Beware the Pesky Glochids and Other Tips from the Desert Southwest

Cacti have spines.  I know that.   I mean, it’s really pretty obvious.

Don't reach for that nest.  Unless you're a cactus wren.

Don’t reach for that nest. Unless you’re a cactus wren.

What I didn’t know until too late is that some cacti have really tiny spines: so tiny that you don’t notice them.  It would have helped to know this before my husband pointed out a prickly pear that looked strangely smooth – so strangely smooth that I just had to reach out and run my hand along the paddle.

Don’t do that.

Now I know that there really aren’t any cacti without spines.  Some have good upfront stout ones, that warn you ahead of time to not touch.  Others – the sneaky little devils – have fine little spines called glochids, and they are one pain in the butt (or wherever) to get out.  I’ve since learned from my desert-savvy friends that we would have been wise to carry duct tape on our desert hikes to get the zillions of little spines out.  (Of course, the wisest move would be not to touch things you don’t know about.  I know that…now.)

So just how do the desert birds manage to avoid being impaled?  They seem oblivious to their spiky surroundings.





In addition to learning lessons the hard way, we did find some unexpected gems on our recent southwest jaunt, which I’m happy to share:

Favorite campsite in Death Valley:  Mesquite Springs, at the northern end of the park.  At 1,800 feet in elevation it’s a bit cooler than the campgrounds at Furnace Creek, but it’s nice and small, with lots of great country to explore.

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Good Birding:     Salton Sea and the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge.  We had no plans to go here, but I’m so glad we did.  Thousands of shorebirds, along with other great desert birds.

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Nice place to get away from everyone and relax in the desert:  Kofa Wildlife Refuge.  Good skies here, too!

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Favorite combo of cute little town, Sonoran Desert and a dandy National Monument:  Ajo, Arizona and Organ Pipe National Monument.    Camp at Alamo Canyon campground in the monument: you’ll need to stop at the Visitor Center to reserve a spot, but it’s worth it.

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Next on the agenda: find the migrating Snow Geese!


About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
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18 Responses to Beware the Pesky Glochids and Other Tips from the Desert Southwest

  1. Lyle Krahn says:

    I’ve always found something appealing about cactus. This despite slipping on a hike and inadvertently slapping a cactus that got me pulling out more than 50 spurs that I could see. Now if I had known about duct tape …

    • westerner54 says:

      They swear it works, too! I kept thinking about how awful it would be to really fall into one of them – lord knows, I fall enough hiking around when there aren’t any dangers. I’m amazed I came back unscathed.

  2. rosemaryhr says:

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing

  3. Jeff Katzer says:

    Wow, another beautiful post. Thanks for the great ideas… Someday ….

  4. Jet Eliot says:

    Did I ever enjoy your birds here! The close-up of the thrasher is astounding! The desert world is its own, and such a beautiful one, thanks for sharing it. Thanks for the duct tape hint too! 😀

    • westerner54 says:

      I so enjoyed the thrasher’s song, too: I want to see if I can get their lovely two tone whistle for the phone’s ringtone. A chickadee’s call would be good too, now that I think about it!

  5. jrobinson627 says:

    Awesome shot of the Gila Woodpecker! Do you know what kind of hummingbird that is?

  6. Wonderful photos and good info about the cacti (I don’t live out that way, but I’ll watch for it when I do get there someday). I imagine the night-time skies are beautiful…

  7. Yeah, I could’ve used the duct tape wisdom before my first surprise closeup, too. Talk about how getting smart can *smart*! But what great shots you got!!! Love them.

    • westerner54 says:

      Thanks so much. I can only imagine how terrible it would be to actually fall onto a cactus. It would probably take more than duct tape to fix that!

      • I got off relatively easily, having just brushed the outside of my forearm against those pesky buggers as I walked past the cacti, but it happened as we were on our way into an art museum, so I spent the next hour or so writhing around in an effort to rid myself of the glochids with any remaining pretense of savoir-faire I could muster. Didn’t get kicked out for my strange behavior, thankfully, as it was a really beautiful exhibition of Stickley furniture and furnishings. 😉

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful post! Makes me want to hit the road, myself 🙂

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