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

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.


  • 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.

Heroes Proved and Patriot Dream

My son at White Sands National Monument, NM. Photo taken by his sister Morgan. Isn’t this photo is outstanding?!

Selfie: me and my son.

Me, my son, and his buddy.

Lucky me! My flexible schedule allowed me to plan a last minute trip to visit my son before he deployed. The last two stanzas of America the Beautiful bring tears to my eyes.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!


For more info: Soledad Canyon, White Sands National Monument

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

Plains Lubber Grasshopper

In my last post, Tarantula Territory, I lamented that I didn’t see any tarantulas on a hike but, guess what I did see? A Plains Lubber Grasshopper!¬†The approximately five-inch insect caught my attention–how could it not?–and I had to get a closer look. I looked at her and she at me.¬†We bonded.

I can’t believe I got such a clear photo of her awesome exoskeleton, which protects her against predators and prevents dehydration. (Come to think of it, that could be a great pick-up line. “Excuse me, but you have an awesome exoskeleton.”) Plains Lubbers are¬†native to southern and central USA and Northern Mexico.

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

  1. A Plains Lubber can’t fly because its wings are too small.
  2. A lubber has a pod that holds approximately 20-35 eggs. After incubating in the ground during the colder months, or for as long as two years, the eggs hatch in May or June.
  3. It uses two pairs of eyes (simple and compound) to see.
  4. It uses its bluish-brown antennae to feel and smell.
  5. The tympanum, or round membrane located on either side of its body near its legs allows it to “hear” or detect sound waves.
  6. To breathe, it has spiracles, or tiny holes located all along the abdomen.
  7. A lubber is capable of jumping from several inches to several feet using its oversized hind legs.
  8. A young lubber will molt its exoskeleton five times at roughly 15-day intervals before reaching adulthood.
  9. Bright coloring and patterning on a lubber‚Äôs shell warns predators that it’s unpalatable to downright poisonous. A lubber ingests substances in the plants it eats that, although harmless to humans and the lubber itself, are toxic to many predators. These chemicals may kill smaller creatures such as birds or leave larger animals quite ill after ingesting a lubber.
  10. To protect against predators, a lubber can secrete a noxious foam while making a loud hissing sound. It can also regurgitate a dark brown liquid (commonly called tobacco spit) as a defense.

Hon, which category are you in? Cool or ewww?

For all of the ewww’s, consider the photos below as visual palette cleansers.

Peace along the path.

I “heart” hiking.






Reaching for the sky.

Sources: The Big Zoo, American Orchid Society, Wikipedia, 

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.

Window Into the Wild West

Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon, Arizona–You can see a thunderstorm in the distance.

Hon, I took so many pictures this summer and last, I could center a whole blog around them.  Here are some of the ones that say Southwest.

I found this collection of bottles set against a rusted tin tub appealing.  Maybe its the composition or color or maybe its because I see the extraordinary in the ordinary!
I don’t know if its the color or composition that drew me to this ad hoc collection of bottles, but I¬†had to stop to take a picture.

I also liked the organic nature of this rock garden.  It's so Southwest.
I also liked the organic nature of this rock garden. The log-legged picnic table and the old pick-up truck, along with the red rock mountains in the background tell a story.

Not only did Roadkill Cafe in Seligman, AZ have "interesting" names for menu items (it's motto is "You kill it, we grill it."), it had a room full of taxidermic animals. After a minute, the heebie jeebies kicked in and I had to get some fresh air. But, their mocha coffee was to-umm-die for.
Not only did Roadkill Cafe in Seligman, AZ have “interesting” names for menu items (it’s motto is “You kill it, we grill it.”), it had a room full of taxidermic animals. After a minute, I had the heebie jeebies and needed¬†fresh air. But, their mocha coffee was to-umm-die for.

