This afternoon, I went out for a hike on Pinnacle Peak. El Nino’s IMG_4148mild June temperatures made hiking easy this year (only 87F on the trail today vs. the normal of about 100F for June 10).  Which made for greater enjoyment and appreciation of the beautiful nature around this Scottsdale peak.

Like the towering Saguaros, for example. The giant depicted on the left and in the header image is over 60 ft tall. I photographed it just below Owl’s Rest, a spot on the trail right under the peak where I usually stop to play my flute.

As I did today, too. My only audience was a baby Woodpecker. He landed on a rock not more than six feet away and listened to El Condor Pasa and Amazing Grace.


How tall is 60 ft? Perhaps this comparison of a shot I took this afternoon to a 5-story building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin may help…

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AZ Honda 2009 Pinnacle PeakOf course, Saguaro has become an iconic image of the Arizona desert.  In fact, it’s even on our license plates.  But did you know that they ONLY grow in the Sonoran desert? IMG_4150Which means in southern Arizona.

Nowhere else in the United States, or even elsewhere in the state of Arizona, will you find the Saguaros.  They like it hot. Which means under 4,000 ft in elevation.

And yet here, on the Pinnacle Peak trail, they are almost as common as the big boulders that have given this this wonderful peak its name.IMG_4149

So the Saguaros are big and tall and strong and resilient to survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the Arizona desert.  But what do you think how long this beauty on the right is?

My guess? About as old as this country. Yes, when the United States of America was founded in 1776, this Saguaro was probably just a little baby.

IMG_4151Scottsdale park rangers have been kind enough to post this plaque on the trail that can help the visitors estimate the age of the giant cacti they see around them.

The Saguaro cactus grows as a column at a very slow rate, with all Saguaro_1growth occurring at the tip, or top of the cactus. It can take 10 years for a saguaro cactus to reach 1 inch in height. By 70 years of age, a saguaro cactus can reach 6 and a half feet tall, and will finally start to produce their first flowers. By 95-100 years in age, a saguaro cactus can reach a height of 15-16 feet, and could start to produce its first arm. By 200 years old, the saguaro cactus has reached its full height, reaching upwards of 45 feet tall.  The tallest saguaro cactus ever measured towered over 78 feet into the air.

The Saguaro cactus is a master of desert survival. Very little water is SAGUfruit_1instantly used. Instead, most of the water collected ends up being stored within the cactus to use during periods of drought. The interior of the cactus is filled with a sponge-like tissue, which is used to hold the water. As more and more water gets stored, the skin of the cactus begins to expand, making room for more storage.

As a result, the Saguaro cactus can become quite heavy. At full capacity, a foot of saguaro cactus can weigh upwards of 90 pounds, and a full height Saguaro can weigh over a ton.


There was something else I noticed today on the Pinnacle Peak trail for the first time.  About half way up the mountain, I noticed a sizable pile of rocks off to the left of the path.  They were evidently protecting the trail from erosion.

IMG_4152 Rock sign Pinnacle Peak

The rocks were evidently deposited there by the many hikers who had passed there before me. All it took to get that volunteer trail maintenance project going was a little sign that read “DROP ROCKS HERE.”

So on my way down the mountain, I picked up two rocks near the summit, and carried them  to this spot to add them to the pile.  Along the way, I used the rocks as dumb bells to work on my biceps.

“Killing two birds with one stone?”

Actually, two stones… and no bird in sight.

Oh, never mind.

One of the female hikers coming up the trail saw me carrying the rocks and exercising at the same time. She smiled and said something probably very nice. Alas, I could not hear her. I was listening to Tchaikovsky’s waltz in my headset.

Anyway, I was delighted to see this example of hiker community spirit.  It is our trail. We wreck it with our feet. So why not fix with our hands?

It was great to see so many rocks which testify about how many people care.

Pinnacle Peak header

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