“Driving days always feel like I’m stuck in limbo. Time just sort of washes over me, and before I know it, I’m in another state, and it’s 10pm and time to go to bed.”
“The day was a blur of far off desert mountains and dark highways, but here’s what I can remember about the trip: I listened to the Cautionary Tales podcast. I had a love affair with the Rilo Kiley song “Glendora.” I finished the audiobook for Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. A very sweet kid working the Chick-fil-a counter talked to me about visiting Disneyland and Star Wars Land. I listened to an insane amount of Conan’s podcast, just so I could feel like I was laughing and hanging out with friends.”
“I immediately head out for the park’s east entrance, and my jaw dropped a little when I saw just how many giant saguaros there were spread all over the park and its adjacent desert. I talked to a really cool female ranger with blonde hair and a knowing smile who recommended a few trails and said that if I do Tanque Verde Ridge to do it by feeling, not by mileage.
Man, that ranger lady wasn’t kidding. The Tanque Verde Ridge Trail is steep. Like, huge rock (gneiss) stairs without stopping for three straight miles steep. I don’t know if it’s the cold or my soggy little body being out of shape after a chill December, but I was beat only 5.5 miles in. (Favorite part? The Dome and the crested Saguaro cactus around miles 2.5-3)”
“I took the scenic drive around the eastern section of the park, stopped to read a few signs and take some epic cactus shots, and then scrambled up onto Javelina Rocks to take in the view.
About 15 minutes after I got to a lovely, hidden spot on some mid-sized gneiss boulders, A couple from Maine and a random lady showed up and started talking to each other. Loudly. I was literally 10 feet away from them quietly beginning to read “Travels with Charlie in Search of America,” and they were acting like it was their living room I had barged into. “So much for seeing any wildlife,” I thought to myself.
And then it occurred to me – people all flock to the parks for different reasons. Some for solitude, some for adrenaline, and some to hang out in nature and meet like-minded people. When any of these three individuals collide, conflict will surely follow.”
“Alright, next up. Saguaro West.
I jet off to the visitor center for the park proper around noon. I needed to make up for lost time. An older, male ranger helped me pick a trail, and even though I swore that I wouldn’t do another strenuous hike, he convinced me to climb Wasson Peak. He seemed excited that I was going to take his suggestion. His eyes were intense and twinkled. “This one is the gem,” he said.
So, off I went, shoveling cheese, hummus, and carrot sticks into my mouth. The ascent wasn’t nearly as steep as yesterday’s ridge, and I climbed up and out of a forest of mature Saguaros, hiking through a wash full of petroglyphs (or pictographs?). I casually kept heading up until I was finally on the peak, passing the rough chasms of two abandoned mine shafts and meeting a cute couple along the way.
The peak had pretty amazing views of Tuscon, the park, the mountains, and the nearby Indian reservation. I ate a snack and hopped, skipped, and jumped my way down, dodging wind gusts and grateful for the good weather and perfect temperature.”
“Time for a treat – the historic, 100-year-old El Charro Cafe in downtown Tuscon (the oldest continually family run restaurant in the states). Lucas recommended it, and he worked there in college. Word on the street is that they invented the chimichanga, which means that’s what I ordered. Did not know it’s literally a deep fried burrito. I am so, so full right now. I couldn’t even finish my second Corona light.”