Southwest trip day 6: Saguaro NP, Tombstone, White Sands

Before we left Tucson for good, we swung by the eastern section of Saguaro National Park. This section is larger than the western section located near the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Due to time constraints we could only visit one section, and in hindsight we should have gone to the western section because the saguaros are much more plentiful there. But the loop drive through the eastern section was still beautiful.


Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) with multiple arms


Saguaro forest

My eagle-eyed wife spotted one tall saguaro in flower. Typically they bloom in May and June, but as is the case with humans, some specimens clearly march to the beat of their own drum. I took the next photo with a long telephoto lens and I was apparently so engrossed in this special sight that I stepped in a nest of fire ants. Before I knew it my ankles were burning (I’d chosen today of all days to wear super short athletic socks). The pain was quite sharp and I ended up hightailing it back to the car in somewhat comical fashion because my entire family was in stitches. The burning sensation lasted a good half day, by the way!


Saguaro flowers, quite small considering the size of the cactus

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LEFT: Saguaro
RIGHT: Agave bloom stalk


Blooming barrel cactus (it’s a Ferocactus but I haven’t ID’ed the species yet)

Our next stop was Tombstone, Arizona. You can read all about its history on Wikipedia so I won’t repeat it here. Yes, it’s tacky and touristy but it’s not as bad as it could be, mainly due to the fact that it’s still a living town, inhabited by real people. 


Allen Street in Tombstone, AZ

Many locals were out dressed in period costumes, lending a surrealistically authentic flair to the historic main street.


Wooden sidewalk

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Two establishments originally offering more than just drinkss

The next two photos could have been taken a hundred years ago, they look so timeless.


Turned down by his favorite lady of the night at the Bird Cage Theatre?


Man in black
Somebody has a sense of humor

Somehow time got away from us so we left Tombstone later than anticipated. The drive to tonight’s destination—Alamogordo, New Mexico—took five hours, which for practical purposes turned into six because New Mexico is on Mountain Time. I found Interstate 10 to be very scenic; I spotted untold soaptree yuccas (Yucca elata), New Mexico’s state flower, together with desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) and the occasional agave.


Soaptree yuccas (Yucca elata)


Agave flower stalk behind an ocotillo


Agave palmeri at a rest area on I-10


Spotted at another rest area on I-10.
Somebody must long for flowering annuals the way I long for spiky succulents!

Our goal had been to watch sunset at White Sands National Monument outside of Alamogordo. We arrived just as the sun was setting and I grabbed the tripod and scrambled up a gypsum dune.







After the sun had disappeared, the dunes were bathed in a truly magical blue light. It only lasted for ten minutes before it was fully dark, but it was one of the most special moments of our trip so far.





My plan for tomorrow morning is to get up at dawn and head back to the dunes for some more photography.

UPDATE: Click here to see those photos.





  1. Sorry you had to endure the burn to capture such a lovely Saguarro flower!

    Thanks for the I-10 memories and that's it! White Sands is going on my must see list!

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  3. I can image the family in stitches. I suspect a bit of English/German swearing too. The photos of White Sands are stunning. Bill

  4. A couple of pictures of the fire ants would have been nice.

  5. Looks like you are having a fantastic trip! Love your photos! No wonder you haven't been on facebook!!! Hahaha!


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