I don’t love getting up before sunrise but I love being up before sunrise. If only there was a way to enjoy the desert dawn without getting out of bed. I was hiking along the Hackamore Trail with the sun not yet risen and liked the serenity of the dried flowers on the long flower stalk of a soaptree yucca set against the pink and purple western sky. What a blessing it is to be in the desert as the day breaks, may it always bring me joy.
The old saguaros are warriors. It’s remarkable they can survive in this climate at all, astounding they can do it while sustaining heavy damage. I don’t know how recent the damage to the base of this cactus is but as you can tell from its long shadow it is still growing at a great height with a couple of the iconic arms near the top (the arms usually don’t start growing for 50 to 100 years, depending on the amount of rain). I saw one saguaro that had fallen over and little remained except a short stump, but enough of the internal plumbing and root system survived that a new arm was growing. I hope they prove a metaphor for my country, for all the damage it has sustained and with more to come, I hope the promise of America overcomes its reality.
This saguaro offered up a bouquet of flowers near sunrise on Mother’s Day. I had hopes of photographing it again with all the flowers open but by the time I could return the following Saturday, all of the blossoms were gone and I learned another fact about my new home. The flowers only last about a day, first opening at night to attract bats with their nectar and closing the following afternoon after the bees and birds have had their fill. If pollinated during that short window, the fruit below will develop during the summer.
My first impression after hiking with saguaros was of redwoods. Of massive lifeforms with an outsized impact on their environment. Of warriors, long-lived giants, their struggles written on their skin. Yet for all of that a surprisingly shallow root system. Saguaros have a central tap root that grows down but the rest of their roots radiate outward a handful of inches below the surface, soaking up every bit of rainwater they can. Sometimes erosion exposes these shallow roots, as on this old saguaro at sunrise on the Vaquero Trail, Brown’s Mountain rising in the background.