Posted by: Alex MacGregor | September 19, 2011

Tucson Day Trips

I love a city with lots of nearby day trips. It gives you the opportunity to see lots of new stuff during the day, and soak up the city in the morning and evening (and, in this case, visit my grandmother). Cape Town, with vineyards, Table Mountain, and the Cape of Good Hope–as well as a ton of other amazing stuff–all within spitting distance of town, could probably be crowned the Day Trip Capital of the World. But Tucson certainly ain’t bad either–we found tons of interesting trips close by.

Saguaro National Park

Straddling the city, Saguaro National Park is exactly what it sounds like: classic desert landscapes filled with, well, lots and lot of Sagauros.

Unfortunately, the abundance of dead saguaros underlined the drought Tucson is going through.

Lack of water defines these landscapes, and everything is covered with spikes to prevent anything from taking the precious water. The concentration of pirckly pears is incredible.

Back at the visitor’s center, we watch from inside the building as javelinas run to escape the desert sun. Apparently these piglike creatures (that most certainly are NOT pigs) are pretty aggressive, and will make short work of a small dog.

San Xavier del Bac Mission

If you need a reminder this part of Arizona was previously part of Mexico (and colonial Spain, before that), the San Xavier Mission, which was constructed in the late 1700s, does a great job: its magnificent whitewashed walls would fit in wonderfully anywhere in Latin America.

The church has an incredible interior.

Sabino Canyon

If there’s one wonder Tucsonans seemed most proud of, it’s Sabino Canyon, a nature area located in the northern part of the city. And why not? Mile-high desert peaks surrounding a picturesque valley, complete with a flowing stream and oasis-like swimming pools.

Unfortunately, the stream was another casualty of the drought, so we just had to enjoy the desert scenery and ignore the fact that we were hiking in our bathing suits.

We had limited time and water, and after being thoroughly spooked by the horror stories of hiking dehydration at the Grand Canyon we decided to take it easy in the 100 degree whiteout sunshine, so we headed back to the bottom of the canyon.

This cactus almost looks furry!

A crested saguaro near the park entrance, apparently quite rare.

Although we didn’t hike far, we saw tons of wildlife–pretty surprising, given how dry it is!

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