in Tucson: DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun where it’s fun to imagine this piece of ground being “way out of Tucson”, Fort Lowell Park (homeschoolers meet here on Tues, but an interesting Park no matter the day), Tohono Chul Park (wonderful kids area), downtown Tucson walking tour
    Don’t miss San Augustin Cathedral and El Tiradito Shrine, and La Nacimiento is on until March 30 at the TMA Casa Cordova, not really Tucson but pie at Mt Lemmon Cafe in Summerhaven, Tucson Botanical gardens, a midtown oasis, Oracle State Park, which I haven’t visited yet but I hear great things about. I probably have more but this will get your notebook started.
    we should get together before you take off again.