We had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Sabino Canyon. It started off well because our National Park Pass got us in the gate for free. Then we went in the visitors center to inquire about hikes and the Jr. Ranger Program. We were handed a packet of about 5 sheets of paper of questions and pictures of plants and animals and told to take the 1/4 mile natural trail to answer the questions. Sure, we thought...piece of cake. So we decided to head a mile down the path to the dam so we could play in the water first and do the nature trail at the end. The walk was enjoyable, but nothing too strenuous or exciting. At one point Silas said "The end better be worth this walk." And it was. We found a little stream with rocks and boulders that were perfect for a young boy to navigate. The sun was hot and the water was ice cold. We all enjoyed the stop.
When we got back from the hike, we started the 1/4 mile nature trail so the kids could earn their badge. We all learned a ton about the desert on this short trail. We read every sign and answered questions about each plant or animal. Here are a few samplings of what we learned:
The Arizona state tree, the Palo Verde tree, has green bark because the leaves are not big enough to provide adequate food for the tree. The bark helps in photosynthesis.
Saguaro cacti (the big ones with arms reaching up to the sky) usually grow in a bush or small tree in the beginning so they will be protected from the elements and have a better start. They then out live their "nurse trees" and stand tall and alone when they are more mature. Their roots stem out from their base 100 feet, but are only a couple inches below the surface of the ground.
There are many different types of chulla cacti...teddy bear chulla, chain fruit chulla, etc. However, all of them are painful if touched a have a tendency to "jump" out at a passerby because the slightest brush up against them will cause them to dislodge part of the plant.
The 1/4 mile nature trail ended up taking much longer than we expected. By the time we finished, it was growing cooler and the sun was near setting. We rushed over to the visitor's center to collect the Jr. Ranger badges and certificates, but they were already closed. It was disappointing for all of us. So, we headed back to our "little home" (as Morgan calls it) and Troy promised to bring them back the next day to get their badges. On the return trip the next day, an open air shuttle trip up the mountain was in order. It took about 45 minutes to ride roundtrip and had 8 stops that you can get on and off as many times as you like. The day ended with an exciting trip to the laundry mat.
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