Stepping out of the airport in Phoenix in the summertime, it is best to be wearing shorts. After all, it is a desert. Phoenix lies in the southwest portion of the Sonoran Desert and is the capital of Arizona. This is not a slack little city! It is the 5th largest city in the United States and boasts almost 2 million people who call it home. Aside from the buzzing metropolis that it is, it also has incredible views (360 degree views of mountains), and has those ever-popular Saguaro (sa-war’-ow) Cactus. You know, those big ones with the “arms”.
Driving north on Interstate 17, one can see “forests” of these popular Saguaro Cacti. Most of them do not have arms, but merely are large, straight bodies, reaching for the sun. They look more like giant cucumber orchards than they do forests of cacti. They can grow from 15 to 50 feet tall and live up to 200 years. In May and June they adorn three-inch wide white flowers with yellow centers. It is no surprise that the Saguaro Cactus flower is Arizona’s state flower.
Phoenix has an interesting history, with the first settlers being Hohokam Indians around 300 A.D. They mysteriously disappeared (drought, perhaps?), and Phoenix was finally settled again in the 1800’s. There is much history to see at the Heard Museum, which showcases Native American and Hispanic culture. There is also Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. Here, a visitor can take a daytime tour, or an Evening Tour in the summer evenings. The Evening Tour is lit by the starry nights and the famous fire-breathing dragon in the garden.
As a hiking and history buff, Phoenix was a great place to soak in the sun (and lots of it!), the great outdoors, learn a lot about Native American history, and what it takes to build a great city in the middle of the desert. A second – or third – visit will be necessary just to soak in all that the wonderful city has to offer. We must go back – and shake hands with one of those grand Saguaro Cactus –very gently though.