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Saguaro and Organ Pipe National Parks - Arizona

Discussion in 'General Travel and Vacation Discussions' started by DandyDon, May 24, 2019.

  1. DandyDon

    DandyDon Old men ought to be explorers ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Keeping in mind that this is the General Travel forum, while most of the other threads here could have worked better on respective Regional forums...

    I have always wanted to see Saguaro and Organ Pipe cacti up close in person, and it seems that about the only way to do so is visit southern Arizona, or cross the border and go further into Mexico. I finally got to playing with the idea of actually going, looked at a possible road trip across southern New Mexico with stops at some national parks and monuments along the way going & returning, 1800 miles round trip over a week or more with brief visits to six sites along the way...
    Southern Arizona.JPG
    Interesting, doable if I plan to avoid the worst heat & monsoons, but I wasn't excited. So then I looked at maybe just flying into Tucson for a few days. That looks more appealing, $280 air fare, low cost but nice enough hotels at least in Tucson. As usual for my exploration travels, I asked my kids if they'd be interested. My daughter said "Ugh" but her husband was interested, then surprisingly she came around - perhaps from a feeling of duty. So we're going for a Labor Day Weekend visit. Here's our plan so far...

    • Leave Lubbock Saturday at 6:16am (unless the airline changes their plans like they love to do to people), quick change in DFW, and arrive Tucson around 9am if everything goes well. Grab bags if we have to check any, grab SUV, head to Walmart nearby to pickup a cooler & gallon jugs of water, maybe stop by Subway to grab picnic sandwiches to take - then head for Saguaro NP East. We may only do the visitors center, the 8 mile drive trail, and a few pullouts. One of my knees is just too old for much hiking, but at least we'll see some sights we've never seen before. The average high temperatures look to be slightly less than 100F and we've climbed hills in much worse in Death Valley.
    • Saturday night at a reasonable hotel in Tuscon somewhere. I am leaving that shopping up to the daughter this time. The 3 Palms Tucson North Foothills looks nice to me, gets good review, and I love the rates - but we'll see what she selects.
    • Sunday it looks like a 14 mile drive to Saguaro National Park West, a visit similar to ours at the east park the day before, maybe taking to-go sandwiches again in case we stay that long, seeing the sights from the loop drive and pullouts. Tentative plans are for a morning visit and 2½ hour to Ajo, so we have plenty of flex-time that afternoon. Other than the scenic drive to our Ajo hotel, I don't see any reason to get there early.
    • It looks like two choices in Ajo for hotels that night.
    • Monday we'll backtrack 15 miles, then head into Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which seems the most promising of the three parks, including both targeted cacti species, 23 mile paved hiway originally built for Prohibition Era bootleggers - 27 miles from Why to Lukeville, and some other possible drives - altho I don't know how far off of the pavement I want to take a rental SUV. We'll enjoy the scenic drive, visitors center, and pullouts - but I am wondering about crossing into Sonoyta, Mexico? I know the park was closed for a decade because of smuggler problems but I get the idea that it's much safer now, and wonder about the border town? We should probably pack picnic sandwiches again for lunch.
    • Monday evening we'll leave the park early enough to be back close to the Tucson airport for dinner then overnight there.
    • Tuesday, our plan leaves at 7am, quick change in Phoenix, and back in Lubbock in time for lunch.
    So, anyone have any suggestions or experiences to share?
     
  2. RyanT

    RyanT Solo Diver

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  3. Seaweed Doc

    Seaweed Doc Marine Scientist

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    The only thing I'd suggest is delaying to see if you can catch spring training and spring wildflower blooms. March in southern Arizona is pleasant....
     
  4. diversteve

    diversteve moderatorem noster omnipotens

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    If you can work it into your plans Kartchner Caverns is worth a stop. It's a little SE of Tucson on the way to Benson. I believe you have to pre-schedule a tour. If you're staying around the Tucson Airport it's about an hour drive.

    Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona | USA
     
    DandyDon likes this.
  5. diversteve

    diversteve moderatorem noster omnipotens

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    Just so you know - the Foothills area of Tucson is on the NE side and the airport and most of what you're planning to see is south afaik. So plan on driving thru Tucson to get to those monuments daily (plus the drive time from Tucson to each itself) I-10 comes in from the NW and runs through town to the SE but form the Foothills area it's faster to take main city streets down to I10. Generally there's not a lot of traffic but they seem to always be working on I10 near downtown - like for the past decade.

    If someone does want to hike, they do a lot of that in Coronado National Forest - Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

    Also worth a look since you're in the area
    Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ - Zoo, Botanical Garden and Art Gallery

    My sis lives in SE Tucson so we drive down regularly.
     
  6. DandyDon

    DandyDon Old men ought to be explorers ScubaBoard Supporter

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    The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum looks interesting and would fit nicely after Saguaro National Park West before heading to Ajo. Thanks.

    None of the google map suggested routes include getting on either interstate. If we stay at that hotel I mentioned before going to west park, it looks like the average speed is about 20 mph to the park - slow, but oh well.
    Capture1.JPG Capture2.JPG Capture3.JPG Capture4.JPG Capture5.JPG
     
    Seaweed Doc likes this.
  7. DandyDon

    DandyDon Old men ought to be explorers ScubaBoard Supporter

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    I am glad I booked the van for Tucson when I did. All the vehicles have gone up tremendously for that weekend - well, the same van is 27% higher. I went back to book a second reservation for a smaller car, maybe a SUV, but it's higher than the van now. I guess I'll hold what I got, then ask if they'll give us a SUV for the same price if the girls don't come.
     
  8. DeputyDan

    DeputyDan Great White

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    DandyDon likes this.
  9. Darnold9999

    Darnold9999 Solo Diver

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    Biosphere 2 is North of Tucson and is interesting.

    Desert Museum as already mentioned

    The western park was not as interesting as the eastern one - we have travelled to the Desert Museum driving around the western hills from the north. A nice drive as opposed to going south through town and then east to the park and the Museum.

    Drive to the top of the mountain to the east of Tucson to the “ski resort” east of town. Mt Lemmon as I recall to get out of the heat.

    South to Tubac if you have an interest in Art.
     
    DandyDon likes this.
  10. DandyDon

    DandyDon Old men ought to be explorers ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
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    Thanks for the suggestions. We'll consider those in time. Seeing a Blackbird would be a treat, even tho I double that most know their story.

    My daughter is finally shopping for hotels after getting our two international students on their planes, after a setback last night with a leaking water heater. Got to drain & flush those at least once a year. She wants to spend at least one night at a nice resort, like The Lodge at Venture Canyon. We both hate cheesy Resort Fees added-on after comparative price shopping, and this place requires one night paid at booking. I think it's just overpriced, but I'll book if she confirms she has. I really couldn't care less tho.
     

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