Saturday, May 19, 2012
We enjoyed breakfast at our picnic table under a tree and the temperature was very pleasant. After the high winds yesterday – they calmed during the night and were not blowing yet this morning. We have found over the past few days the winds seem to pick up mid-day and blow harder during the afternoon.
We headed west towards Tucson on I 10. We passed on by Tucson and got off at the exit for Saguaro West National Park. We had been there before but thought we would enjoy seeing the huge cactus again. To our pleasant surprise they are blooming! Also blooming and a beautiful lilac pink color are the Ironwood trees. We stopped at the Visitor Center and then headed out on a loop drive. It was mid-day so not the optimal time to be taking photos but when here you have to try! The Saguaro are such majestic plants – the little 3 foot ones are maybe 25 years old. They are at least 50-75 years old when they begin to get arms. They live to be about 200 year old and then begin to die. We watched many birds that seemed to love eating something and pollinating the blooms. They flit from plant to plant but it makes catching a photo with a bird difficult!
We left the park and were suddenly back on I 10. With nowhere to eat; we continued on to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument about 30 miles to the north. We ate a nice picnic lunch under a tree where it was hot but not uncomfortable. When we got inside the visitor center we discovered it was 99 and when out in the sun around the ruins – it truly felt it. This was the first time we have been uncomfortably hot which may be the norm for the next few days. When in the shade with humidity around 12 it does not seem as hot; but in the sun it is brutal.
Casa Grande ruins were much as we had remembered from a visit about 6 years ago. Ben had been reading about the Hohokam Indians and really wanted to view these ruins again. This is an unusual site as it is out in the open and 4 stories high – about 40 feet. These Indians lived here in 700 – 1,100 AD. Then in some years later the Anasazi came. The state is still discovering ruins in the area today. It appeared from their video that before roads or other construction projects can take place they must complete an archeological study and speak with the Indian tribal leaders before proceeding with the project.
We navigated our way back to I 10 and then turned onto I 8. The sign says San Diego 350 miles, Yuma 176 and Gila Bend 60. Since it was 3:30 and HOT we chose a motel in Gila Bend. Not many choices here – we selected America Choice and it seems fine – cool, good beds, clean, and internet…so what if it does not have a famous name. It is also on Butterfield Road! The Butterfield Trail runs right though this area. The Sonoran Desert National Monument just formed in 2001 is 4 miles from here but not yet developed. Their information says a 10 mile section of the Butterfield is within the park. You can see I almost missed the road signage.
We had dinner at Sophie’s Mexican Cafe. The two best restaurants in town were Sophie’s and an Italian place and we felt we should be eating Mexican! It was Mexican not Tex-Mex and was very good. Most interesting was the Chilies Rellenos – with a warm Pico de Gallo type sauce. Good Choice.
Processing photos may take a while tonight – lots of Saguaro!