The Saguaro cactus increases its chance of survival several-fold if it takes root under the shade of a Palo Verde or Mesquite tree. The seedling and young plant are protected from the elements and given time to dig deep and establish a good foundation. At Saguaro National Park just outside of Tucson, you can see this happening and mark the progress from tiny bump in the ground to soaring 75 foot tall giant. In a 2008 FJ Cruiser now 2000 miles from home, we are living it out. Granted, the seedling is 6’3″ and the old Palo Verde is shrinking and wrinkling every day, but I still like the metaphor.
Saguaro is one of those slightly surprising parks — basically in a metro area, but still completely isolated. Once you are in the park it is as if there is nothing else. Part of that is because the desert forces you down to scale. If you look at the broad vistas, there is interesting contrast, but very little depth. As you step into the desert, though, and look at your feet and scale down to what is immediately around you, everything changes. Prickly pear fruit, flowering sage, swaying Ocotilla all create a world dense with interest and beauty. The Saguaros go from the interest of size, to the interest of texture and detail. And you, or at least we, are seduced by the desert. A place we lazily write-off as sharp and dry and desolate, ignores our prejudice and wraps us in layers of partnerships and rivalries, lances and shields, delicacy and brute force. If you get a chance to go to Saguaro, give yourself time to walk through the landscape. It is a strange and special place.
For a lot of reasons, not least of which was the amount of time we spent in Saguaro, we ended up pulling into Joshua Tree late. It was almost 9 pm when we found a spot to camp at Jumbo Rocks. You come to appreciate your gear at the end of a day like this. Our Autohome rooftop tent was up in about 2 minutes, we had a quick late night snack and were looking at stars with a beverage all within the space of about 30 minutes. No stress. Joshua Tree is sort of a no stress place. In the evening in late July, it was cool enough for sweaters, there were no bugs, the campsite was easy and the scenery is awe inspiring. The night sky under a full (or close) moon meant no need for lights of any kind, it was as if the park was apologizing for our late arrival and turning on the night-light for us.
My son played guitar under that nightlight, and I listened and looked and marveled at the good fortune I have. Good partnerships indeed.