|Javelina Rocks Along Cactus Forest Drive|
The Cactus Forest drive in the Saguaro National parks eastern district was one of the most recommended drives by visitors to the park. I was looking forward to this interesting drive after having spent a whole day in the west district. By the time I got to the entrance it was pretty late in the afternoon, but just in time to drive around the loop, before it was closed for the evening. I briefly stopped at the visitor center to pick up some maps and inquire about trails for the following day. After that I got back on the road only to stop at almost every other turn out I could find. True to the numerous reviews this was a very interesting drive. The initial part of the loop passed through what felt like waves in the semi-arid desert. There seemed to be fewer Saguaros on this side of the park compared to the west side. One of the information posts mentioned that a large number of the Saguaros had perished during the extreme winters in the early nineties. I could only imagine the vast expanse of land in front of me covered in giant Saguaros.
About halfway into the drive I came to the desert ecology trail parking which gave me a welcome chance to get out of the car. I had spent close to two hours sitting in the car since I had left the west district and wanted to get out and explore the surroundings on foot. The desert ecology trail as the name suggested was a short nature walk introducing visitors to the variety of the plant and animal life in the park. The information posts along the trail gave me a sense of the delicate balance of life in a desert. The Javelina wash along the trail was a nice site making me wonder how a rain would transform the landscape. Before I knew it I was back on the road heading towards what was the most scenic stretch of the drive.
After the desert ecology trail, the road started to gain elevation heading into the hills which I had seen from a distance. The surrounding view changed dramatically from the wavy desert floor and long washes to high hills overlooking an entire valley. With the Sun setting in a distance on the other side of the valley it was an awe inspiring sight. I stopped a few times to get a couple of pictures of the surrounding mountains and valley. As I came up to the Javelina rocks named after thier inhabitants the Javelinas, the Sun started to graze the horizon. The different shades of the orange rocks on the hill seemed to come to life with the setting Sun. I tried to walk around the rocks trying to find thier residents without much luck. Soon, it was time for me to head back and make my way to entrance. Fortunately, I just had enough time to squeeze in a short hike along the Freeman Homestead trail and watch a beautiful sunset in the desert. But, more on that later...