Wildlife/animals


How Do These Holes Happen?

I hadn’t expected anything like this when we hiked to one of the highlights recommended in Big Bend National Park.  Tinaja is Spanish for pond, so I’d assumed oasis which would naturally be a big draw in arid Big Bend.  The formations were even cooler though, especially when a fox trotted into the canyon and left a deposit in my path.  (Apparently he was delivering a message: get outta my yard!) On seeing the tinajas, the holes’ symmetry made me wonder if people had somehow bored them.  But who would have taken so much trouble, and why? A month later […]


Javelina Tough

A prickly pear with scalloped notches made me wonder if desert critters manage to eat around the thorns.  I know cactus is nourishing because my great-grandfather sometimes resorted to feeding his cattle by burning thorns off.  Rabbits, I hear, do eat around the thorns, but Javelina munch thorns and all–without wincing. Javelinas are peccaries, not pigs.  They’re named for javelins because their canines are that sharp.  They also smell like skunks.  Fortunately they don’t generally mess with people unless a mother thinks she needs to defend her young.  They feel differently about dogs. All in all, I was happy to […]


Midnight Raid

Camped along the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park, we were pretty much alone in the campground and miles from most everybody.  The night was dark and chilly, so when I heard a clank very near the camper, I stayed in bed and listened rather than leave my warm covers to peer into darkness.  After a bit there was ticking on roof followed by a trill that made me think of a cricket though it was clearly not a cricket. Then there were sprinkles on roof.  Had the ticking only been raindrops?  What could the trill have been?  […]


Biplane Ride!

While camping on Carlsbad Beach in California, I noticed an ad for a ride in a biplane.  Barnstormers! Wilbur and Orville!  Snoopy and Red Baron!  Two for the price of one! Janene revved high spirits as we opened our pickup doors, “You look like you came from Colorado!” Enthusiasm flowed as she briefed us, checking for hazards: “Are you wearing earrings, Ann? Tuck your hood in, so it won’t pull. I have a vest if you’re cold.” I especially appreciated these efforts because I was so nervous about getting airsick, I’d taken two pills, and they were making me slow […]


Pine Cones 101

A few years ago a pinecone dropped out of the top of a ridiculously tall tree and wacked me upside the head.  It didn’t need to do that.  I learned a long time ago that paying attention to pinecones pays off. I figured out how pine cones come into being when I noticed a few clumps of needles that had turned red.  Apparently cones don’t start from a special bud, just some co-opted needles. In biology lab I learned that tiny cones like these above are males.  If you spot one in spring, shake it and watch for yellow powder–pollen.  […]


Tenerife Lizards

Though Tenerife’s giant lizards are now extinct, many other types can still be found. Our tour guide has a gecko that patrols the ceilings for mosquitos at night then naps in the warm cubby behind a television set through the day.  In Colorado we once had a lizard quietly volunteer to clean out a housefly infestation in our sunroom. He did a fine job then disappeared. A Tenerife blog post painted a darker picture of living with lizards.  The poor little guys tended to lurk in dangerous places like door and window frames or underfoot and cause serious guilt issues.  […]


Dogs, Canaries, Islands, and Confusion

No, the Canary Islands were not named for canaries. Canaries were named for the islands. That seems to be certain. Many claim that Europeans visiting the islands were surprised to see large dogs on Gran Canary so named it “big dog island” in Latin. Others say the name came from a tribe of people with a similar name or maybe a tribe that worshiped dogs. Whatever.  A Canary Island dog surprised me as well, though it wasn’t particularly big.  I just never saw one that looked quite like that.


Thanks Mom, but…

Mother Nature outdoes herself on so many of the trails we walk: trees, flowers, rock formations, waterfalls, stunning skies, sometimes even snacks. Her gifts warm my heart, but much as they tempt, I generally pass them by. I hope she and her other guests aren’t offended that I’m more comfortable sharing from a distance.


Camel Caravan

When our tour guide asked whether anyone in our group preferred a truck trek in lieu of the planned camel tour, I said: “We came for the camels!” I was so excited I dubbed it “Hump Day,” but the camels didn’t seem as happy. The memory of their grumbling still makes me smile hysterically. The handlers made interesting noises as well. They urged the camels forward with an odd kiss/whistle, and when a rider wanted the camel to kneel, he made a gagging sound. The toughest part of the ride, I was told, is in leaning back and holding tight […]


Egyptian Donkey Ride 4

A donkey ride in the Valley of the Kings helped sell Mom and I on the tour we booked to see Egypt.  We both grew up riding horses on the family ranch, but neither of us has ridden much in the last 40 years or so.  Also, donkeys are small and quick and can easily turn out from under a rider.  Between those issues and that fact that Mom is under doctor’s orders not to re-break the collar-bone she shattered last year, I couldn’t help being leery about this ride. Our bus delivered us to New Gourna Village where we mounted up on the street with traffic passing by.  The donkeys were tall enough that […]