Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Desert Tortoise and other Wonders

Today, we went for a long, eventful hike with our friends, Marti and Jason, and their two dogs. I have been wanting to see a desert tortoise, because I have heard so much about them, but hadn't seen one yet. It was going to be a warm day, because at 8 am when we started the sun was already beating down on us. The flowers continue to amaze me here. Marti and I chanced upon a few of the Mariposa lily (or tulip or whatever else it's known as). They are not large flowers, but they are a vibrant orange, and when you take the time to look at them, they are exquisite! Here is a close up.

While Marti and I were admiring (and photographing) the Mariposa, we had an encounter with a small, scraggly looking coyote. Pono also got some cholla cactus spines stuck in his lower jaw, and even with four people, it was impossible to get him to hold still enough to pluck them out. He is so strong. We walked along some more, after giving up on Pono's cactus spines. Then, Marti and Jason's dog also ran into some cholla, getting it in his mouth (tongue, gums, etc.) So we had another stop for tweezers and cholla removal. Fortunately, their Cochise is not nearly the fighter Pono is, and he lay down and let us remove most of the cactus spines.

When we finally turned back towards the van, I did have my wish granted. Not one, but TWO tortoise encounters!!!! The first tortoise was off from the road a little bit, and was frightened into its shell. But the second tortoise was not so timid, and was spotted by Matthias right in the middle of the dirt road in front of us!!! So cool. It did give us plenty of suspicious looks, but continued to trudge off into the flowers for more "desert flower breakfast." I was so excited! We didn't want to get too close, because these tortoises are listed as a threatened species. Plus, we wanted to get a look at one that wasn't hiding inside of its shell. Such an amazing creature. I had to zoom quite a bit for the close up, so it may be a bit blurry. I will remind you I am NO photographer. Paintings and drawings only. (Even then the quality varies, as we all know.)

I have been reading about Matsuo Basho, the famous Japanese haiku master in the February issue of National Geographic (yes, I am a bit behind), so I decided to compose a haiku about the tortoise:

small desert tortoise
eyeing us suspiciously
trundles slowly by

The rest of our hike was fortunately pretty uneventful, and Marti managed to comb the cholla spines from Pono's jaw in the van on the way home. So all in all, it was a good hike, and I am still smiling at the vision of those desert tortoises! This place is amazing.

I also feel obligated to tell you that according to Marti, this is an exceptional year for flowers in the desert. It doesn't happen very often, since the right amount of moisture from rain combined with the right amount of freezing temperatures have to occur in order for such a wonderful spring display of flowers. So I am feeling a bit like a Princess with desert flowers just for me! Thank goodness for my digital camera, and my blog. I am so glad I have gotten the chance to share it all with you, my dear blog readers. Don't worry, I have not run out of flowers for you yet! Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

wow, i never tought that tortoise are capable of living in a barren condition. i always thought that they needed some sort of mist or water to survive.

Gig Harbor flowers

High Desert Diva said...

Exactly what I was going to can they survive in the desert? Won't they get baked in their shell? So cool that you got to see them on your hike!

Your poor dog! I love it that you all had tweezers with you on the hike though...prepared dog owners!

Again...the flowers are so pretty! *stares out at the dirt and sagebrush*

High Desert Diva said...

If you're feeling like composing more Haiku, there's a contest on the Eighty 8 Words blog....prize is a cool necklace :-)

(link in my blog roll)

Melissa & Emmitt said...

Hi Karine!
Oh! that tortoise is amazing!
You always get so many amazing shots!
:) melissa

Red Fish Circle said...

Wow, what great photos. Love the haiku. Trundles indeed.

Abby Creek Art said...

Ok NOW you have to paint a Tortoise! Beautiful photos, Karine...the Desert is such an amazing place.

kate smudges said...

It was great to catch up on your blog - I've been recovering from fibroid surgery and haven't done any blogging for a spell. The wildflowers are breathtaking - you are so fortunate to be there and enjoying them. They are putting on a splendid show because they knew they would have an appreciative audience in you!!

The desert tortoise is quite the leathery-looking creature. I will read to find out how they survive the temperature extremes in the desert.

I love the bladder sages - they are a cool flower.

Poor Pono - I hope he has recovered from his encounters with cholla.

priya said...

so this is what a blooming desert landscape looks like - a garden.
loved this blog entry. loved the tortoise. loved the haiku.
i think you are very brave to compose a haiku. i thought only old zen masters and strange bald friends of mine could attempt that.

Susie Monday said...

How great -- wish I was wandering there, sans cholla adventures. Our prickly pears are just more contained -- but getting ready to blog.

Mel said...

Did you kiss the tor-toise shell? :)

Mel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lee said...

I cant believe I did not leave a comment here, I love those pictures. Really do they get any bigger.