Crested Saguaro Society

Crest Quest Reports

January 5 - 6, 2024 — Off Highway 93 (The Fire Inside)

Report by Joe Orman


Focus on what lights a fire inside of you and use that passion to fill a white space. Don’t be afraid of the challenges, the missteps, and the setbacks along the way. What matters is that you keep going.
                                                              — Kendra Scott

This trip was another attempt to fill in the blank spaces on the map, to push farther into areas where I'd already found crests ...

I began by sticking my nose into a saguaro-lined side canyon off a road I've traveled many times before. Sure enough, I spotted a big arm crest high in a side canyon. The ascent was a challenge, but the payoff was worth it:

Then it was on to a different area, driving a faint double-track to its end, then pushing on afoot to check out this ring crest that I'd gotten a tip on:

I made a loop back over the ridge to my Jeep. What's that I feel stuck to my boot? A devil's claw seed pod!

I named this rock formation "Contemplative Duck":

A tiny barrel cactus with huge spines:

A dead tree against sky was a stark and sober reminder that all is transitory:

Back on the road, I detoured to some mine ruins ... or the remains of a cattle operation? The story eluded me ... did someone's dreams die here?

My eye was pulled past boulder piles to distant volcanic mesas and mountain ranges:

I had a couple of hours of daylight before I needed to make camp, so I picked another ranch road from the map, one I'd never driven before. I began to think this was a misstep -- I reached the end of the road without spotting a single crest. But on the way out, I spotted this small roadside crest that I'd missed on the way in, next to a cattle tank:

I made it to an old familiar campsite before sunset. Nearby, I admired nolina yucca blossoms glowing in the last light of day:

... and later, those same yucca blossoms in deep twilight:

There has to be an invisible sun
That gives us hope when the whole day's done
                                                              — The Police, "Invisible Sun" (lyrics by Sting)

The next morning, I was up before sunrise to witness the planet Venus and the crescent moon floating in morning twilight:

Then it was on to my final destination for this trip ... an area of ridges and canyons above a creek, near where I'd had great luck with the cresties before. Sure enough, I quickly spotted this arm crest from the road ... the hike up to it was my jumping-off point into the wild:

At my feet I found a tiny fishhook pincushion cactus with fruits ... an unusual sight for January:

From the close to the far away ... I spotted this saguaro on a distant ridge ... cresting or just Y-tip? My telephoto lens could not disinguish — it will have to wait for another trip:

This Y-tip may crest out in the future, but for now I'll have to call it "not quite crested":

Tall Y-split on the opposite canyon wall ... always a clue that crests may be nearby:

Sure enough, I spotted this crested arm on a nearby slope, and the detour over to it was only a small setback to my up-canyon progress:

This saguaro across the canyon has the "cresting pattern" and might be forming a seam at its tip:

I debated whether this was a twin (shared-root) saguaro ... or two cresting saguaros right next to each other?

A steep and loose descent brought me to the "high point" of the day — a nice top-crest in the bottom of the canyon:

Then I had another steep scramble up the other side of the canyon to this Y-split saguaro. One side was crested, and the other side had a strong cresting pattern so it too may crest out in the future:

This entire area had many fine specimens of white quartz:

A different kind of mutant saguaro, with multiple gaps in the trunk:

At one point I heard footsteps in the wash below me ... turned out to be some cows who were startled by my arrival:

Toward the end of my loop hike, I debated whether to stay in the main wash or cut directly to my Jeep cross-country. I'm glad I stayed in the wash, because along it I found this small arm crest:

Also in the wash I found this natural artwork — a mesquite tree root cross-sectioned by the action of moving water and gravel:

After the hike, I paused at this cold and colorless creek crossing on the drive back to the highway:

For comparison, here's the same scene two months earlier, ablaze with fall colors:

The day and my stength depleted, I turned homeward onto the highway, pausing only to capture the dying embers of the sunset:

I've often wondered what it is that keeps me going. Sometimes the Crest Quest seems utimately pointless, unnecessarily torturous — or downright ridiculous! But then I begin to feel the pull again, drawing me towards those blank spaces and what lies undiscovered there. I remember the thrill I still get when I spot a crested saguaro that perhaps no one has ever seen before, and I get fired up all over again.

Then you walk to the window and stare at the moon
Riding high and lonesome through a starlit sky
And it comes to you how it all slips away
Youth and beauty are gone one day
No matter what you dream or feel or say
It ends in dust and disarray

Like wind on the plains, sand through the glass
Waves rolling in with the tide
Dreams die hard and we watch them erode
But we cannot be denied
The fire inside

                                                              — Bob Seger, "The Fire Inside"

Back to Crested Saguaro Society Crest Quest Reports page.

Revised: February 18, 2024
All photos copyright © 2024 Joe Orman