People often ask me why i put myself thorough the trouble of visiting US national parks every free weekend i get? Is it the thrill of triumphing the almost impossible list of 61? Is it the allure of travel and adventure? Or am i just nuts? Why would i give up relaxing weekends of endless sleep, and Netflix, and no airplanes, and saving up instead?
I can’t explain it really. Part mania. Part obsession. And a whole lot of reminding myself about how we all have only ~4,000 weekends in a lifetime, if we are relatively healthy, (and lucky!). Out of which most people my age have exhausted close to 40% already.
When you are on a mission as crazy as visiting 5 national parks over the July 4th long weekend, you should start with one as odd as the Saguaro National Park.
Scientifically named Carnegiea gigantea, in the honor of Andrew Canegie, the Saguaro (pronounced Sewuarou) is an absorbent tree like cactus and is native to the Sonoran Desert in the state of Arizona in the United States. The Saguaro bloom is the Arizona State flower.
Deserts, especially in Arizona, are harsh. Much like public-square judgement.
If you visit in the summer like we did, make sure to carry many gallons of water in your car truck, have a full tank of gas and let loved ones know where you are. You will not get through this without much needed cool.
While the loop drives both in the East and West Saguaro start off with cacti species you are familiar with, the first oddities appear in forms of spiked broom-stick ends.
And then you start noticing real oddity. Gigantic, juicy, succulent, tree trunk wide cacti.
The Saguaro Cacti.
A saguaro is able to absorb and store considerable amounts of rainwater, visibly expanding in the process, while slowly using the stored water as needed. This characteristic enables the saguaro to survive during periods of drought.
The Saguaro cactus has a relatively long life span of 150 years. And hence, has had eons of practice of looking what it looks like with out any concern for what life around it thinks.
Some are stout, others healthy. Many of them have arms that can be called stubby, others have thighs that are well-rounded and some which are called anorexic and skinny. We don’t seem to tire of trying to classify them in categories and suffocating boxes.
Overall, Saguaro seem to be pretty comfortable in their skin and bodies. Something we can imbibe and embrace ourselves.
Saguaro can grow up to 40 feet (12 m), humbling you with centuries of survival instincts and unapologetic oddity.
They may grow their first side arm any time from 75–100 years of age, feeling out the surroundings and societal norms. Arms are developed to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity, as more apices lead to more flowers and fruit.
But some Saguaro never grow arms. They are nevertheless called spears. Ready to stand alone, yet tall and strong.
As the clouds part and it’s close to dusk, the sun’s rays wash over the park in a new golden light.
A spectacle that paints everything in an afterglow.
The saguaro cactus is a common image in Mexican culture and American Southwest films. The cowboy riding off into the sunset with a Saguaro Cacti in the background.
Many a wild wild west motion pictures come straight to life.
And as you soak into the sunset yourself, Saguaro cacti seem to impart eternal wisdom…Adapt to relentless situations, embrace what makes you unique, and speak your truth.
Coming back to the question up-top.
Why am i on a mission to visit all the national parks in the US? Simply because i seek reminders about life-lessons from nature itself in the short time we have on this earth. And hopefully apply them to the most genuine extent possible.
And in the mean-time…drinking rose flavored lattes with oat-milk en-route Tucson from Phoenix.
And visiting Tucsonian stores with work by 50+ local artists.
And walking streets with dreamy graffiti and pertinent social reminders.
And experiencing the juxtaposition of mission-driven missionaries and unassuming native Americans from the 1600s.
And yanking yourself so far-away from your usual life routine that you feel like you are but a very very small part of something grander and more magnificent than your ephemeral bubble.
Check out my previous blog on 15 things we can learn from our grandmothers and the one coming up soon!