Crested Saguaro Society
Crest Quest Reports
May 8 - 10, 2023 — Hills and Valleys North of Tucson
Report by Joe Orman
Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain,
I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn,
my cares fall from me — I am happy.
— Hamlin Garland
In early May, I was able to sneak in one last crest-hunt before the desert temperatures got too blisteringly hot! As a bonus, on this Crest Quest I was joined by two other members of the Crested Saguaro Society!
I'd gotten several tips lately; one was from a homeowner in a gated community north of Tucson with a newly-cresting saguaro in her front yard! The owner arranged for me to have access to the neighborhood, so upon my arrival in the Tucson area my first order of business was to meet her and photograph her new crestie:
On the way out of the gated community, I drove its streets looking for other crested saguaros, but I only spotted this multiple-Y:
Since I was in the area, I stopped to take updated photos of this roadside crested saguaro, first photographed by Bob and Pat in 2006. In the years since, the ground around it has been bulldozed but it's fortunately still alive:
Late in the afternoon, I took a short cross-country walk in a "blank spot on the map." I didn't find any cresties, but my walk brought other delights ... like these cholla blossoms:
Watchful eyes monitored me as I walked:
I made camp at one of my favorite spots nearby, then the next morning I photographed more cholla blossoms ... but what's that odd silhouette in the background?
It's a nice crested saguaro that Ted Codding had given me a tip on! On a previous trip, I'd driven within a quarter-mile of it, but hadn't spotted it.
Nearby I spotted this double-Y saguaro:
Back on the road, I paused to take an updated photo of this saguaro ... I think Phil Kozol spotted it back in 2018 when it was first cresting out:
Apparently a deer had also stopped to examine this crested saguaro, and shed an antler nearby:
Then it was time to meet Ted for an excursion into a range of hills where Bob Cardell and Pat Hammes had found many crests in years past. Here's one they documented way back in 2006:
A short distance away, we only found the downed skeleton of this crested saguaro Bob and Pat had also discovered in 2006:
I'd gotten a tip on this one ... either it had crested out since Bob and Pat were last in this area, or they missed it in the dense brush! Ted and I found it easily but had to deal with some nasty catclaw to get close to it:
From there, a short but steep scramble up the hillside brought us to this arm crest — has grown quite a bit since Bob and Pat's 2006 discovery:
Then we drove up a wash and made another steep scramble up to this crestie I'd spotted from a distance ... another that must have crested out since Bob and Pat were in the area:
We took a different ridge back down, passing this Y-split saguaro that Bob and Pat had photographed in 2008:
We also paused our descent to photograph this lavender thistle:
In late afternoon, Ted and I drove out of the hills and met Harry Ford at restaurant not far from his house. Over plentiful food and drink, we had a long discussion about the direction of the Crested Saguaro Society — a newly invigorated organization since Ted moved back to Arizona! Again, I made camp that night at one of my favorite spots. The next day, Ted had other obligations so it was Harry's turn to join me on the quest. First he showed me this crested saguaro in his neighbor's yard — Harry had originally advised the owner to buy it!
Next, Harry showed me this multi-headed specimen on the outskirts of his neighborhood:
From there, we had a view of some saguaro-covered hillsides in the distance, so of course I had to pause and employ my binos! I spotted two top-crests high on a slope, but the area was clearly signed against trespassing so I had to settle for these telephoto shots:
Our next goal was many miles up the highway but was worth the drive — an extra-rare ring crest that we'd had a tip on. After a few minutes of hiking washes and ridges, we found the saguaro less than a quarter-mile from the tipster's estimated location:
On the hike back to our Jeeps we found another oddity of the desert — "devil's claw" seed pods:
Then we drove a few miles up the highway to see if we could find a newly-cresting saguaro the same person had given us a tip on. While scanning the roadside, I spotted this crested barrel:
Driving back down the highway, we had a different vantage point and were able to spot the newly-cresting saguaro:
Next, Harry and I decided to drive back into the same hills Ted and I had been in the day before, and check up on some more of Bob and Pat's crests. On the drive in, we saw a gila monster surrying across the road, so we jumped out to get a quick pic before it disappeared into the underbrush :
Late spring brings cactus blossoms, like this prickly pear:
Harry was especially interested in seeing a big crest, so I navigated us to this giant — we were glad to find it still standing a full 17 years after Bob and Pat first discovered it!
By then it was mid-afternoon — time for Harry to head for home. We said our goodbyes, but since I was going to camp locally that night, I still had enough daylight to check up on a couple more Bob and Pat finds. Each required a scramble up a steep slope but I was up for the excercise! Here's the first:
... and the second, which has crested out a LOT in the last 15 years:
I found a nice spot with a fire ring to camp at, but the evening was windy so I didn't dare make a fire:
Driving home the next morning, I stopped one last time for updated photos — of this roadside saguaro with two cresting arms, that I'd first photographed four years earlier:
I've always said, if I find one new crested saguaro on any given outing, I'm happy. After this trip, I know that sharing those new discoveries with good friends makes me even happier!
Revised: July 26, 2023
All photos copyright © 2023 Joe Orman