Crested Saguaro Society

Crest Quest Reports

February 22 - 24, 2023 Superior Crests

Report by Joe Orman


As slightly as the Rates of Stars
Ourselves alseep below
We know that their superior Eyes
Include Us as they go

                                      Emily Dickenson, 1863

I'd always assumed the small mining town of Superior, Arizona had gotten its name from the fact that it's at a slightly higher elevation than the nearby Phoenix metropolitan area. Now I learn that it was actually named after the Lake Superior and Arizona Copper Company (LS&A). Whatever the origins of its name, I've always found it to be a superior region for hiking, four-wheeling, photography, camping ... and crest-hunting! This time I returned to the area because I'd gotten a tip on a small arm crest on a saguaro beside one of the hiking trails.

As I hiked in on the trail, I hurried because the sun was getting close to the horizon. But I paused long enough to glass the surrounding hillsides with my binoculars, and spotted this glomerate saguaro:

... and then another, even bigger glomerate saguaro:

I soon arrived at the little arm crest I'd had a tip on (thanks to Harry Ford for forwarding the tip!):

As I returned to the trailhead, I had a breathtaking view of the last daylight on the cliffs of Picketpost Mountain. Looking at the mountain now, it's hard to believe that when I was a younger man, I followed a route in the center of this photo all the way to the top of the mountain!

As the sun was setting, I hurried to find a back-road campsite and make camp before dark. That evening, I was treated to the twilight dance of the crescent moon and the planets Jupiter and Venus (Venus is the brighter of the two, to the lower right):

The next morning I decided to hike to a nearby arm-crested saguaro I'd photographed from a distance two years previously. On the hike in, I passed this Y-split mutant saguaro:

And this red-tailed hawk screeched to let me know I was getting too close to its nearby nest:

This is the arm crest ... nice to finallly see it close up!

That saguaro was on the side of a hill ... I scrambled up to the top of the hill to take a look around and saw another arm crest on the next ridge over!

Once atop that ridge, I looked down the other side and saw another arm crest! Extend-O-Cam view:

Then I took a long, looping hike back into the saguaro-covered hills. On the hike, I spotted the upper part of a javelina skull. I looked around carefully, and sure enough a about a hundred feet away I found the lower jaw ... they fit together perfectly:

I didn't see any other cresties until my binos picked out this one ... yet another arm crest. It turned out to be on the side of the ridge I'd been on earlier ... I'd walked within a couple hundred feet of it without spotting it!

Lastly, I returned to my Jeep and drove closer to a hillside across a creek, where I thought I'd seen another arm crest. Yep, it turned out to be a beauty! Extend-O-Cam view:

That makes six crested saguaros photographed on this trip ... all arm crests, and five of them within a 1/3-mile radius! I've always known crests tend to grow in clusters, but I've also noticed that sometimes those clusters comprise only arm crests (or only top crests). This is one of the mysteries about crested saguaros that hopefully genetic science will someday answer!

That evening I took another side road and made another peaceful camp under desert skies. The next day, on the drive home, I paused along the freeway to get an updated photo of this crested saguaro I'd documented four years previously (it's on private fenced property, so a telephoto shot is the best I can do):

As so often happens, I ended this trip with the feeling of having my expectations exceeded. Whatever the locale, finding new crested saguaros always turns a good outing into a superior experience!

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Revised: April 2, 2023