Visiting & Hiking in Saguaro National Park East | October 2015
However, just because it was under 100 degrees does not mean it’s comfortable hiking weather. We knew that right off the bat, and decided it was best if we just did the loop drive through the park. We stopped in the visitor’s center for some ideas for next time…which happened to be the following Friday! Read on…
There are so many trails on the East side of Saguaro National Park, you just have to know where to find them. Here on the main loop drive, I only remember seeing a couple possible trails, but if you head further North to the trailhead at the end of Speedway, there’s a handful of trails that will let you wander around in circles in the desert for as long as your heart desires. On top of that, there are other trailheads scattered around that will take you to the peaks of the Eastern mountain range, such as Rincon, Micah, and Tanque Verde. (I can’t vouch for any of those though because we’ve never done them…pretty controversial, I know!) Even though we weren’t able to do anything “cool” that day, we left feeling reacquainted with our desert and with plans for our next adventure.
We stopped to grab a letterbox on our way back along the good ol’ Arizona Trail. We always enjoy the decorative gates or signs you’ll find along the trail, and especially enjoyed this iron sign on the gate at the beginning of this section of trail.
The ripe fruit on the prickly pears caught my eye with every turn. Have they always been this red?? I love the pops of color they add to the scenery. It almost looks like Christmas decor…and I’m okay with that. 🙂
Hiking Douglas Springs Trail to Bridal Wreath Falls | Saguaro National Park East
A week later [10/9/15], we returned to Saguaro National Park to check out one of the hikes. This one began at the Speedway Trailhead, and the information at the visitor’s center made it sound like it was a more popular trail for the park. To us, “popular trail” means a great starter hike to get us ready for some longer ones we’re hoping to do this fall. The trail is called Douglas Springs Trail, and the end destination is Bridal Wreath Falls. It’s about 5.4 miles round trip and gains almost 1000 feet of elevation.
We had a bit of a late start, which isn’t suggested when the high is 90 degrees, but with a nice breeze and plenty of water, we were fine. We saw 2 other hikers at the beginning, but other than that we had the whole area to ourselves. Well, unless you count the wildlife that we saw…
Our first wildlife spotting for the day: a Giant Desert Centipede! He was about 8 inches long, and in quite a hurry to get away from us. Luckily Curtis is pretty quick with his new phone and was able to get a picture. I was too busy freaking out. I had good reason, I was in the lead when he ran across the trail right in front of me!
Parts of this trail reminded us of the front range of the Catalina Mountains. It was pretty rocky, yet for much of the trail, there were steps instead of a steep incline. But they weren’t the helpful kind of steps, they were the infuriating kind that are wide enough that each step is wide enough that it takes two steps, so you’re always stepping up with the same foot. Know what I’m talking about? I find myself taking either awkwardly long or short steps to try to switch off the foot that steps up. #firstworldprobs
Just an example of what we had to deal with…
I did appreciate the decent cloud cover and the shady parts. I know, looking at some of these pictures, it’s sad that this is “decent cloud cover” for us… After 2.5 miles of staying on the Douglas Springs Trail, we took the spur trail to Bridal Wreath falls for .2 miles. We had been worried throughout this hike because the washes we were going in and out of didn’t have any water in them, but shortly after starting the spur trail, we were pleased to hear the sound of trickling water. Because what’s the point of hiking to a waterfall without any water falling??
Once we made it to the stream, Curtis busied himself right away with unblocking the little dams that sticks and leaves created to improve the water flow, while I messed around with my new camera and tripod that I made him haul up the trail for me.
It only seemed fitting to take a picture of a saguaro, since this IS Saguaro National Park. Also, the cloud behind it looks like a duck.
Us with the falls – this is the first view you get when you come off the spur trail! To get closer requires navigating around boulders and sand banks, but if you’re adventurous like Curtis, or have a handsome man to hold your hand like me, you can get a much better view right up close. 🙂
There had been some rain earlier in the week, so we guessed our chances of seeing at least a trickle were pretty good. I’m sure that if you can stand the heat and humidity, it’d be even better during monsoon season!
Hangin’ on to the handsome man that got me here. 😉
After a good hour spent there, we started back the way we came. It’s always fun having the end destination all to yourself!
Well, again, if you count the wildlife, we weren’t alone. There we were, hiking back – me in front, Curtis behind, when I see a HUGE snake lying across the trail! I came within 2 feet of it when I saw, and immediately screamed, turned around and started running, pushing Curtis out of the way. I don’t remember this, that’s just what he said I did. At first Curtis exclaimed “Oh stay away from that guy!”, but upon a closer look declared it was only a bull snake. He asked for my camera but I refused to go back. I was a little pathetic in these moments. I let him take the lead, but then passed him again when he stopped to step on some ant hills. That was a mistake.
The second time started much like the first, but this snake had another way of letting me know I was coming too close. Suddenly, I hear rattling, and once again I realize I’m within 2 feet of a rattlesnake – about to step on it! My reaction was the same: scream, turn around and start running. This was officially my first legit run in with a rattlesnake. Every other time, there has been someone else in front of me saying “Look over there, it’s a rattlesnake!” I would have been fine if I never got to see one this close, much less have it rattle at me. It slithered off the trail, and this time Curtis grabbed the camera from me to snap some pictures. See it there, in the tall grass along the rock?
At first we thought it was just a Western Diamondback, but when we showed the picture to our professional rattlesnake identifier friend, he said it looks like a Tiger snake. The stripes, the size (no longer than 15 inches), the aggressive greeting…it all adds up. It was terrifying. I’m officially handing in my resignation for being a pro hiker. DONE.
But we survived, thank God, and lived to tell about it. I guess this is the stuff that makes good blog posts. So I hope you enjoyed reading about my near-death experience. 😉