I don’t feel good. I woke up sweaty. When I checked the thermostat it was 78. For a desert dweller like me 78 is chilly and a setting that will get me a $300 power bill if I try to maintain that temperature inside for very long. I should not be sweaty. I step outside thinking this will feel better. It’s 2 in the morning and probably over 80 degrees. It feels much hotter than inside. This is not relief. It hasn’t really cooled down for about a week now. Today’s expected high is 110 again.
And I don’t feel very good.
I’m achy and sweaty and miserable. I flop onto the couch. It feels cooler but I just can’t get comfortable. Now I’m chilly. Where is the blanket? The blanket only works for roughly three minutes after I have twisted and rolled and adjusted myself to make sure all of my toes were covered only to kick the stupid thing off because now I’m hot again and annoyed.
Do people who live in cold climates struggle this hard when they don’t feel good?
I use the phrase “don’t feel good” because this is not something that requires medical attention or even medicine. I’m not dying though I might moan like someone who is. Considering all the things I have done to this body over the years I am lucky I move at all so I should just shut up…but I don’t feel good.
I don’t sleep well. If I am lucky I get five or six interrupted hours a night. Between my potty breaks (we drink lots of water out here) and the dogs need to pee I can be up as many as four times in those five or six hours. You might say “get them a doggie door” and I will say go read my “Intro to Wildlife Photography” or even listen to the coyote howl I recorded. We are not getting a doggie door anytime soon.
Also I have a 17 year old dog. As it is now I can slide the glass door open all the way and he still has trouble finding his way out. Giving him a flap the size of his body to come and go through at a senile and mostly blind 17 years of age is just cruel. I love him so I get up.
I don’t want to turn on the TV because I’m afraid it will wake me up even more. I grab my smallest dog Tucker and use him as a heating pad for my upset stomach. He’s some form of terrier with soft hair and built like a sausage. He’s the perfect size and weight for my cramping tummy. I’d put him on my lower back if I could figure out a way to keep him there and not squash him. But now he’s over me and has wandered off to find his preferred spot in bed next to my husbands feet. He gets kicked out of bed every night multiple times. No dogs allowed. But Tucker has terrier attitude and simply waits until we fall asleep again to climb right back up.
It’s possible I ate one too many Doritos yesterday. I don’t keep them in the house very often because of my lack of control once the bag has been opened. My thumb is still orange. Doritos don’t make you achy do they? Honestly it doesn’t even matter if they did, I’d still eat the nacho cheese ones.
I’ve wandered the house now for an hour in search of a place to rest that isn’t too hot or too cold. I am an achy-sweaty-miserable Goldilocks. The struggle is real. I don’t know where to put me so I’m back to the couch.
I lay there eyes wide and irritated. Oh never mind just get up and go make coffee.
I just don’t feel good.
By now I’m sure you have realized I don’t have many wildlife photos. Come to think of it I’m not sure if I have posted any animal pictures except one of a 17 year old sleeping Shiba Inu.
Not exactly wildlife.
But if you have played along and read any of my posts you will already know I have never claimed to be a professional anything. All I claim to be is desert.
Oh I have tons of blurry nonsense. A grey blur I will happily tell you is a bunny. My blurry Javelina shots I took from way too far away. Yes, I have them. And because the reality is my odds so far have not been good with getting any quality shots when it comes to our furry friends, I’m going to show them to you. If you squint it sorta helps.
I don’t have a high powered camera. I use my iPad. Yes EVERY picture I have taken and everything I have posted has come from my iPad. When I started this blog a lot of the excitement and motivation came from the up close experience I get with the cactus and nature when I am outside in the yard. I want to be able to share all of this natural beauty with anyone who is interested. For those who can not ever get to the desert I want to share in a more personal up close way.
The cactus are great at holding still while my amazing piece of technology that is an iPad does the focusing for me. I have some awesome pictures. I do and I am proud. It’s still my views and angles for sure but for a person like me who has little back ground with technology the iPad has made my life easy.
I stay with easy when it comes to most things computer related. I don’t want a bigger camera. I think there are plenty of amazing photographers out there who can take pictures of animals so crisp and clear it doesn’t even seem possible. They are rock stars. Anyone who has taken a picture of a living creature will tell you huge amounts of patience is required. Wild life in extreme heat that are the same color as their surroundings and can move as fast as lightning? You go with your big lens.
I think in my defense it’s pretty hard trying to capture images of Wile E Coyote ( Super Genius) and the roadrunner on my iPad while I am outside working in the yard.
This is me:
Wait…stop!… I see something moving!…let me take off my gloves and set down my lopers…grab my iPad and pray it hasn’t gotten too hot from being outside with me… turn it on… wait…where did the bunny go…?
