Wildlife on the Trail?

Would you know what to do if you came face to face with wildlife on the trail? Obviously, a lot depends on exactly what kind of animal we’re talking about. ¬†A marmot would have me stopping in my tracks to snap a bunch of photos all the while baby talking to it and letting him know how darn cute he is.

A snake on the other hand gets my heart pounding while exclaiming, “Oh sh*t!” but of course still managing to take a quick snapshot ūüźćūüėģ (which I don’t recommend)

rattlesnake

coming face to face with a rattlesnake on the trail

Even though I should already know the answer(s) considering my past wildlife encounters, lately I find the need to evaluate my trail safety savviness and ask myself, “What should I do if ….. ?” The reason for my review pertains to my recent encounter with a rattlesnake on the trail last week. This was my second time having a close encounter with a diamondback and I’m hoping it’s my last, but when you spend as much time hiking in their habitat as I do, chances are we’ll meet again.

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona

Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

So what did I do when I heard that unmistakable sound only a diamondback rattlesnake can make? My tale about his tail ….

Willow Lake, Prescott, ArizonaLast Thursday was a glorious day offering a much wanted reprieve from the every day rainstorms. However, it is monsoon season here in Arizona and the moisture is very much-needed in this arid climate.

With the sunny blue skies, it didn’t take me long to lace up my hiking shoes and head on over to the Granite Dells area for an exploratory hike with the camera.

I chose an out and back hike at Willow Lake in Prescott, Arizona. The trail started off like any other dirt hiking trail, but soon I found myself scrambling across huge boulders and using the white spray painted dots to guide me along the trail.

hiking Willow Lake, Prescott trails, Arizona

white dots highlighting trail

I was a mere fifteen minutes into the hike when the trail went up rather steeply and I began wondering what I had gotten myself into.

To maintain my balance, I leaned forward toward the boulder and steadied myself with one hand on the ground as I climbed following the white spray painted dots.

I continued to pay close attention to those dots as to not veer off the trail. I was focused on my footing and my where abouts and of course the obligatory photo taking.

About 20 to 25 minutes into the hike, the trail had taken me up and over some beautiful scenery. I was enjoying myself and getting in a great workout. The trail had dipped down only for it to head back up over a rock outcropping. I was slightly winded as I climbed and just as the boulder leveled off, there was an unmistakable sound to my right.

diamondback rattlesnake

Is it just me, but I see shoes? I find his skin beautiful … the repetitive pattern, texture, and color is stunning.

“Oh sh*t, not again!!!” There off to my right about 10 to 12 feet away was a rather large diamondback rattlesnake in strike position. Tail was up and rattling. Head was up with tongue dancing. I slowly and gingerly kept walking (which I felt was my safest and quickest option).

Within seconds, he settled down and both of us no longer felt threatened. I quickly, and I mean quickly, snapped a couple of photos while admiring his unique beauty.  Hmm, years ago I owned a pair of snake skin shoes with a similar texture. At the time, I lived in the Chicago area and had never seen a snake in the wild.

For some reason, I kept thinking about those shoes and soon came to the conclusion that it would somehow feel very wrong to me owning a pair of snake skin shoes. Although I didn’t appreciate the encounter on the trail, I do appreciate wildlife and that beautifully textured skin belongs in the wild and not on my feet.

diamondback rattlesnake

I was hiking from left to right when I met Mr. Diamondback

diamondback snake

guess I wasn’t the only one on the move.

rattlesnake

As I was hiking from the left and coming over the ridge, I was more focused on my footing and potential critters in the rock crevices which is why I didn’t immediately notice the snake sunning himself near the ledge.

For a brief second, I thought about hanging around for more photo-ops. He was rather large and a good-looking snake at that, but thank goodness my better judgement took over. ¬†Although he and I seemed to have come to an understanding, you never know what might provoke the guy. He is a snake after all and unpredictable. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I am afraid of being bitten by a snake.

I continued on my hike and once I was on the other side of the ravine, I looked back to see if the snake was still there.

Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

Looking across the ravine to see if the snake is still on the trail.

I certainly felt somewhat relieved seeing Mr. Diamondback on the move. Remember, I have to hike back this way ūüė≤ This rattlesnake encounter did take some of the joy out of the rest of my hike and I was almost ready to call it quits, but I’m a stubborn gal and I was on a mission to see the red bridge. Thus, it was onward and upward …. figuratively AND literally.

hiking Prescott trails, Arizona

Eek – all those nifty places for snakes to hide. “Please Lord no more diamondback encounters”.

