Those “Elusive” Crested Saguaros

We needed to get some hook-ups for laundry, tanks emptied, and water filled, so we lit out from Hot Well Dunes and headed into Benson, AZ for a couple days at the SKP park there. Besides those aforementioned chores, I got to knock off a few layers of boondock dirt from the Jeep and the motorhome. And we got a chance to catch up with our friends from Arkansas, Steve and Christy, who were fresh back from a month in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Chores and visit complete, it was time to get back to some good ol’ dirt campin’ (aka: boondocking).

One question that pops up every now and then is how do we pick our boondocking spots. There are various “free camping” type web sites out there right at your fingertips. One of our most used is a web site for Escapee RV Club members called “Days End”. It is some 800+ pages listing state-by-state, city-by-city, entries made and updated by Escapee members, for free or lowest cost camping sites. Jeanne also is very involved in following several fellow RV-er blogs in which they can get very detailed with descriptions and directions to some pretty astounding locations. And then there is the old fashioned method—conversations with other humans.

This is what it looks like on planning day for our next boondock spot...

This is what it looks like on planning day for our next boondock spot…

So Jeanne found a place outside of Tucson called Snyder Hill, a popular boondocking location on a piece of BLM land. We arrived and found that it definitely was popular, there were probably thirty or so campers scattered about on a several acre plot at the base of Snyder Hill. It was a little weird, “boondocking” within minutes of a Costco, Walmart, Trader Joe’s (in other words, close to downtown Tucson).

Mountaintop view of our boondocks spot at Snyder Hill, Tucson, AZ

Mountaintop view of our boondocks spot at Snyder Hill, Tucson, AZ

We found a city park on a mountain, Sentinel Peak Park, which afforded great overall views of the Tucson area. Now, ever since we were here in Tucson last December, we have been on a mission. Back then, at the Desert Museum, we had our first encounter with a crested saguaro. These are uncommon in nature where the normal growth of the saguaro is stunted, for lack of a better term. Science cannot explain them, but they are very unique to see and I have heard different stories that you come across one crested saguaro for every 2,000-10,000 saguaros. Remaining in this southwest area of the U.S.A., there has been no lack of saguaro cacti, but up to now, alas, no crested saguaros. But, on our ride up the hill to Sentinel Peak, wouldn’t you know it, we spy not one, but TWO cresties, right off the roadway! This little excursion was capped off by some nice views over the city. The only downer of it all is that it also exposed some of that great orange air everyone had to breathe (smog!)

IMG_8597

Here’s crested saguaro #1 on the way to Sentinel Peak Park.

IMG_8607

And here’s crested saguaro #2 on the way to Sentinel Peak Park…

OK, it's not a crested saguaro, but it is a saguaro on acid...

OK, it’s not a crested saguaro, but it is a saguaro on acid…

IMG_1241

Great view. Oh yeah, you can see some of the city down below, too…

IMG_1247

Let’s all enjoy breathing this orange air…

While still in Tucson we also got to meet up with friends and former co-workers Jim and Stacey who were on their way across country. After a quick visit with them we headed out to Why, AZ. And now that we had a taste of seeing crested saguaros out in the wild, we were that much more on the hunt. Well, spit in the wind and tell me it’s rainin’, as we were putzing down the skinny two-lane highway through the reservation, with no pull-outs and cars lined up behind me, there we spy another two crested saguaros just off the road. “&$%#@ !!!!!!!” No chance for pictures…

We found a larger piece of BLM land called Gunsite Wash just south of “town” on Hwy. 85, a few miles north of Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument. Lots of room, lots of sites, and the price was right, as usual. A quick recon of the area (Why, AZ and Ajo, AZ) revealed two extremely podunk, nothing towns, centered around mining. But we were set up nicely for some exploring in Organ Pipe. And we found out it would be at least a couple of days needed for the park, it had a couple of driving loops, one was about a 3 hour, 21 mile drive through forests of cacti, and the other was a 4-6 hour longer loop into the mountains and down along the border fence.

Our home at Gunsite Wash, just left of the "welcome" sign.

Our home at Gunsite Wash, just left of the “welcome” sign.

The sun rises on a new day at Gunsite Wash.

The sun rises on a new day at Gunsite Wash.

Our first adventure was the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Drive loop. OK, now I can’t take it any more. On our drive to the park and visitor’s center, right off the main highway there they were. Not one, but TWO crested saguaros! This has now officially turned me loony-tunes! I am having serious flash-backs to my days of flying dope. For those of you uninitiated folks, “flying dope” means law enforcement aerial reconnaissance for cannabis under cultivation. (For those of you even MORE uninitiated folks, cannabis is ganja/blunt/smoke/weed/reefer/marijuana.) Anyways, when we were flying dope, we would get ourselves worked up into a frenzy immediately upon “seeing green.” Bouncing all over the helicopter or plane, screeming like coyotes, generally making the pilots nervous. Well, let the flashbacks commence, looking for cresties has the adrenaline equivalent of looking for dope. One thing we did not know is that saguaro cacti are not the only ones that can be crested. The organ pipe cacti also can become crested. So on the loop we went. Gorgeous views, tons o’ cacti. And, really, crested cacti are hard to find in the wild. But Oh-My-Gosh! Tally at the end—(3) crested organ pipes, (2) crested saguaros on the road into the park, and as fate would have it, (1) more crested saguaro spotted on the drive out, total of (6) cresties for the day!!!! Add to that excitement (1) young Javelina crossing our path and it made for one productive trip into Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument.

Crested saguaro #3, on the way into the Organ Pipe Cactus Nat'l Monument.

Crested saguaro #3, on the way into the Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument.

A closer view...

A closer view…

Crested saguaro #4, on the way into Organ Pipe Nat'l Monument...

Crested saguaro #4, on the way into Organ Pipe Nat’l Monument…

A Javelina checking us out.

A Javelina checking us out.

Just one of the many desert flowers starting to bloom...

Just one of the many desert flowers starting to bloom…

A view of the Ajo Mountains.

A view of the Ajo Mountains.

Jeanne pointing out crested organ pipe cactus #1.

Jeanne pointing out crested organ pipe cactus #1.

A closer view...

A closer view…

The arch of Arch Canyon.

The arch of Arch Canyon.

Crested organ pipe cactus #2. There are (3) clusters, the one in the middle is a bit obscured in this shot.

Crested organ pipe cactus #2. There are (3) clusters, the one in the middle is a bit obscured in this shot.

Crested organ pipe #3.

Crested organ pipe #3.

Crested saguaro #3 for the day. Total of (6) all day.

Crested saguaro #3 for the day. Total of (6) all day.

Day 1 ends in a blaze of glory...

Day 1 ends in a blaze of glory…

Day 2 found us taking the Puerto Blanco Drive loop. It is about 40+ miles up into some mountains, then a stretch along the border “fence” and Mexico Hwy. 2. I use the term “fence” loosely, it is a pretty sad state of affairs as far as keeping people out or in. And of course, now I think I feel like Ted Cruz in the presidential race…everyone calling him a liar…the Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument is making a liar out of me. On our drive today we encountered (3) crested organ pipe cacti and (5) crested saguaros. So much for cresties being uncommon in nature…This was a nice Jeep ride, the road a little rough in spots and high clearance helped. We were also on the lookout for pronghorn and bighorn sheep, but with them we got skunked. It was a veritable forest of cacti though…

Day 2 begins...

Day 2 begins…

Crestie #1 for the day. Organ pipe...

Crestie #1 for the day. Organ pipe…

Crestie #2. Saguaro...

Crestie #2. Saguaro…

Jeanne at play in her temporary back yard.

Jeanne at play in her temporary back yard.

Crestie #3, an organ pipe...

Crestie #3, an organ pipe…

Crestie #4, an organ pipe...

Crestie #4, an organ pipe…

Crestie #5, organ pipe...

Crestie #5, an organ pipe…

Border Patrol, disguised as a Red Tailed Hawk...

Border Patrol, disguised as a Red Tailed Hawk…

This is our real effective border fence?

This is our real effective border fence? Mexico Hwy. 2 in the background…

Crestie #6, a saguaro...

Crestie #6, a saguaro…

Crestie #7, another saguaro...

Crestie #7, another saguaro…

Crestie #8, a saguaro...

Crestie #8, a saguaro…

And FINALLY (!) crest #9, a saguaro. Is it time to leave the southwest yet?

And FINALLY (!) crestie #9 for the day, a saguaro. Is it time to leave the southwest yet?

Tomorrow is moving day again, time to head in to Casa Grande for tank dumps, water fill, laundry, and mail pickup. Until next post, how many cresties can YOU find? (I see the dang things in my sleep!!!!!)

About rvrrat520

Recreational wanderers just livin' the dream while we can still get vertical.
This entry was posted in Arizona and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Those “Elusive” Crested Saguaros

  1. Tami Soler says:

    The sunrise and sunset were downright gorgeous. Thanks for the education on crested Organ Pipe and Saguaro cactus. I’ll have to be on the look out for these uniques shaped cactus whenever I get to the southwest. Enjoy!

  2. Linda Swanson says:

    Thank you for posting these photos of the Crested Saguaro. I’ve lived in AZ for a year an am fascinated by the beauty of these mysterious mutations. I’m just beginning the quest for the crested. Have only seen 3 in person so far. Would love to see more of your discoveries.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s