We took our New Experience project on the road last week. I have a personal goal to visit all 58 national parks in my lifetime, so I plan many of our family vacations to areas in which we can visit at least one of them. This time I chose Saguaro National Park because it is close to Tucson, Arizona, where there are lots of kid-friendly things to do. I also knew that the weather is beautiful this time of year. But the biggest reason I chose Tucson as our destination was simple: none of us had ever been to the Sonoran Desert. It would be a totally new experience for us.
As we drove from Phoenix to Tucson, the kids were excited to see so many of the “Cactuses With Arms”. I tried to explain that the plural of cactus is cacti. For the rest of the trip, the kids referred to them as cact-eyes. Oh well, I tried.
Once we got out of the car, we were shocked at the size of a Saguaro Cactus. They are amazing plants. We learned so much about them and other cacti at the visitor center at Saguaro National Park, where the kids picked up Junior Ranger packets. The packets ensure that children really learn about the park as they hike and spend time outdoors. Luke and Leah felt so proud of the Junior Ranger badges they earned.
Luke kept comparing our surroundings to the Looney Tunes cartoon, Coyote and Roadrunner. He noticed that there are a lot more plants in the real desert than the cartoon depicts. We never did see a coyote or a roadrunner in the wild, but we did see a roadrunner at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. Luke was disappointed to learn that roadrunners do not say, “Meep, meep,” and was surprised that they are a lot smaller than coyotes.
We hiked in Saguaro National Park on four days of our trip. We also went hiking in Sabino Canyon, which was beautiful. Both children enjoyed hiking, but Leah really surprised me. She hiked further than she had ever hiked before and was so interested in the various kinds of cacti. She and Luke were able to identify Saguaro, Prickly Pear, and a couple of kinds of Cholla cacti by the end of the trip. I am always amazed at how much children can absorb while traveling.