Having left El Paso early in the morning, we continued our road trip through the southwest. On the third day of the trip, we were given a flavor of this desert landscape through Saguaro National Park and by tasting its most notorious wildlife later in the same evening.
Saguaro National Park
After spending our morning riding and playing games in the car…
…we were full of energy and eager to visit with Mark Burns again to continue working on our documentary! But, first, owing to the long car ride that completely spanned New Mexico, we stopped for a picnic lunch at one of the coolest rest stops in the country.
With our bodies replenished , we headed toward Saguaro National Park, just outside of Tucson, where we planned to meet Mark Burns.
Mark is very familiar with the park having photographed it during his National Parks photography project and visited multiple times afterward. He gave us some suggested lookouts to visit and we brainstormed where we could get the best shots. We began our visit with a trip to Valley View Overlook, a short half mile stroll to a scenic lookout over the National Park.
Besides, Mark’s expertise, we had our organizational president and the TSUS Student Regent, Kaitlyn Tyra, to look over us.
We read about the native cacti and wild plant life that grew throughout the Saguaro desert before soaking in the views of the overlook.
We took a few minutes to take photos…
…climbed around on rocks…
…before heading back and onto the next excursion with Burns.
Our second stop with Mr. Burns took us to a cul-de-sac with pueblo style picnic tables and benches (done by the CCC).
Mr. Burns decided it would be a good place to shoot a panoramic photograph. He then went to his SUV where he opened a large, rectangular black box.
Inside was an elongated rectangle with a triangular body whose head had the lens of the camera. This elongated rectangle was the home of 120 film used for the panoramic photo. As Mr. Burns explained, this special camera captured the scene by exposing four frames at the same time in a single shot. This created the long frame necessary to appreciate the entire landscape.
After he grabbed his camera, we positioned ourselves to start filming and photographing his work. Mr. Burns explained the process of shooting a panoramic photo with a film camera and showed us the filter he often uses on landscape panoramas.
The filter darkens the sky while brightening the ground to balance out the contrast between the dark ground and bright sky.
This process took a while, but it was a fun learning experience, with all of us involved.
Once the photograph was complete, we caravanned to our third and final stop of the day with Mark Burns. The third hike was similar to our first in that it included a half mile trip to see the beautiful, untouched beauty of the park. This particular trail included prehistoric Indian petroglyphs. We hiked up to see the ancient rock drawing and were met with beautiful mountains in every direction.
This was our first visit to Saguaro National Park and it couldn’t have started off better than it did with sight-seeing suggestions from Mark Burns! While we hiked to visit the petroglyphs, Mark Burns was busy setting up for another panoramic photograph.
We made it back before he finished and took the opportunity to observe and photograph his work!
After we left Mr. Burns, we decided we had enough daylight to hike a 2.5-mile loop named Gould Mine.
The trail offered many pretty views…
…and some interesting cacti.
However, about two-thirds of the way through the trail the sun set.
Although we were wrong about how much daylight we had left to complete the trail, we still managed to go though it safely and with excitement. Before we lost the sun, we managed to capture some amazing photos of the sky…
We were even able to find the perfectly-shaped cactus before it was too dark.
Even though the last portion of the trail was traversed without sunlight, visibility was possible through our flashlights that provided safe travels through the trail. We made it back to the car soon enough with a slight detour that shaved time off our trip. After that hike, we were ready for dinner in Phoenix.
Dinner at Rustler’s Rooste
To end the day, we had dinner at Rustler’s Rooste. As we walked up to the restaurant door we noticed that the guests were greeted by a long-horned steer that introduced guests to the western theme of the restaurant. Inside, a country band could be heard paired with thumps of boots on the floor boards at a two-step rhythm. Were there a Texas flag displayed at the center of the dance floor, we would have felt right at home. Rustler’s Rooste did offer its own western feel different from Texas, one that we very much enjoyed.
When we sat down Professor Yawn told us we were free to pick what we wanted but he recommended the “Cowboy Stuff.” This plate included shrimp, barbecue chicken, beans, fries fruit, ribs, and much more food that could feed a whole wild west settlement. The menu had the plate servings marked well as it noted that it could be served for “two or a bunch more.” Accordingly, we ordered for a “bunch more” so that all six of us could eat. Before dinner arrived, the ambassadors went outside to check out the restaurant’s famous view and get their first glimpse of Phoenix!
When we came back to our seats, it was with great surprise that we found rattlesnakes in our tables! They were however served in a plate an fired to an exquisite crisp. This cooked reptile was also paired with another iconic symbol of the west, cacti fried to the same golden brown as the rattlesnake. Fortunately, the exotically delicious appetizers were not enough to fill us and keep us from enjoying our main course.
Our meal was extremely filling and satisfying after a long day of hiking!
The ambassadors felt accomplished as they returned to their hotel that evening. We had now had a true taste of Arizona after we experienced one of its natural treasures by hiking in Saguaro National Park. Additionally, our adventurous palates led us to try some of the southwest most tasty treats. We are looking forward to the rest of our stay in the Grand Canyon State.