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Scenic AZ 79

After leaving the Sonoran Desert National Monument, we took AZ 238 to Casa Grande, then 287 to Florence and headed south on AZ 79. We did this because AZ 79 is labeled a ‘scenic route’ on the map, and I can definitely confirm it is scenic!  First, we encountered Cholla cacti that were far and away the tallest I have ever seen. They towered over my head, in some cases. 

There were several areas where some of the cholla were blooming. Although they looked very similar in form (I, at least, couldn’t tell them apart), they had different colors of flowers ranging from yellow to brown to dark red. 

Whilst taking pictures of the flowers, we got covered in cholla bits, which are called ‘jumping cactus’ for a very good reason. Although you think you are not touching the cactus, you feel pain in your arm, foot, leg, etc., look down and find a cholla bit attached to your flesh. “Hah!” you think. “I’d better get that cholla bit off my arm.” 

Think again. That cholla bit has barbed spines, and wherever you grab it to remove it from your arm/hand/leg/foot/shoe/shirt/dog-body-part, it will instantly stick to your hand and dig additional spines into your fingers. In the end, after much pain and bleeding and wild flailing of hands, you will find yourself picking it out spine by spine with a pair of tweezers while each spine holds on like grim death. Try this on a yelping dog who is attempting to pull away from your tweezers to avoid the pain. Then try it on your yelping self, as you attempt to pull away from the tweezers to avoid the pain, and find the stupid cholla bit detaching itself from one finger only to leap over and embed itself into another.


For those whose Spanish is minimal, 'cholla' is pronounced 'choya'

Closeup of red cholla (most of them were red).

Some were darker red than others, though, and this one was actually brown.

And this one (along with several others) was yellow.

I did not take pictures of the cholla bits that actually attacked us because by the time I got rid of them, I was terrified of getting close enough to photograph them. Here is an example of what they look like, though.

Some of the other cacti were also in bloom, and their flowers were dark pink. I’m not sure what kind of cactus this is…it vaguely resembles a barrel cactus, short and dark green with vertical lines of spines, but it is spindly instead of fat and it grows in clumps. Of course, there are a zillion kinds of cactus, and I know the names of maybe four of them, so it could be anything. Perhaps there is such a thing as a Skinny, Congregating Barrel Cactus?

Here is a real barrel cactus for comparison purposes.

The ocotillo were blooming, too (pronounced 'ocotiyo')

And the Palo Verde were blooming as well. I assume these are Palo Verde simply because the wood is green (hence the ‘verde’), and I mean GREEN like a katydid or a preying mantis. But I’ve never looked up Palo Verde, and perhaps these are something else.

Here's what I mean by green wood.

And finally, there were handsome Saguaro, which I only wish had been blooming. I had to put them in, blooming or not, because anyone who does not love a Saguaro is a Philistine.

This photo has it all...saguaro, huge cholla, blooming cholla, and blooming Skinny Congregating Barrel Cactus SCBC).

We also found this roadside shrine along highway 79. One sees these every so often on various roads through the desert.