Crested Saguaro Society

Crest Quest Reports

March 12 - 19, 2022 Sonoran Desert National Monument and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Report by Joe Orman


We have not merely escaped from something but also into something ...
We have joined the greatest of all communities, which is not that of man alone
but of everything which shares with us the great adventure of being alive.
                    Joseph Wood Krutch

The first two days of this week-long trip were spent escaping into a remote corner of Sonoran Desert National Monument, where the solitude was complete I didn't see a single other person the entire time.

Soon after leaving the highway, I checked up on Bob and Pat's C205, a tall top-crest which they had documented way back in 2005. Once again, I was too late I found it collapsed and decaying:

But on another dirt road, surveying the terrain from a small hill, I spotted two crested saguaros and hiked over to them. This is the first:

And this is the second one a magnificent multi-headed monster:

After spending the night camping under desert skies, I parked at the end of the road and started a long loop hike through the canyons and valleys of the saguaro-studded wilderness. My first find was this arm crest:

At the far end of a broad valley, my spotting scope picked out this double arm crest:

On the final stretch back to my Jeep, I climbed a ridge and scanned the surroundings with my binoculars. Good thing I looked all around, because I spotted this huge arm crest off the trail, back the way I'd come:

Then it was time to drive on to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where the park campground would be my home for the next few days.

The next morning, the first order of business was to hike into a broad, remote valley to try and locate a crested saguaro my spotting scope had picked out a year earlier, but which I hadn't had time to hike out to. Setting out on the bearing I'd taken on that previous trip, after a couple miles of hiking I stood beneath this tall beauty:

I continued across the valley to the unexplored hills on the other side, where I found my first crested organ pipe cactus:

From there, I spotted this ancient-looking crested saguaro close by:

And farther away, my spotting scope picked out this flat-top crested saguaro peeking above the desert vegetation:

Another day, another set of hills, another crested organ pipe cactus:

... and another, but this crest is dead and decaying:

... and another dead crest, this one so decayed that the underlying skeleton can be easily examined:

The next day, I drove the Ajo Mountain Drive ... this organ pipe cactus with a small crest is right at one of the pullouts, so I took this updated photo:

Nearby I also took this updated photo of a saguaro arm crest:

Farther along the drive, another hike and another crested organ pipe cactus:

... and another:

... and another:

Continuing along the drive, I took an updated photo of this crested organ pipe cactus just off the road:

I tried to take an updated photo of this little arm crest (2012 photo), but it had broken off:

Farther on, I stopped again to take an updated photo of a crested organ pipe cactus just off the road. It died a couple of years ago and is now collapsed -- here's a close-up of the crest skeleton:

Another stop to check up on a roadside crested organ pipe that had three crests ... now it's growing a fourth:

At another pullout, I spotted this organ pipe with about a dozen crests on the hillside above ... somehow it had escaped my attention all the previous times I'd parked here:

From there, I took a hike around a nearby hill but didn't spot any new cresties. The hike took me past this dead organ pipe crest which I've been photographing since 2007, so I took an updated photo:

Lastly, I spotted this double-crested organ pipe just off the road ... again, how had I not seen it all the previous times I'd driven this road?

The next day, Rick and Pam S. joined me and we again drove the Ajo Mountain Drive. I showed them several of my favorite crested saguaros and organ pipes.

After spending the night in Ajo, we headed out of town on a dirt road to do some rockhounding and to look for a crested saguaro I'd seen a photo of. On the way we spotted this arm crest:

At the rock-hounting spot, we collected several interesting specimens of a mineral described as "an impure obsidian containing spherical crystalline inclusions (marbles)" this is the biggest one (GPS unit for scale) and it was quite an effort to wrestle it into my Jeep!

We never did find the crested saguaro I'd seen a photo of, but on the drive back we stopped to get an updated photo of this roadside beauty. It was first documented by Bob & Pat in 2009, and for my money has one of the best scenic backgrounds of any crested saguaro:

As we headed for home, I was glad that we'd escaped for at least a few days into a pristine and wondrous community of desert flora it had been a great adventure indeed!

Back to Crested Saguaro Society Crest Quest Reports page.

Revised: November 22, 2022