Saguaro National Park

I woke up early on Thursday (by accident). Stephanie was still feeling ill, poor girl, so she slept while I drove to the western half of Saguaro National Park (the Tucson Mountain District). I got there a little after 8, paid my entrance fee, and headed into the park. Along the way I stopped at the Desert Discovery Trail, a nice short paved walking loop through the desert with informational signs and sweeping views.

Saguaro - Guardian of the Desert sign at Saguaro National Park
Saguaro – Guardian of the Desert sign
View from the Desert Discovery Trail at Saguaro National Park
Desert Discovery Trail
Giant saguaro cactus along the Desert Discovery Trail at Saguaro National Park
Giant saguaro cactus

Then I continued on my way to the Bajada loop, an unpaved, one-way, 6 mile road through the desert. Along the way I noticed something moving across the road just as I was about to pass over it. A snake! I stopped, reversed (worried I’d hit it), and there it was, a light-orange snake, still alive, almost all the way across the road. I rolled down the passenger side window, turned off the car, and heard the unmistakable sound of rattle as it slithered along the side of the road and into the brush. I had come face to face with a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. And from the sound of its continuous rattle, it was none too happy with me.

Bajada loop drive in Saguaro National Park
Bajada loop drive

I stopped at the Valley View Trail, a short 0.4 mile trail that carves its way through the desert with a dramatic view at the end. Well worth it. Even though it was relatively short (there and back), in the direct early morning sun it felt much longer and harder than it was. Of course I was a little freaked out about stepping on a rattlesnake along the way, but I didn’t encounter any others.

Valley View Overlook Trailhead in Saguaro National Park
Valley View Overlook Trailhead
Valley View Overlook trail view in Saguaro National Park
Valley View Overlook trail

Panorama of the Valley View Overlook in Saguaro National Park

Panorama of the Valley View Overlook

There were several other trails that followed the various washes through the loop, but I was running low on water and hadn’t really planned on spending all day in the park. I just wanted a taste. I stopped one more time for a short hike up Signal Hill, to see some Hohokam petroglyphs, and then completed the Bajada loop and headed back to the hotel.

View from the Signal Hill trail in Saguaro National Park
The Signal Hill trail
Signal Hill petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park
Signal Hill petroglyphs

The only other thing we had planned for the day was the 5 hour drive to El Paso to meet my Dad for dinner. I figured we had plenty of time, as he had a much longer drive from Austin, so I took my time taking a shower and getting things together, when I noticed I had a voicemail. He was already in El Paso! That’s so Dad. Luckily he’s good at entertaining himself, so we hit the road, and met up with him around 6:30. We immediately went to dinner, found a nice place called The Pot Au Feu right around the corner from the hotel (thanks again, Yelp!), and enjoyed a lovely meal together.

That night we backed up his car to ours and tried to figure out how to fit all of our stuff into his car (with all of his camping stuff) and still have room for the three of us. The next morning we dropped off our rental car and started on our way to Big Bend.

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