Saturday, October 01, 2011
Tonopah AZ and a large rock
In mid-May of 2010, I noticed in a funny little book, Cactus of Arizona Field Guide, that Echinomastus johnsonii "can be seen in Hummingbird Springs Wilderness, a 31,200 acre preserve west of Phoenix." Due to my eternal search for Echinomastus in habitat, this really caught my eye. I had never heard of Hummingbird Springs Wilderness Area and didn't imagine that E. johnsonii grew so close to Phoenix. So I jumped in the car for a quick trip over that way, near Tonopah.
Beautiful, wild desert out there, but a fairly rough and gradually worsening dirt road. I think I exited Interstate 10 at 403rd Avenue (a testament to the optimism of Phoenix planners back in the day?) about 60 miles west of Tempe, then went directly north to Sugarloaf Mountain.
Crazy beautiful Echinocereus engelmannii form out this way, amazing spines:
Flowering Ferocactus cylindraceus, the common California barrel. Billions of them stretch across the southwest. A very well-adapted cactus.
I didn't plan very well for this trip. I was perhaps 5 miles down the very rocky, dirt road, without water, in the 100 degree heat, when the car gut hung up on a huge boulder in the road. It was a kind of iceberg boulder that looked navigable from the driver's seat but was high enough to actually suspend the front left side of the car. I had no cell phone signal and began to imagine walking all the way back to Tonopah and then trying to find some crazy tow truck driver to go out and extricate my car. Then I remembered I had a jack. So I jacked the car up and tried to remove the rock from underneath. Not possible. So I decided to drive backwards off the jack, and I was surprised that actually worked. This whole strange problem and solution took about an hour. I bent the exhaust up against the shifter, a simple thing to fix, but it sounded horrifying. While I was stuck on the rock, I took a couple pictures:
I never did find any Echinomastus at this location, but when I finally got back to the house in Tempe, Echinocereus rigidissimus rubispinus was flowering:
The poor 1991 Honda Civic. It has been stuck in some very wild places indeed. Yet, it endures. An amazing car.