Ok, so take my blurry shots with a good story and use some imagination!
Also in my defense, none of these creatures want to sit and pose for me. If I move when I’m INSIDE the house bunnies will scatter! Forget me trying to open the door to get closer when they are being cute. Quail? Forget it. They are on to me and just run faster hurrying their adorable fluffy babies along to get away from crazy me. I am just dumb enough to semi chase half inch fluffy baby quail to try to get a picture on an iPad. Go ahead and picture it.
The other night I am outside on the patio with a close friend who was in from out of town. It was her first visit here to our little house on the hill in Gold Canyon but she is not new to the desert. Armed with a camera and lens the length of my arm, she came already knowing the views here are pretty awesome and ready with high power.
So we sat staring off at the beauty that is the Superstition Mountain, laughing, catching up and just relaxing. It’s about 7:30 so it’s prime animal watching time. Even though it’s still over 100 degrees outside there we sit happily in the shade.
Then it happens! She spots a coyote! Just trotting along the way they do. It’s in the high traffic zone, the wash that is the acreage next to our driveway. We see the Javelinas over there quite often. Jack rabbit bounce through there all day long. Because we are up on a hill it gives us a great vantage point. The wash is not flat and I’m not sure just how deep some of the gullys go. I’m not about to go wandering through there to find out either and that is going to be about the only way I’m going to get a clear photo with my iPad.
Enjoy the blurry.
So there we are already excited for one coyote when a second coyote can be seen just a few yards back trotting as well! Coyote trot. I don’t know how else to say it. I’m sure they run and lay down that’s not what I mean. Any time I have ever seen a coyote they are not running or walking its always this trot. It’s a trot with attitude. Coyote have no shortage of swagger that’s for sure.
With this distance and trotting I have no chance of getting any usable photos. But honestly don’t really care because I had been blessed to get a recording of them howling just a few nights earlier. I will take that chilling sound over a blurry photo.
The mesquite trees are dropping pods everywhere. The bunnies and rabbits eat these. Last night I look over and under one of the trees two rabbits are eating. They are cute. One looks like a young jack rabbit with the longer legs and black on the ears. But I am inside the house so I already know I’m not going any closer to get a better shot or angle. Not with those ears! They KNOW I’m watching but the pods are too tasty to leave. I grab my iPad anyways. You never know. Then I see there are now three rabbits. Oh fun! Wait! Is that four rabbits? They are multiplying before my eyes but I can’t get a decent photo of it to save my life! NO seriously? FIVE of them now!? So cute hopping around. Can I get at least ONE decent photo of this cuteness?
The vultures are not quite sure what to make of me yet. I’m outside a lot. I’m on the ground a lot. And if I am taking pictures of a plastic yellow cowboy I am almost definitely lying face down on the rocks and dirt. A vulture took a couple of fly bys the other day. Good lower circling to see if I was road kill or what. A Turkey Vultures sense of smell is keen so I did feel better knowing that it had to come closer to investigate me because I was lying there, not my odor that had drawn its attention. I rolled over in hopes of photographing this big hovering bird but then it realized I was alive. I swear I saw a look of disappointment! It just turned its wing and glided off.
I got nothing. Blur.
Javelinas are unique. This is not a wild hog or boar though it looks like one, I guess. It is a collard peccary. I am told it is related to a hippo. I’m giving you a great description right now huh? I can’t. This one you will have to look up. Javelina. I will dedicate a whole post to them later.
There is a small family who wander through our property, climb into planters and eat their way through cactus. The first night they came for an up close visit was terrifying.
It’s the middle of the night, we have been in our new house just a few weeks if that. We put up temporary fencing out the back so our oldest dog Jethro could go pee at night without the risk of rolling down a hill into cactus. Nothing major just the roll out kind of fencing. This isn’t for security and we hadn’t made the commitment as to where and how and if fencing 2.5 acres of desert was needed. We can’t just leave the door open at night for him because around here who knows what will find it’s way inside.
This night my dog Cotton is acting strange. I’m getting the nose poke repeatedly and now it’s with a whimper. This is not normal. I’m half asleep and think he just needs to pee really bad so I open the sliding door turning on no lights. Cotton bolts out like he has been shot from a cannon and I hear growling barking snorting grunting mayhem erupt! My brain is now wide awake and aware that I have at least one startled Javelina on the other side of the flimsiest fencing possible with a white ball of unstable but well meaning fluff coming straight for it! I wear contacts so I see basically as blurry as most of my photos but can make out the shape of a Javelina running away and down our front hill.
