Thursday, January 24, 2008

Saguaro NP West

We spent most of yesterday in the West side of Saguaro NP. What a fabulous place! Put aside the visions you have of the Saguaro cactus for a moment. There is an incredible amount of diversity among the plants and animals of this part of the world. It was set aside as a protected area during the Hoover administration—during the Great Depression. Many of the roads and structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) under the FDR administration. The park was designated as a national monument until it was re-designated as a national park under the Clinton administration in 1994.

The best part of the park (in my humble opinion) is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is very much like a zoo and botanical garden put together. The museum is actually funded by private donations and possibly some state funds. It is just outside the border of the national park. We have been there twice now—once on a hot and busy weekend—and then today with cloud cover and fewer people. The cloud cover kept it cool and so we were able to see almost all of the animals that live in the zoo. I should say here that any animals you see among the pictures I will post were all captive, with the exception of a few birds--maybe. This is such a wonderful zoo/garden/museum that it is worth driving quite a way out of your way to see it. If you ever make a trip near Tucson, I can highly recommend making this a stop.

Before stopping at the museum, however, we made a short hike to Signal Hill where we were able to see some petroglyphs made by the Hohokam Indians. I learned something I didn’t know. Petroglyphs are made by chipping or grinding away the desert patina that coats most of the rocks around here. Also known as desert varnish, it is caused by minerals coating the rocks and then a substance in the rock acts like cement holding it fast to the rock surface. Pictographs, on the other hand, are made by coloring the rock using some substance, such as powdered minerals, plant substances, charcoal, and even blood. Also, they differ from hieroglyphics in that each picture of a hieroglyphic stands for a word or sound (both Egyptian and Mayan), while petroglyphs and pictographs cannot be read in this way. I will post pictures of some of these as well.

So with that as my intro, I will start working on posting some pictures. Here is the link:

This morning, Mike is mounting a back-up camera on the back of the truck. We had one, but in the storm in California, it filled with water and then stopped working. Obviously, this one is better quality. When he's finished doing that, we will go visit Saguaro NP East where we can drive a loop drive through the saguaro cactus forest.


Lisa said...

Looks like you had some FUN! I didn't know there were wolves in AZ -- looked like a pretty scrawny one though. Ron and I just read in some magazine where they are rediscovering evidence of jaguars (the spotted ones that look similar to the ocelot) in the southwest too -- amazing!!

Barbara said...

I was amazed at the animals we saw. These are just the ones I was able to get pictures of. There was also a desert fox who didn't care to be photographed, and another small cat called a malgay (not sure of the name--something like that). And there are way so many more birds, in particular the Elf Owl who lives in the Saguaros. I so wanted to see one, but there weren't any where we were. Maybe not the season. We love this park. It is so beautiful.