Second Snake Sighting and Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts

Eastern Garden Snake found in front of my house.

Another Snake Sighting!

I’ve seen many different animals while living in New Jersey, especially since my house abuts the South Mountain Reservation. Want to know what I’ve spotted? Check out Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs. But, I’ve never seen skunks despite smelling them, and I’ve never seen a snake…until last week.

While walking Lucy, my neighbors (shout out to Jeanne and Jim) said there was a snake on the road ahead. I kept an eye out, but it must have moved on. I returned home to see our cat Midnight batting what looked like a small branch. It wasn’t a branch? It was a small snake! I figured it was a harmless garter snake so, you guessed it hon, I picked it up! So cool! It was smooth and surprisingly warm. Another neighbor (shout out to Heather) was walking her bear–umm, I mean giant, black, fluffy dog Gracie–when she said, “What have you got there?” She thought the snake was cool, too.

You know who wasn’t that interested in this exciting finding? Lucy and Gracie! They were all like sniff, sniff, done. But Midnight stayed half hidden in his “jungle” (the garden in front of my house), watching. Why? Because he wanted to finish the job he started! That poor, little snake had an injury–a wound on its underside with a spot of blood. Midnight wasn’t just playing with it. ūüė¶

I nestled the little snake in dense brush. I hope its’ wound heals and returns to doing whatever it is Eastern Garden Snakes do.

How strange that I go for years without seeing a wild snake, and in the span of a month, there are two in my path? Hmmm, is it a sign or coincidence?

The other snake I came upon was, you may remember, coiled and rattling in New Mexico. Hon, of course I wanted to know more about rattlesnakes! Wouldn’t you?

Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts:

  1. “Rattles are segments of keratin that fit loosely inside one another at the end of the snake‚Äôs tail. These segments knock against each other to produce a buzzing sound when the snake holds its tail vertically and vibrates the rattle. Each time a rattlesnake sheds its skin it adds another segment to the rattle.”(Source: Madison, Wisconsin herpotologist Sara Viernum.)
  2. In addition to rattling, rattlesnakes warn by hissing.
  3. Snakes do not communicate with each other by hissing since they’re deaf to airborne sounds. Their hiss is a warning for animals that can hear.
  4. There are 32 different species of rattlesnakes.
  5. The snakes can are found everywhere from sea level to a high elevation of 11,000 feet (3,353 m).
  6. Several generations of rattlesnakes will use the same dens.
  7. “Mothers can store sperm for months before fertilizing the eggs, and then they carry babies for about three months.”
  8. “Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means that eggs incubate inside the mother‚Äôs body. Babies are born live, encased in a thin membrane that they puncture after being born.”
  9. “The digestive process can take several days, and rattlesnakes become sluggish and hide during this time. Adult rattlers eat about every two weeks.”
  10. Rattlesnakes most distinctive features are their triangular heads and vertical pupils.

Sources: Rattlesnake facts: Live Science and Reptiles Magazine; Photo of Western Tanager: South Dakota Birds and Birding

Sayings at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe

Sayings and stories abound at Meow Wolf!

Some of the written-word art at Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf, “The House of Eternal Return,” makes you laugh, some makes you think, and all of it enhances the interactive, exploratory art exhibit that allows your imagination to think of time and space as non-linear. So fun!

Las Vegas hosts a second permanent Meow Wolf installation, “Mega Mart.” [“Participants explore an extraordinary supermarket that bursts into surreal worlds and unexpected landscapes.”]

The third Meow Wolf installation opens in Denver this September and is called “Convergence Station.” [“Discover immersive psychedelic, mind-bending art and an underlying rich narrative as you take a journey of discovery into a surreal, science-fictional epic.”]

Hon, have you been to Meow Wolf? What did you think?

Girls weekend with Laura and Cindy.

Mindbending Art at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe

Black and white kitchen with an invitation to open cabinets and drawers.

“Mind-bending, explorable art experience for people of all ages in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

Have you heard of Meow Wolf? I hadn’t either until my recent trip to Santa Fe. Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return “takes participants on a macrocosmic adventure of seemingly endless possibilities.” It’s art, music, a mystery, a story, and an experience. You walk into a house and discover endless pathways to seemingly other dimensions. Walk into the fridge, slide inside the dryer, duck into the fireplace, climb layers of a tree-house, interact with on-site actors, and explore materials and mediums in ways you’ve never thought of–all of it opening up your mind and sense of wonder.

303 Magazine’s Corinne Anderson describes the one-of-a-kind art installation “by breaking down the main themes that tie the psychedelic smorgasbord of Meow Wolf together.”

