So here’s the thing.
I’ve been trying to go to as many national parks (or historic sites, as the case may be) this year as possible. I’m excited about my passport stampbook (as I’ve previously posted) and especially since we now live in the half of the country with all of the huge natural areas, I want to see them!
One of the exhibits I’ve always loved at the North Carolina Zoo is their Sonora Desert dome, so when I noticed on my newly-acquired roadmap of Arizona that the interstate went THROUGH it, I couldn’t resist! On the way home from the Casa Grande ruins, we looked it up on our GPS and found a place labeled “Sonoran Desert National Monument.” That sounded promising, so we programmed it to take us there.
And we started driving.
See that? PROOF we were in the RIGHT AREA.
We took a couple of smaller roads, then wound up on a two lane highway going straight across the Sonoran Desert, generally back in the direction of I-8, which we would pick up on the other side after stopping at the monument. The desert was fascinating, with far more plant-life that I expected in a desert, and we drove between two long mountain reaches, watching for wildlife (though we never saw any) and grateful for the full tank of gas and water bottles.
It was interesting, too, that there weren’t many cars. Most of the “scenic” stops were closed for the season, but that didn’t bother us because we planned to stop at the monument.
At this point I want to note that there are not that many photos from this drive. That’s because I kept expecting to, y’know, GET to something. These photos of cacti?? Actually from BEFORE we got into the national monument area.
After a while, we reached the point where the GPS told us to turn and drive 11 miles to the monument. We slowed down to make the turn…
…and then stopped. We were facing a sandy track that crossed some railroad tracks that ran parallel to the two lane highway. On the near side of them was a VERY large sign that said: “DO NOT ENTER.” Oh, and some WILD COTTON BUSHES.
I looked again at the GPS. We’d followed the directions correctly. But then I noticed that the 11 mile “drive” was supposed to take over an hour… across sand… And we realized then that the “Monument” was probably the DESERT ITSELF.
THANKS, GPS. We were now in the MIDDLE of the Sonoran Desert. Well, about 11 miles from the middle, as far as I can tell.
To be fair, I DID say I wanted to properly SEE the desert, and not just drive past it on the interstate. And boy howdy, I SAW that desert.
We checked our map and discovered we were closer to I-8 if we kept going forward rather than backtracking, so that’s what we did.
I guess some monuments are bigger than others. I’m still bummed I didn’t get a stamp for it, though.