Golden Gate Loop, Saguaro National Park

May 21, 2011

Leaving the Ez-Kim-in-Zin area of Saguaro National Park, we continued to drive around Golden Gate Road. We took a left on West Picture Rocks Road to return to North Sandario Road. Then traveling south again, we went to the Red Hills Visitor Center.

A short distance along the road we passed this rocky hillside shown below with saguaros growing in the rocks.

When we had driven a short distance on the dirt road, I saw what appeared to be a rabbit sitting in the middle of the road. Sure enough, I edged closer to it, and this rabbit was enjoying a shady spot in the middle of the road, and was reluctant to leave it. I eased up slowly, and probably got within fifteen feet of him before he bolted from his shady spot. We were sure he was cussing us for making him leave his nice shade.

He did pause long enough at the edge of the road for us to get a good look at him before he disappeared into the cactus.

We enjoyed the episode with the rabbit, and then continued on around the dirt road with was Golden Gate Road. As we approached a residential area it became paved and intersected with West Picture Rocks Road. The distance was fairly short, and within about 20 minutes we were back down North Sandario Road to the Red Hills Visitor Center.

This is the view from the back of the Visitor Center, so I suppose these are the "red hills". Not as red as Georgia clay, but I guess you would call them red.

Desert Discovery Trail

We drove the short distance from the Visitor Center to the Desert Discovery Trail parking area. It was just a dirt path with enough signs and directions to keep you from wandering out into the open desert.

We were learning about cactus, and the one above was called "rope cactus" or "rope pear cactus". The limbs do look like braided rope. The yellow bloom of the prickly pear cactus at left was now an old friend.

This dramatic red cactus flower belongs to a cactus with thinner rope-like limbs than the rope cactus shown above.

Above is a wide view of the area of our desert walk. There are many varieties of cactus in the area.

At left you can see that the big saguaros dominate the landscape, but that there are several smaller varieties of cactus among the towering saguaros. Near the right foreground of that image appears to be a chollo cactus, and to the left of it perhaps a rope cactus of the thinner kind. Further back are several big bunches of prickly pear cactus.

It was interesting to see a bird nest in the arms of one of the big saguaros.

Typically the saguaro flowers were on top of the main trunk and side trunks, but sometimes you saw flowers out the sides of the arms.

I watched a woodpecker fly to this hole in a big saguaro and zip inside. I waited for about 15 minutes for him to come out again, but he had more patience than I. Having never seen a live saguaro before this trip, I likewise had not seen a dead one. The trunk was interesting - certainly not like a Georgia pine log.

We enjoyed the yellow blooms of the prickly pear cactus.

Brenda on the Desert Discovery Loop Trail among the low-growing cactus. We also walked among the tall saguaros. These are showing lots of fresh blooms.

Brenda gets a tiny bit of shade from an old-timer. Perhaps that's his grandson off to the left.

This strange cactus speciment was labeled as a pencil choler.

This one is called a hedgehog cactus.

The towering saguaro cactus made the most indelible impression on us. Here some giants rise among the palo verde trees.

Valley View Trail

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