It Encourages Curiosity

Using your imagination is almost unnecessary if you just wander throughout The House of Eternal Return because the wildly fantastic environments easily transport you to unearthly dimensions. But within these dimensions there are countless ways to interact and immerse yourself which take at least a little inquisitiveness to uncover.

If wandering around with no purpose doesn‚Äôt suit you, then you can try to puzzle out the mystery that was written by five different Meow Wolf writers about the event that pushed this regular house into an irregular rift between space and time. With this addition, Meow Wolf has invented an escape room and fantasy funhouse hybrid that tickles every single one of our senses, no matter our age.

Interaction With the Art is Key

Almost everything is handleable, and if it’s not, it’s clearly marked. Find a piano? Play it. Walk through a fabric corridor? Rub your hands along the walls and see what happens. Encouraging discovery and interaction is essential to Meow Wolf, which gives the installation an unusual spot in the art world. 

You Will Question Time and Space

Without giving away too much of the mystery, it is important to understand that the house and its inhabitants have been affected by a fracture in the space-time continuum. The House of Eternal Return is in fact, a house. But a better way to imagine it is as a portal. The portal serves as a kind of transport station to other dimensions. These dimensions seem to have no order, no relation to one another because they exist as memories and feelings of the members of the household.

Meow Wolf has created a completely new style of experiencing art and it’s exciting to feel that as a visitor you are a part of that experience, rather than an onlooker.

303Magazine

Rattlesnake Sighting!

Unexpected Adventure

There me and my childhood friends were, on our Girls Weekend in New Mexico, walking along a path in Bandelier National Monument, discussing the pretty bird we’d seen (Western Tanager), crossing over water (Rio Grande), and wondering why the trees looked burnt (prescribed burns), when we turned a slight bend in the path and came across a rattlesnake!

My first thought was COOL! I wanted to stop and look, but a) more hikers were coming up behind us and b) Cindy hurried us along saying rattlesnakes can strike far. According to North Dakota Game and Fish, “Rattlesnakes can, at best, strike a distance of¬†two-thirds their total body length. For example, a three foot long snake may be able to strike a distance of two feet.” The snake did look big. COOL!

We were on the opposite side of the path, approximately 6 feet from the rattling rattlesnake. (I’d rattle, too, if a group of giants stopped to gawk at me.) I took some quick pics and we moved on. A second later, we were wondering where Laura was. We looked back and saw her dragging a huge branch that looked like half a tree towards the snake!

“Ha! I get ‘yelled’ at for not walking quickly enough, and she’s approaching a rattlesnake with an enormous branch?!” I said.

“What in the heck are you doing?” Cindy called to Laura.

Talk about provoking an unhappy rattlesnake that was innocently cooling itself off in the shade before being discovered by a group of giants AND scraping the ground with branches and leaves!!

While Laura called back that she and another hiker were attempting to block the path as a warning to other hikers, I wondered if you can die from a rattlesnake bite (I wasn’t worried, just curious.), if you have to cut a bite out (My mini-Swiss Army Knife was confiscated years ago at the Statue of Liberty), or if you can suck out the poison (is that real)?

The Mayo Clinic: First Aid says,

Most snakes aren’t dangerous to humans. Only about 15% worldwide and 20% in the United States are venomous. In North America, these include the rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin and copperhead. Their bites can cause severe injuries and sometimes death.

If a venomous snake bites you, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, especially if the bitten area changes color, begins to swell or is painful. Many emergency rooms stock antivenom drugs, which may help you.

If possible, take these steps while waiting for medical help:

  • Move beyond the snake’s striking distance.
  • Remain still and calm to help slow the spread of venom.
  • Remove jewelry and tight clothing before you start to swell.
  • Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
  • Clean the wound with soap and water. Cover it with a clean, dry dressing.

Caution:

  • Don’t use a tourniquet or apply ice.
  • Don’t cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed your body’s absorption of venom.
  • Don’t try to capture the snake. Try to remember its color and shape so that you can describe it, which will help in your treatment. If you have a smartphone with you and it won’t delay your getting help, take a picture of the snake from a safe distance to help with identification.

Who knew? If you are unfortunate enough to get bitten by a venomous snake, DO NOT drink a cup of caffeinated coffee or soda!

As soon as we returned to the Visitor’s Center, Cindy and Laura alerted the park staff.

Their reaction? YAWN.

Cliff Dwellings and Petroglyph at Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Laura and Cindy cooling off inside a cliff dwelling.