Not too many days later my husband is in the living room and yells to me to come. Uh, the Javelina family is in our front planter! It’s still light out! There are three of them. Obviously mom, dad and child. I grab my phone and snap pictures. I’m not blogging at this point and have no idea how much trouble I would later have trying to get these blurry but close pictures on to my site. It’s just cool and scary and exciting. These are not animals you walk up to safely and snap photos of. This house and property sit in line with a natural wash. It is their home. My planter will never get to have flowers. The Javelina uprooted a whole cactus, flowers wouldn’t make it a day.
So for my Intro to Wildlife Photography I give myself a C -. I think that’s fair. I don’t deserve an F. I haven’t failed. I continue daily to try. The effort and want is there. I believe the skill is too. I don’t deserve an A because of my trying or my effort though either. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe we all get a trophy at the end just because we showed up. Like I said earlier there are photographers out there who have pictures of individual strands of hair on a wolf four hundred feet away. They get the A.
I gave myself a C – knowing that I will get better. It’s a start. And you know what? It’s a really fun start.
As I encourage the masses to come and see the beauty that is the desert there is a small voice inside telling me you better make sure to prepare them properly. So I’m going to tell you like a friend, like someone who actually cares about you getting to enjoy the desert safely.
This weekend we had record breaking heat. This is not new for us desert folk. The news reporters seem to take quite a bit of joy announcing repeatedly the triple digit numbers expected. But a fact I am reminded of as I listen to the news is again we lost a hiker due to dehydration. Rescue teams went in search putting even more lives at risk.
Ok so let’s be reasonable, if I plopped you in the middle of the arctic without a jacket you would freeze right? If I plop you in the middle of the desert without water you will die. It’s not a maybe.
No water = death.
Be prepared for where you are going and KNOW your body and your limits.
I wrote earlier about the fact I am born and raised desert and I don’t go hiking in the summer after about 5am. Yesterday it was 100 degrees at 10 am!!!! It only got hotter. (June 6th 2016) Out here high heat doesn’t hit until later in the afternoon.
And I’m going to be honest the desert isn’t even that pretty in the middle of a hot afternoon. The sky is pale blue and everything is radiating heat. Its nap time. Its shut the curtains and block out the sun time.
The mountain range we live next to is magnetic and draws people to it. The energy is strong and almost overwhelming to those who are sensitive to it. With the added attraction of the possibility of finding gold we have people coming from everywhere to hike. But unfortunately not everyone makes it back home.
I found this crazy interesting book called “Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon” by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers that I have been reading. Arizona has some spectacular natural beauty that draws millions of visitors every year especially to the Canyon but too many seem to come incredibly unprepared and surprised by the weather. I definitely recommend it especially if you want to hike the Grand Canyon or even visit it.
There’s really nothing “soft” out there hiking a desert trail. No couch for you to stop at. If parking and then walking for another 20 minutes before you really get started sounds like too much for you already then guess what? IT IS! Know why? Because your brain didn’t even factor in the 100 degrees part!
Bring WATER. Not soda. WATER. As much as you can carry.
Don’t expect rescue teams to come for you either…at least not right away. They aren’t sitting out there in the desert in towers like life guards with binoculars watching to see you flop over from heat exhaustion. If you get yourself in a bad spot you could be miles away from any real help. And honestly the hotter it is the less people out there so who are you going to yell “help!” to when your phone doesn’t get a signal? How are you going to describe where you are?..
A hat and bright clothing are also good ideas along with sunscreen. If you ever need to be found, wearing brown, gray or camo is not going to help. Think outfit seen from space.
You might also rethink trying to get a tan while hiking. You are better off doing that by a pool… and air conditioning and a drink with ice cubes. Then at least when your body gets hot you can jump in the water. Also some of the lotions for tanning can attract bees. We did recently lose a hiker due to over 1000 bee stings. I don’t think lotion played a part but you don’t want to do anything to attract them.
Having less clothing on is not going to help in regulating your body temperature either and probably just speed up the process of getting you fried to a crisp.
And for goodness sakes wear real shoes! Not flip flops of any brand. Have I not shown you enough pictures of cacti already? Wobble an ankle wearing flip flops and that’s not a fun hike back.
We have in AZ what’s called the stupid motorist law. If you drive around a barrier into a flooded road and have to be rescued guess what? You are in trouble. I don’t think there is a law for dumb hiking but maybe we should look into it? Bad shoes, no water, too late in the day, tried to find gold digging with a spoon? Dumb hiker law
IT’S HOT IN THE DESERT!
Not sure what I mean still? Ever open your oven when it’s been cooking for a while and you get that blast of heat at your face and eyes and you wonder for a second if you still have eyelashes? I have stepped outside before and felt that here.
