Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Encounters with Big Cats, Rattlesnakes and Goofy Towhees (Day 26)


(Mountain Short-horned Lizard above, Rainbow Grasshoppers below)
14 September.

After the incident the night before, I was out of the tent by 0630, right at sunrise. I took my camera and some water and hiked down the trail for an hour or so, really quite happy to be alive and kickin.' I was hoping there'd be some nice morning light, but the cloud cover was pushing 100 percent. Still pretty awesome either way. You can see a whole lot of the desert from up there. Good stuff. (Rock Rattlesnake..I think..below)
I got back to my tent and packed it up. It was pretty gross. Since it got flooded the night before, it was caked with mud and dirt and still soaking wet. That was a little lame, I never like packing a wet tent.
Decided to drop the pack and take a detour down another trail. Found a Mountain Short-horned Lizard just off the trail. Ahh! I love these little fellows, and don't get to see them nearly enough. Also tons of the crazy Rainbow Grasshoppers all over the place. I've never seen so many grasshoppers. Everywhere!There were a couple really big Warbler Flocks, saw a few Grace's Warblers (nice).
Started the hike down Bear Canyon, the steepest trail in the park. Pretty steep stuff, uh huh. 3.5 miles of straight downhill. I got to a tight, rocky spot in the canyon and had that feeling that something was there. Yup, a mountain lion. Turned his butt on me and took off, he was about 60 feet away. Pretty close. But given the night before, this cat didn't phase me. I did the thing you're supposed to do when you see a cougar- clapped and acted all big and tough, but he was gone even before I had a chance to do that.
That's the 4th mountain lion encounter I've had. Kind of badass. Not a lot of people get to see those guys in the wild. And I've run into them four times. Four really close times, like one jump and they'd be all over me. It's a pretty thrilling experience. I guess when you're outside all the time like I am, in a lot of really remote places, it happens. Anyway, that was pretty spectacular, but I was actually kind of thinking I'd run into one there. Such a perfect spot for them. So it wasn't all that surprising, oddly enough. I thought maybe this one would be standing on a rock outcrop or something after he bolted, checking me out, but I didn't see him again.
When we got back to the car, ate a bunch of food and attempted to put my tent out to dry a little bit. On my way to the bathroom, I heard a rattle. I look down and there is a coiled Rock Rattlesnake about a half inch from my sandal-clad foot. That one kinda took me by surprise. He was all coiled and rattling and had his head out like he wasn't digging my being there so close. Eh! Nature Notes
Obviously I ran back to the car and grabbed the camera. He had gone under some trees by that point and wasn't in the best position for a photo, but I got a couple of him. Nice! That was the ONLY snake the entire trip. I'm kinda surprised, since I run into snakes pretty often, so I was happy this guy made an appearance.
Oh yeah, while packing the car and drying the tent and stuff, there were a bunch of juvie Canyon Towhees hanging around. They are pretty approachable birds but they were acting all House Sparrow-y, jumping on the table and checking out my food and stuff. How goofy of them! Camera Critters
(where I thought I was going to die the night before, above. Yucca fruit below)

36 comments:

Woody said...

It's easy to see how people get bit by rattlers, you have to be sharp to see them. This series has such diversity in colors and textures.

Cheryl Ann said...

Beautiful photos, Jill, and it was interesting reading, too! Hubby nearly stepped on a coiled rattlesnake about 30 years ago! He was walking very quietly and SURPRISE! The snake uncoiled and went off, however. Phew! And, no, he didn't see it either and he grew up in the woods of Pennsylvania. Yes, our desert rattlesnakes blend in with the rocks.

Arija said...

It looks like the snakes are starting to avoid you and the mountain lions are getting more frequent instead. Just as well that feller wasn't eyeing you up for lunch. That would have been a great loss to the blogging community who are not able to get around any more and get their thrills from your blog instead.

Just make sure to stay alive and blog!

Gaelyn said...

I've never seen a cougar or rattler in the wild, but I'll bet they've seen me. This was another of your great outdoor adventures.