Red Bridge Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

The red bridge looks more pinkish than red thanks to the Arizona sun

I made it to my destination; the red bridge. I was tempted to continue hiking a little further, and probably would have had it not been for the snake encounter. It was already 85 degrees Fahrenheit at ten in the morning. With the heat and sun shining, this was ideal snake weather and one diamondback meet up was more than enough.

Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

Red Bridge – Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

After a little rest and several photographs later, it was time to turn around and retrace my steps. To say I was on edge or a little jumpy would be an understatement. Each little rustling of vegetation from lizards or grasshoppers would have me whipping my head around in search for the cause of said movement, and lets not even talk about the sounds of crickets or birds.

lizardgrasshopper

 

 

 

 

 

It really was a beautiful day and Willow Lake is a wonderful place to hike, but I couldn’t relax and enjoy the return hike. I was on edge and just wanted to get back to my car.

Prescott trails

I laid my pack down next to the white trail marker to help show the grade – steepness

I navigated the areas of the trail where I was concerned about the steepness of the boulders with a quickness and ease that surprised me. And to think, earlier I thought I’d be scooching back down this trail on my derriere.

Willow Lake trail Prescott, Arizona

follow the white dots – hiking up to see if Mr. Snake is still there!!!

When I retraced my steps on the trail near the rattlesnake encounter, I felt nervous and heard a large sound in my ears. It was a familiar sound, yet unfamiliar. It was so loud that it nearly drowned out the sounds of birds chirping. I stopped for a second to figure out what it was and soon realized it was the pounding of my heart. ¬†“Geez, Ingrid. Get a grip. It’s only a snake”. ¬†“Ah, but not any old snake”, I replied to myself.

critters on the trail

careful of sneaky critters on the trail!

Okay, now I’m talking to myself. ¬†I vowed, when I got home, I’d do some Googling and investigate what to do when encountering wildlife. I felt pretty sure of myself and what to do, but a little review might be helpful and perhaps make me feel a bit more confident in the future.

hiking in Prescott, Arizona

The stick on the trail made me jump thinking it was a snake

I made it past the rattlesnake sighting only to have a hornet keep buzzing around me. Must’ve been the sweet nectar oozing from my pores. Between the heat, blazing sun, and nervous fear this gal, who normally doesn’t sweat, was sweating indeed.

And although I managed to avoid a snake bite or hornet sting, I did return to the RV with a dozen itchy tiny welts from mosquitoes.

At least these were itty bitty mosquitoes when compared to the huge ones found in Minnesota.

hiking in Prescott Arizona

So here are my thoughts on safety guidelines. Although today I’m talking about wildlife, I use the same personal guidelines when visiting a city. Thus, whether I’m in the wilderness surrounded by boulders and vegetation or in a metropolitan area surrounded by concrete and roads, a little street smarts goes a long way.

  • learn an animals habits and potential dangers
  • stay calm and back away slowly
  • appear tall and confident
  • allow a wide berth
  • do NOT turn your back
  • do NOT act threatening or provoke
  • be prepared and always have an exit strategy
  • carry pepper spray/bear spray

I know this is a basic ¬†guideline and each animal reacts differently, but in all cases, I’d say most important is not acting threatening or provoking. So what would I have done if bitten by that rattlesnake?

  • First, distance myself from the snake
  • Second, sit down and stay calm. Try not to move.
  • Third, call 911 (when I’m out and about, I’m always checking my phone for reception) If my phone won’t work, use my whistle or scream for help (I try never to hike remotely when by myself. Although this day, I didn’t run into another hiker on the trail. Thank goodness I had good cell service)
  • Always be familiar with your location and surroundings so you can give good directions should you need rescuing. I stopped at every trail post noting my location.
  • If not dizzy, slowly make my way back to the trailhead
  • Get to a hospital as soon as possible.
  • Additional info on snake bites¬†here and here

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona

Have you ever come across wildlife unexpectedly and feared for your safety?

Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife, A Guide to When, Where, and How

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A Solo Stroll

The monsoon season has officially arrived here in Prescott, Arizona. It’s curtailed my hiking and explorations somewhat, especially when there’s lightening present. But the drama in the sky is luring. The other afternoon I ventured out with no real plan in mind. With camera in hand, I thought I’d swing by one of my favorite spots in Prescott, Arizona … Watson Lake.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

It was late in the afternoon with ominous clouds looming. The park was relatively empty. I began aimlessly strolling down one trail and then down another. I was alone, but I was never really alone.

