More Saguaro than Saguaro

After a couple weeks of hard isolation in the Omicron wave, bracing for when I’d have to go back to classes, the most dangerous thing I do in this pandemic…. When we were ready to see people again, we didn’t want to risk a meal indoors. Instead, we decided on a light hike.

We found ourselves back in Tucson Mountain Park this morning, but instead of our usual route, we took the Tucson Estates Trail most of the way up to the Yetman Trail.

It was a nice route, relatively flat except the far end, with some nice vistas.

What struck me most, even from the beginning of this route, was that despite the name of Saguaro National Park, there seem to be a lot more saguaro per acre here in Tucson Mountain Park. This land has actually been in conservation under county and philanthropic oversight for a dozen years longer, since 1920, and unlike the national park, cattle were never allowed to roam and trample baby cacti here throughout Tucson Mountain Park’s hundred years of conservancy.

Cactus Wren

I’m pretty sure that’s what this guy was — I’ve heard a lot of them in Tucson Mountain Park, but don’t often get my eyes on one.

Cholla and Jojoba

There’s something magical about cholla and sunlight. When the sun strikes the closely clustered spines of the cholla, seemingly from any angle because of the density and everywhere-all-at-once of the spines, the combination creates this amazing nimbus of golden light.

As silvery as these leaves are, my first thought was that the bushes must be sage, but our hiking companion says they’re jojoba.

Whatever they are, they’re beautiful, and abundant along the trail and in every direction.

I don’t know what this one is at all, but it was quite pretty, all dried up in the desert winter.

The trail was deep in some places — it’s been here quite some time.

This walk had me thinking a lot about nurse trees, too. About how the saguaro who survive are often nurtured beneath a mesquite or, in this stretch of desert, a palo verde tree that shades them from the worst of the sun, and perhaps from marauding hooves as well. Now that I know what to look for, I felt like I was seeing them everywhere.

It was a beautiful walk. I have yet to find a time of year that isn’t a beautiful time for a desert stroll, and this time of year it’s not prohibitively hot!

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