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Category: US National Parks

Backpacking to Manning Camp Days 2 & 3

Backpacking to Manning Camp Days 2 & 3

Saguaro National Park

We woke up refreshed at Happy Valley Campground in Saguaro National Park.  And a little cold.  But happy.  Something about it all just makes your body and soul feel good.  You get to relax, enjoy the views, nature, and get away from crowds and work.  We were at 6,000 feet of elevation.  The sun slowly peeked in, but the pine trees were blocking our precious sunshine.  Finding what sunshine we could, we sat there eating our oatmeal.  Slightly sad, we packed up and said goodbye to our campground…

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Backpacking to Manning Camp Day 1

Backpacking to Manning Camp Day 1

Saguaro National Park

On our second to last day in Saguaro, we went to a “Star Party” at the Rincon Visitor Center.  We like astronomy, planets, and stars, so we made sure to go.  Before going outside to stargaze, the ranger at the visitor center gave us a rundown on the history of the park.  He explained how the park was created by President Herbert Hoover as a National Monument.  The ranger then said, “The park has a lot of diversity, not just the desert environment, but also the Rincon Mountains at 8,000 feet.  Up there is Manning Camp, but nobody really goes there.”  We sat there feeling slightly miffed, but also smug, because we had been at Manning Camp just two days before…

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Ringtail Loop & Signal Hill Trails

Ringtail Loop & Signal Hill Trails

Saguaro National Park

Choice is a good thing.  But with so many trails to choose from, researching ahead of time doesn’t always paint a clear picture of which trails are worth our time.  On our last day in the Tucson Mountain (west) district, we only had a half-day, since we planned to drive to Benson, AZ to begin a backpacking trip the following day.  With a limited amount of time, and only an inkling of which trail we wanted to do, we went…

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Wasson Peak via King Canyon Trail

Wasson Peak via King Canyon Trail

Saguaro National Park

On our first full day in the Tuscon Mountain (west) District of Saguaro National Park, we decided to do a day hike to Wasson Peak, the highest point in that district, at 4,687 feet.  When we left for the hike at 8:30 a.m., it was already HOT.  We wished we had left earlier.  But there was no turning back, since we were only there for a week.  Multiple trails go to Wasson Peak, but we chose to go via King Canyon…

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Gilbert Ray Campground

Gilbert Ray Campground

Saguaro National Park

There are no car campgrounds in Saguaro National Park.  It’s unfortunate, but thankfully there is one close by.  Gilbert Ray Campground is inside Tucson Mountain Park, which is run by Pima County.  It’s adjacent to the southern border of the similarly named Tucson Mountain District (that’s the west district) of Saguaro National Park.  The campground is only 3 miles away from Saguaro NP, so it’s practically part of the park.  We used it as our basecamp for the time we…

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Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Saguaro National Park

As a teacher, I’m always ready for a vacation by the time spring break rolls around. Since it’s only a week, we usually plan on a park that we can really explore in that time frame. In 2017, we ditched a chilly, windy April in DC for a week in Tucson. It felt pretty good as we left the airport and felt the arid climate for the first time. We headed to Gilbert Ray Campground to check in for our…

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Planning and Overview Spring 2017

Planning and Overview Spring 2017

Saguaro National Park

When you think about our national parks, Saguaro probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  Unless you live in Tucson, Arizona, since the park straddles the city.  Established in 1933 as a National Monument, and upgraded in 1994 to a National Park, Saguaro was formed to protect its namesake – the Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea).  Pronounced Sa-WAH-ro, the cacti grow very slowly, but can get as tall as 40 feet and live for more than 150 years…

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Hawksbill Summit Loop Trail

Hawksbill Summit Loop Trail

Shenandoah National Park

We’ve explored Shenandoah quite a bit, but there are many hikes we haven’t made it to.  The southern district springs to mind, as we usually frequent the closer north and central districts.  There are hikes that we haven’t done that are (according to popular opinion) some of the best the park has to offer.  If you search for best hikes in Shenandoah, Hawksbill is usually on the list. So, we traded in a humid summer day in DC for cooler…

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Our Favorite Spots and Visiting Tips

Our Favorite Spots and Visiting Tips

Acadia National Park

Our trip to Acadia was wonderful, and we wished we had more time there.  This post serves as our reflections looking back on Acadia – our favorite spots, things that we wished we did, tips for traveling to the park, or things we didn’t like.  It can also be used as a guide to the park, with links to more detailed posts if you want to dive in.  We’ll definitely revisit Acadia someday.  But there are a lot of other…

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Schoodic Point & Schoodic Head Trail

Schoodic Point & Schoodic Head Trail

Acadia National Park

It was our last day in Maine, and we had gone to Schoodic Peninsula to check out the newest addition to Acadia NP.  We had already explored the Schoodic Institute and Sundew Trail.  Before our trip, we had seen photos of waves crashing onto rocks at Schoodic Point.  And a ranger at Schoodic Information Center had recommended hiking up to Schoodic Head, which would be the last hike of our trip. Schoodic Point The drive to Schoodic Point from the…

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