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.
Back on His Feet
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.
Bear Meets the Elephant
A couple of weeks ago I took Bear to my favorite trail, arriving late in the day both so there would be fewer people and so by the time we reached the Elephant the light would be getting soft, with time left to get back to the car before closing. Except my timing was off because I planned for how long it takes me when I dawdle along and not the go-go-go pace set by the Great and Mighty Bear, so we arrived at the Elephant 45 minutes earlier than expected.
This was his second time meeting her and I’m confused why he isn’t more animated when he sees her, normally he perks right up around mammals, but he was as calm as if he was next to an inanimate object like a tree or boulder. I’m glad though he didn’t spook her, she’s an old friend and has suffered much, mostly long before we met, with damage spreading across her extremities the last couple of years.
While watching woodpeckers I noticed the saguaro beside the trail had exposed damage resembling Medusa’s head, covered in swirling snakes. That saguaros have a thin gorgon layer between their green skin and the spongy material beneath would explain why I sometimes stand transfixed before them, unable to avert my gaze.
Our Forests Are a Little Different
The Sunset Watch, Part II
A week after watching a pair of Harris’s hawks on a large boulder at sunset, I saw them again on the boulder but this time from a different vantage point. I thought about waiting to see if they would stick around until sunset for a different take on the image, but I was in the mood to hike and decided to hoof it out to my favorite cactus. I never got there as I found this pair of kestrels on a distant saguaro and spent the end of the day with them instead. I’ve long loved photographing the encroaching sun or shadow at the start and end of the day, I forget exactly when the fascination first took hold but it was probably on a visit to the Tetons many years ago.
I haven’t been out hiking since, I’ve been taking Bear on really long walks on weekend mornings and afternoons, I need to find a better balance but it’s hard because I can’t usually walk him during the work week.
The Lion King
In September I went out specifically to photograph this pattern at the base of a saguaro, the ring of mud reminding me of a lion’s mane. But then I discovered a lizard hiding behind the spines a foot above this spot and spent so much time photographing her that I had to rush these shots before fleeing the park. Last weekend I went back to photograph the lion again, to compose when I was more composed, but my mind was wondering and wandering and I walked right past it. Realizing my mistake much later than I should have, I doubled back and easily located my target.
Except the lion was gone. The saguaro was there thankfully but the pattern was not. I had a little laugh as I remembered the heavy rains from earlier in the week while I was at work, which had probably washed away the work of the little artists who painted this canvas. Termites I suspect, there are a type here that eat the rough bark-like material at the base of old saguaros, which might explain the tan section in the middle.
There Is Too Much Death In The World
We are beautiful forms but for such a short time. I rounded the bend to see a desiccated snake carcass hanging from what used to be my favorite saguaro in the park, perhaps an abandoned catch of a bird of prey. The desert recyclers had already changed the flesh of each into new forms, the scales and skeletons will take longer, the saguaro bones still a favored perch for a Gila woodpecker couple nesting nearby. The light was dying too, the sun dipping below the mountains, handing over the desert to the night watch before its rebirth in the morning.
The Sun Also Departs
What’s better than watching a woodpecker on a saguaro? Watching two woodpeckers on a saguaro! I stopped for a while to admire the male when the female surprised me and flew into the nest. I watched this couple raise a family last spring so it was a treat to spend time with them again. I didn’t have much time as right as the female arrived a couple with a dog were approaching and though the dog ignored the birds, the male didn’t stay long. He mostly had his head turned away from me as he watched the dog approach, but turned back around for a moment as the female stuck her head out and then he flew off. In a couple of minutes the sun also departed, and so did I.