Shields Up! Red Alert!

A coiled western diamondback rattlesnake with its head up underneath a dead tree on the Sidewinder Trail at Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona

Today was meant to be a test of my knee and turned into a test of my heart when this western diamondback rattlesnake and I scared the living daylights out of each other.

Yesterday I made my triumphant return to the trails after a self-imposed two week absence to allow a sore left knee to heal, choosing a flat hike I know well at McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Since that went well, as well as a morning and evening swim later in the day, this morning I decided to try some new-to-me trails at Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. I did some research and the Ocotillo Trail looked fairly flat, with an easy return on a paved trail if my knee started acting up but also an option for some elevation changes on the Sidewinder and Ridgeback Trails if my knee felt up to it.

As I neared the point where the Ocotillo met the Sidewinder, my knee felt fine so I put my camera into my camera bag and brought out my trekking poles. My goal was to use the poles both for stability and to shorten my steps on any inclines to avoid stretching my legs more than necessary. As the trail immediately started to climb I knew I could turn around at the first hint of trouble and take an easier route back.

And that’s when I heard a noise right in front of me that nearly stopped my heart. The rattler was right beside the trail, coiled with its head up and mouth open, rattle shaking. I backed off immediately and it relaxed, slowly moving a few feet over and hiding under a dead tree. As you can see from the first picture while not in a full striking position its head was still up and prepared to strike if need be, but quickly lowered its head to its body, then even fully relaxed when it realized I wasn’t going to approach.

I was sorry for startling it so but thankful our encounter ended peacefully. With my new camera bag I was able to get the camera out quickly and take a few pictures. I wasn’t expecting to see a rattler so close to the trail since I had passed many mountain bikers who would have come past, with a couple more passing me a few minutes later, but perhaps it had just crossed the trail or maybe it didn’t mind the quickly passing bikes.

Happy to report that after a 7.5 mile hike on a hot and humid summer morning, both the knee and the heart were doing fine. My eyes could use some work though, to better see beneath my feet.

A coiled western diamondback rattlesnake with its head lowered underneath a dead tree on the Sidewinder Trail at Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona

The Portland Farewell Tour

A dog runs up to greet our dog Ellie as the trees bloom in the background at Irving Park in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

Before we left for Arizona I wanted one more picture of Ellie at the dog park at Irving Park, the first stop on all our walks, and this lovely spring morning gave me the perfect opportunity with the trees blooming behind her. Ellie had many dog admirers, a handful who absolutely adored her, fortunately I had a chance to talk with all of their owners before we left so they wouldn’t assume the worst when our elderly pup suddenly stopped showing up at the park.

Heat Seeker

Our tortoiseshell cat Trixie relaxes near the heating vent of our home in Portland as I play around with the shallow depth of field possible with Sony's 55mm f/1.8 lens

Trixie, like many of the cats before her, loved the wooden heating vent in the living room of our old house in Portland as she could lay on the hardwood with warm air blowing onto her belly. Our rental house doesn’t have any floor vents but it is not an issue as the heat finds you in the Sonoran Desert summer. After a hike at sunrise and a swim in the morning, I took a nap in my chair this afternoon with Sam in my lap and Trixie around my head, the heat not sought was brought.

Soft Browns

A desert cottontail eats dried grasses in the soft light before the sun was up on a warm spring morning in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A desert cottontail eats dried grasses in the soft light before the sun was up on a warm spring morning. I was back on the trails this morning after taking a couple of weeks off to let a sore left knee heal and didn’t see a single cottontail (or jackrabbit), most of the time I see at least one if not a handful so either today I was unlucky or perhaps they are not as visible in the summer. I meant to go hiking yesterday but forgot to set my alarm so I walked the pup instead, Ellie and I saw four cottontails on a short walk in the neighborhood.