I had originally intended to share the last bit of Arizona photos a few weeks ago, but then life happened. So here we are now, instead! Georgia’s sudden drop back into the 30’s after such a lovely stretch of Spring weather has me missing Arizona and this hike in particular. The Superstitions are east of Phoenix and just a short drive from my mom’s apartment. We knew we wanted to go on a hike during my visit but hadn’t decided on exactly where we would go. Once we found out there was a scheduled ranger-led hike Saturday morning our choice was made! Exploring sans instruction can be fun but I often prefer to go on at least one guided tour when I’m in a new area; I love learning and you just can’t beat a hike where you learn all kinds of cactus facts from Ranger Diana along the way.
Speaking of cacti, I love them. In case you hadn’t noticed from the blog design, cacti are some of my favorite plants. The woods and granite slab (lovingly nicknamed “The Rock”) by my parents’ house have lots of different moss, lichen, and tiny baby cacti that I had to watch out for growing up. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to geek out on some cacti facts now.
This is the jumping cholla (Spanish pronunciation). It’s also called the hanging chain cholla from the way the fruit grows in chains from the branches. The nickname “jumping” comes from the way the little cactus pods detach themselves; they are removed very easily by strong wind or if an animal or person brushes against them. Wherever they fall, a new cholla will take root and grow. It’s pretty common to see little cholla “forests” because of this, but a cholla could also hitch a ride on the back of an unsuspecting victim and create a new cholla patch when it eventually falls back off. With these guys around you have to be watchful of your dogs and of stepping backwards; the cholla spines have tiny microscopic barbs which make removal very difficult and not exactly pain-free. Diana told us of an incident where a poor pup was snagged with a cholla and then in a panic managed to cover himself in them! ):
The Saguaro is the plant that usually comes to mind when you picture a cactus. They are the largest cactus of the United States and can grow to be quite tall (up to ~70 feet) and quite heavy (~3500-4500 pounds). They live to 150-200 years (in the right growing conditions, and if they are not poached – did you know people want to poach and sell these things on the black market?!). A Saguaro without arms is called a “spear” (or “spiky pickle” if your name is Rachel); they don’t grow their first arm until they are at least 75-90 years old and after that they can grow up to 25 arms!