Fittingly following the pic for the Roadkill Cafe, is a sign I spotted in a diner window--one that's NOT commonly seen on the East Coast.
Fittingly following the pic for the Roadkill Cafe, is a sign I spotted in a diner window–one that’s NOT commonly seen on the East Coast.

Sign seen in Navajo Nation.  First of all, I DIDN'T see any critters, secondly, Teen Daughter pointed out that some of the critters lists ARE NOT reptiles, and thirdly, who is the management behind this sign?  It was posted on the side of the road next to Navajos selling jewelry and a whole bunch of scrub brush.
Posted on the side of the road¬†in Navajo Nation. First of all, I DIDN’T see any critters (drat!), secondly, Teen Daughter pointed out that some of the critters listed ARE NOT reptiles, and thirdly, WHO¬†is the management?

Jail in the Wild West was no joke!  There was a dirt floor, two wooden benches, one stove sitting in the middle and rifles on the wall.  Yikes!
Jail in the Wild West was no joke! Inside was a dirt floor, one wood-burning stove, two wooden benches and several rifles on the wall. Yikes!  Seligman, AZ

I would not want to get into a shootout with Curly!
I would NOT want to get into a shootout with Curly!

Looks like this Paddy Wagon has been out of commission for awhile.  Imagine being transported to jail in one of these.  Double Yikes!
Looks like this Paddy Wagon has been out of commission for awhile. Imagine being transported to jail in one of these. Everybody would know your business. Double Yikes!

Teen Daughter's behind bars!
Teen Daughter’s behind bars!

Emeralds and Angels, Hiking in Zion (Part 2)

Stunning Striations.
Stunning Striations, Zion, Utah.

If you read Emeralds and Angels, Hiking in Zion (Part 1), you’ll know Hubby was not thrilled (umm, extremely nervous), about hiking Angel’s Landing.

For good reason.

It wasn’t the extremely steep 5-6 hour hike with tons of switchbacks that made his heart race, it was the hike at the top of the mountain, on narrow ridges with deep chasms. Did I mention that you get across the most narrow parts by holding onto a chain anchored into the sandstone?

Guess what I found out?  THERE ARE BREAKS IN THE CHAIN!

Wind and water have carved interesting designs as well as caves into the rock.
Wind and water have carved interesting designs as well as caves into the rock.

We warmed up by hiking Emerald Pools. Our guide then led us to the bottom of the Angel’s Landing where¬†we started the steep ascension in full sun. Technically, the trail is called the West Rim Trail until it meets Angel’s Landing. ¬†Hiking along, we suddenly reached the aptly named¬†Refrigerator Canyon, a mile-long shady part of the trail. We cooled off in time to sweat again, climbing Walter’s Wiggles, “steep 21 sharp zig-zags” that lead to Scout Lookout.

"Walter's Wiggles was named after the first superintendent of Zion who helped engineer the steep zigzagging section."
“Walter’s Wiggles was named after the first superintendent of Zion who helped engineer the steep zigzagging section.”

Hubby and Teen Daughter hiking the "Wiggles."
Hubby and Teen Daughter hiking the “Wiggles.”

Hubby and Teen Daughter decided to rest on Scout’s Lookout while our guide James and I continued on. Here’s the thing. It was crowded. Walking on sandstone is slippery, the ground is gritty and the slopes are smooth. It’s hard to get traction or know where to put your foot as you climb up. I didn’t want to let go of the chain (when there was one), and people were climbing down as we were climbing up.

“I’m not letting go of the chain, so you’ll have to place your hands on either¬†side of me and go around me,” I said.

“You come down, then I’ll go up,” I said.

“We’re doing the ‘chain dance’,” I said.

When there were breaks in the chain and we had to “Spiderman Scramble” up the mountain, I told James, “If I had a bucket list, this would officially be off of it!”

There was a point on the one-way trail where it was so crowded, we would have had to wait to keep going. I said I was “just fine” ending our hike there. ¬†James was, too. He said it but we both felt it.


