When you plan a trip to a desert, there are certain expectations you have going in. You might think once you’ve been to one, you’ve seen them all. You know it’s going to be hot with sparse plants and little to no wildlife. It’s fair to assume it will be sandy and desolate, but Saguaro National Park is not like anything you would ever expect.
The second you turn the corner off the I-10, you are instantly transported to a simpler time. The frontier greets you with thousands of Giant Saguaros standing at attention to welcome you in. Red painted mountains make the perfect backdrop for the sage colored landscape. You can almost hear the music of the wild west floating through the air as you drive the winding road.
As you look out across the desert, the varied textures and colors slowly reveal themselves to you. From kelly greens to golden yellows, this lush desert paradise is a sight to behold. As you move your gaze from the ground up, the rain drop-shaped prickly pear is the first thing that catches your attention, its playful character is like something out of a children’s storybook. Just above the prickly pear resides the teddy bear cholla, but don’t let the name fool you; this is not a cactus you want to cuddle. If you raise your sights a little higher, you come to the main event: the Giant Saguaro. Standing up to 70ft tall, you will spend much of your time in the shadows of these giants. Thankfully Homer Shantz recognized all this beauty early on and worked so hard to protect it.
Homer Shantz, an American botanist and former president of the University of Arizona, took an interest in the area in 1928. He imagined preserving the area and creating a sort of living laboratory for future generations of scientists to study. He passionately fought for this land but was constantly met with resistance. It wasn’t until 1933 that Saguaro National Monument was formed, but even with this victory, it was a long and bumpy road for the park before it ultimately became Saguaro National Park.
It’s a good thing that so many people worked to protect this place, because when you visit you will have a new found respect for the natural diversity of the outdoors. It’s the great thing about National Parks: they give more to you than you could ever give to them.