Crested Saguaro Society

Crest Quest Reports

February 11 - 13, 2022 — More Western Arizona Mountain Ranges

Report by Joe Orman


High Flight
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds,—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air ....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

If I could but fly! To ride the desert wind over the valley floors, up canyons, across ridges, to finally perch on the highest point of each sky island. There to survey the land with eyes so sharp, so steady, that even the smallest detail of the vast saguaro forest could not escape my gaze. Such is the stuff that my dreams are made of! But I awaken, to find myself held to the earth, condemned forever to follow faint winding tire tracks and my own footprints. Can I find a way for my spirit, at least, to soar in boundless freedom?

Sometimes the tips I collect off the internet are vague, and it takes some searching to actually find the saguaro. Such was the case with this Ring Crest — the only clue was the caption "on a tank track near [name of very small town]." I'd spent three previous trips driving the ranch roads between cattle tanks in the area, and had pretty much given up ... until on this trip, when I practically stumbled upon it!

I camped in the vicinity, then headed for a mountain range farther west that I hadn't thoroughly explored yet. As usual, I circled the range, driving or hiking side roads up canyons as I went. In the first canyon, I found this nice little top-crest.

Another canyon, another crest ... this one a small arm crest.

Occasionally, I wander into an area where I spot one crest after another; at such times I wonder if I've found the legendary "Secret Canyon of the Crested Saguaros!" This canyon was one such place ... my first sighting was this big top-crest.

On the slope opposite I spotted this small top-crest.

Higher up on a slope, this medium-size top-crest had a commanding view out over the desert.

From that vantage point, my binos picked out this multiple-Y saguaro waving to me from the flats by the canyon entrance.

The next canyon would prove as rewarding ... first a small top-crest.

Then an odd-looking saguaro up on a saddle ... yep, my spotting scope confirmed it was a crested arm! If I had the wings of a hummingbird, I could hover and admire its beauty up close — but I have to settle for extending my camera on my tripod held over my head, and getting this Extend-O-Cam view.

A very old and weathered skull, which I later identified as a coyote.

Then I trudged back across the canyon to another arm crest on the opposite slope.

The next canyon is so wide, it is more like a broad valley extending into the mountain range, with a central hill that the dirt road circumnavigates. Somehow, in all the visual confusion that is the saguaro forest, my binos pick out a crested top at the base of said hill. After making the half-mile cross-country hike, I find the moon in just the right position for a photo.

Winter days are short, and too soon the sun has slipped behind the mountains; time to find a campsite. Just a few hundred feet before I pull off to camp, I spot this arm crest and quickly photograph it in the failing light (Extend-O-Cam view).

The next morning, I walked around my campsite and remarked to myself that the scenery was the rival of any developed campground.

As I drove away from my campsite, I spotted another arm crest vrey close to the one I spotted the evening before (Extend-O-Cam view).

The next section of road swung far away from the foothills, where the saguaros thinned out. But of the few crested saguaros, I spotted this one with a big crest. Another half-mile hike brought me to it (Extend-O-Cam view).

Completing my loop around the mountain range, I park at a high point and look out over the cactus forest. Saw a shadow, very faint in the cactus forest, and took a bearing on it. Turned out to be this crested saguaro a mile away, and fortuitously only 100 feet from a side road!

I followed the faint road up to an abandoned mine, which gave me another view out over the cactus forest. Spotted this top-crest nearby; another short hike brought me to it.

As I retrace my footprints back to my Jeep and steer it along the roads that will take me home, I realize that my spirit is indeed soaring. I'm filled with the beauty of the desert ... the peacefulness of its solitude ... the majesty of its towering saguaros. It is a high that I can only hope lasts, as I take flight homeward.

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Revised: August 11, 2022