The quiet solitude allowed me to take in the sights and sounds around me. I was in my element, and if it hadn’t been for the severe storm, I could have stayed until nightfall. The highlight of my day was coming across a bobcat in the middle of the trail. She was on the hunt and very focused. She knew I was there, but could’ve cared less. She glanced at me once and immediately returned to focusing on her prey.

Lynx

108 mm – What a rare treat to come across this beautiful bobcat. She was in the middle of the trail and wasn’t about to move. She was intent on her hunt and very focused.

I waited and watched this elegant cat for awhile. However, she obviously exuded more patience than moi, and I soon found myself walking in another direction. I hadn’t ventured far when I heard her success. Tweetie bird’s beautiful chirping was halted in mid chirp along with some serious rustling of the bushes. I quickly swung back to the previous trail where I had spotted her, but saw no signs of the majestic cat. Although, I knew to keep a very safe distance, and didn’t walk past my original spot where I photographed her.¬† Ah, the circle of life!

A collage of what I saw along the trail that fine day illustrating I was never alone ……

Fingers crossed the storms aren’t too severe this afternoon and I can head back over to Watson Lake and visit with the locals while getting in some trail hiking. In lieu of exercise, I’ll settle for more shutter clicks ūüėĀ

Update – Oops in my exuberance to share these photos, I failed to do my homework on the cat I encountered along the trail. Because of the ears, I assumed it was a Lynx when in reality I believe it’s a bobcat. Thanks Laurel for pointing that out¬†ūüėŹ

This post was written in response to the WordPress photo challenge = collage

YI 4K Sports and Action Video Camera (US Edition) Night Black

Third Times a Charm

Today is our last day along the Texas Gulf Coast.¬† We’ll be working our way back to Phoenix Sunday morning, and although we did contemplate extending our stay, the pull of appointments, seeing our children, and the anticipation of the desert blooming¬†can’t be¬†ignored.¬† This was our third January camped near Rockport, Texas, and was our best visit yet.¬† Perhaps the saying third times a charm is true, because¬†this visit¬†certainly was a charmer.

a birders delight!

a birders delight!

Last year’s visit found us dealing with the Polar Vortex meaning lots of cold, wet weather.¬† I also contracted pink eye aka conjunctivitis which put a real damper on my photography.¬† This year with all the talk of El Nino along with the fall flooding in Texas, Al and I actually thought about canceling this trip to the coast, but since we already had the RV park reservation lined up, as well as¬†friends waiting for us, we hit the road and arrived New Year’s Eve.¬† And boy, am I ever glad we decided not to cancel.

This kind of water is a kayakers dream

This kind of water is a kayakers dream

Al and his buddy had a fun month of taking the boat out into the St. Charles Bay every morning doing what guys do best; hunt, fish and BS.¬† I had a fantastic time playing with my camera(s) but when new neighbors pulled in next door my fun was taken to another level.¬† During a casual get to know the neighbor conversation, Mary Ann informed me she enjoys photography.¬† Well, she didn’t have to tell me twice.¬† Next thing she knew,¬†I was getting her out of bed early, loading her in the truck, and¬†sharing all my favorite (and not so favorite) photography spots with her.

The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.

The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.

Our first full-day outing was up to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I skipped a trip here last year because of my eye illness, and therefore, I was looking forward to a visit this go around.  And just like my first visit, I was somewhat disappointed with the refuge.Aransas Wildlife Refuge

There were very few birds to be seen with the exception of the vultures, but¬†we did spot a javelina in the far, far distance.¬† We even¬†saw one cross the road, but quickly disappear into the brush.¬† Looking at the photo, I do wonder if this is a hog and not a javelina.¬† Regardless, I’m telling my friend, Mona Liza, I finally saw my Javelina ūüėÜ

Took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or is it a hog?

it took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or could that be a hog?

VultureThe showing of birds at the refuge was poor, and several trails¬†/ viewing¬†overlooks were closed.¬† I don’t think I could honestly recommend going out-of-the-way to visit the Aransas NWR.¬† If you’re in the area and interested in a picnic outing, then by all means, but¬†if you’re looking for a well maintained, wildlife rich place, this isn’t it.

