Cacti, Cacti and more Cacti

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
Trip End Sep 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Roper Lake State Park

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Thursday, May 24, 2012

Waking up and scratching our bites, it was time for a quick breakfast and then off to Saquaro National Park. This was the day we were going to see the cacti that we were all familiar with from Western movies, the tall ones that stand straight up and have arms poking out to the sides. This National Park is actually split into two halves; Saguaro West and Saguaro East. As we were camped to the east of Tucson and the parks, we decided to drive to Saguaro West first and then work our way back towards the campground. This was about a two hour drive, but, as it turned out we did not need or even want to make it to Saguaro East. 
As is our (now) normal practice, we went straight to the visitor center, after stopping and buying ice-cold drinks for everyone to try and get rehydrated. It has turned out that simply existing in the hot arid climate has led to a gradual descent into dehydration and headaches for us. At the Visitor Center we met a very nice Ranger who provided the children with the ubiquitous Junior Ranger handbooks and carefully walked us through what they needed to complete in order to earn their Junior Ranger badges at Saguaro. It is interesting to note that every National Park seems to pay varying degrees of attention to this process. In the East, most Rangers simply gave us the book and then gave a cursory look at it when the children handed them in. In the West, we have long and detailed explanations from the Rangers, and as it turned out in Saguaro, we ended up sitting down on the couches with the Ranger as he talked to and looked at the books after the kids handed them in. 
Anyway, as we were given the books and given yet another pep talk about drinking lots of water and why it's important, Ranger Richard Hill told us about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum which was only 5 miles up the road. When we had read about it in one of our books we had decided to not go and see it, as it was a 'museum'. Anyway, it turned out to be more of a zoo than a museum and it showcased all of the different animals, reptiles, plants, etc that are found in the Sonoran Desert. Well, this could not be missed and off we trundled up the road, stopping and snapping lots of photos of Saguaro cacti along the way. We spent three hours wandering this museum and saw all sorts of cool animals along the way, Mexican Wolf, Javelinas (think desert pig), mountain lion, black bear, beaver, porcupine, bobcat, all sorts of birds including one walk-through aviary dedicated exclusively to hummingbirds, and spiders, scorpions and snakes. Eli was absolutely chuffed to see rattlenakes and the highlight for him was getting to touch the Rosy Boa that one of the museum workers was holding. He called it 'a cutey-pie"! After walking in the hot sun and strong wind for a couple of hours, we hunkered down in the restaurant on site, had a nice meal, took full and complete advantage of the free refills on the drinks, and sat inside in the cool atmosphere and helped the kids complete their Junior Ranger workbooks. Back to have a sitdown with Ranger Richard Hill and more badges!!!! It was a superb time!!
Then it was time to head back to camp, stopping to buy a new power strip for Odie to replace the one we blew up yesterday and we got groceries at a cool chain grocery store called Trader Joe's. This is a chain that sells good, organic and healthy groceries at a very reasonable price. Back to camp we went, Jess and I took the fly off the tent which we had put on to keep the sun out and in the process, poor Tim got attacked by the little red ants that had encamped on the fly, leading to several bites on his buttocks, lending true meaning to the expression: 'ants in his pants'. Then it was sloppy joe's on lettuce boats for dinner and a quick scurry into the tent as soon as it was dark as the mosquitoes attacked with a fury.
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