Saturday, June 21, 2014

Horseshoe Mountain, bees, snakes, wasps, hawks, lizards, etc.

This is what I call Horseshoe Mountain. I don't know if it has a real name.

In my continuing effort to lose some weight, I've been re-visiting a lot of places I've hiked before. I was on Horseshoe Mountain a couple of days ago. I hadn't been up there for a few years. There was a saguaro next to a rock wall on the way up, and you had to go between the two. The saguaro had no spines on the side facing the rock, up to about shoulder height. I thought that meant that a lot of people had been through there and a lot of those got saguaro spines embedded in their sides. I guess it's more likely that some kid with a stick knocked the spines off, though. Anyway, that saguaro has fallen over.

A saguaro that had guarded the path up for many years has fallen.

A beehive a little further up the trail. I don't know if they are killer bees or plain old wild honeybees.

I was standing near the fallen saguaro enjoying the breeze and cooling off a little after the steep part of the climb when I became aware of a humming sound that was not traffic. Snakes, scorpions, centipedes, wasps, and heat are some of the things you have to be careful of when hiking in the desert. The thing I fear most, though, is killer bees. You read about people being attacked by them in the Phoenix area every now and then, sometimes on hiking trails. Once they decide to attack, they don't stop until you are gone. You have to run a minimum of 300 yards to get away from them. They attack the eyes, nose, and mouth of their victims in order to blind and asphyxiate them with swelling from their poison or with their dead and dying bodies. Imagine trying to run down a mountain with angry bees stinging your eyes and flying into your mouth.

Killer bees are most likely to attack in the spring, when the swarm is searching for a new place to nest. Swarming season is over. They also don't like loud noise. I'm normally pretty quiet, but I decided to walk very softly. They don't like strong fragrances. That's one of the reasons I use unscented soap, shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant, laundry detergent, and no fabric softeners. I decided that it would be safe to walk around them if I didn't get too close. I restrained myself from swatting at anything buzzing around me. Bees frequently check me out while I'm hiking. They buzz around at belt level about 2 inches away for a minute or so. Swatting at it could cause it to release pheromones that would bring the whole hive to attack you.

I think I've photographed this view from just about every possible angle.

There's a mine shaft up there that goes about 12 feet into the side of the mountain. I had hiked to it once before and decided to see if I could find it again. It wasn't hard to find.

An old mine shaft. I had hiked to it from below before. Now I don't see how I was able to do that. Nothing around there looks climbable from up here.

Looking into the mine shaft. There was a rattlesnake in it last time I was here. Didn't see one this time but I didn't look under that rock.

I have never been in that mine shaft. There was a rattlesnake in it last time, and that huge boulder on the floor makes me think that more might fall at any time. I think the bolts in the sides of the shaft are a recent addition, but I have no idea why they are there.

Another trail I hiked recently is Jacob's Crosscut up to the aluminum bench. I haven't been all the way up there for a while because it always makes me tired. It's the trail where I saw my first snake in Arizona. It was a red racer and it was wrapped around a bunny. I got too close trying to get pictures and it let the bunny go and zipped away. People say it was nice of me to save the bunny but I feel bad about making the snake lose it's meal. Anyway, just past the place where I had seen the red racer, I thought I heard a squealing rabbit. I got the camera ready and walked carefully along the trail. I eventually saw a zone tailed hawk fly away with what looks like might be a piece of rabbit. It's hard to tell.

Zone tailed hawk with what appears to be a piece of rabbit.

That was pretty cool. There was another hawk on a saguaro making screeching noises. That might be what I thought was a rabbit at first.

There are three benches along this trail. I adjusted my shoe laces on this one.

The trail gets a little steep towards the end. I trudged very slowly to the top, then stopped to take some pictures (i.e. catch my breath) and a guy ran past me. Show off.

Runner on the trail. It must take a lot of time to be able to do something like that.

Horned lizard. I also saw a deer but it was too dark to get a picture.

I like the way this turned out.

Zebra tailed lizard.

I saw a zebra tailed lizard that did the usual zebra tailed lizard thing. It sprints ahead of you for 10 or 20 feet and then stops and slowly wags its tail back and forth. I wonder if they are trying to make potential predators confuse them with the fellow pictured below.


I saw that snake recently behind Phoenix Mountain, which is the mountain with "PHOENIX" written on it in large white letters. It was stretched out in the sand of a wash warming itself up. Just before I saw the snake, I had seen a tree covered with tarantula hawks. At least I think that's what they were. There were dozens of them. I don't know why they were all in one place. Must have been a mating party or something.

Tarantula hawk.

Let me know if you have any trouble finding the rest of the pictures.

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