We left Grand Canyon NP on Thursday and headed for Tucson via Petrified Forest NP, a delightful stopover in Tempe and then Saguaro NP. We entered PFNP from the North, affording us beautiful views of the painted desert, which definitely lives up to its name.
Soaking in the scenery and cool high desert air, it struck me that there is just something mystifying about the desert. Our next stop was at Puerto Pueblo. We walked a short loop, which took us back in time to see ruins of an ancient indigenous settlement and a gallery of petroglyphs. While the meaning of the images have been interpreted differently by modern-day Hopi and Navajo specialists, one thing is for sure consistent: we were peering into the lives of an organised and sophisticated society which recorded the solstices and survived in a seemingly unforgiving climate.
We worked our way down to the Southern entrance of the park and the Giant Logs trail, where we walked amongst fields of - you guessed it - giant petrified logs. As with much of our trip so far, I've never seen anything like this.
Friday morning we hit the road again, this time on the way to Saguaro NP. SNP is divided into eastern and western districts, which lie on either side of the city of Tucson. We visited the western district. IT was already about 90 out when we arrived at 11am, much warmer than the average temperature for this time of year. So we decided to limit our outdoor activities a bit - we did a quick two-ish mile loop along the King Canyon trail - a mile up to the Mam-A-Gah picnic stop and back along a dry wash.
The scenery was just exquisite. I have always loved the Sonoran desert, and the landscapes, flora, and fauna continue to mesmerize me. We saw the tallest of the tall saguaro cacti as they keep watch over the desert, ocotillo and cholla cacti with radiant red and yellow blossoms, prickly pear with fuscia blossoms, yellow poppies, and an artist's palette of other colorful flowers. The desert is truly alive! Following our short hike, we drove the unpaved Bajada Scenic Loop (which would be a lovely sunrise or sunset running route) and got on our way to Tucson, where we're resting up for the next leg of the trip.
OK, that's all for now. Petrified Forest and Saguaro are small but mighty parks and well worth a visit! Next we head for the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas!