Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections, the Tucson Mountain District on the west side of the city of Tucson and the Rincon Mountain District on the eastern side. Originally established in 1933 (as a national monument), the park was created to protect the delicate Sonoran Desert ecosystem near it’s northern terminus. Though Tom and I have both noted the prevalence of saguaro cactus, for whose protection this park was established, throughout Arizona, it wasn’t long ago that the giant cactus was threatened by sustained freezes, blight, theft(!), and overgrazing. Since it takes 50-70 years for a mature cactus to begin sprouting arms, their decimation leaves many areas today without more-developed cactus.
Our first day in Tucson we explored the western district but it wasn’t until a few days later that we visited the eastern section. Both areas feature a scenic drive with multiple overlooks and explanatory signs regarding the Sonoran desert ecosystem. There are also multiple trails, but since we strongly preferred hiking nearby where there would be mountains – as opposed to flat, somewhat-repetitive desert vistas – we did very little hiking within either section of the park. Still, there were definitely beautiful sights to see and surprises such as a flowing perennial stream and some out-of-season flowers blooming in January.
We finished our day in the Rincon Mountain District at Borderlands Brewing Company, located in the warehouse district of downtown. We had figured that since we were waiting our weather by staying in Tucson that we should check out a few local breweries, and this was the second of three. I wanted to love Borderlands because of their awesome décor, but I didn’t really like a any of the beers on tap. I was unable to try their Coffee Oatmeal Stout (which Tom said was good) nor the guest tap of Founders Breakfast Stout because both were brewed with lactose (which is a non-vegan milk product) but of the remaining six, I didn’t really care for any of them. They had a lot of neat ideas and creative brews – Prickly Pear Wheat, Horchata Cream Ale, a Dunkel with Dates, 2 kinds of sours, etc. – but all fell short in execution in my opinion. And to be fair, none of these are really my thing. Their only “standard” beer was an IPA which didn’t have much flavor. Still, the guy serving was really nice and helpful and I totally appreciate breweries who are willing to work with different styles and malts – and just be creative – but none of their current projects tickled my fancy.