15 May 2011

Saguaro East from the Cactus Forest Loop Road

Today's hike was through a new (to me) part of the Saguaro National Park East. Earlier hikes, of course, had started at the Douglas Spring Trailhead, off of Speedway BLVD near Tanque Verde Ranch. There is another trailhead into the Park on Broadway BLVD, not too far east of the intersection with Freeman RD, and of course there is the main entrance to the park off of Old Spanish Trail RD just north of Escalante RD. This main entrance has the visitor center, support buildings, and the main ranger station at the entrance to Cactus Forest Loop RD. This is a paved road, about 2.5 miles long, which loops around a portion of the southern part of the park. In addition to several trailheads along the road, the road itself is a multi-use paved trail through the park, essentially. Bikes, cars, hikers, runners, whatever, they all use the road.

For today, I elected to park at the visitor's center and hike along the road to the Mica View picnic area, then head north along Mica View Trail to the Broadway trailhead, loop south along Cactus Loop Trail (North), and hook back up to Cactus Forest Loop Road for the hike back to the visitor's center.

First, allow me to say that if I do hike down off this road again, I'm driving to the trailhead rather than hiking along the pavement. My knees and feet are terribly unimpressed with my decision-making today. Second, on the whole the area is fairly flat, although the road has a couple of pretty good hills they were pretty easy to traverse.

Third, and most importantly to me, the area is, on the whole, fairly flat. I know I said that already, but I repeat it because I don't think I like that kind of hiking. It seemed to me that these were not hiking trails per se, but rather lazily meandering trails. So much so that I was able to maintain a near 3 mph pace for the 8 miles I hiked today, and that's just basically flat-road walking. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just prefer my hikes to have some variety :D

The trails that I saw offered intimate contact with the desert flora, a distinct advantage to this network of trails. Yes, the trails are wide, easy to follow, and generally flat and boring (to me), they are basically a way to immerse yourself in the Sonoran desert and its denizens. There are no real views to speak of; I didn't come across any places that offered a good perspective on the Tucson basin or the immense expanse of land that our metro area covers, but what it lacks in the kind of views I prefer it makes up in the ability to, if one should so chose, curl up in the desert and hide ones self (not literally, of course. Don't leave the trails!). Almost like throwing a blanket of the environment over yourself and snuggling up.

Now, that's fine and dandy for lazy meanderings (yes, I said it again), but when I go to hike, I kind of want to HIKE. I want to strap on the boots, grab the hiking pole and go chew up some hills! And some valleys! And, at about the halfway point, I want to be up high enough that when I stop to breathe (and eat my snacks) I can see the curvature of the Earth. Maybe that's overstating it ... I do like to be able to stop during my hike, and stare off in wild amazement at the sheer size of my planet. Which makes me feel like my problems, my life, my everyday struggles in my version of reality are really quite manageable when you take the bigger view.

So, although I enjoyed my hike today, I will definitely enjoy my hike Tuesday morning even more for the experience, as I go back and trek down Douglas Spring Trail again. Maybe this time I'll try to get all the way to the campground, just to see where it is.

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