Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Encounter with A Gila Monster

Over the years, I have hiked many times in the desert around Tucson. Until yesterday morning, I had never seen a Gila Moster. Yesterday, on my second hike up the Ventana Canyon Trail (I had been unable to rouse my wife for the early morning hike, we spotted a large, stubby lizard lumbering along the trail ahead of us. We were very excited to see this fat Gila (pronounced Hee la) monster. This is the only venomous lizard in the USA. This would account for its slow motion and fearless behaviour. Once we spotted it, the monster casually moved into the undercover for a couple of minutes and then decided to come right back to where we were. It plodded across a dusty trail and climbed over a rock within three feet of where we were standing. I was able to get an number of pretty close photos of this not-so-scary monster.

Tucson Arizona

It's springtime in the Sonoran desertand the cactus is blooming. This is a shot of a prickly pear in bloom. The weather here has been very strange for May according to the locals. When we arrived on the 15th of May the temperature was over 100 degrees F. It stayed that way for about four days and then heavy clouds set in. On Thursday it rained all day long. The desert flora was vibrant but since we were here to be warm and dry, we were only warm. However, the rain and clouds started to lighten and by Saturday it was beautiful and sunny once again.We stayed in Ventana Canyon where there are some great hiking trails that take you up the canyon and into the Santa Catalina mountains. The landscape is dominated by the Saguaro cactus which is an amazing creature. Impossibly huge and alien-looking, it grows in incredible abundance here. The Saguaro may visually dominate the landscape, but it is by no means alone. The desert here is teeming with flora and fauna.The Gila Woodpecker is a key player in Sonoran desert. By creating it's nest in the Saguaro, it also creates a home for many other desert creatures, once the woodpeckers have left the cavity.