Southern Arizona – Deserts and a Sky Island
We left Indio in Southern California on a very hot Friday morning, and headed for the Arizona desert. This all felt a little wrong and we contemplated changing course and seeking out slightly cooler climates, however we persevered onwards and into a day that seemed to have no limit on how hot it was prepared to get. We survived this day of highway driving and even made it close to our first destination in Southern Arizona, Saguaro National Park near Tucson.
The Saguaro is what you probably first think of when you hear cactus. It is the iconic figure in many western movies and for the state of Arizona. The national park was small, but had wonderfully helpful staff at the visitor centre and some great little hikes into the desert.
On the edge of the park lies the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. If you are ever in the Tucson area this would be a place not to miss. There are a few indoor spaces here, but most of the museum is a part of the desert and is home to many of the animals that we would never have had the chance to see otherwise. Strange desert dwellers such as the Javellina, a hairy pig-like creature, as well as a cougar and bobcats could be seen, as well as a host of snakes, spiders other creatures.
Despite the many warnings we have thankfully not bumped into any of the less friendly inhabitants as we wander outside the zoo enclosures! Yet I still continue carefully scan each rock I step on and keep my ears open for an kind of rattle.
Today we have found some escape from the heat as we moved away from the desert and visited the old west towns of Fairbank (now a ghost town) and Tombstone (very much alive). Tombstone is likely a place that would not still exist if it hadn’t been made famous by the shooting at the OK Coral, and if you’re lucky you can see a enactment of this event a few times each day. It was like walking into a time warp, all the shop owners dressed in old timey western ware, and to be honest it seemed like half the tourists were as well. It was interesting to see though and I’m glad we stopped. I did find out a shocking fact from this experience, that Luke has never watched a western and did not know who Wyatt Earp or Doc Holiday were, so this will have to be remedied! I’m thinking Young Guns…
Tonight we are camped in the Chiricahua National Park, and it feels cool! We spent the afternoon hiking among it’s strange rock formations and enjoying the mountain breeze. The area is called a sky island, meaning it is isolated from other mountain areas by a “sea” of either grassland or desert that make the living things here unable to leave.
We’ve come very quickly through the bottom of Arizona, but our plan is to see more of the top on our return journey (we haven’t forgotten about the Grand Canyon). Tomorrow we head into New Mexico, but for tonight we will be thankful for a cooler day and the amazing sunset on this beautiful part of the world.