The Hills Have Ears

The Hills Have Ears

There are moments on the trails you never forget. In the Tetons, when a black bear casually sauntered down the trail towards me. A gorgeous black bear I had to slowly follow up the path at Mount Rainier. A scrum of bighorn sheep rams in Yellowstone. My first Gila monster. My first bobcat, and my second.

I woke up far too early Monday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep so I went out for a short hike at a nearby trailhead. I was nearing the end of the Jane Rau Trail, hoping to see a spiny lizard I had spotted on a previous hike. My eye caught a pair of ears high in the rocks, or so it seemed at first glance, a cactus with the face of a coyote. The lizard wasn’t there but thankfully I had time to walk back to get a better look at the cactus as I couldn’t remember seeing it before. Looking through the telephoto lens I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw eyes looking back at me, the ears were indeed ears, pointed towards the heavens. My second ever bobcat. As the rising sun grew stronger the sleepy cat dropped into the shadows and settled down, time for us to part, time to get ready for work.

Even after a couple of decades of photography I can get a little too excited and not set up the camera or the shot properly. I didn’t realize it at the time but all those years she was training me for this moment, my sweet Em, to photograph beauty looking down upon me. Relax, breathe, enjoy the moment. Miss you Em.

Our black cat Emma looks down from the top of the cat tree in May 2012

Drip Drip Drip

Sap drips from flower buds at the end of a horizontal saguaro arm on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2018

Water seemed suspended in time as it dripped from the flower buds at the end of a horizontal arm of a saguaro, but I suspect the frozen drips must have been sap. I didn’t know saguaros budded like this when we moved here so I was delighted to discover buds fairly close to the ground that I could observe up close.

Home Work

A male Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his nest in an old saguaro on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his current nest with an older nest around the corner. I couldn’t tell if he was grabbing an insect or if he was doing some home improvement. I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been busy doing home work of my own, we’ve started looking for a house in earnest and I’ve been doing a lot of research on our various options. We’ve narrowed the search down to our two favorites and I think we’ll make an offer on one of them tomorrow. One of the two is a bit further from work than I’d like but it is only about 10 to 15 minutes away from several of my favorite hiking locations, including Brown’s Ranch where I took this picture back in April.

New Homes

A male Gila woodpecker peeks out of his nest in a saguaro with an older nest visible nearby on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

It was one year ago today they brought my team in and laid us all off, setting in motion our eventual move from our longtime home in Portland to our new home in Arizona. We’re renting for now but will start looking to buy within a month or two. This Gila woodpecker made his new home near the old, moving slightly around the saguaro. Other small birds sometimes use the old nests after the woodpeckers abandon them. Getting to see such new sights has been part of the fun of moving to such a different location.

Follow Me Home

A broken saguaro  still grows with one outstretched arm and two smaller arms below along the Janue Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

After all the changes in our lives this past year I feel a special sympathy for when we adopted terrified little Boo five years ago. He worked so hard to conquer his fears and embrace his new home, you could see the struggle in his face and I suppose for months I wore that expression too. I took this picture of a broken saguaro within a month of arriving in the desert when so little in our lives seemed familiar yet we were excited about our new home. It seems to me a guide, waving with one arm held high to attract the attention of the lost, another arm pointing the way home. Shattered, surviving, standing, strong.