The Saguaro’s Point of View in Tucson


As I hiked through Bear Canyon, I wondered if I would actually see a bear. I didn’t. But I saw plenty of cacti. On the hike to Seven Falls, each of the various shapes and sizes of saguaros made me […]

As I hiked through Bear Canyon, I wondered if I would actually see a bear. I didn’t. But I saw plenty of cacti.

On the hike to Seven Falls, each of the various shapes and sizes of saguaros made me think of individual people.  People who have lived for decades or even a couple hundred years. Imagine how much happens in that kind of lifetime.

It takes 75 years to grow an arm. The saguaro cactus lives most of it’s life armless. Imagine all the things a saguaro has seen just in the first half of it’s armless life.

I realize I have an imagination, and most people probably just see the cacti as prickly plants as they hike through the Arizona desert.  When I hike, I think of strange things.  It’s easy to do since you are in the outdoors with your mind free to wander, not being distracted from your busy life of computers, TV’s, and smart phones.

On this particular hike to Seven Falls, near Tucson, I wondered what it would be like to live in the Sonoran desert as cacti, and what things each particular cactus has seen in her lifetime. Silly.  But when I came upon Grand Daddy of ‘em all (this thing was huge), I thought of this idea.  This cactus had to be over 150 years old. Meaning in 1900, it was older than me!

Through the Eyes of Grand Daddy Saguaro

GD (Grand Daddy)* sits by himself with over twenty arms of different lengths sprouting in various directions. I imagine the younger cacti gathering at his feet at night, listening to his stories.

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In his lifetime, he has seen cacti grow up all around him. Then some of them die off, turning into dried skeletons. Prickly pear and barrel cacti come and go along with la cholla at his feet.

Birds that have hatched, grown up, and died of old age – for generations. When he was a young adult, he may have even seen boulders crash down around him during the Mexico earthquake of 1887.

The cactus’s first glimpse of hikers may have not happened until the early 1900′s, but I am sure he has seen his fair share of cowboys and ranchers trek through the canyon. Watched the hippies in the 60′s and 70′s, the big hair and leggings in the 80′s, and a couple generations since.

His photo has been taken dozens, if not hundreds of times, always in the same pose.

Many hikers walk right past him, without realizing the magnificence of this towering plant.  The goal of many is getting to Seven Falls, without stopping to notice the fields of cactus and other plants that cover Sabino Canyon.

I took this hike in the fall, so I can only imagine the cactus flowers that sprout in late spring. Being over 40 feet tall, GD can glimpse the blooms that sprout for hundreds of yards around him, season after season. I wonder how different the perspective was when he only stood ten feet tall.

This is a silly story, I know. But a perspective I doubt many have considered. If you are in Tucson, I encourage you to take this hike or other hundreds of hikes available through the Arizona Sonoran desert.  If you make it to the Bear Canyon trail, tell GD hello. And take his picture – he’s not shy.

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* Grand Daddy is a fictitious name and cactus don’t really have eyes. The whole story is just a figment of my imagination.

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