It’s amazing that you can still climb into cliff dwellings and see petroglyphs. In a future post, I’ll share pics of the amazing cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and Canyon De Chelly and petroglyphs in Monument Valley. Hon, can you tell that I love exploring the Southwest?

Bandelier National Monument, located near Los Alamos, New Mexico, is a 33,677-acre site that preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans, who occupied this area from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The monument’s sheer canyon walls contain numerous cave dwellings as well as petroglyphs and pictographs that date from this period. Surface dwellings include the remains of two large villages, Tyuonyi and Tsankawi.

Today, numerous ruined dwellings of one of the most extensive prehistoric Indian populations of the Southwest can be found in the picturesque canyon and mesa country of the Pajarito Plateau. This area, located west of the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, New Mexico, was thickly settled in prehistoric times. Bandelier National Monument, in the heart of the plateau, includes and protects several of the largest of these ruins, in particular, the unique cave and cliff dwellings in the canyon of the Rito de los Frijoles.

The Ancestral Pueblo people (Anasazi) lived here from approximately 1150 AD to 1550 AD. The upsurge of the population and the main construction activity in Bandelier began after 1300 AD, when large towns grew up and down the Rio Grande drainage, and the people achieved a standard of living.

They built homes from blocks of volcanic tuff, which is soft and relatively easy to break into blocks. There were also sources of hard basalt rock just a short distance down the canyon, from which they made axes and hammers which could be used as tools to form the tuff blocks. Axes were also used to fell large Ponderosa pine trees whose straight, thick trunks made excellent vigas (the beams used to support the roof).

Legends of America

Landscape at Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Giant cliffs line the path in Bandelier National Monument.

I recently went on a weekend getaway to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico where the architecture, landscape, wildlife, and colors are completely different than in New Jersey. My two friends and I took a trip to Bandelier National Monument, a national park where Ancient Puebloans built homes out of rocks and in the cliffs. Stacked stones that were the bottom level of a communal dwelling remain, and you can climb ladders into the actual cliff dwellings!

Hon, have you been there? Didn’t you think it was breathtaking?

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years.  Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesa top fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship.

https://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm

Amber Waves and Mountain Majesties

Soledad Canyon in the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

On a recent trip to El Paso, Texas, my son and I drove to Las Cruces, New Mexico to hike Soledad Canyon. The canyon sits in the western foothills of the Organ Mountains, which originated about 32 million years ago in the middle of the Tertiary Period. I immediately thought of America the Beautiful.

Here are the first two stanzas of America the Beautiful.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

If you’ve been to the Southwest, did you have a favorite place to hike?

Source: http://www.npshistory.com/publications/blm/organ-mountains-desert-peaks/geology.pdf

Tarantula Territory

Warning signs.

Quick Quiz

A sign says, “Please yield for tarantulas on the road.” What do you do?

a) Hightail it out of there and head to civilization or a mini mall?

b) Hike in moon boots or platform shoes?

c) Get super excited and keep your eyes peeled for large creepy-crawlies?

Hon, if you chose C, we’ll be very good friends! Two weeks ago, before a hike in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains, I asked a park ranger why¬†tarantulas might be on the road. He said it’s mating season. Cool!

Did “Caution!! Watch for Snakes” catch your eye? Even though two exclamation marks follow “caution,” snakes took a backseat to the hopeful main event–spotting a tarantula.¬†Unfortunately, my childhood friend Cindy and I didn’t spot any. Years before in New Mexico, I did.

While driving 60 mph along a flat highway on the Turquoise Trail, I screamed, “Stop the car!” Hubby wanted to know why, but I didn’t have time to explain.

A tarantula was crossing the highway and I needed to see it up close! It was bigger than my hand!

I tried to record the big, hairy, brown spider, so I grabbed the only thing I could think of–a pencil. I placed (umm, threw) it on the ground next to the enormous arachnid and snapped a picture.¬†I know I’m talking to “seasoned” (read: older) picture takers when I say my camera took film. It wasn’t until I got the film developed that I realized the photo was blurry. Oh well!¬†I’ll always remember that tarantula, who somehow knew he had enough time between cars to cross the highway. Cool!

Fog hanging over the Sandia Mountains.

Chuya cactus.

Selfie of Cindy and me.

Antlers on an Airplane?

Live country music at Albuquerque International Sunport.

I’ve flown in and out of Albuquerque International Sunport many times but, on a recent trip, I entered the airport to twangs of live country music. Yeehaw!¬†I thought, “That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen at an airport.” I was wrong.

Moose antlers that were shed naturally for sale on the side of road in Maine.

