Desert adventures

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Sonora, Arizona, United States

 We got up in a very leisurely manner today as the thermometer at the office was reading 98.6°F or 37°C, body was certainly very hot, so we wound the awning out for protection for breakfast. I spent time on the internet in the computer room to find a hotel for the night before our flight home and decided on the Sleep Inn Phoenix Airport, so I booked it online.

 We set off for Tucson and the desert museum; it was getting hotter by the minute, and there was a clear blue sky with hardly any clouds, but sadly the views weren't stunning. We arrived at the Sonora Desert Outdoor Museum to find the thermometer had now climbed to 106°F or 41°C, far too hot to do much really, but this was probably the only time we would ever be here, so off we went.

 The self-guided trail through desert gardens was beautiful, full of desert-adapted plants & cacti but VERY hot. We went into the indoor displays about the geology(airconditioned! Wonderful!) where the mock-up of a cave was very well done and where there were excellent insect and reptile houses.

 Back outside there were habitat enclosures for the desert animals; they were "natural", ie. man made but looking realistic, and were extremely well done. We saw puma, black bear, mountain goats, beavers and otters, then moved on to the free-flying aviary with yet more hummingbirds. It was very impressive and the surroundings were beautiful, great value for the $9 each we had paid.

  It was far too hot to walk the Desert Loop so we returned to the van (more airconditioning! Wonderful!) and drove to Saguaro National Park just a mile up the road. The surroundings were very pretty with typical desert scenery, but the road was like a switchback with dry washes. Once we entered the park the road itself deteriorated into a very rough unpaved one so the RV rattled and rolled its way along, but the scenery was even better: we drove up to Signal Hill picnic site for lunch and were the only ones there (much too hot for sensible people) then returned to the road with great views of red rocks and Saguaro cacti.

 I love those plants standing with their arms pointing at the sky, but was amazed at the story of their growth: a “teenage” cactus is only 1 ft high and one of 7 feet will have taken 50 years to grow. They can grow to 50 feet in 150-200 years, and can have up to 40 arms depending on the area and the reliability of the rainfall. Their roots are also incredible, growing about 3 ins from the surface but spreading out in all directions for up to 100ft to support the cactus above. The most fascinating fact of all was about their seeds: one plant produces around 40 MILLION seeds in a lifetime, but probably only ONE will survive – and there we were, surrounded by these giants.


 Our holiday was drawing to an end and it was time to head towards Phoenix where we would have to return the RV; the I-10 was very busy and the scenery very boring, with not even a house to look at - what a contrast with earlier today. We drove to the suburb of Mesa so we could look round an RV dealer’s in the morning – but finding a site proved a little challenging. Number one choice didn’t exist any more, number 2’s showers/restrooms weren’t working so we ended up at The Tiffany: a very nice site on Main St with few facilities but a very friendly owner. We toasted our holiday with a glass of wine, amusingly named “Fat Bastard”; we’d been saving this for our last night but sadly it was consigned down the drain after one sip.
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