On the trail again

Mcdowell Sonoran preserve hiking trail
Hiking trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The weather has definitely changed. Last week we topped 90 degrees every day. Saturday was a huge rainstorm with wind, thunder and lightening. Then Sunday morning the temperatures were in the 60s and the high was 70. What a wonderful change.

My husband and I hit the hiking trails. It’s been months since we’ve hiked because of the heat.

It feels so good to be out in nature. It’s good for my soul.

Here’s are some of the sights:

trails signs
The trails are marked with signs so it’s nearly impossible to get lost.
mountains and saguaros
Love this view of mountains with saguaros.
Saguaros on the Stagecoach trail.
Out on Stagecoach Trail.
hiking in Utah Ute gear
Our community is close to hiking trails! See the homes in the distance? That’s where we live.
Go UTES! They won against #6 USC Saturday night.

Have a great week! What exciting fun things did you encounter over the weekend?

What, me worry?

saguaro in the Sonoran Desert
Saguaro in front of a neighbor’s yard.

It’s snake season. And I’m not happy about it.

I am terribly frightened of snakes. I saw one the other morning at our park while on our walk.

A neighbor texted to tell me that another neighbor found a rattlesnake in her garage. Her husband trapped it in a garbage can and released it five miles away. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving with a rattlesnake in my car — garbage can or not.

Then last week while we were walking, a neighbor warned us about a huge rattlesnake a few blocks away from where we were headed.

“I’m done!” I said and turned my back and walked back to the house.

Every time I step outside, I take a careful look around. No more walking while looking at my phone. My eyes are peeled. In fact, I’m not spending much time outside anymore.

I googled rattlesnake bites in AZ. This is what I found:

Joe Hymes at the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary in north Scottsdale said that with temperatures warming up, this is the time of year that they receive the most calls about snakes.

He told AZ Family, “Most of the time, they are just soaking up the sun, but if you give them space, they will leave you alone.”

Snakes generally hide in cool, damp places.

Hymes explained, “Anywhere [snakes] will not feel overly exposed. They’ll hide under things — bushes, flower pots, raised sheds in the backyard, behind A/C units, behind pool pumps where moisture might condense. Those are all prime rattlesnake hiding spots.”


You know what? Reading that did not make me feel a bit better.

A childhood friend of mine lives in San Diego and was bitten while talking a walk on his lunch hour last week. He said the snake bit him in the calf from behind. He never saw it. He was hospitalized for four days and had one of the worst reactions to a rattlesnake bite the hospital had ever seen.

In Palm Springs, we had rattlesnakes but we saw them on the hiking trails in the surrounding hills, not downtown where we lived.

Do you think my worry about snakes is warranted? Do you have anything you’re afraid of? What the most dangerous thing in your area?

A bit of sadness

Century plant
I’ve been waiting to see this Century plant in bloom. This photo was taken two weeks ago.
Fast growing Century Plant.
Still waiting for the blossoms….Look how much it grew. This photo was taken a couple days ago. My husband said he thought he could watch it growing taller right before his eyes.

I’m enjoying the blossoms on cactus, but they are very short lived. One day there are furious blooms and the next day, they’ve expired.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the neighbor’s Century plant and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss the flowers.

blossoms on cactus
Look at the gorgeous blossoms on this hedgehog cactus. Tomorrow they’ll be gone.

You can imagine how sad we felt when we went on our morning walk today and saw this:

Fallen Century Plant before it bloomed
We will never get to enjoy the blooms. We felt like we lost a friend. It also reminded me of our saguaros we lost.

The saga of saguaros

Missing saguaro
The empty spot where the saguaro once stood.

The saga of the saguaro goes on.

Friday afternoon the doorbell rang. A man stood at the doorstep and said he was a building inspector with the City of Scottsdale.

“What?” I asked confused.

“I’m here to look at your saguaro,” he explained. “Is it the one out front?”

dying saguaro
The building inspector was referring to this one with budding arms that’s 20-feet tall and unfortunately dying.

It turns out you have to get a permit from the city to remove or transplant saguaros. I led him to the backyard and pointed out the one with bacteria necrosis that we needed to remove before it spreads in the yard.

He took photos and said he’d approve the permit. He noticed the one on the ground and asked if we were removing it. I told him we wanted to keep it for the skeleton and the same thing for the one in the front yard that was dying.

Saturday the door bell rang and it was the Cactus Doctor. Not the Cactus Biologist who diagnosed our cacti, but the removal team. The Cactus Doctor said the dying saguaro in the front yard was already dead but he explained what we needed to do to “skeletonize” it.

He explained that saguaro may look majestic and strong but they are in fact fragile when it comes to disease and water. He said they like to be left alone with no shade and no watering — preferably on a hill or elevated space.

My husband wasn’t thrilled with the cost to remove the saguaro. He said it was an easy job he could have done himself. But I would have had to been the one tugging on the rope as the cactus fell. See the video below:

The majestic saguaro coming down.

