Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 8: Wildlife of the AZT

Lots of grasslands to walk through Easter morning!
April 20: Easter morning! Not that it mattered much on the Arizona Trail. There were no Easter eggs hidden along the trail, nor kids frolicking around looking for them. It was just another day on the trail, and had I not been keeping track of the dates in my journal, I wouldn't have even known it was a holiday at all.

My tarp was surprisingly wet in the morning. It didn't rain during the night. A slight sprinkle the evening before, but the night was dry and I expected my tarp to be as well, but it was soaking wet from condensation--the first hint of condensation I'd seen so far on the trail. I shook out as much of it as I could and packed the tarp. I could pull it out later to fully dry in the sun.

It's taken a week, but I've finally seen my first two snakes on the trail. I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't seen any--this is prime snake country and surely I should have seen them by now! And not more than a half hour later after having this thought, I was careening down the trail at a relatively high rate of speed (gravity and momentum were working with me at the time) when a snake basking in the sun on the trail did its own careening--right off the side of the trail and down the hill. It covered maybe 30 feet in just a couple of seconds. For an animal with no legs, that thing can move! I only saw it for a brief couple of seconds, and the only thing I could determine was that it wasn't a rattlesnake. Probably some sort of non-venomous snake.

The second snake reared its head as I was traveling through a thicket of prickly pear cactus. Bushels of it lined both sides of the trail, and I had just rounded a corner when I heard it--the tell-tale sound of a rattlesnake's rattle. It was close, and it was loud. I jumped--at least as much as I could with a heavy pack on my back--and quickly stepped several feet away from the noise.

My heart was thumping pretty hard then--that snake scared the bejesus out of me! Only then did I turn around and look for the source of the noise and there it was, coiled up and watching me. If there was ever a definition of menacing, that was it. Now that it was behind me and safely out of striking range, I wasn't too worried about the rattler. I pulled out my camera to take photos, and it would occasionally rattle its tail again warning me to back off. I was a little annoyed with the snake--it was largely hidden under the prickly pear cactus, in the shade of an otherwise very bright day making him difficult to photograph. I'd have liked to lure him out into the sun, but I didn't know how to do that.

Yum! Water!
I did the best I could, though, then continued hiking.

Near one road crossing, I could see a bunch of pickup trucks parked on the side of the road along with the sounds of gunfire coming from that direction. I figured they were probably target shooting, which makes me a little nervous. I don't like walking around areas where bullets might be flying around indiscriminately. I hoped the people shooting off the guns were doing so responsibly and wouldn't shoot in a direction unless they knew without a shadow of a doubt it wasn't in the direction of a trail or hikers.

Then I heard a much larger explosion. What the hell?! BOOM! What have those guys got--a freakin' bazooka?!

I was relieved when the trail passed them high on a hillside and that the trail didn't run directly through their shooting range. After about 20 minutes, I got far enough away that I couldn't hear the shooting anymore. If I wasn't safe before, I figured I was now.

I finally stopped for the night at Twin Tanks. I knew there should be water there, and there was. And since I arrived there late in the afternoon, I figured I may as well just stop for the night. When I walked up to the edge of the water, I spotted movement on a small hillside on the other side of the water and turned my head to look directly at it. It was moving southward, behind some brush, and I caught faints hints of it until a break in the bushes when I saw it clearly--a coyote! That was so a coyote! YES!

I pulled out my camera and tried to take photos of it. It was far away and didn't photograph well, and I had to time it between small gaps in the brush. I moved away from the water and behind some trees. The coyote didn't seem to notice me (not yet, at least!), and I wanted to keep it that way. The trees were also a little closer to the path the coyote was following so I might be able to get a bit closer for slightly better photos.

Then came a larger gap in the bushes where a dirt ATV road climbed up to meet the road. The coyote turned off the road and followed the ATV ruts towards my direction. I snapped a couple of more photos. I must have made a noise just then, because the coyote looked up, saw me, then dashed back up the hill and away. It was gone.

There was an old campsite along the stock tank, and I went ahead and set up camp in it. The place was littered with trash and debris--probably left by those who drove in rather than thru-hikers. Thru-hikers wouldn't have carried this sort of garbage in the first place. But other than that, it was a nice place to camp, in the shade of some large trees on nice, soft sand along with logs and rocks I could use to sit on. There was a fire ring as well, but I'm too lazy to make campfires so that went unused.

The skies were still clear of rain clouds so I didn't set up the tarp tonight. Nope, I'd be waking up under the stars tonight!

Fishhook cactus


The cacti all seemed to be in bloom this time of year, and the blooms
are just gorgeous! This one came from a prickly pear cactus.

Moon setting over these ocotillos.

It's an entire ocotillo forest!

Lizards are always common along the Arizona Trail, but they're
devilishly hard to get photos of. Here's a rare lizard that
cooperated with my photo session!

Fairy dusters

I waited for about five minutes trying to shoo this cow off the trail, but he
wouldn't shoo and eventually I just went off trail to get around it.

Ocotillo in bloom.

I stopped for lunch in a dry riverbed. A few minutes later, these two
fellows dropped in for a visit. They kept sneaking in closer and closer
and eventually I picked up and moved further down the riverbed.

Hedgehog cactus in bloom.

I just liked the pattern of the bark on this tree. =)

My view during a late afternoon snack break. These were the only trees large
enough to provide shade for miles so I took full advantage of them!

This tree was nice to look at, but it didn't really provide much shade!
Neither did the prickly pear cactus on the right!

Ocotillo blooms

Another ocotillo bloom

Rattlesnake! This little bugger scared the crap out of me!

Twin Tanks in the distance--and my campsite for the night!

The campsite even included this. You know it's a nice campsite when....

My best photo of the coyote. A mere second or two after this photo was taken,
the guy finally noticed me and ran off in the opposite direction.

1 comment:

Wise Old Owl said...

Wow--the blossoms are really beautiful! I loved all the wildlife pix, too--especially those pesky cows.