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Your wildlife photos continue to amaze me. I've come across many rattlesnakes over the years. Fascinating creatures. Only one really unnerved me and that was because he allowed me to get too close before letting me know he was there. I am still waiting for my first mountain lion. Enjoyed your write-up.

Tammie Lee said...

wow wow, such an exciting adventure.
I have never seen a mt. lion. and that rattlesnake has unique markings! thanks for sharing all your wonderful critters and views, exquisite!

Out on the prairie said...

An amazing post Jill. I liked the lizards, they are very interesting .Normally I am not in fear of snakes thinking I make enough noise to send them on their way.I have gotten cornered and had some near step on them.Mountain lions are becoming part of our landscape with an abundance of Whitetail Deer.

Digital Flower Pictures said...

Loved the photos and commentary. The first landscape photo is amazing.

kanak7 said...

I LOVE your photos!! Amazing wildlife, especially the birds and the lizards. Snakes freak me out...this one blends in so well with the surroundings.

Thanks for stopping by my blog...I'd love to be here more often!:)

Mama Zen said...

Fantastic shots!

ladyfi said...

Stunning views and creatures! That rattler is very well camouflaged though.

jabblog said...

Amazing photos as ever. I like the rainbow grasshoppers - very cute:-)
Don't live TOO close to the edge, will you?

Jedediah said...

I love all the herp shots, the Short-Horned Lizard in particular.

Carver said...

What an adventure. Your shots are always so good. I feel like I was there with you. I can almost here the rattler too.

Ms. Bake-it said...

Fabulous photos Jill! What an amazing adventure!

~ Tracy

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Oh, how I envy you. But your story and pictures make me feel as if I've had a brief, and lovely, virtual vacation.

Except, of course, for the snakes. :)

Dominic Gendron said...

Great serie! Love the 2 Grasshoppers ;) I also really love the bird who invited itself to your table...so cute!

Barb said...

I'll stick to encounters with the incredible grasshopper, snail, and caterpillar - I'll leave the mountain lion and the snake to you! (Though I occasionally have contact with them, too...)

Al said...

Sounds like an exciting hike! We have those horned lizards where I live, I sometimes see them when I'm in the yard.

Rambling Woods said...

I am so happy that you are out there having the adventures and that you are amazing with the photographs. I'm sure you know how to keep safe, but please DO stay safe....Michelle

Natalie said...

WOW! I love your awesome pictures of nature! The ones of the mountains blew me away! I'd love to see a place like that :)

Marvin said...

Awesome landscapes -- and critters, too.

Snow Leopard said...

Beautiful photos. And I envy you :)

cat said...

Amazing shots and interesting story to read :)

Kala said...

I am trying to prepare myself for rattlesnake and mountain lion encounters next month.

MyMaracas said...

Gorgeous photos, and such beautiful country. It's good to know there are still such wild places. Thanks for sharing the adventure with us armchair tourists.

Inger-M said...

You do go on some exciting adventures! The views are awesome!

Gary said...

Your hikes always entertain us. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

eileeninmd said...

Great post and photos, Jill! Awesome sighting of the mountain lion. Not sure if I would like being close to the snake.

Boonie S said...

Great photos and a fascinating account. Thanks for this.

All the best, Boonie

John S. Mead said...

Great story telling as always! Love the images, but the cougar story sticks with me... as one who leads groups of high school kids into cougar territory on week long like, I am most nervous about them. Black bears are pretty predictable, but cougars are way more stealthy. Keep up the great work!

twobarkingdogs said...

that's a lot of scary looking critters for sure.

Jeri ~ said...

Great post - your photos are amazing!

Shelley Munro said...

What beautiful pictures. You obviously had an enjoyable trip despite your tent flood. I have to say I kinda like living in New Zealand where we don't have any dangerous wildlife. Seeing the photos is close enough. The view shots are stunning. My calves hurt thinking about hiking down that.

Marie said...

Such gorgeous photos, I really enjoyed them. My favorite though was the lizard -- I have always liked lizards :-)

Bryan Hughes said...

Great photos and story. The rattlesnake is indeed a rock rattlesnake, the Mottled Rock Rattlesnake, Crotalus lepidus lepidus, to be exact. They subspecies that lives in Arizona is one of my favorites.