If you’re wondering where Bear has been matriculating since Christmas, this map shows many (but not all) of the trails we’ve hiked in the massive preserve to our north, east, and south. I’ve tried to give him a variety of experiences on several dozen hikes as we’ve traversed probably 150-200 miles of trails, and he’s been an eager student. I didn’t think anyone could love hiking in the desert more than I do, but we may have a contender. I’ve never chased my tail when I find out I’m about to go on a hike!
Even if I let him outside before we go, he likes to poop pretty early on in the hike, partially to leave his scent for the animals of the desert but mostly to let them know who’s in charge based on who’s carrying whose poop. It’s kind of hard to argue the point!
On Friday Bear had another new experience in the desert when he saw his first Mojave rattlesnake. I use the term “saw” rather loosely as though I was keeping a close eye on the trail in front of us, it’s quite narrow in this section and as we rounded a kink he walked right past it and I, following close behind, only saw it at the last and instinctively hopped over it.
After my heart started beating again, with the snake so docile and Bear so well behaved, I took a few moments to watch it from a safer distance. It was on the small side, motionless apart from an occasional flicking of the tongue, and seemed to have a green tint to its coloring. The funny thing is, I only see hints of the green in the pictures, perhaps a trick of the light or a trick of the fright. It was coiled up on top of its tail and never sounded the alarm with its rattle. After a few quick pictures and taking a moment to revel in its beauty, we warned an approaching cyclist and continued on our way.
I love peaceful encounters with rattlesnakes but I don’t need to come that close to one ever again. I wasn’t sorry we were taking a different route back to the car but I am thankful I got to watch it for a little while, it was only my second time seeing this species and it’s such a treat to watch them when you both feel safe.
The box said dog bed. Perhaps it was mislabeled.
After seeing his first rattlesnake on Saturday, the desert offered Bear another first on Sunday when I took him to the Pima Dynamite trailhead for the first time (and my first visit in a long time), hiking from there to the Brown’s Ranch trailhead. At the end of the hike from a distance I heard a rattlesnake and it continued its rattle as we approached. It was safely off the trail hidden under a bush (I never did see it), but I also couldn’t see the source of its agitation until we rounded a bend and saw a bobcat relaxing in the shadows next to the bush. I was shocked Bear didn’t seem interested in it, and that after a quick glance it didn’t seem bothered by Bear. When Bear asked what a bobcat was I said it was like Trixie but several times larger and with less attitude.
Last night as we relaxed in my office the cats sprang off me when there was a rustling outside and we heard chomping on the other side of a large bush. Not wanting to scare whatever was enjoying a meal I waited until at last the chewing stopped and a small bobcat trotted into sight before disappearing into the neighbor’s yard.
We’ll never see the desert’s big cats but the small ones do put on a show from time to time.
Yesterday as Bear and I took an afternoon walk around Cone Mountain, I took a few snapshots of the desert in bloom as mementos of our time together on the trails. Later on as we circled the mountain, as we passed a boulder closer to the trail than this one, the tall grasses began to shake and rattle. I instinctively told Bear to leave it (we’ve been practicing whenever my beloved lizards scamper across the trail) but he wasn’t showing any interest in any case. To be sure he understood what I wanted him to ignore, I backed up a few feet, still far outside striking range, to make sure he saw the rattlesnake. He looked at me the same as when I stop for a picture, ready to go when I am, so we continued on our way.
I’m delighted he didn’t try to position himself between me and the snake, or show any interest at all, but the snake was fairly hidden in the tall grass so perhaps it would have been a different story if the snake was slithering on the trail in front of us. Odds are highly in favor of it being a western diamondback but it was so obscured I couldn’t tell with a quick glance and didn’t take a picture since I didn’t want to risk disturbing it any further or to take my eyes off the pup.
Bear gets formal snake training in a few weeks but I’m glad to see he passed the test, this was his first rattlesnake. It’s a test he’ll have to pass repeatedly to be allowed to hike in the desert in the warmer months. Sadly our afternoon hikes will come to an end soon as hot weather is fast approaching, then it will be early morning hikes only for him. There are more dangerous things than rattlesnakes.
People often wonder how tall saguaros can grow as it can be hard to grasp from pictures. The rule of thumb is the old giants can grow so tall as to almost touch the moon. So, pretty tall. You do have to be careful though as some saguaros use a technique known as heightening, where they convince a desert denizen to perch up top to make them look taller.
Today marks Bear’s 1 year anniversary with us! We’ll count it as his birthday since we don’t know when it really is or even how old he is (he’s probably 7 or 8 now). He wasn’t as easy an adoption as Ellie but easy is not the same as worthwhile. Glad you found your home sweet home, pup.
A soaptree yucca is surrounded by shadows early on a fall morning. This camera has a tilting screen which came in handy as there is a bush between the trail and the yucca so I was holding the camera overhead and using the screen to position the camera so the dried flowers on the flower stalk were set against the blue sky but without letting the big bush creep into the bottom of the frame. The screen didn’t help with the vertical shots, my little Nikon with its fully articulating screen would have been better there, but I ended up preferring the horizontal shot as I like the context it provides.
A few weeks back Bear showed signs of pain around his neck and the vet recommended some pain killers and no playing or walks until the medicine ran out. So far the long rest seems to have done the trick, I was able to leave work a little early on Tuesday and took him on a short hike in the desert and he practically dragged me down the trails. Friday afternoon we took his first hike to the Marcus Landslide where lots of wildflowers were blooming, yesterday we took my favorite loop up at Brown’s Ranch. His rattlesnake training got pushed out a month due to his injury but thankfully we haven’t encountered any of the bitey bits of the desert yet.