1 and 2 May, 2011
We first discuss 30 April. When the guide set this trip up, it was burned in his brain that it was to be all about Arizona Black Rattlesnakes. I did NOT bring this group together to go after Mountain Kingsnakes (AKA
"pyros") in late April. One would have an easier time catching a fart and painting it green than finding a pyro during one of the direst springs on record. Be that as it may, a mutiny in the ranks ensued, and off we went on
an ill conceived and very poorly executed adventure to find pyros. We were rewarded for this effort by finding a few tree lizards and a flock of wild turkeys. The latter was greater in size than the party who witnessed them, and smarter as well.
Lift lid, deposit day, flush toilet. Thus endeth the pyro report. Let be said, let it be done with, amen.
And thus it came to pass that the best-planned part of the journey began. We had rented a guest house in a place that is about as far away from beer and other lesser essentials that one can get. Hence, a shopping trip
was in order, a list was created, and a Walmart was assailed. And then we were slugging our way eastward, to a place where birdies sing, bears frolic, and the ground can be littered with our quarry--which thankfully was NOT pyros.
The last possible gas stop to our destination was in the town of Willcox.Upon stepping out of our vehicles, gusting winds laced with arctic undertones caused erect nippleage upon our chests. My countenance fell right off my visage, and was subsequently ground into the pavement--where it remains embedded to this day. In short, the weather was going to screw us for the last three days of this adventure. The forecast was a portent of doom: windy, cold, and not a chance in heaven or hell for us to score. An arctic blast in May? Who'd have thunk it?
We had no choice but to continue on. If nothing else, we were heading for one of the most scenically fantastic places in Arizona. That, along with food fit for kings, comfortable lodging, and plenty of beer (or so we thought) would have to be enough for the likes of us. The long road in was supposed to produce hognose snakes, Gila Monsters, and box turtles as consolation prizes. It of course produced nothing. NOTHING would be out cruising in this type of weather.
But we did get a big lift upon arriving at the guest house. It was a thing of beauty, and we will let the pictures show the rest in that regard. Once we were all settled in, we decided upon a rocket run to our herping spot to kick around a bit. And so, Little White carried Gery, Mike and I to our destination. Upon arriving there, we amused ourselves by watching a pair of tree lizards in courtship. Eventually, they fell off their tree and died of old age. This while we awaited the arrival of Great White--which was supposed to be following right behind us.
Two forevers later, Great White did arrive. Dave, Ralph and Steve had encountered a bear enroute, and decided that chasing that bear around was going to be more fun than herping. They were correct with
that assumption, because our first attempt to herp the canyon was a bust. If we were seeking tree lizards, we would have been happy, for we saw over 100 of them. Apparently their activities are not affected by gale force frigid blasts in May.
There was little left to do but go back to the guest house, cook an absolute knock out feast, and drink a few beers. That night, three of us slept in the screened-in porch that the guest house afforded. We awoke to a 4 degree C (39 F) morning. As if the cold wasn't enough of a bad news scenario, one of those frolicking bears must have let itself into the house, and helped itself to our beer cooler. We started the morning before with five 12-packs--60 brave soldiers carrying their own bodily fluids. This the morning of 2 May, there were only eight soldiers left. All this drought must have left those poor local bears in a thirsty state.
Upon discovering that these crafty bears had drank most of our beer, a few members of our party came to the erroneous and haughty decision that we didn't need any more beer. We would just tighten our belts and do the next two days without. But the guide foresaw that a trip to Safford would be transpiring that afternoon. After all, that is what guides are for.
I think we're now to the point where we can let the images do the talking. Al pictures except the last come from Steve Barten.
Pic 01: Little White leading the charge into the maw of black velvet land.
Pic 02: The guesthouse, with Great White and Little White in the foreground
Pic 03: The view outside the guest house.
Pic 04: The track of the bear that Steve, Ralph and Dave chased around. They probably pissed him off, and he was probably the one who drank all our beer.
Pic 05: Herping in the canyon.
Pic 06: At the last possible second in the day, Steve saved the day by finding this cerberus as photographed in situ. Hallelujah!
Pic 07: A posed photo of the snake in pic 06.
Between pics 07 and the remaining two, Mike and I headed to Safford for a beer run. It was a delightful drive, but completely devoid of herps. Meanwhile, the other four continued their efforts, and
Pic 08: Black-necked Gartersnake found by Dave
Pic 09: S-h-h-h-h guys. A Western Lyresnake found by Steve.
We now had just one more day left. It might have been good, and it might have been bad.
So who did come out of that door--the lady, or the tiger?
We'll let you know that later this week.
Best to all, roger