A friend recently commented, “Why aren’t there any photographs of cactus. Aren’t you in the desert?” She was right. The iconic towering saguaros are nowhere to be seen in my photo gallery or this blog. So it is about time I correct this oversight.
Where can you find more than 1.6 million individual saguaro plants growing in one area? At the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, of course!
The Saguaro National Park is home to 25 species of cactus ranging from the towering saguaro cactus to the tiniest of cactus. A saguaro cactus can live up to 150 years or more. When the saguaro reaches 50 to 70 years of age, it will grow branches (arms). It begins to produce flowers when it reaches 35 years of age. The saguaro blossom is the state flower of Arizona. If you are at the Visitor Center be sure to ask the rangers the whereabouts of the crested or cristate saguaro. These saguaros have a fan-like top. There are several theories on how these are formed, ranging from genetic mutation, lightning strikes and freeze damage. But no one really knows what causes its unusual shape. Although these cristate saguaros are rather rare, there are about 25 such saguaros in the park.
For sunset, Signal Hill is a good spot as you can frame your shots with petroglyphs in the foreground. And if you time your visit, you may even watch the moon rising above the saguaros.
A favorite sunrise location is at Gate Pass, just outside Saguaro National Park. Go there early and compose your shots and wait for the moment when the morning light bathes the field of saguaros in a warm glow.
You cannot leave Tuscon without taking a walk in the historic Barrios. Barrio is the Spanish word for neighborhood. The flat-roofed adobe houses with their bright multi-colored facades are distinctly Spanish/Mexican. Some of Tucson’s oldest buildings can be found here.
Some of the buildings have been restored and are converted into private homes or offices – like this church which is now a house.
And while you are in town, make a visit to San Xavier del Bac Mission or White Dove of the Desert as it is affectionately called. Its architecture style has been described as a mix of Moorish-Byzantine style. San Xavier was declared as a national historic monument in 1960. There was restoration work being carried out at the time of my visit and one of the white domes was obstructed with scaffoldings.
On some weekends and public holidays, at the open ground in front of the Mission, there are stalls selling tacos, fry bread and Native American trinkets and souvenirs. Just round the corner from San Xavier Mission, you will find the Tohono O’Odham Cemetery.
After a day’s shoot, the famous El Charro restaurant is a great place to relax with Mexican food and a margarita. Their carne seneca is simply delicious!