The Puerco Mountains Report #5, continued
Roger Repp's Puerco Mountains Report
And thus it came to pass that on Saturday morning, 19 April 2008, Herman the German arrived at my house 35 minutes late, blaming his sidekick Jared for his tardiness. In all, there were 10,000 excuses, each rejected by 10,000 rebukes. The sniveling and bitching was legendary.
But it is hard to remain testy when one steps out of the vehicle on a herp trip, especially when it is an "Arizona Perfect" day in April. Yes, the temps would eventually climb to the low 90s today, but it would be a dry heat--quite tolerable.
The usual fumbling with taking temperatures, taking data, and checking signals ensued. Eventually, the tracker was ready, and the first stop would be CA47, AKA Wendy. The signal led us across the undulating bajada, and down the steep embankment of the big wash. The vegetation morphed from harsh Sonoran desert thornscrub to the lush park-like bosque of massive ironwood, mesquite, and palo verdes.
As we drew close to Wendy, Mr. Wide Awake here noticed an atrox sprawled nearly straight out in some Ragweed. It was decided that we should check for any micro chip that may reside within the find. Herman the German then proceeded to pull the snake out of the vegetables, er uh, vegetation with his tongs, so that we could ascertain what we had.
What we had was a snake about 80 CM SVL, with a narrow 5 CM long tail, and a very dainty head. The tail and the head told us that it was a girl. Her rattle was broken at the third segment, but that didn't stop it from singing with everything that followed next. On verbal agreement, Herman controlled the smart end of the snake by grabbing her with his tongs about 300mm behind the head. I controlled the dumb end by grabbing her with my tongs about 100mm up from her rattle.
What followed could best be described as an accident waiting to happen. The flandickery was legendary--and a perfect example for young, impressionable Jared to NOT follow. As I was sliding the PIT tag reader up and down the flanks of the snake, she suddenly whirled and launched a strike my way. I had a perfect view of the gaping maw of the snake coming toward my right hand--which was moving out of harm's way as fast as harm was coming at it-she missed by less than an inch. It was so close that the two witnesses both swore that she got me, but I showed them my definitely un-punctured hand. It was at this point that we decided the snake was new, and good enough that knowledge was. We left her as we found her without further adieu.
We next walked about five steps further, and found Wendy coiled under the canopy of a five meter tall ironwood. See photo--one picture worth thousand words--eh?
While enroute, I kicked up a leopard lizard. It went vertical in its angst to get away from me, running on its hind legs like a mini T-Rex. They leave little vapor trails when fleeing in such fashion-- they REALLY haul ass!
We eventually slugged our way up to Gordo the Tiger (not to be confused with "Gordo the Peach"). In mid-October of 2007, Gordo the tiger had moved into a vertical cliff face crevice. He was visible most of the winter. Today, he was viewed under a Gneiss boulder about three meters away from his hibernacula-- his first move of the year. Hence, he moved 3 meters in six months.
THEY DON'T DO MUCH! But to even see one up and alive at this point is cause for celebration.
The tracker next had the blips of CM10, "Frankie," on his radar. We traversed across the hill on the same contour as Gordo for no short duration, until the signal took us upward.
There was the faint sound to my deaf-ass ears of a small rattle sounding off at about the same time that Herman and Jared pointed Frankie out to me. He had been out gooning at our approach, and had seen us before we saw him. He whipped into a patch of prickly pear, and made his stand there.
See photo--eh? If you are ever with me, and feel so inclined when this happens, stick your hand into his face, and see what happens. I'll be ready with the camera-all the way through the fasciotomy and two-year recovery period!
Once again, Mr. Wide Awake Tracker was on spot with next subject--CT4, "Blakie." Blakie has been loads of fun lately. He crawled into a soil hole under a boulder in mid-October of 2007--and has not been visible since. He could be live, he could be dead--who knows? One fine day, I hope to note some sign of life out of him. In the meantime, I'm painting lines around him to see if he moves. Next to his boulder home, small crops of Lark Spur daintily decorate the landscape. I include a photo of the coolest. (Uh, Dale, would now be the time to employ "lavender" in favor of "purple?")
Following the nothingness of the Blakie experience, it became time for the tracker to suddenly forget everything he has learned over the past seven years. There was a LLLLLLLOOOONNNGGGGG period of thinking. It turns out the nameless wonder CM9 was right next to Blakie.
Eventually, it was learned that our last nameless snake was way the hell out in the big wash. By this time, it was hotter than the hinges of hell out there. And the snake was buried in a clump of neck-high ragweed, in a Neotoma midden of sticks. We saw all of 300mm of his neck in a north-facing hole. No photos ensued.
We next went after CA102, "Ali." However, she was not to be found despite a blind tracking episode that took us to the edge of the world. There is nothing more fun than frolicking about the countryside whilst listening to the grating static of a receiver jacked up to full volume-especially when the air temps are climbing righteously.
We eventually dissed the wench of an atrox, in favor of CT1--"Tony the Tiger." We now hoofed from the lower bajada one kilometer east of the hill all the way to the top to get him. Talk about not doing much? On 6 April 2008, Tony emerged from his hibernacula, and moved five meters down the slope to occupy a crevice beneath a boulder. Two weeks later, he was still there.
While I can't say that he hasn't moved a muscle, I CAN say that TIGERS DON'T DO MUCH! See the photo of Tony for some major thrills.
We checked on female CT6, Gracie. Our fair lady, the prettiest of the Tigers under our watch, was not to be seen. She has buried herself in a man made talus pile last October, and has been as exciting as watching wet paint dry ever since.
It is now just after noon, and hotter than a furry fox in a forest fire. As neither Jared or I are driving, we decide to start drinking heavily. With the German as our designated driver, he gets to watch us have fun. We decide that what is required is a road cruise to hallowed ground. We cruise to April Canyon in the northwest Tortolita Mountains.
Years ago, both Hans-Werner and I had seen our very first-ever wild Gila monster in April Canyon. Since Jared has never seen a wild Gila monster, we correctly figured this is the place he should also pop his cherry. It didn't take long. The place is a gimme Gila spot in April. That is why we call it "April Canyon."
Without further fanfare, I will attach photos of all three Gilas found this day. A few of you have shared three-monster-days with me. They are rare, and they are to be cherished. I treat every monster that I see as the last one I will ever see. I am not immortal; I do not intend to live forever. I LIVE for stuff like this.
Best to ye all, thanks for hanging in there.