There is no way I wanted my husband out there with his chain saw and me at the end of the rope. The Cactus Doctor also disinfected the area and hauled off the infected saguaro. It was a lot of money to hire a biologist, get the permit and hire the Cactus Doctor to remove the saguaro, but I think it was better than doing it ourselves.

What’s your opinion on us hiring experts versus doing it ourselves? Did you ever think it would be so involved to remove a cactus?

Cacti update

giant saguaro.
View of a giant saguaro in our front yard.

The cactus doctor arrived Saturday evening to diagnose our fallen saguaro. He said it had been overwatered, got top heavy and crashed to the ground. Unfortunately, he said because of the trauma it suffered in the fall it wouldn’t survive being replanted.

Then he walked around our yard inspecting our other cacti. He drilled a hole in one saguaro and told us it had to be removed because it has bacterial necrosis. It’s leaning slightly and could crash into the house or damage the patio roof.

More bad news in the front yard. Our tallest saguaro with budding arms was declared dead. He said it died from vascular disease.

Saguaro with Bacterial Necrosis
This is the saguaro with bacterial necrosis.
Bacterial necrosis: this is where the cactus doctor took a chunk out of our cactus.

We learned that saguaros not only get water from their roots, but they have pores that open up in the day and absorb water from the air.

Another fact we learned was that a saguaro’s root system is twice the size of its height.

The doctor also told us how to spot native saguaro from ones that had been transplanted from other areas by the size of their bases.

dying saguaro
This is already dead. See how the base is brown and shrunken?

Not the news we were hoping for. Now we need to hire someone to take out two saguaros and remove the fallen one. At least the rest are healthy. I’m thankful for all the healthy succulents and cacti in our yard and that the bacteria seems to be only in one saguaro.

What are you thankful for today?

saguaro skeleton
I saw this saguaro skeleton Sunday on our walk. We may keep the fallen saguaro and the one in the front yard for their skeletons. They’d make interesting sculptures in our yard. The diseased one has to be hauled off.

The Cactus Doctor is coming

fallen saguaro
Our fallen saguaro in the back yard.

Diid you know that doctors still make house calls? At least the Cactus Doctor does. He’s scheduled to come to our house Saturday to take a look at our fallen saguaro.

A few days ago I was sitting by the window, typing on my laptop when I watched the saguaro quiver, shake and jump three feet and fall in a giant “T-I-M-B-E-R!!!!” I wrote about it HERE.

The doctor is a biologist that studies cacti. He is coming out to diagnose our saguaro. But he doesn’t treat them. He’ll take a look at our other dozen saguaros as well.

After we get a diagnosis from the doctor — we then have to hire someone else to treat what ails them. If it’s a bacteria, we’ll have that treated. If it was too much rain or freezing temps, we may have the saguaro replanted. If it can be replanted we’ll have to invest in a contraption to support the few thousand pounds of weight. If it’s beyond repair we’ll need to hire someone to haul it off. Or maybe we’ll let it deteriorate in the backyard and save it’s “bones.”

The skeletons of saguaros are sold in art galleries for thousands of dollars. I could have my own sculpture in my living room someday — free of charge. (Except for the house call by the Cactus Doctor. And whatever treatment he prescribes.

Who knew you needed to hire a doctor for a diagnosis — and then a technician for the treatment? This is new territory for us. The saguaro are so iconic and majestic I think it’s worth it to save this one.

chart of saguaro growth
This chart explains how old our saguaro is. Our is 9′ 6″ so around my age I guess.

Have you ever paid a professional to take care of your plants or trees? What was the reason? Would you hire a plant doctor?

Talk about crashing down

work table in casita with a desert view.
I sat down to work yesterday at the small table in the casita when CRASH!

A shocking thing happened. I sat down to work at my laptop in the casita when I watched a saguaro quiver, shake and crash to the ground.

fallen saguaro over nine feet tall.
I measured the saguaro and it’s 9 feet 6 inches tall.

My husband called a cactus doctor. We don’t know why this guy fell. Its root system literally broke in half. I’ve googled causes and it could be too cold of temperatures (it was below freezing and snowed in the last two weeks.) Another cause is overwatering. (We’ve had a lot of rain.)

The scarier thought is a bacteria. I read this from a website called Gardening Know How:

What is Bacterial Necrosis? Saguaro cactus can live for 200 years and grow up to 60 feet in height. These monstrous desert dwellers look imposing and impervious but can actually be brought down by a tiny bacteria. Saguaro cactus necrosis can invade the plant in a number of ways. It eventually creates necrotic pockets in the flesh which will spread. These necrotic areas are dead plant tissue and, if left unchecked, can eventually kill these regal plants. Treating bacterial necrosis in saguaro in the early stages can give the plant an 80 percent chance of survival.


How scary if we have this bacteria in our back yard and our giant saguaro are at risk? I’ll be very cautious walking around the yard regardless what caused its premature death. Can you imagine if a spiny saguaro that weighs a few thousand pounds fell on you? I had no idea I’d have to worry about our cacti’s health.

It feels like we lost a friend.

It snapped at the roots.

Have you had anything unexpected happen to you lately? How did you react?