When we adopted our dog Ellie years ago, as we tried different dog toys we quickly discovered her clear favorites were stuffed hedgehogs that squeaked when you squeezed them. She so adored them that over the years we acquired a small army of adult and baby hedgehogs that were loved within an inch or their life. Some were loved too much and had to be thrown out, as once they developed a hole she would gleefully rip their stuffing out. In her elderly years she doesn’t have the agility to chase them anymore so they have fallen out of favor.
Most of the bedraggled lot didn’t make the trip to Arizona but I will always have a soft spot for anything hedgehog.
I was delighted in February when I made a brief stop to Pinnacle Peak Park on my interview trip and saw that there is a cactus named strawberry hedgehog. It’s the first cactus to bloom in the spring so when I saw the hedgehogs in late April on the Tom’s Thumb Trail most of their flowers were already spent, this one still had a couple of its lovely flowers in the interior. I have a pair of North Face Hedgehog waterproof hiking shoes so in the cooler months I’ll have hedgehogs on my feet and before them.
Looking up the hill at this scene with the blue sky behind it felt fake to me, more like a diorama in a museum than part of the vast desert landscape, so I couldn’t resist a picture of this delightful little cactus.
A rock squirrel lives up to its name as it crawls along a crevice in the massive rock formation known as Tom’s Thumb in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It had been at the base of the formation but crawled way up into the crevice when hikers with a dog approached. This is not a new species for me, we saw one during our visit to New Mexico a decade ago, but it is nice to be reunited. I owe a lot to that trip, not only because we had a great time but because it got me thinking about moving to the Southwest when looking for a job. I’ll eventually make it over to New Mexico but for now I’m focusing on trails near our home in Scottsdale.
One of the birds I was hoping to see once we moved to Arizona was the Gila woodpecker. It only took a couple of weeks, and my second time hiking, to find one, courtesy of the Gateway Loop Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve. My first Gila was a ways off but after finishing the loop I found this female atop a saguaro on the Bajada Nature Trail. I’ve since seen one in our backyard but wasn’t able to get a picture. The Gila is one of 14 new species for me since we moved here a few weeks ago (11 birds, 1 mammal, and 2 lizards).
I felt as though I had stepped into a Jack London novel as I walked my neighborhood on a snowy Christmas Eve. Ellie normally wants to greet every dog she meets so I was surprised she was uninterested in these two, but probably for the best, so focused were they on the task at hand.
It’s been cooler than normal this past week in Scottsdale, but cooler in the sense that I wore a long sleeve shirt last night rather than I was scraping ice from my car windows. This was Christmas morning in Portland, a rare (barely) white Christmas. It was the overnight ice that was naughty not nice, coating the streets and causing problems for those going to visit family Christmas morning, or for a man wanting to walk his elderly dog.