Saturday, April 13, 2019

#LeapFrogs: Mountain Fears and the Saguaro

When we headed for the desert, I began longing to see something I didn’t know anything about – not even its name! At the Living Desert in Carlsbad, I learned the cactus with arms was a saguaro, and that they did not grow in the Chihuahuan desert, where Carlsbad is located. I had to wait until we got to Arizona to see them.

Driving from Tombstone to Tucson, we kept our eyes peeled, waiting and watching to see these cactus. We were heading for the Saguaro National Park, but I hoped to see them before we got there. And we did!

We’d learned of a camping area as we traveled, so I called to learn if they had sites available and was told they had only a couple but if I came right then, they’d probably still be there.

We were about 20 miles away, so we told them we were headed that way. They don’t hold sites, but said they’d see us soon.

As we turned off the main road going toward the camp, we spotted saguaro growing freely on a hillside! I was so excited, because they were everywhere, just like I’d hoped they would be.

The drive to the camp got me though. The road split, one side leading up the mountain, the other side down. The closer we got, the narrower the road got. Regular readers of my blog will already know where I’m going with this – my mountain fears took over as we drove. Gravel was falling down the edges as we went up, up, up. By the time we got to the top, where the office sat perched on the side of the mountain, my hands were firmly locked around the steering wheel. When I climbed out of the car, my legs were shaking.

I made my way inside, through a beautiful rock entryway lined with teen and young adult hikers. The guy I spoke with on the phone was behind the desk, remembered me, and had the paperwork ready for us to take a site. As I paid the $7 fee, he said, “Spots aren’t designated, so if this area is full, try the overflow.” I took the pass he offered, listened to the directions (back down the mountain), and went back to the car.

Going down the mountain proved worse than coming up – sharp, narrow turns on a steep grade. We finally made it to the campsites, and all those teens and young adults I’d seen going in were in every site, and the overflow area was full, too.

By this point, my nerves were shot. I refused to drive back up the mountain for a refund, so we just left. Even though money was tight, losing that $7 was the better option. Maybe they’ll put it in a fund to widen the roads for future guests.

We ended up car camping that night and the next morning, we arrived at the Saguaro National Park before the office opened. The entrance gate was manned though, so we could enjoy the early morning exploring.

I’ll let the photos share our visit.

When we left the saguaros, we headed north to the Prescott National Forest. I'd found a free campsite calling our names and I was ready to rest for a few days. When we arrived, we found the vault toilets - and SNOW!

The area was remote and we had no cell service. Coyotes howled all night. One other family was there, and a gentleman who seemed to serve as "gatekeeper" but he said this was public land, so make ourselves at home. 

The frogs and I loved the peacefulness, but Tim, not so much. During the night, it got much colder than forecast, so by morning, we'd decided to move on. 

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Krysti said...

Yeah--those narrow dirt roads in Arizona are the stuff of cliff-hangers! There's one detour through a canyon that I hope to never find again. I'm glad you survived that part of your trip!

Tracy Ruckman said...

Me, too. I just have to work at conquering these fears. Not sure where they developed.

Thanks for reading!