Hello everyone stuck in quarantine out there. I hope you’re all finding some sort of comfort in the madness that is being stuck at home. For me it’s been practicing my wildlife photography at Humboldt Park & starting to catch up on blogging. Here we go!
Last Memorial Day, 2019, Whitney A & I took a couple days & headed to Arizona to visit Saguaro & Petrified Forest National Parks. We were joined by tag alongs, Ali B & Doug B fresh out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Before Whit arrived, Doug, Ali & I drove about 45 minutes outside of Phoenix, AZ to Lost Dutchman State Park.
Recently I’ve been trying to keep up with State parks that are close to our National Park trips. In the past I feel like we’ve missed out on a few things by not doing the research. Two which we didn’t get a chance to go to but are on the list are Monument Valley Arizona & Antelope Canyon AZ.
The Siphon Draw Trail is the main trail through Lost Dutchman. It starts almost right out of the parking lot. As you head up the trail it’s a relatively easy hike on dirt but as your start the main drag up to the Flat Iron, it becomes 2,700 feet of elevation over broken rocks & minimal trail. We only had time to make it to the bottom of flat iron but it was totally worth it. The views of the park & the surrounding desert are amazing. Worth the drive if you have 4-6 hours to spend here.
After Lost Dutchman, we picked up Whitney at the airport & at Doug’s suggestion went up to Flag Staff, for no other reason than word is it’s a “cool place.” We stopped in for dinner at Beaver Street Brewery & it worked out ten fold. The beer was good, & on Thursday nights they have bingo full of (cheap ass) prizes but if you win the last game they give you a $100.00 gift certificate to the bar. Whit, Ali B, & I each won, Ali B once, Whitney A & myself twice, sorry Doug! No certificate though!
The next day we drove an hour & forty five minutes to Petrified Forest. The park at first seems like an easy one day visit, however after spending a little time checking out the easy to get to petrified trees near the visitor center, you realize very quickly it’s easy to spend a lot more time there.
The Giant Logs Trail is a breezy .4 mile trail but is the best place to see exactly what you came for. Most of the trees you see at Petrified are Conifer trees that grew over 2 million years ago near water ways, were ripped up & buried in rivers, filled with sediment & as the rivers began to disappear, the trees were uncovered but have now turned to stone. The tree shown in the photo above is their longest chunk of petrified tree in the park.
We decided to camp off the Painted Desert Rim Trail, a 1 mile loop down into one of the most beautiful parts of the park. Camping here looks a little bit like you’re camping on Mars. Broken Mojave rock & giant rock piles line the trail & it’s easy to find a spot with no one else around. For photographers, there’s plenty of chances to get some great night photos.
Finally, if you have a chance to stop by the Painted Desert Inn, please do. It’s one of the trail heads for the Painted Desert Trail so it’s not easy to pass up. The Inn was built in the 1920s of petrified wood but after renovations in the 1930s was rebuilt with adobe facades. It acts solely as a museum for Route 66 & Hopi Indian history & you’ll be excited to hear that they give away free ice cream!
The following day we packed up our camping gear & headed the 5 hours south to Saguaro National Park. The park was originally declared a National Park by Herbert Hoover in 1933. It’s a two sided park divided by Tuscon, Arizona, a college town reminiscent of a small Portland, Oregon. The parks main feature is it’s giant Saguaro Cactus’ that pepper the park. These giant cactuses can live as old as 150 – 200 years old & can grow 40 – 60 feet tall, weighing up to 3200 – 4800 pounds.
Camping here is easy & plentiful but make sure you come at the right time of year to avoid the blistering desert heat. We chose May as our time to visit because the temperatures are still relatively easy going & our other choice was September which is Tarantula mating season & Whitney A wasn’t having that.
The next day we were getting ready at Red Hills Visitor Center & Doug B got a tip from one of the employees there that we should hike the Wasson Peak Trail into the Hugh Norris/ Sendero Esperanza Loop. I didn’t really have a plan for hiking when we got here, though what we were told was the West side of the park has more cacti & elevation & the East side is the opposite. The Wasson Peak Trail was exactly what we were looking for, gradual elevation, not too hot that day, & lots to see. My only mistake was wearing Chacos, as the end of the trail becomes long lengths of small gravel & loose dirt that uncomfortably fills your sandals, my recommendation is closed toed hiking boots.
Wasson Peak wrapped up our Memorial Day park trip & I have to say, two more great parks on another lucky weather weekend!
Something that isn’t said enough to people who visit the parks, please pay respects to your rangers. Along the way, Whitney & I have had a chance to build some really great relationships with these people & it means a lot. We’ve had rangers go above & beyond the call of duty, from transporting us by boat in a time of need in Voyageurs, to keeping the Florida parks open last Christmas during the Government shutdown. Follow the rules when you’re in the park, be respectful & maintain a clean environment so everyone can enjoy just as you did. Try to call the Park superintendents when you get back from a visit just to let them know what a great job their team did. Being a ranger is a tough job both in the field & on the political docket, so let them know you are grateful.