Gorgeous view above Scout's Landing but not as far as the peak of Angel's Landing.
Gorgeous view above Scout’s Landing but not as far as the peak of Angel’s Landing.

View to the peak.  Total elevation 5,785 feet. Hike elevation gain 1,488.
View of the trail leading to ¬†the peak. In 1916 while exploring Zion, Frederick Fisher said, “Only an angel could land on it,” giving the trail its name. ¬†Total elevation 5,785 feet. Hike elevation gain 1,488.

I was "just fine" ending out hike here!
I was “just fine” ending our hike here!

Looking down on the West Rim Trail.
Looking down on the West Rim Trail.

Not only were we all exhilarated (except for Teen Daughter, who was out of breath!), we were ready for our next adventure.¬†If I go back to Zion one day, I’ll wave to the Angels landing on the top of that trail.

Then, I’ll gear up and head for the canyons!

(Canyoneering in Zion Harnesses, Helmets & Hooks Part 1 and Quicksand and Teamwork Part 2)


sources:  Zion Outfitter, Zion

Albuquerque Cowboys

Rainbow Balloon
Rainbow Balloon ascending at sunset.

Sunset ascension.
Sunset ascension.

Eyes on the sky, NJ.
Eyes on the sky, NJ.

Wicked Balloon
Wicked Balloon

Defy Gravity!
Defy Gravity.







The New Jersey Festival of Ballooning is really something to see! Hundreds of hot air balloons fill the evening, summer sky.  The sinking, orange sun chases the baby blue away until indigo dyes the horizon.

The first hot air balloon ascension I ever saw was in New Mexico. ¬†Hubby and I were hiking in Santa Fe when we heard about a Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. ¬†We’d need to drive¬†an hour or so¬†to get there. ¬†The balloons were to ascend at 6 am. ¬†Our plan was to leave before the crack of dawn.

Right before hitting the road, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts. ¬†Caffeine was essential at 4:30 am! ¬†Who did I see but three men sitting at the counter wearing cowboy hats. ¬†Not so unusual for New Mexico. ¬†They were also wearing chaps. ¬†Hmm, seemed like real leather. ¬†And cowboy boots with spurs? ¬†I hadn’t seen anyone wear spurs since my brother was a little kid.

Hon, do you know me at all? ¬†I was itching to introduce myself and ask what the heck those men were doing at Dunkin’ Donuts in chaps and spurs at 4:30 am! ¬†I was practically jumping out of my seat and I hadn’t even had half a cup of coffee yet!

You want to know what Hubby said to me? ¬†He said, “You’re crazy! ¬†Don’t bother those men!” ¬†But I kept craning my neck to get a better look at those spurs!

“Fine,” Hubby said. ¬†“Do what you want, but don’t involve me. ¬†In fact, I’m going to pretend I don’t even know you.”


It could be the writer in me, the kid in me, or who-knows-what, but I sauntered over to those three men, hanging over their steaming hot cups.

“Hi,” I said. ¬†“I’m from New Jersey and I’ve never seen anyone in chaps and spurs. ¬†Do you mind telling me where you’re going?”

Those nice men lifted their tired eyes from their coffee and told me how they’d been camping in the desert for several days, how they’d ridden up from Albuquerque, and how their horses were in the parking lot. ¬†Did I want to see their horses just as soon as they’d finished their coffee?¬† I’d definitely never seen horses in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot before. “Yes, I’d like to see them, thank you very much!” and “If I send you a copy, can I take a picture?”

Guess who decided to join our friendly conversation?  Hubby.  We compared the landscape of the Southwest to the Northeast, described what Manhattan looks likes, and talked about lots of other stuff.

I don’t know what thrilled me more. ¬†Meeting those Albuquerque Cowboys or watching hundreds of hot air balloons inflate and rise to the sky.

Cowboys and their horses.  Thanks for the picture, guys!
Cowboys and their horses. Thanks for the picture, guys!