Yesterday, The Bearded Man arrived at Saguaro NP, just in time for the afternoon ranger-led discussion of Desert Dragons. (We will not discuss the fact that he only attended the discussion because he actually thought a desert dragon was in fact a magical fire-breathing dragon that lived in the desert.) Immediately after the discussion, The Bearded Man was overheard asking the ranger, "What the hell was Noah thinking?"
Saguaro National Park is home to what its marketing department calls "some of America's most charismatic reptiles." These include Gila monsters, Western coral snakes, desert tortoises and six species of rattlesnakes (6!!). Saguaro is obviously also home to the most delusional marketing department on planet Earth. For example, here's a conversation you probably won't hear any time soon. ATTENDING EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN - "Are you sure it was a charismatic rattlesnake that bit you, Mrs. Pepper?" BACK COUNTRY HIKER - "Definitely. I mean the way he moved so smoothly, his hiss was enchanting and he had a mischievous twinkle in his eye."
Located on the edge of the Sonoran Desert, but with Mica Mountain hovering at an elevation of 8,600 feet, Saguaro is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, many of which are only found in southern Arizona. The roadrunner, kangaroo rat, horned lizards, collared peccaries, black bears and white-tailed deer are all found in Saguaro's diverse ecosystem. The park is also home to over 25 species of cacti, including the Carnegiea Gigante, for which the park is named. It is also home to our personal favorite, the Ferocactus Wislizenii or fishhook barrel cactus. Currently, the Saguaro marketing department is struggling between the following two descriptions of the various cacti for their next brochure: Playful, charming, delightful and enigmatic - OR - Do not touch the cacti because it will take approximately three years to remove the embedded thorn from your finger. I'm guessing they go with the first one.
As an avid bird watcher, The Bearded Man claims to have spotted the elusive vermilion flycatcher during an evening hike atop Heartbreak Ridge. And while we normally accept his bird spotting claims, The Bearded Man was himself spotted in the lobby of The Sun Catcher Inn, sipping an umbrella drink when he was supposedly hiking the Rincon Peak Trail. The addition of a raging lightening storm did not help his assertion.
As with Guadalupe Mountains NP, Saguaro does not have any in-park lodging. So after careful consideration, The Bearded Man chose to stay at the aforementioned Sun Catcher Inn, whose full name is The Sun Catcher Inn, Fine Country Inn. And let's just put this on the table. Any inn that tells you they are a Fine Inn in its name, has confidence in itself, but perhaps very little in the public at large. In any case, The Bearded Man stayed in The Vaqueros Room, complete with a steer's skull above the bed and "a cozy place to read." Also, because his reputation precedes him, The Bearded Man was given a complimentary pass to the Casino Del Sol Resort's 'Soak Pool Party,' where he proceeded to demonstrate the proper technique of a cannonball - much to the chagrin of those sitting poolside. Within minutes a random cannonball party ensued, several people were injured and The Bearded Man was escorted off the premises. It was later reported that a Snickers bar with one bite taken out of it was found floating in the deep end.
The drive from Saguaro to Petrified Forest NP, is about five hours. Traveling northeast on US 60, bypassing Phoenix and picking up Route 77, before heading into the park via I-40, the trip takes The Bearded Man through Tonto National Forest and further north, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. There are two planned stops along the way, with the first being Snowflake, Arizona. Named after early Mormon leaders, Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake, it is now home to the Church of the Latter Day Saints Snowflake Temple. For decades, town leaders have pondered the question of how the town would have developed a different personality had it been founded by Erastus Woody and William Jordan Held. Unfortunately, we will never know.
Before arriving at Petrified Forest NP and reclining in the parking lot beside Highway 180, The Bearded Man has one last stop at the Painted Desert Indian Center. According to its Facebook page (a whopping 250 likes!) the center offers "one of the finest selections of authentic Native jewelry, rugs, sand paintings, Kachina dolls and pottery in the area". Of course we would expect nothing less from the only store in the area that offers these items.