Crested Saguaro Society

Crest Quest Reports

April 24 - 26, 2024 'Round Tucson with CSS Friends

Report by Joe Orman


Older and wiser voices can help you find the right path, if you are only willing to listen.
                                                              Jimmy Buffett

Most of my crest-hunting outings are done solo, but this trip was mostly in the company of other members of the Crested Saguaro Society ... and adventures are definitely better when shared with friends!

This trip began as I made the long drive to the community of SaddleBrooke north of Tucson, where Harry Ford gave a crested saguaro presentation at the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club meeting. Also in attendance were CSS members Cindy Herron, Pat Hammes, and Ted Codding. Harry's gave an updated version of the PowerPoint that the late Bob Cardell presented many times over the years, and was a great success the audience was very enthusiastic and showed genuine interest in learning about crested saguaros.

Click on the image below to see the YouTube video of Harry's presentation:

After the meeting adjourned, Harry invited me over to his house, where his wife Caraleen joined us for a relaxing chat on their back patio. They showed me several specimens of small crested cactus in their back yard; unfortunately I didn't have a camera! That night I threw down my sleeping bag at a spot in the nearby desert where I'd camped several times before. Early the next morning, I joined Harry and a homeowner in a nearby gated community. Before our hike, I snapped an updated photo of the cresting saguaro in her front yard that we've been watching crest out for over a year:

Along the trail we saw a fantastic variety of wildflowers! Here's a Mariposa lily:

Desert chichory ... or tackstem ... I never can tell them apart:

Our hike topped out on a ridge, where we took updated telephoto shots of a crested saguaro farther along the ridge (Bob and Pat's C1805) but didn't hike over to it:

Photos dating back to 2011:

Desert sunflowers:

Our goal was a crested saguaro I'd spotted with binoculars from the street two months earlier; close-up it turned out to be a nice crest:

Ocotillo blossoms:

This bush was bursting with purple blossoms:

Strawberry hedgehog:

A few of the saguaros were already blooming:

On the hike back, we detoured to this saguaro that I'd found on a 2012 hike with the late Gary Borax and a couple of his friends; it has crested out nicely since then:

Lavender thistle:

Phacelia, aka fiddleneck or scorpionweed:

Fairy duster:

Mexican gold poppies:

After the hike and giving our thanks to the homeowner, Harry and I drove to a nearby neighborhood where he'd gotten a tip on this crested saguaro in a front yard:

Next, Harry led me to a park where he'd found a very rare "ring crest" barrel cactus (I only know of one other in existence!):

On the same pathway, Harry showed me this saguaro which has several prickly pear cactuses growing out of it!

After saying goodbye to Harry, as I was driving out of the neighborhood I spotted what I thought might be a crested barrel cactus. However, when I parked and walked over to it, I deemed it "mutated but not quite crested":

Since I was in the area, I made a slight detour and took an updated photo of this double-crest that Phil found more than a year ago:

Driving across town, I paused and took an updated photo of this roadside saguaro that had just started cresting when I first spotted it back in 2018:

I then entered Saguaro National Park, where I took a short hike just off the road. Here, the smaller cactus were nicely in bloom. Prickly pear:


More prickly pears:

A Y-split saguaro, a sign that the cresting gene is in the local saguaro population:

I was trying to find Bob and Pat's crested saguaro C832, but at the given coordinates I found their mutant/multiple-Y C830 instead:

A bit farther down the road, I parked and took the short walk over to this magnificent crested saguaro which I hadn't photographed in almost five years:

It's been 8 years since I photographed this one; I didn't hike over to it, but based on this telephoto shot it's grown quite a bit:

As I continued my drive, I soon entered Tucson Mountain Park and took a longer hike from the road. I saw more prickly pears in bloom:

... and more chollas:

My first stop on the loop hike was Bob and Pat's C997 crested saguaro; unfortunately I found it down:

Bob and Pat's 2008 photo:

... but C998 was still standing tall:

I didn't find anything at the coordinates for C999; I would have seen the tall top crest if it was anywhere nearby, so it must be down. Here's Bob and Pat's 2008 photo:

I had to stand on tippy-toes to get this shot of a saguaro blossom on a drooping arm:

Lastly, I made one more short hike to visit Bob and Pat's C1055 arm crest, but I also found it down, the skeleton of the crest decaying on the ground:

Bob and Pat's 2008 photo:

After setting up camp at the park's campground, I watched the twilight deepen in the west. Here's the planet Venus over my tent:

Not long after, an almost-full moon rose in the east:

The next morning, as I drove away from the campground, I noticed a newly-crested saguaro just off the road. I parked, ran over to it, and did my duty documented it!

Then I met Harry and Ted at an area with a network of hiking trails that are popular with hikers and mountain-bikers. Our goal was for Harry to show us three crested saguaros he'd found a few months earlier ... and I would show Harry and Ted some that I'd photographed in previous years. As we started our grand-tour hike, we passed this triple or quadruple shared-root saguaro:

Our first crested saguaro was this oddity, which has been photographed many times over the years since it's right next to a popular trail:

Nearby, Harry pointed out this golden saguaro with one golden (variegated) arm:

Also very close by, Harry showed us the first of his three new crests:

Continuing our loop hike, we kept an eye out for mutant/Y-split saguaros:

At one point, we detoured up a wash to visit this crested saguaro I'd found more than five years earlier:

From the trail, we noticed this big crested saguaro in the distance; I recognized it as one I'd found thirteen years earlier. This telephoto shot shows that it's crested out a lot in those years:

2011 photos:

We came to another trailside crested saguaro (Bob and Pat's C1049):

In this photo, Harry re-photographs the second of his new crests:

And a short distance away, the third and final of Harry's new crests:

We saw a small herd of deer crossing a nearby hillside:

Harry also showed us another quadruple shared-root he'd found:

Our loop hike continued on a ridge trail, which took us past this crested saguaro I'd documented four years earlier:

Here's Ted checking out Bob and Pat's C1048:

Making our way back to the parking lot, we passed this good example of a "barber-pole" or spiral saguaro:

... and we passed through an area rich with blooming chollas:

Driving away from the trailhead, we pulled over to the side of the road so I could show Harry and Ted this crested saguaro I'd found more than five years earlier the crest has grown quite a bit in that time!

Our last stop was a Mexican restaurant, where we toasted a succesful day and planned for the future. Then we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. As I drove homeward, I gave silent thanks for all the ways that the Crested Saguaro Society has enriched my journeys over the years thanks to all for sharing the Crest Quest!

If I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
                                                              Isaac Newton

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Revised: July 4, 2024
All photos copyright © 2024 Joe Orman