Waiting to board our flight was a man carrying a rack of antlers about 5 feet wide! The tips were outfitted with cut up pieces of hose stuffed with foam. Why? Because antlers are weapons!

It begged a lot of questions.

Passenger: “How did you get them through security?”

Man: “They told me to bring them to the gate.”

Passenger: “Did you buy extra seats?”

Man: “Nope.”

Passenger: “Where will they go on the plane?”

Man: “Dunno.”

Mind you, you can’t bring scissors longer than 4 inches on a plane.

Once boarding started, the ticket agent was apoplectic.

First, he said. “Whoa! Where do you think you’re going?”

Second, “If you read what cannot come on a plane, antlers are on the list.”

To his colleague, “If I see one more pair of antlers today, I’m going home.”

Then the ticket agent made a phone call.

“Calling Security! We have a pair of antlers to check!”

Creepy Cowboys and Other Oddities

Giant arrows and teepees outside a shop in between Durango and Mesa Verde, Colorado.
Giant arrows and teepees outside a shop in between Durango and Mesa Verde, Colorado.

Old West store front.
Old West store front.

Propped up and its not even a movie set.
Propped up and its not even a movie set.

Forget online shopping, catalogs, t.v. and newspaper ads. ¬†Nothing says, “Pull your car over RIGHT NOW and SHOP HERE” than giant arrows and teepees! ¬†Hon, Hubby hates to shop but even he was curious about what we’d find inside.

WARNING: ¬†Do Not Proceed Reading This Post if you are an Animal Activist. ¬†It might be the 2000’s, but the West is still wild and animals skins and taxidermic animals are everywhere you look.

In my last post, Window in the Wild West,¬†I mentioned stopping at the Roadkill Cafe and getting the heebie jeebies in the back room. ¬†I don’t know why going to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan doesn’t¬†bother me. ¬†Maybe its because the¬†animals have been there so long. ¬†Maybe its because they’re behind glass. ¬†Or maybe because you¬†know what you’re going to see. ¬†Whatever! ¬†Hubby, Tween Daughter and I gaped and gawked…all under the watchful eye of The Sheriff!

 

Buffalo jaw bones.
Buffalo Jaw Bones.

I’m not sure who would buy Buffalo Jaw Bones and what you’d use them for. ¬†The sign says, “The Historical Native American War Clubs.” ¬†Umm, really? ¬†I haven’t read any American history text books that mentioned this but, then again, those text books were probably biased in favor of the Colonists. ¬†So, maybe war clubs were kept out of the mix.

Turtle Shells.
Turtle Shells.

Here’s another head scratcher. ¬†I asked the saleslady what on G-d’s green earth would you use these for and she replied, “Indians used to make rattles out of them.” ¬†That’d be a mighty big rattle for little hands. ¬†Even if they were used for rattles back then, what about now?

Pelts.
Pelts.

Le’s face it, fur is warm (and feathers). ¬†I bet, if you lived in Siberia…or on the North Pole…or in Antarctica…or on some very high mountain in a wooden hut, you’d rather have fur (and a down comforter) than something made of Thermoloft. ¬†Not to knock modern technology (I have many coats made with Thermoloft), but ecology and evolution will outlive and outperform all of us humble humans.

Porcupine.
Porcupine.

Taxidermic wall.
Taxidermic wall.

Consider the next photos sorbet to cleanse your palette.

Not odd.  Pretty rugs and wraps.
Not odd. Pretty woven rugs and wraps.

Beautiful strands of turquoise.
Beautiful strands of turquoise.

Need a lasso?
Need a lasso?

Now for the strangest things we saw. 

Varmint Tails.
Varmint Tails.

Varmint Faces.
Varmint Faces.

I have three questions about the oddities above. ¬†1) What would you do with a Varmint Face? ¬†2) ¬†Unless you’re making a Davy Crockett hat, why would you buy¬†a Tail? ¬†3) Who says “Varmint” besides actors¬†in a shoot-em-up Western movie?

And then there were the Creepy Cowboys.  

The first one sat friendly-like outside a store in Old Town Albuquerque. He was strange but he didn’t scare me silly.

Creepy Cowboy #1.
Creepy Cowboy #1.

Tween Daughter and I came around a corner and realized we were being watched by The Sheriff!

Creepy Cowboy #2.
Creepy Cowboy #2.

I actually said, “Hi.” ¬†When The Sheriff didn’t answer, I figured he was the silent type!

Have you seen strange things in your travels? ¬†I’d love to hear what curiosities and oddities you’ve seen.