Have you ever had a moment where you see something or someone and your brain goes into overdrive trying to file through all of your memories to identify where or how you know it? That is exactly the sensation I was having driving into Tucson. Everywhere there were these cactuses that I felt like I should have seen before, but nowhere could I picture where that might have been. I’ve seen representations on posters, margarita glasses, cartoons, iconic images of the South West, but it was only in this moment of perplexity that I realized I had never seen a saguaro in real life.
It was an amazing thing to behold in person — partially because the cactuses take on a persona that is almost human-like, and partially because they were all over the place, reaching and waving at us from every hill and corner. They seemed to be dancing in the orange and pink light of the 6pm sunset.
The land was so covered by these cactuses, and smaller multi-colored cactuses and bushes, I felt as if we had left the desert and entered a strange, short, dry rain forest. Everything seemed so strangely lush. Even the coyotes seemed more alive and vibrant, but perhaps that was because this evening they were howling within what sounded like 10 feet of my tent. Remember that soothing feeling a coyote howl gave me at the beginning of this trip? Yeah, that diminished pretty quickly when the buggers sounded close enough to be within arm’s reach and I had to dodge coyote scat the size of a small house pet outside of the ladies room. Good thing my tent has zippers!