Thursday, February 4, 2010

Supreme Symbol of the Southwest

Separated by the city of Tucson, the Saguaro National Park's two districts are about 30 miles apart.

We made the short drive to Saguaro West, the Tucson Mountain District.

After a stop at the Visitor Center for Park maps and information, we headed for Signal Hill.

We traveled a portion of the unpaved, five-mile Scenic Bajada Loop Drive (that "contains many large dips and may be rough") to the trailhed at Signal Hill.

A couple of other hikers joined us on the quarter-mile hike on dirt steps framed with rocks to the top of Signal Hill.

A few minutes into the hike, we came upon a "fork" in the road. This fork involved a decision--to look upward to see the petroglyphs at the top of the hill or to look downward in response to the message. I found it interesting that the sign announcing "Rattlesnake Area" was colored in such a way that it blended into the background of rocks.

This is the view from the trail below. We wondered how many people miss this view as they head up the trail. To create these petroglyths, the artist or communicator would either have to have climbed up these large rocks or down from the peak of the hill.

This is the view from Signal Hill toward the Tucson Mountains.

The Saguaro National Park was made a national monument in 1933 and was established as a National Park in 1994.

The petroglyphs shown here can be viewed from the top of Signal Hill. This rock art was created by the prehistoric Hohokam people more than a thousand years ago while on hunting and gathering expeditions.

People do not know what these petroglyphs mean. They could have religious or ceremonial significance. They may be solstice markers, clan symbols, decorative motifs, or simply ancient graffiti.

One saguaro cactus produces tens of thousands of seeds in a year and as many as 40 million in its lifetime of 175-200 years. These cacti grow slowly--after 15 years it may be only 12 inches tall. After 75 years, it may sprout its first branches, or arms. Saguaros that live 150 years or more may reach a height of 50 feet and weigh 16,000 pounds!

This small desert plant is included here because I liked it and because it presented such a contrast to the mighty saguaro.

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