Crested Saguaro Society

Crest Quest Reports

January 19 - 22, 2024 Near Florence (Dreamed Landscapes)

Report by Joe Orman


Let us vanish into the grayness of the desert and see what lies beyond the purple veil.
                                                              Stephen H. Willard, photographer

Once again I returned to these crest-hunting grounds, which always seem new yet vaguely familiar. This time I made my journey into the desert late at night, in the time when most are dreaming, and made camp after midnight.

In morning light, I ascended a nearby hill from which I phototographed a big possibly crested saguaro 3 years earlier. The telephoto image from that day is indistinct but tantalizing:

On this day, I took a bearing and vowed to hike to this mystery saguaro far out in the desert. On the hike, a red-tailed hawk screeched mocking my delusional quest?

A Y-split saguaro tantalized me ... occupying the vague boundary between normal and crested:

My beeline route happened to take me right by this crested saguaro I'd found six years earlier, so I took an updated photo:

After a couple of miles of hiking, not sure whether the big saguaro was a mirage or I didn't hike far enough, I altered my course and began a somewhat-random route based more on intuition than the compass a walkabout, if you will. As always, the desert held enough other delights to justify the length of any journey. This fallen giant provided a good opportunity to admire the normally-hidden sculpture that is the root structure of a saguaro:

Farther on, a close-up of the rib structure of a standing saguaro skeleton makes another abstract artwork:

Another saguaro that defies easy classification:

No reverie is long free from the intrusion of civilization ... an unfired round near a cattle tank:

A brief flash of red brought me back to the natural world a Gila woodpecker on its prickly perch:

My random path turned into another beeline, to check up on one of Bob & Pat's finds. As I neared the location, I spotted the silhouette of this saguaro that I thought might be it, but it turned out to be a different crest:

Nearby I found the Bob & Pat saguaro (C741), still standing more than 16 years later:

A phainopepla, caught in the instant between noticing me and taking flight:

My way was sometimes blocked by a nightmare tangle of cholla:

Only a few hundred feet along the route back to my Jeep, I found another new crest:

Nearby, I spotted a big new crest and detoured over to it making four crested saguaros within 1/3 mile!

I happened to come across another rarity a short golden saguaro, also known as a variegated saguaro:

This saguaro is unusual in three ways: it's a Y-split trunk, it has a large tumorous growth, and (to the lower right of the "tumor") it has a pincushion cactus growing in the split!

Occasionally, a cholla joint hitches a ride on me, but fortunately never on my nose!

After arriving back at the Jeep, the road took me past the multi-crested saguaro I called "Christmas Tree" because I discovered it on December 25, 2020. But the desert is forever poised between life and death, and unfortunately I found it down:

Another sad sight ... the next crested saguaro on my list (Bob and Pat's C740) was also down:

Even in death, there is delight ... sizing up a saguaro "boot"!

As evening passes into night, firelight fade into the darkness and waking thoughts fade into dreams much as Bob Dylan's lyrics "take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind, down the foggy ruins of time ..."

"... far past the frozen leaves, the haunted frightened trees ..."

The artist's business is to produce for the spectator of his pictures the impression produced by nature on himself.
                                                              Thomas Moran

In the cold light of morning, the quest continues ... a double-Y saguaro near my campsite:

From my Jeep, I took this updated photo of a roadside arm crest I'd found two years earlier:

Another red-tailed hawk is my only company:

I parked and hiked to the location of Bob and Pat's C1814, but found nothing at the coordinates ... am I at the wrong spot, or has all trace disappeared? Bob and Pat's 2011 photo:

I also hiked to Bob and Pat's C737, but when I saw it I realized it was the same saguaro that Murphy Lynch had led Harry and me to 4 years earlier, which Murphy called "Avery":

I also re-photographed Bob and Pat's C1828, which Murphy had also shown us, and which he called "Hachita":

Another short hike brought me to Bob and Pat's C1829, a strange little crest:

A tall double-Y ... or would that be a "W"?

The gloomy, overcast day blurs into a repeating pattern of drives and short hikes ... this one brought me to Bob and Pat's C718:

Nearby, I found that Bob and Pat's C718 was down:

I revisited the crested saguaro I call "Dominator," which I discovered in 2017. It was time for an updated photo:

A stone's throw away is this saguaro that I've been watching since 2017, hoping it would crest out but it looks like it has settled into being a Y-split:

Right beside the most well-traveled dirt road in the area, I spotted this saguaro just starting to crest out. I predict within a few years it will be a beautiful big crest, and will be photographed by many passersby:

Cloudy weather had turned to a drizzle, so the next two photos were taken from my Jeep. This is "Twisted Illusions" (also known as Ted's CSS096 and Bob and Pat's C631):

Photos dating back to 2004:

This segmented saguaro is called "Mr. Bojangles" and was found by Murphy Lynch:

Harry's great 2020 photo:

Another road and another short hike in a light rain brought me to this rare ring crest that Bob and Pat had found back in 2007 (C742):

Another Bob and Pat 2007 discovery (C743), which I also found years later and another updated telephoto shot taken from my Jeep:

Before my dirt road dream ended and the hard reality of pavement began, I spotted one last newbie crest:

The next day, on the drive home, I stopped in a neighborhood to photograph this crested barrel cactus thanks to Rick Scott and Tom Modzden for the tip!

I hope my photos were able to make you feel some of the elation and sadness (and everything in between) that I felt on this journey. If they have, even in some small way, then I have succeeded.

Perhaps I seek certain utopian things, space for human honor and respect, landscapes not yet offended, planets that do not exist yet, dreamed landscapes. Very few people seek these images today, which correspond to the time we live in, pictures that can make you understand yourself, your position today, our status of civilization. I am one of the ones who try to find those images.
                                                              Werner Herzog

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Revised: March 28, 2024
All photos copyright © 2024 Joe Orman