Next…. I always enjoy a visit to Mustang Island and the town of Port Aransas.¬† I cruised the island twice by myself and once with¬†Mary Ann.¬† Commutes via ferry never get old, and are a fond addition to a day of adventure.

This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her.

This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her. He was hungry that morning and on the move.

In the town of Port A (aka Port Aransas) a stop at the Leonabella Turnbull Birding Center and stroll at Charlie’s Pasture is always worthwhile.¬† Then there’s driving on the beach and sharing lunch with feathered friends.¬† Seagulls can always be counted on for a little entertainment.Seagulls

It wasn’t long before I discovered my partner in crime (Mary Ann) was adept at spotting those vibrant pink beauties; the roseate spoonbill.¬† I can never seem to¬†take enough photos of these unique characters.roseate spoonbill

But then I do love the vibrant white of the egret ….. How about a little vibrant pink and white together with a touch of striking yellow?¬† Aren’t these two¬†beautiful?birding

The highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast was the morning¬†Al’s friend, Dennis, took me out¬†for a¬†boat ride for the specific purpose of photography.¬† I just can’t thank¬†him enough for two hours of sheer perfection and joy.¬† We launched the tiny vessel twenty minutes before sunrise.¬† It was a cold 32 degree morning¬†(one of the coldest all month) with no wind and clear skies.¬† He thought for sure I was going to cancel due to the cold.¬† Not a chance!¬† I couldn’t wait to get out on the water.St. Charles Bay

I wore my winter coat¬†with one of¬†Al’s camo coats over it along with earmuffs, camo hat, warm gloves, and sweatpants tucked into rubber rain boots.¬† Sorry folks, no photo of this fashionista.¬† I was super comfy and with no wind, it was a perfect morning.

Can you see the two whooping cranes?

Can you spot the two whooping cranes?

As we slowly cruised the waters, the sun rose.  We kept an eye on the shoreline in search of wildlife, and from time to time, we could hear the familiar call of cranes.

Once we spotted the cranes, the boat motor was turned off, and we floated toward shore.  I carefully stepped on the front of the boat steadying myself and raised my camera up over my head as high as my five foot four frame would allow.  This is one time I was grateful my Panasonic FZ200 had a flip out monitor.

The three front sandhills are getting ready to fly.... camera ready.

The front sandhills are getting ready to fly…. camera ready.

And they're off

And they’re off

I was thrilled to see not only the endangered whooping cranes, but a smorgasbord of coastal birds;  egrets, sandhill cranes, killdeer and those lovely pink roseate spoonbills.  I was tickled pink with delight and this was by far the highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast.coastal birds

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the highlight of Dennis’ morning.¬† While I was¬†clicking away, he was¬†drinking his thermos of hot coffee and enjoying the scenery around him¬†and that’s when¬†he spotted a dolphin.¬† In a whispering tone, he informed me of the dolphin.

Center right - dolphin feeding

Center right – dolphin feeding

When I¬†turned around to look out over the water, there was a sudden flurry of activity as the dolphin was feeding.¬† Dennis had never seen this before and was as giddy as a school child…. or as giddy as me seeing¬†the wonderful variety¬†birds.

He and I both enjoyed our morning out on the water.  My boat ride ended with a photo of this trio.Birding

Yes, this was one fun month filled with a bunch of wonderful surprises.¬† Al and I are already looking forward to returning next January, and who knows, we may even extend our stay.¬† The desert or the coast?¬† I’m glad we can split our time between the two, because I don’t think I could pick.¬† Let the tug of war commence!

We're on the move!

We’re on the move!

amazon

Our Perfect Day continues

Rocky Mountain National ParkPikaOur drive continued up Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.  Hubby and I could not contain our smiles after watching the cute little Pikas darting amongst the boulders and through the alpine tundra wildflowers.

If it weren’t for the high altitude making me feel a tad woozy, I would’ve stayed on that trail all day.

