In the Desert – Visiting Saguaro National Park

Sonoran Desert IV

In the Desert © 2011 Bo Mackison

The trip to Saguaro National Park has been one of the highlights of my stay in Arizona. I hiked in the Tuscon Mountain Unit on the west side of Tucson, the smaller of the two units that comprise the park. Rincon Mountain Unit is just east of Tucson. The two units are actually separated by the city of Tucson and together they protect more than 90,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert and thousands of saguaros.

Purples, Yellows, Greens in the Desert

Symphony of Desert Color © 2011 Bo Mackison

I love the Sonoran desert region. I love the desert surrounded by mountains. On some winter days, you can stand on the fringe of the desert, look into the mountains, and see the peaks covered with snow.

When I hiked in Saguaro NP, I stopped for a while along the trail. There was no other person in sight, just me and the cacti, the jackrabbits, and a pack of four or five coyotes that sprinted across an arroyo a hundred feet away. I stood there, the sun warming me when it appeared, but there was a fairly heavy cloud cover and the desert light seemed to flicker off and on.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro © 2011 Bo Mackison

I put my camera in my backpack, and just stood there in silence, listening, watching. I became intensely aware of this “place”. The desert is very grounding for me. I felt very solid and strong, standing in its midst, surrounded by this expanse of land.

The desert is by no means a desolate area. My photographs are a testimony to the wealth and diversity of the many growing plants, the contours of the land, the occasional bird or animal flushed from its daytime resting place. I stood near several saguaros, all at least twice as tall as me, all like poles. They had not yet sprouted any arms.

Suddenly I peered at my feet. I thought for a moment I had sunk into the earth, I felt that connected with this desert.

But no, I was standing just as you would expect. I shook off the feeling, and laughed a bit at my sudden fancy. But I do, feel a strong connection with this land, with this whole region. I don’t know exactly what that is all about, but I’m going to keep exploring and I’ll pay close attention to what happens.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for two months, exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and living life “solo.”  And she is discovering more than she had anticipated.

About Bo Mackison

I’m a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place – a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I’d love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It’s my gift to you.


  1. That first photo is amazing–it’s all in focus (that’s not the right way to say it) and so three-dimensional looking. Saguaros are about 75 years old before they develop their first arm, so you are looking at youngsters. In the last photo, you can see a nurse tree with the two saguaros in the left. A nurse tree is the tree that the bird sat in to deposit the seed on the ground. The tree will provide a little shade and a little water for the growing saguaro. When the saguaro is older, it demands much more water, and the nurse tree will die, having protected its charge to a safe age.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Cacti–they do almost human things. Nursing their charges! I do love each and every cactus. Easy to say because I haven’t had a run in with any of their sharp parts yet!

  2. Bo, you can’t imagine how much I love seeing these photos! I really loved that area when I lived in Arizona. Spent a lot of time on the back side of Mount Lemon and many wonderful hunting tips way back in the Rincon Mountains as well as the Galiuros. Great memories of the beautiful desert and high desert.

  3. What gorgeous soft colors in this. Such a stunning landscape. Especially love the cloud formations in the first image.

  4. I enjoyed this post. i love following your journey.

  5. Bo! How incredible your experience of feeling so grounded. I, too, love the Sonoran Desert – its textures and colors, the smell of the place, its creatures and flora. Saguaros are my favorites, especially when they bloom in May-ish. Your first photo made me gasp – the colors and crispness. Exquisite. I’m so there. The first time I saw this desert the amount of color, and color variations, surprised me so. Thank you so much for all of this.

  6. I’m just about caught up with you and have to tell you that I am so glad you are sharing this journey with us. I keep wishing I could be there and then realize that in a way, I am. 🙂

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Glad you are along for the ride, Robin. It would be a little bit lonely if I didn’t have my blogger cheering squad.

Leave a Reply