I’ve been around a bit, but I’ve never seen a more exotic landscape than the saguaro forests around Tucson, especially on a moonlit night.
It’s one of the places that every American should see.
The first time I saw it was, in fact, at night as I was driving down from Phoenix into the outskirts of Tucson. I was heading for a little, rented cottage on the edge of the Saguaro National Park, and as I approached the end of the trip I found myself on a twisting road of little hills and dips, catching the towering, fantastic shapes of the saguaro cactus in my headlights.
I spent hours at the visitor’s center of the Saguaro National Park, wandering through the gardens and learning the names of the Sonoran Desert cacti: saguaro, prickly pear, ocatillo, barrel cactus.
At the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is one of the finest zoos in the nation, I watched javelinas rambling and rooting around in packs. They look like small pigs that have been squished sort of flounder-flat, which I guess helps them squeeze around prickly catci.
I visited the San Xavier del Bac Mission, called "the white dove of the desert" and listened to a choir practice Christmas carols.
But the highlight of a trip to the Sonoran Desert is always walking through the saguaro forest at night, with a bright moon. Saguaro can grow 50 feet tall, but they have no leaves to block the light. The effect is more enchanting than you can imagine.
I never really see good fares to Tucson. Unless you have better luck with that, fly to Phoenix. The drive takes only about two and a half hours.
At present I see fares as low as $215 round trip, Bradley to Phoenix, for travel through June 6. Out of Providence it’s even cheaper – as low as $180. But availability is very limited around the March and April spring breaks. Just go before it gets too hot.
Here are the airport codes you’ll need to search this one: