Crested Saguaro Society
Crest Quest Reports
February 5 - 7, 2022 -- Western Arizona Mountain Ranges
Report by Joe Orman
Only those who will risk going too far
can possibly find out how far one can go.
-- T.S. Eliot
Every adventure starts similarly, but ends differently. I'd gotten a tips on a crested saguaro at the base of a mountain range in west-central Arizona, so on this trip I headed out to photograph it ... but first I wanted to explore another mountain range that was on the way.
On these outings, my standard operating procedure is to follow the Jeep roads along the base of the mountain range, and any spur roads that lead up into canyons. If I spot a crested saguaro, or there's a roadless canyon that looks inviting, I put on my hiking boots. On this trip, I drove for several luckless miles, but then on one particular spur road my binos picked out three crested saguaros! So I parked and made a loop hike to all three ... the first one was a small arm crest (Extend-O-Cam view).
The second of the three crested saguaro was this magnificent and rare Ring Crest, making a total of 90 rings that the Crested Saguaro Society has documented!
The third one was another smallish arm crest.
Another spur road brought me more luck ... another arm crest.
Nearby I also spotted a couple of Segmented Saguaros (aka jointed or watermelon saguaros), which I photographed from my Jeep.
I also spotted a rare Golden Saguaro, so I walked over to see it close up.
After camping for the night under the desert stars, I carefully coaxed my Jeep up a steep and narrow old mining road. Have I risked too much? Have I gone too far? No place to turn around, and no way to back up. Finally I reached the top of the pass and paused to let my heart stop pounding. Thankfully, an easier road led me down to the foothills on the other side of the mountain range. Once there, I found a high spot to survey the surroundings, and was pleasantly surprised to see this huge arm crest just a few hundred feet away (Extend-O-Cam view).
Nearby, I found another arm crest -- this one small, dead, and decaying. Not only did this give me a rare opportunity to see the skeleton of a crest, but by my count this is also the 2000th crested saguaro I've photographed!).
I continued my slow dance along this side of the mountain range -- rocking and rolling on the foothill straightaways, dipping through washes, and twisting up canyons. Along the way, my eagle eye (and trusty binoculars) picked out three arm crests at varying distances off the road. This small one was just a stone's throw away.
As was this one ...
This medium-size arm crest, however, was way up a steep side-canyon and required quite a scramble ... it was worth the effort.
I returned to my Jeep via a ridge with expansive views out over canyon and bajada. Saw these old mine shacks across the way; I didn't hike over to them but my telephoto lens got the shot.
Finally it was time to drive a pipeline road across a wide, empty desert valley to the other mountain range. There, I photographed the handsome top-crest I'd had a tip on (Extend-O-Cam view).
After a late-afternoon scramble up to a ridge to gaze out over the scenic but crestless saguaro forest, I found a good campsite. Apparently the previous resident had quite a fondness for whiskey (I took all the bottles home and recycled them).
I was enraptured by beautiful twilight colors as night fell on the peaceful desert.
Making my way back to pavement in morning light, I spotted one last small arm crest (Extend-O-Cam view).
On the drive home, I decided to make a quick stop at a third mountain range. I'd previously found at least a half-dozen crests in this small range (all top-crests!), and wanted to hike a couple of canyons I hadn't yet poked my nose into. Sure enough, I found another beautiful top-crest!
Yes, every crest-hunting adventure ends differently, but they all end with the satisfaction of new discoveries and time well-spent -- and that's how this adventure ended. I hope you enjoyed the trip!
Revised: July 8, 2022