Crested Saguaro Society
Crest Quest Reports
January 28 - 30, 2023 — Near Mesa and Near Florence
Report by Joe Orman
Life is what happens to you
while you're busy making other plans.
— John Lennon, "Beautiful Boy"
The Crest Quest is never a linear journey ... there are disappointments, re-evaluations, and changes of plan. While this may be frustrating for those accustomed to a fixed destination and predetermined goal, a true crest-hunter welcomes the serendipitous delights that are thus encountered.
The first day of this Crest Quest was spent in the desert just outside of Mesa, in the company of my daughter Kelly and my friend Rick. At our first stop, we took a short walk so Rick could show us a crested-arm saguaro he'd photographed a few days earlier. Here's my Extend-O-Cam photo:
Be sure to check out Rick's drone shots of this saguaro:
Nearby was this bigger crested arm which I'd photographed before, so I took an updated photo:
I've added Rick's drone shots to this page:
Then we took a rough Jeep trail through a nearby canyon, where our plan was to find another crested-arm saguaro someone had posted a picture of. We never did find that saguaro, but we had a fine day of desert discovery. At one point, we parked and walked cross-country to visit a few geocaches ... this one is the oldest geocache in the State of Arizona, having been placed here way back in the year 2000!
On our geocache walk, we were treated to fine views of Four Peaks:
And I spotted this Y-arm saguaro:
At another geocache stop, Kelly found this tiny skull on the ground ... packrat?
After our canyon adventure was over, I bid farewell to my companions and continued my journey solo. I drove down to the Florence area, arriving in time to make camp before sunset. That evening, I was treated to this beautiful view of Venus in the twilight sky:
First thing the next morning, I climbed a hill and surveyed the cactus forest with my binos and spotting scope. I spotted a crest far in the distance, took a bearing, and took this telephoto shot:
I drove closer, then hiked out towards it. But I misjudged how far away it was, and ended up hiking more than a mile before I got to it. From the hill where I spotted it, the saguaro was a full 2.5 miles away!
On the looping hike back to my Jeep, I passed this "Y" saguaro with a distinct cresting pattern ... but it looks like each tip will just continue to grow normally:
Driving one of the many dirt roads in the area, I paused to take an updated photo of a crested saguaro I hadn't stopped at in 10 years. I was saddened to find the crest had broken off:
Then I parked and hiked into some hills where I'd seen a crested saguaro from a distance on a previous trip. I passed a rock dam, apparently built by ranchers to form a cattle tank (now silted in):
On the hike in, I found this wide top-crest:
And only a few hundred feet away, another top-crest:
Also nearby, this double-Y-tip saguaro that just might crest out one day:
Finally, I topped out on a ridge and looked for the crest I'd seen from a distance a couple months earlier. After scanning the closer slopes in vain, I spotted it -- still a mile away and much higher up on a bouldery slope. I realized I would never be able to safely get to it, and, abandoning my plan to hike to see it close up, I settled for another telephoto shot:
Previous telephoto shot from even farther away:
Looping back to my Jeep, I found this small arm crest ... three new discoveries on one hike were more than enough to make up for my abandoned plan!
I spent another peaceful night under desert stars, then the next morning took a long hike into a "blank area on the map." On my hike, I passed many uprooted large saguaros -- apparently due to the recent rains soaking the ground:
A prickly pear cactus growing among the arms of a saguaro!
The rockhound in me is always on the lookout for interesting minerals. Here's a glomerate piece of white quartz ... Harry had picked up a larger specimen on one of our recent outings in this area:
This Y-split saguaro had a definite cresting pattern continuing onto its tips ... I made a GPS waypoint so I can check on it in years to come:
I debated whether to consider this barrel crested or just mutated, but after I walked on I realized I'd forgotten to take a waypoint. So that tipped my decision in favor of "not quite crested":
Another Y-split saguaro, but without the cresting pattern in the tips, so no waypoint:
I'd given up on finding any crested saguaros on this hike, and was trudging back to my Jeep along a dirt road. But once again the universe had other plans ... I glimpsed a nice top-crest hiding behind a palo verde a few hundred feet off the road. Walking over to it, I realized I'd passed within a couple hundred feet of it on the beginning of my hike, but hadn't spotted it:
Nearby, I also spotted this Y-split saguaro, with one half crested:
It was only later, after checking the coordinates, that I realized Bob and Pat had documented this same saguaro way back in 2006 -- when neither half of the "Y" had crested out. Which just goes to show, you can never know for sure what will happen!
So once again I headed homeward, with a camera full of photos and a head full of memories. Maybe I hadn't checked off all the goals on my list, but over the course of all these trips I've learned a valuable lesson. Often, the most beautiful parts of any outing -- and of life -- are the things you stumble across along the way.
Revised: March 1, 2023