Tag Archives: Tucson

Saguaro National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Alien forest

I visited Saguaro National Park for the first time last year, and between being a veteran national parks tourist and seeing a zillion photos of the place over the years, I thought I knew what to expect. Aaaand of course, I was way wrong. (No surprise there.)

For one thing, Mary-Alice and I arrived in the middle of a storm. No stereotypical desert scenes for me that day; instead, I got to add something far more dramatic to the ol’ sketchbook.

For another, I knew the park was quite close to the city of Tucson, but I didn’t know it was comprised of two distinct districts (Rincon Mountain and Tucson Mountain), each flanking the city from opposite sides. There wasn’t enough time to do both units in one afternoon, so we rearranged our schedule for the next day in order to fit in a tour of the western district.

Saguaro National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Finally, I was shocked to discover that the place reminded me strongly of my home turf of the Pacific Northwest—at least, a bizarre, parallel-universe version thereof. It wasn’t just that the saguaros are incredibly tall. It was that there were so many of them, thick on the ground like the familiar conifer forests of Washington. Add to that the indigo hillsides I’d seen the night before, and the nebulous mists of that morning, and it was like standing in a dream-land version of home.

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Muffler Man sketch by Chandler O'Leary

A landmark day

It’s hard to imagine that much time has passed already, but today this blog turns two years old. (Last year’s anniversary post is here.) In the past 24 months you’ve crisscrossed the continent with me, pinballing back and forth from place to place, landmark to landmark. So I figured there was no better way to mark the occasion than with two icons of both Americana and road trip culture, all rolled into one figure: a Muffler Man in the guise of Paul Bunyan.

Here’s to the next year, and the next bend in the road. May there always be Muffler Men there to guide my path, and more American legends to share and sketch. Thank you to everyone who reads and every fellow traveler, in this virtual world and in the real one.