On average, there are 48 precipitation days/year in Tucson and February 24th was one of those days. We had 4 – 5 hours available to explore as the coach was in the shop getting the full-wall slide checked out. Decked out with umbrellas we were off – but we should have brought jackets! The temps have dropped in Tucson!
Nevertheless, we headed for the western Tucson Mountain District with our 1st stop at Old Tucson Studios – a movie studio recognized for more than 300 movies and tv shows and a theme park. Tickets were $17.95/person, dogs were welcome and it was still raining – so we passed up on exploring any further.
Just up the road was the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Tickets were $19.50/person, dogs were not welcome and while the rain had stopped we were not really dressed for the outdoor desert museum exploration. To top it off, “pets were explicitly not allowed in vehicles and would be removed”. We thought this message was intended for hot Arizona temperatures but didn’t want to take the chance of coming back to the truck and not seeing Gracie!
Onwards to the Saguaro National Park – 91,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert, including thousands of stately, all too human shapes – the saguaro [suh-wahr-oh] cactus. Park pass was $10 for 7 days and dogs were welcome! And, the sun was starting to shine!
Saguaros grow very slowly, mostly in spurts in the summer rainy season.
By year’s end – a seedling may only be 1/4 inch.
After 15 years – it may be barely 12 inches tall.
At about 30 years – they begin to flower and produce fruit.
By 50 years – they can be as tall as 7 feet.
After 75 years – it may sprout its first arms.
By 100 years the saguaro may reach 25 feet
Those that live 150 years or more tower 50 feet and weigh 16,000 pounds or more, dwarfing every other living thing in the desert.
They have earned the name “stately sentinel” – a soldier or guard whose job is to stand and keep watch – and these are just some of the oldest and most stately –
Relatively rare, crested saguaros are easily identified by their gnarled, fan-shaped tops. Researchers disagree on exactly what causes the plant’s growing tip to distort but theories include everything from lighting strikes to freezing temperatures. The crest doesn’t harm the saguaro, which can continue to produce flowers and fruit. It is estimated that this condition affects approximately one out of every 200,000 saguaros.
“Chuck, there’s a crested saguaro! Where? Back there – pull a “u-eee”. ”