Friday, January 6, 2012

Cacti. Cactuses. Whatever.

I’m having a hard time getting back into the blogging mode.  But it reinforces my memories, so here goes:  What we’ve been up to is learning about the saguaro forests, home to those amazing cactus. Cacti.  Cactuses.  Whatever. 
Earlier this week we hiked at Catalina State Park just north of Tucson.  Thursday and Friday we went to Saguaro National Forest, only 10 miles from our camping spot at the Air Force base.  We’ll be going back to both but will probably be making more trips to the National Forest; it has guided educational hikes, films, and we get in for free because Jim has his $10 National Parks “Old Guy” pass.  Plus it’s an amazing place. More info and many photos below.
Bev at Catalina State Park, just north of Tucson and on the western slope of the Catalina Mountains. In the early 1970s the area was slated to be golf courses and housing development, but there was so much opposition that the plan was put on hold.  After a lot of hassle, law suits, etc, it was opened to the public as a state park in 1983.
At Saguaro National Forest we took a guided hike.  Our volunteer guide was Neil Travis, a retired municipal judge from Montana.  He did a great job.
We were told that saguaros (pronounced sah-WAW-rows) grow best on slopes.  The cactus have acordian-like pleats that expand to hold water and their root system is only about three inches below the ground and stretches as far as the cactus is high.  This photo was taken at Catalina State Park.
More saguaros at Catalina State Park. Saguaros only grow wild in the Sonoran Desert, which covers parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, northwest Mexico, and Baja California.
Jim, Cooper and the saguaros.  A saguaro begins to grow branches (arms) when its between 50 and 100 years old.   The saguaros seen here behind Jim are probably between 100 and 150 years old.
It takes a saguaro 5 to 10 years to reach one inch in height; it may get as tall as 50 feet. They sprout and grow near what are called "nurse trees" that provide shade needed by the baby cactus.
Another shot at Catalina State Park.  There is a proposal to change the overnight use fee (with electric hook ups) at Arizona state parks from $25 to $50.  That would be the highest state park fee we've encountered.
Jim getting creative. 
This giant cactus at Saguaro National Forest was was hit by lightening last summer.  Prolonged frost -- frost that lasts longer than 20 hours -- can kill them, too.  
There are about 1.8 million saguaros at Saguaro National Forest.
A saguaro with a newly sprouted arm. 
One in every several thousand saguaros sprouts a "crest" at the top for unknown reasons.  This crested cactus was at Saguaro National Forest; a  bigger shot of the same cactus is below.

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