Centuries of Saguaros
Everyone, meet the Saguaro. It's one of the most quintessential cactus forms popularized in clipart images, cartoons, and animations. And yet they grow only in the Sonoran Desert which spans south-western Arizona, and a small bit of of California and northern Mexico. The simplicity of the Saguaro shape has made it an iconic representation of all cacti species.
Saguaro National Park was created in 1933 (originally as a monument) to protect a veritable forest of Saguaros. Standing tall like sentries of various shapes and sizes, the cacti-filled landscape is amazing to behold. On average, they live for about two hundred years, remaining armless until the ripe young age of 75 years old. The Saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States, and normally reaches heights of 40 feet (the tallest ever measured towered over 78 feet into the air).
Gilbert Ray Campground, the only drive-in camping in the park, did not disappoint us. We didn't realize it was high season to stay in this spot, and were fortunately not deterred by the "campground full" sign at entry. Refusing to give up and counting on those few first-come, first-served sites we had read about, we landed the very last spot in the campground. Like many of our adventures camping within the confines of a national park, we were immersed in the beauty of the protected landscape, which in this case was desert wilderness much more diverse than just the Saguaros. The seemingly still and silent lands surrounding us came to noisy life right at sunrise, as playful birds hopped and flew around us.