Saguaro Cactus and the Salt River

Dear Maia and Isaac,

Today, we started our journey home.  It seems like we just got to where the big saguaro cactus live and it’s time to go home . . . because it is.  We started the day at a nursery that was near our motel in Tucson.  The nursery was called Desert Survivors – it is a non-profit that is staffed with developmentally delayed folks.  I saw the place on the internet when I was planning the trip and it looked cool.  I started bringing cactus home every year after Maizzy and I happened on a cactus sale at one of the State Parks we visited a few years ago.  Now, it is routine.

Desert Survivors Nursery in Tucson, AZ

Then we headed to Catalina State Park – it is just outside of Tucson.  This was the first place Maizzy and I visited with saguaro.  I lived in Phoenix for a year and had these cactus all over the place.  So, 4 years ago, I routed a trip where this park was our far-end destination.

Catalina State Park

The park is pretty – I love the Santa Catalina Mountains in the background.  I painted a picture of this place for my bedroom wall a few years ago.  The saguaro are always a bit shocking to see at first.  They look like pipe cleaner people.

Montrose Canyon in Catalina State Park








Maizzy and I hiked the same path we did today – that was the first year that we visited.  She was sick then with heart stuff – but she hiked the whole way.  Today, she gets short of breath (and I think her arthritis hurts her) – she is so slow.  So, she road most of the way, again.  She just passes out in her sport sack.

Beautiful cactus flowers in bloom at Catalina State Park



The hike brought me back to life after feeling a little tired and grumpy this morning.  I am getting some good upper body strengthening carrying Maizzy everywhere.  I am getting her patches from every place for her Sport Sack.

Saguaro cactus at Catalina State Park, AZ


When we finished at the Park, we still had a 3-hour drive ahead of us.  The first hour was still in the Senora Desert.  The saguaro cactus is the icon of the Senora – it is the only desert where they grow.  The days prior, we where in the Chihuahuan Desert.  Yes, with Chihuahuas.  White Sands is in the Chihuahuan Desert – maybe the icon is Chihuahuas.  Chiricahua National Monument is the boundary between Senora and Chihuahuan Deserts.

The land begins to rise as we head out of the Senora toward the Colorado Plateau.

Then, the road starts to ascend up the beginnings of the Colorado Plateau.  You climb until you hit the edge of the Salt River Canyon.  Then, you drive down the canyon wall on steep switchbacks.  There is a rest area at the bottom where the dogs always get out for a few minutes – then it is back up the other side.  The second side is taller and starts to look like the Colorado Plateau with the rock features.  Then, we continued to climb into the pine forest that surrounds the town of Show Low, AZ (named for a card game).

Looking up at the Colorado Plateau side of the Salt River Canyon




When you drive along, you watch the geography change – usually sort of gradually.  The Salt River Canyon is different, more abrupt.  In 2-3 hours, you go from the low desert Senora to the high desert of pine trees.  And there is something about the steep switchbacks – and you can see a difference in the two sides of the canyon.

Crazy switchbacks at the Salt River in Arizona


I was thinking today that the canyon was like the end of a comfort zone.  We all have comfort zones – those places that feel familiar.  But, personal growth often happens when we push ourselves to leave our comfort zones.  It is scary – like switchbacks – at first.  You can see the other side . . . but getting there!?!?  Once you are on the other side, the world looks a little different and it expands us in some way.  Returning to the comfort zone is good, but we come back with a bigger view of the world.

The high desert looms – Salt River Canyon

Life is like that.  Sometimes our comfort zones and healthy, but we aren’t growing there.  Sometimes, they are unhealthy and we still prefer them to those switchbacks . . . because they are familiar.  No one should ever feel blamed, put down, or ignored – but if that is what we know then that can become our comfort zone.  Despite wanting something that feels better than that – we fear the switchbacks. I hope if you ever get in a place like that – well, I hope this blog can be an inspiration.  You can get through the switchbacks to the other side.  And, once you do, you keep coming back because it makes you stronger.

Salt River, AZ

Tomorrow – comfort zone – the Petrified Forest and Agate House.

Love, Grandma Hartt

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