The desert is an extreme climate. Please do your homework before attempting any of the larger hiking trails. If you are planning a trip to see the fabulous Saguaros then start walking or hiking where you live now and build up your stamina. None of the trails I have ever been on are perfectly flat or paved so don’t say you practiced walking at the mall.
Check weather reports before making plans. Always let others know where you are going hiking and for about how long you think you will be. That way when you don’t come back after too many hours we know we might have to go search. I say don’t go alone.
The Superstition Mountain Range along with Arizona’s other amazing natural attractions have seen enough tragic loss of life. Come visit the desert safely.
Check out HikeArizona.com for great info regarding the trails.
Another thing that prompted this blog, the amazing animal encounters we have had in such a short time. Ok, wait, before I type another word let’s make sure we are clear on a few things.
I am NOT feeding or trying in any way to get animals onto the property, to make them pets or to touch any of them. There is a whole ecosystem I have just moved into and am learning who all is here. I probably wont get many photos of them unless I get lucky because I don’t always have a camera around.
So far we have seen a large scorpion, quail, roadrunners, woodpeckers, cardinals, humming birds, bees, spiders of all types, lizards all types, squirrels again of various types, an owl that on again off again seems to live in one of the sheds, a snake, rabbits, jackrabbits the size of a dog no joke, deer, bats, and our most disruptive visitor so far is a small family of Javelina. Mom, Dad and youngster. We had quite the first meeting. That story another time.
Despite having years old barb wire the Javelina come on through anyways. I refuse to wall in 2.5 acres of natural desert. We came here. They were already here. We will learn to do this safely. And again it starts by not feeding them. I had hoped to compost but I’m going to need to do some research or get your help with suggestions on how when you have this type of animal near. Meanwhile I just have to learn to not take it personally when one of them chomps through my purple prickly pear or tears out a whole cactus in the front yard. That happened a few days ago.
We have heard coyote a few nights but can’t say every night. I’m hoping to record it one of these nights so I can post it here.
So far no big cats. No bobcats or larger.
Yesterday morning a guy on a horse came riding through the property and down our driveway. Not fast just a slow walk I guess you’d say. So I’m adding horses to the list of animals seen on the property.
2.5 acres of not flat desert is what our house sits on. We are wonderfully close to the Superstition Mountain in an area called Gold Canyon AZ. Our house sits on top of a hill and gives us views from every way you look. The house is small and built in the 1940s. The previous owners took care of it so well and created such an amazing energy surrounding it that we have changed very little moving in.
It’s not the inside that I want to focus on anyway.
Part of why I wanted to write any of this is as I have grown older I realize not everyone has the same yard work experiences, understanding of, access to and love of working in a desert yard. I have plenty to share..
I have never considered myself a “gardener”. I’m not cultivating heirloom tomatoes and honestly have had little luck with growing any vegetable. To me a gardener can have pretty tools. They can have gloves with the cool designs to put into dark brown mulch and smooth around their yard. To me a gardener has beautiful flowers they cut in bunches and take in the house.
I work in the yard. I fight with it. It fights back. I am scratched and torn and bleeding guaranteed. My gloves are stuck with thorns. Desert plants are no joke. They are not going to be pulled or trimmed willingly. Years of evolution have made cacti extremely efficient in protecting themselves.
But whether they like it or not they need to be taken care of and groomed. Fire is a real danger in the desert. Leaving dead bushes and shrubs and branches is not a good idea. It also makes it even harder to protect your land from fire if it is surrounded by dry dead brush. Overgrown bushes hiding cacti are not fun either and can be seriously dangerous.
Some cactus can be next to impossible to get within a few feet of unless you are ok with being impaled by three inch spikes or met with clumps of spikes that have fallen strategically around the plant. Jumping Cholla are famous for this magic. They grow here and land there. These are especially not fun to groom either but for open property like we have getting those fallen cacti bits off the ground is needed for my friends, family and the dog’s safety.
I hope with this blog to share the beauty that is out here on a more personal level and less technical level. I am going to do my best to post pictures of my cacti with their real, scientific names and some info. and what not but also take non photo shopped pictures so you can be as close to the plants and nature as I can offer and still feel real.
We just bought this house. I will not take credit for some of the fabulous that is already growing here. The previous owners did a great job. We too have done our share in cleaning up the acreage and are uncovering hidden cacti left and right, hoping to highlight what already lives here. Really all credit for the beauty around here goes to nature.
We have plants that grow nowhere but this desert. We also have 13 different species of rattlesnakes in AZ but that’s another blog. Oh calm down it’s not crawling with snakes out here. But yes we have seen a snake since arriving. Not a rattler though. Pretty 4 footer probably gopher snake just cruising along. They are needed and wonderful. If you don’t like snakes then don’t go near them. I PROMISE they won’t voluntarily go near you.