1-28: Last day here and I took off on a trail headed west out of the campground. It crossed three sizable washes, which for me are always evocative and for desert flora are like a magnet that draws them in to make relatively dense populations that follow its path. Walking through an area where the cactus and others are relatively scattered, I enter a space of close sharing. They stand all over the wash and so feel the flood surge by, gently as it arrives and later finishes but surely quite forcefully if rainfall has been abundant or fell heavily and quickly; they stand firmly waiting for its end and sucking up moisture. I notice no signs of uprooting or debris piled up against them, which is different from what I see after flash floods in less arid climes. I remember as a child spending summers with relatives in the Davis Mountains of Texas and standing by a dry wash, no rain falling, and in the distance seeing the front of a newly formed stream heading my way. It was, and I think still is somewhat, a magical feat for rain reported fallen miles away to gather itself together for a brief journey through; before long it was almost as if nothing had happened. There’s not a lot I remember from 65 years ago but these freshets I do. So, I sat for a while in each wash and paid respects to the residents. As I walked between them, the transit from abundance to scarcity allowed details to stand out. Mistletoe appears to enjoy the heat, growing prolifically on some afflicted palo verde and ironwood trees. Under a jumping cholla taller than I am I found a half dozen small pincushion cacti growing nicely in the shade along with several fallen cholla segments that had rooted and others that looked as if they were trying. I was also surprised by a fair amount of droppings at least the size of deer’s’ but I’ve never seen any in this area and believe they live in the Monument’s mountains, so I don’t know whose deposit these were. Whoever they may have come from, they were right beside a pile of dead cholla segments, so their source clearly wasn’t intimidated by the spines. In one place a pair of ironwood had made possible the growth of a little community between them: ocotillo, cholla and other cactus. Farther along I found a fifteen-foot saguaro that apparently had been windblown over and died. The tops of these guys must be different from the column below because this one’s had broken cleanly off and lay a foot beyond; yesterday I’d seen a standing saguaro who had mysteriously lost his top also.


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