On the Cactus Trail

While the Perseid meteor shower was a bust, I’ve seen it a few times before and from darker locations. And the pre-dawn weather was refreshingly cool at that wide spot in the road shoulder, at 2,500 foot elevation outside Carefree.

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A lone Carnegia gigantea might be the quintessential cactus.

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That stop was followed by a walk around nearby El Pedregal*, the once-busy shopping and activity hub adjacent to the Boulders Resort.

*the stony place, for the area’s huge granite boulders 

The Sonoran sun cast it’s first glow into the cool, still air.

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Some maintenance and upkeep is evident; bold colors in the southwestern sun fade without help.

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Some maintenance is lacking with most tenant businesses gone, like my once-favorite out-of-the-way cafe. I read that special events are held here, so maybe that triggers partial upkeep?

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Meanwhile, the Phoenix dactylifera all had too many fronds removed. Oddly some date clusters were left, which will litter and stain the paving.

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Some of the palm fronds should have been retained, for a more full and lush appearance, plus shading the crowns where tender new growth originates and maximizing photosynthesis to grow stronger roots.

I know – “pruning, blah blah blah, Dave.”

But it’s truth. My hope is that even a few property owners seeing this learn and help raise the bar on horticulture, to help maintain their investments.

See also:
http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pruning/pruning-palms.html
https://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/ho/2004/sp0416.pdf

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Of course I didn’t liberate any of the dead agaves’ bulbils. I did wonder where cameras are placed to watch every move on their property.

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There was interesting hardscape work, including blending canterra stone bands with simple, economical colored concrete.

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The control joint pattern provides a lesson for your next design, in how concrete tends to crack when the joints depart too far from 90 degree angles. And that’s in a dry and near-freeze-free location; it gets worse when moisture with freezing are common.

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This area held up well, though. The concrete and stone surfaces only need some cleaning.

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Perforations here often have colorful paint, to add visual interest and set apart from a real danger: beige stucco overload!

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The weathered wood latillas on the ramada entry to a possible tenant store is in contrast to the blue paint used in that garden wall’s perforations. Both are complimentary, as is the rustic metal brace connecting the viga to a post.

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There’s no end to the visuals; it’s native Parkinsonia florida and near-native Dasylirion wheeleri, accenting even a bridge with perforations.

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The skies might have a say in the desert’s elegance.

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African sculpture blends in nicely with the desert context. 

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Was it still a failed trip only leaving me a mostly-abandoned shopping center, without a cafe to enjoy coffee and croissant, and without enough sleep?

Of course not – it was just another stop on the Cactus Trail!

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That vintage short film came on TCM after watching a movie, though I couldn’t find it online to watch again. Not on IMDb, the film’s narrator even noted some cholla cacti and (I think) hedgehog cacti. In his 1940’s era voice, of course.

The film’s promotional tone welcomed soon-to-arrive, post WWII visitor, who would probably stay in the latest motor courts or fine hotels. Those would have air conditioning to make travel or even living along the Cactus Trail more possible.

Yet, we know the Cactus Trail is longer than Riverside to Phoenix.

There are side trails to points south, even north and west but ending in summer-dry places where most cacti were planted. That, as the main trail extends its way up, down, and around the greater southwest, then into the Big Bend and deep into the epicenter of cacti, Mexico.

This particular section of the Cactus Trail didn’t even exist when that short film was made, so there’s also the time factor.

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Though, I’m sure the grandparents of this Opuntia engelmannii and other plants were here then, as stars of the old westerns rode by, camera crews in place.

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O. engelmannii is an icon in Arizona’s and New Mexico’s milder winter locales, where it thrives especially in foothill locations and among granite boulders!

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See – we can each add our own drives and detours to make the Cactus Trail more complete and more our own.

2 Replies to “On the Cactus Trail”

  1. Great pictures and a bit of history. Hope to visit the southwest in the near future so gathering info. thanks!

    Thanks for stopping by, Tina. Hope you make it this way, though winter can be crowded in Phoenix.

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