Mackeys Meander the Magnificent, our Junior Ranger Adventures.
Since the start of the trip, we had been getting the question “when are we going to see a real cactus.” In addition to,” this isn’t what I thought the desert would look like…?” Finally, “how long to the nearest bathroom?” A question they stopped asking because our answer was always in the hours. (We all became very comfortable with using the side of the road since there were long stretches of nothingness between the south-est and west-est National Parks!) Finally, when we neared the Tucson area…the great guardians appeared!
It’s as though they arose from out of nowhere. Miles and miles of prickly mammoths surrounding us causing a bit of vertigo as we tried to capture every one we passed without blinking. They start out so dramatically…it’s a bit funny when we grown-ups are still cactus gawking as the kids get very used to the awe and retreat back to their day dreaming or game playing while we are busy counting how many arms we can find on the great saguaros! And, interpreting what their limbs might be telling us in ASL.
We made our way into one of the nicest Visitor Centers we encountered.
We snagged our Junior Ranger Booklets. Took in some impressive photography. Everything was so interactive and easy to comprehend. My personal favorite was the “talking artifacts” area. That’s not it’s actual name but it was designed so that pieces of the desert, both real and replicas were laid out for investigating. Each item included a chip you could tap with a magic wand of sorts that would share with you more interesting stories and surprising information. We really just like touching things and using “magic wands.”
Saguaro is another park that is very novice and all abilities, mobilities and ages friendly.
This was our second to last National Park on our six park adventure. We were starting to feel like experts when it came to identifying cacti, critters, tracks and trees.
Especially, when we find things in the dessert that also live in our backyard. Like the prickly pears and the yuccas! (Though ours are quite a bit smaller…) Our little booklets kept us curious and pointed in the right direction.
Stuck in the mud?
Kiddos can have short attention spans and can also adopt a “more of the same” attitude after visiting so many cool places in one trip. If you are going one park at time, you (most likely) don’t have to worry about this. If you are visiting parks consecutively on a road trip or otherwise. Prepare for your kids to get used to the “wow.” Yes, this is quite a privileged problem to have. That doesn’t make your kids unappreciative or bratty. It makes them kids. Not every moment along the way needs to be joy-filled. That’s not life. Life requires balance. You need some downtimes to feel the up times. Everything can be awesome…but awesome is no good forced. You can be in your feelings. They can be in theirs.
Validating their contributions, feelings and autonomy is more important than any of natures eye-candy along the way.
Did you grub?
We did! Picnic-style. There were some beautiful pavilions and park shelters peppered through-out the park. We headed off the beaten path in search of petroglyphs and did a bit of climbing before retreating to the common area for some car eats.
Some well placed warning signs kept the stakes high for this little climbing adventure!
We talked a lot about hiking safety and where not to stick your toes and fingers. What to listen for and what to do if you hear a rattle anywhere near you. (Hint: back away verrrrry slowly!) No rattlesnakes were going to stop us from finding our treasure!
What did we dig the most?
Hands-down mother nature as master sculptor, planter, maker in this park. It felt partially like a wonder of nature and other part like we were journeying through a perfectly curated art exhibit.
We took it upon ourselves to add some additional living abstract art to the desert exhibit.
Our sculptures have feet so it is doubtful you will encounter these rare beauties on your next visit!
Treading softly was our collective takeaway. The stories of the Indigenous People that first graced this sacred wilderness offered a glimpse of the world without ownership. In particular, their soft-footed nature in utilizing the land for survival. Not just to protect the plant-life and keep from disturbing the animals. Because, directly under foot lies the bones of other brothers and mothers buried beneath the sand. Mountain lions birthed their cougar cubs on this land and coyotes their pups. And, aren’t they just an extension of our family? Don’t they have just as much right to exist undisturbed as we do? We were left spinning with some existential questions that connected us more to each other and deeper with the world around us. How would you treat the space where your mother is buried? Can space on this planet truly be claimed? If so, who does it belong to – just we humans or are there others to consider. Who lives in our yard? How can we consider them? How can we protect them? How can we move through life a bit more gently. The ask was to make our hearts bigger and our footprint smaller. The take away is to use treading softly as a mantra, a goal, a way of life.
Here are the up to date details. Have fun!