As with any addiction, it must be fed. So with itchy trigger fingers we headed south to Tucson to see what it might offer.
When you go to a park named Saguaro National Park, you expect to see Saguaros and lots of them. We can take a photo of one or two where we live here in Scottsdale, but we want lots. So we thought if we went to Saguaro National Park, we could see a forest of saguaros. We envisioned hillside after hillside dotted with so many saguaros that the hills looked like pin cushions.
We arrived just after noon and headed for the picnic area for lunch. A handful of beautiful shaped saguaros, but no cacti forest. It looked a lot like Scottsdale. Since this is not the main area of the park, we didn’t expect too much. We studied the map and found a park road that has to have lots and lots of cacti – “Cactus Forest drive”. Why else would it be named so?
After lunch with 4 hours until sunset, we had plenty of time to scout out our sunset location. I envisioned a hillside of saguaros lit with the setting sun, with the mountains in the distance and a prickly pear cactus in the foreground. The perfect photo (I thought) and I was eager to find that magical location. Jeff had envisioned something entirely different, searching for a dense valley of saguaros. In search of this our perfects spot, we entered the “Cactus Forest Drive,” an 8 mile one way loop on a winding and hilly one lane road with a speed limit reaching a robust 15 MPH. We stopped at every pull over (and there were many). At each stop, we’d hop out of the car. Jeff would go to one side of the road while I checked out the other. I would scurry up the hillside for that magical view, and he’d explore the wash for his view. We’d meet back at the car, look at each other, shake our heads and hop back in the car. I kept thinking the next stop would have the hillside of saguaros, and I think Jeff was doing the same. Three hours later, puttering along at 5 MPH and making a 1/2 dozen stops per mile, we had completed the loop and come up empty. Did we miss the saguaro forest? The road name implied we would see one.
How could this be? Where were all the Saguaros? Perhaps, we just couldn’t see the forest through the saguaros.
The sweet light hour was approaching, and we haven’t found “the spot”. Having come here to shoot sunset, we had no choice but to enter the loop again. Where was the forest? Can we make one of these spots work before we loose the light? Besting 15 MPH, passing other cars like the hare passed the tortoise, we arrive at and area Jeff called “the rocks”. It’s a small outcropping of rocks with a handful of saguaros. With the mountains lighting up nicely, maybe we can salvage the sunset shoot.
In the time it took us for our second loop everyone in the park had assembled at this one spot to watch the sunset. So much for a pristine view of the hillside with it’s lone saguaro, and too late to do the loop again. We set up and made the most of the spot.
Although it is all about the light, a few more saguaros would have been nice.