Hiking Season Begins: Saguaro National Park East

There is an old saying here in Tucson, “if you can’t stand the 100’s, you do not deserve the 70’s”.  Well, it’s not that we can’t stand the 100’s, it’s just we prefer them sitting around a pool with a cold drink.  On the contrary, the 70’s are made for hiking, and that time of year has started in earnest here in Tucson.  We spent the summer trying to stay in shape by walking every day.  Now the weather is more supportive, we are doing our best to add a weekly hike to our routine. 

For our first hike of the season, we headed down to the southern part of Saguaro National Park East to one of our favorite areas.  Hope Camp Trail runs through some of the densest Saguaro stands we know of.  It is relatively flat, not crowded, and a perfect place to “break-in” our hiking gear for the season. 

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One of the most beautiful and unique Sonoran Desert specialties is the pure white flower of the saguaro cactus.  Each spring, after the rest of the desert is coming to the end of its blooming season, the saguaro steps into the spotlight.  Yet there we were, out on the trail in the middle of November and what do we see, but a blooming saguaro.  We had a lot of monsoon rains this summer, and the rains continued into the fall.  It must have been just the right mixture of moisture and sun to convince the saguaros to start blooming.

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Weird to see Saguaros blooming in November

About a mile or so along the Quilter Trail, just as we were looking for a nice place for lunch, we unexpectedly walked right into the most wonderful set of pools and streams.  It was the perfect place for a nice trail lunch.  The amount of water was abnormally high from the recent rains.  Still a great place for lunch.

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Surprised to see water along the Quilter Trail

The dense stand of saguaros on the return trip reaffirmed why this is one of our favorite trails.  

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Some really old Saguaros

Hike two of the season, Thanksgiving day,  was a return to an area on the north end of Saguaro National Park East.  What better way to spend Thanksgiving than to be out on the trail hiking!  At the end of Speedway, just near the entrance to Tanque Verde Ranch, is the Douglas Spring Trailhead.  From this trail head is a labyrinth of trails crisscrossing and looping through the old horse country of east Tucson.  For this hike we combined five trails to make an 8-mile loop.

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From the trailhead we used a cut through trail, Converse Trail, over to the Garwood trail.  Just past a wash crossing along the Garwood Trail is a crested saguaro.  No one is quite sure how these special saguaro form.  They are very unique and a real treasure to find.  

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Crested Saguaro

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From Garwood, we connected to Carrillo Trail and on we went to Garwood Dam.  An old rancher’s dam that is now just pretty much a landmark, but still indicative of the area’s history.  

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Garwood Dam

After a light snack, we pushed ahead along the Three Tank Trail, named for three old watering tanks used for the cattle that used to roam the area. It is a very neat area and the tanks are a visual reminder of what this area looked like not so long ago.  

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Three Tank Trail continues on deep into the park and towards the intersection to Bridal Wreath Falls.  This was as far out as we wanted to go so we headed back the two miles to the trailhead along Douglas Spring Trail.  It was wonderful to see that there is fall color even here in our Sonoran Desert.

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Two great hikes to get us started on our hiking season.  Next up Bear Canyon.

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