Yep, pull up a chair and watch the Pikas and Marmots scurrying about the tundra!¬†¬† Yes sirreee, I’m easily entertained.¬† Al and I could sit for hours and watch wildlife.¬† So hubby was¬†equally enthralled ūüôābighorn sheep

We tore ourselves away from the Pikas and continued our journey, but we didn’t get far.  We saw folks with pointed cameras and a couple of park volunteers donned in orange vests standing along the side of the road.  I quickly found a place to park and joined the group.bighorn sheep

The three male bighorn sheep were magnificent.  The orange clad volunteers directed traffic as well as ensured tourists maintained a nice distance from the animals.  It was clear the bighorn sheep were used to visitors.  They were more interested in munching the meadow grasses than they were in the shutters snapping.bighorn sheep

Supposedly, the area near Iceberg Pass is a popular location to spot bighorn sheep.Rocky Mountain National Park

hiking in ColoradoMoving on …. Near the highest point on Trail Ridge Road (12,183 feet ‚Äď 3713 m), we spotted a herd of Elk in the distance.¬† We were getting¬†accustomed to seeing Elk in the park, but those antlers were never the less impressive and check out those wildflowers – they sure were pretty!

We took a pass on stopping at the Alpine Visitor Center and continued our trek toward the town of Grand Lake crossing Milner Pass and the Continental Divide.  This marks the location of the direction of water flow.  All creeks and rivers on the east side of the divide flow easterly toward the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean.  Creeks and rivers on the west side of the divide including the Colorado River flow toward the Pacific Ocean.Rocky Mountain National Park

Shortly after Milner Pass are a series of five switchbacks that helped us navigate the 2,000 foot drop in elevation to the town of Grand Lake.  We found a nice place to stop along the shores of the lake to enjoy our picnic lunch.Grand Lake Colorado

Grand LakeIt didn’t take long before we were joined by company looking to mooch a morsel.

One of these chipmunks was running across Al’s foot and¬†even started begging.¬† When we threw him some lettuce leaves¬†he actually had the audacity to spit out¬†my fresh, organic butter lettuce.¬†Then another chipmunk came over and tried the lettuce.¬† He too spit it out.

“Well guys…. if you were looking for junk food, you picked the wrong couple”.¬† Al and I have been¬†trying to¬†eat¬†real healthy lately and feeling much better for it.¬† Perhaps sometime I’ll post about our Paleo diet, but for now I’ll just say it’s made a huge difference in¬†our overall health.

Grand LakeAfter a very enjoyable lunch, we headed into town to stroll some of the shops.

Grand Lake is a small¬†town that Al and I would visit each winter when our family would spend the Christmas holiday near this part of Colorado.¬† Ah yes, wonderful times.¬† This little mountain town will always hold found memories for us….. new and old.

While I made a quick dash to the Ladies room, Al stepped into one of the shops and upon my return, he surprised me with a gift.  You see, my birthday was just a few days away and hubby decided to surprise me with a necklace.

Five years ago I might have questioned his taste preferring a combination of gold and precious gems, but our new lifestyle is so different from that of our suburbia world that most of my fine jewelry was either given to our daughter or sits in storage.  I was almost brought to tears by the lovely sterling silver moose hanging from a silver chain.  A moose necklace; how perfect.

TundraAl and I have been together well over thirty years, and we stopped doing the surprise/gift thing a long time ago and I’m totally fine with that.¬† As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it was initially my idea.

Anyway, I found the gift very touching and adding to an already amazing day.¬† But the cherry on the sundae was yet to come as the guy in the fudge shop (yes, you read that right ‘fudge’.¬† Chocolate¬†IS¬†healthy¬†and we’ll leave it at that)….. the guy in the fudge shop recommended we drive down Columbine Road if we wanted to see moose, thus¬†off we went.

We drove around the residential neighborhood for about 15 minutes before deciding to call it quits.¬† We had a long drive ahead of us back to camp and figured we would just have to¬†return next summer to focus on that moose hunting.¬† I no sooner turned the corner to head to the main road when Al urgently said, “Wait….. look”.

moose

Can you see him?

I glanced between two houses out into the water,¬†and there he was …. the¬†largest moose I had ever seen.¬† He was standing in the water munching away.¬† I couldn’t get the little truck pulled off the road and parked quick enough.mooseIsn’t he gorgeous?¬† Oh my gosh, this was definitely the icing on the cake, cherry on top, pi√®ce de r√©sistance turning this day into one heck of a perfect day.¬† Boy, did we hit the Mother load of wildlife¬†that day; pika, marmot, elk, bighorn sheep, and now a moose!Colorado mooseIt was tough pulling ourselves¬†away, but we still had to cross the Continental divide back over Trail Ridge Road to get home to the Glacier Basin Campground.Trail Ridge RoadWhat a fabulous day it was….. perfect ūüôāGrand lake colorado moosebighorn sheep colorado

Nature Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park (Nature Guides to National Parks Series)
Wildlife Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots