Travel dates :: March 14 – 18, 2016
After a quick couple days in Las Cruces, New Mexico (and White Sands!) we headed west again. Our next stop was Tucson, Arizona.
We stayed at Gilbert Ray campground up in the Tucson Mountains. It’s a county-run park, first-come, first-serve (read: no reservations!) and was only $20 a night with electric hook-ups (not water or sewer). It was a BEAUTIFUL place to stay. Great hiking trails, clean restrooms, fantastic volunteer-led programs and close to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park. We’d stay here again in a heartbeat.
We almost always have water and electric hook-ups, so our first stop at Gilbert Ray campground was to fill up our fresh water tank so we’d have water for the five nights we were here. (Remember we got our fresh water tank repaired in Michigan? It’s still working like a champ!)
We got a spot on an inside loop. When we pick our own sites we try to go for outside loops – because they are generally bigger and then you don’t have another trailer behind you. But this one was nice and big, with lots of vegetation.
Our spot was close to the restrooms – which is great when you don’t have full hook-ups. I loved that the roads are paved – great for walking, biking and you don’t have a bunch of dust from vehicles driving along.
Here’s another angle of our campsite. Mountains on all sides – we loved it.
Our first morning at the park they had a volunteer-led hike through the desert to identify local plants and birds. We included this as part of our homeschooling for the day (read more about our homeschooling here) and we learned SO MUCH. In the photo above the volunteer is explaining about the Cholla cactus. This cactus looks all fuzzy and friendly but it has nasty barbs on it’s spikes making it latch on to any sort of clothing or skin that might brush up against it! You do not want to come into contact with a cholla!
Here a county park volunteer points out the flowers on the Ocotillo plant. Not a true cactus, the flowers on this plant are beautiful and appear in the spring, summer and sometimes the fall.
A close-up of the Ocotillo flower. Apparently the hummingbirds LOVE these flowers because their shape makes them perfect for their thin, pointy beaks. Isn’t it beautiful against that blue sky!?!
Along the hike one of the volunteers showed us the hard bird nest (also called a Saguaro boot) that is created inside the Saguaro cactus! It’s a hard shell of callus tissue inside the cactus as a way for the cactus to protect itself from the birds nesting inside. These holes are generally started by the Gila woodpecker and the Gilded Flicker which have beaks strong enough to break apart the rib tissue. A variety of local birds use the Saguaro cacti for nests – living inside these hardened shells. Native Americans of the Seri group used these saguaro boots to carry water! How interesting is that!?