Park Number: 14/61
First Visited: February 19, 2011
After I’d made the decision to attempt visiting all the U.S. national parks, I found myself living in San Diego not too long after. Every weekend in the new city was then spent with anyone curious enough to accompany me to the surrounding natural wonders. This is how I ended up in Saguaro National Park with my four roommates after a spontaneous six-hour drive throughout the night.
Saguaro, a defining cactus of the Sonoran Desert, was once a threatened species that many thought was going to fade away like the dying American frontier the cactus once symbolized. This threat was mainly due to the increase human need of trees for local lime kilns and cattle grazing, an act which left the slow-developing plant trampled beneath hooves (a decade-old saguaro might only be two inches off the ground). Luckily, both local citizens and federal employees stepped forward to advocate for proper protection, resulting first as a national monument and then, sixty-one years later, as a fully-fledged national park. Because of this protection, visitors, like myself, can now marvel at the abundant expanse of unique cactus standing taller than ever and still representing our solemn wilderness of the Southwest.
Saguaro, unlike many other parks in the system, is easily accessible and often falls within the route of already-planned road trips (the park surrounds Tucson right along Interstate 10). Because of this I’ve been to the park myriad times and will continue going back whenever I’m in the area. Every visit has been with friends and family and every visit has been unique; I love bearing witness to a new visitor’s face when they first recognize the plethora of saguaro rising from the earth and imbuing the drier hillsides with a unique color of life. Also, with the total amount of designated wilderness in the park, I still have many hiking opportunities to return to and pursue.
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