Up in the Wild

Old Ranch near Babisal
Old Ranch near Babisal

Babisal Ranch is at the heart of the Norther Jaguar Project’s reserve. The cows are long gone but the original structure is used as a kitchen and two new adobe and stone guest rooms have been added. Burt and I will turn an old water tank into a third guest room. Year round these facilities are used by cowboys and biologists and other visitors. Overflow people stay in tents or hammocks. On this trip Burt and I scored a cabin of our own. The beds are traditional rancho cots made from burlap suspended between two Xs. With a Thermarest pad the bed is pretty comfortable but it moves a lot and the motion made me a little queasy. More Galapagos training I told myself.

Our group consisted of two donors, Mark and Monica, a photographer, Charles, us, and Randy and Turtle, NJP’s staff/guides. After the 12 hours of driving Burt and I headed straight to bed after dinner and didn’t really get a good look at our companions. We were grateful for the warm food and welcome gifts of NJP hats and personal napkins. In the morning we had some more filling and tasty vegan food and then piled in a pickup for a nearby hike.

All seven humans and three dogs rode up the steep mile or so to another defunct ranch. We would hike up the a tight, wet canyon and pass some camera traps and see what some people consider the spiritual heart of the reserve. In fifteen bumpy minutes we reached our starting point. The abandoned ranch buildings were full of wood perfect for our project. It will be fun to deconstruct and reconstruct out in the wilderness. The old wood will look beautiful in a new situation.

Pretty quickly we reached a camera trap. Randy and Turtle removed the data chip and tried to find a camera that could reveal its secrets. There are a few different models of cameras in use at the reserve and they all have their own way of formatting chips. Luckily our third and last try at reading the chip was successful. The chips and batteries are changed out every one to three months. Since this particular trap’s chip had been changed four mountain lions, a few bobcats, and an ocelot had passed by the trap. The ocelot passed just the day before we did. Smiles all around thinking the ocelot was nearby watching us. As Randy says, I haven’t seen a jaguar but I know they’ve seen me. I like that feeling.

Our walk to the canyon wasn’t more than half an hour. We could have gone further but we didn’t feel like swimming and mud crawling so we sat around and enjoyed the scene. I visited the spiders. Snacks and water and getting to know you conversations were had by all. After people were satisfied with the hanging around we had a choice, return home by the trail we had taken in or canyoneer our way down canyon. We chose the adventure route. It was pretty rough going but Randy was a competent guide and very able assistant. Burt and I did fine on our own. We mostly traveled ahead of the group. It took us much longer to reach the truck going down the boulder filled stream bed but it was also more fun. The dogs have a different version. One ran home on the trail. Another was lifted through the worst spot. The third either jumped or fell twenty feet into a pool. She was not happy. Eventually it was just a stream bed and we all dispersed. Burt and Randy went to inventory wood and I wandered downstream alone.

At the truck point we all reunited. Burt and I opted to avoid the truck bed for the downhill jostle and walked back to camp along the stream. It was a tussocky and watery route back. It was noticeable that there were not a lot of birds. When we finally reached camp it was time for lunch and a siesta.

That evening we took a silent sunset walk. We heard an elf owl. Or was it pygmy? I’ve forgotten. Tracks were seen in the creek bed sand. Quail flew up. We thought they were scaled quail but they were Elegant Quail. Similar but not the same. Dinner and bed.

The trap camera showed us an ocelot had passed by the day before.
The trap camera showed us an ocelot had passed by the day before.
Boulder crawl down the canyon.
Boulder crawl down the canyon.
Our room.
Our room.
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Other Critters at the Reserve

Red-Spotted Toad, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Red-Spotted Toad, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Tree frog, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Tree frog, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Velvet Ant, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Velvet Ant, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Ring necked snake, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Ring necked snake, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Tiny cat prints, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Tiny cat prints, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Grasshoppers getting down, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Grasshoppers getting down, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Frogs, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Frogs, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Northern Jaguar Project Reserve, beetle and bugs
Northern Jaguar Project Reserve, beetle and bugs
Tarantula, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Tarantula, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Neotropical otter or nutria,Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Neotropical otter or nutria, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Wolf spider, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
Wolf spider, Northern Jaguar Project Reserve
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Wildflower Hike

The start of our hike up Long Park Road.
The start of our hike up Long Park Road.

Last Tursday Burt gave me a day off and I took full advantage. Carol, Barbara, Rolf and I headed up high and did a 5 1/2 mile loop above 8,500′ in the Chiricahua Wilderness. The post-fire landscape is enjoying the long and wet monsoon season we’ve had this year. Wildflowers bloomed all around. The weather was cool and puffy clouds dotted an azure sky. If there was ever a quintessential perfect hike this was it.

In a galaxy far, far away I once worked in a flower shop. I learned that you never want to work in a flower shop owned my your in-laws. The holiday season stretched from Thanksgiving to Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Easter to June weddings. High stress, low pay and in-laws. Despite this I can appreciate a flower. I have no knowledge of wildflowers but Barbara is an expert and she took the time to share her knowledge with us. At 77 (and a half, don’t forget the half) Barbara had a lot of knowledge to share. Rolf’s wildflower book came up short over and over again but Barbara had the information in her head. She pointed out pretty little things that would have gone by unnoticed by me. The red Thruber’s cinquefoil is my new favorite but I have to appreciate a flower called the wall flower. There was nothing shy or retiring about it’s flashy orange petals.

I could go on and on about the flowers but they really weren’t the highlight of the trip. What I appreciated most was watching friends encourage and support each other through an arduous day. Carol was able to inspire Barbara to go further than she planned and we all adjusted our pace to keep the group safe and comfortable. I was out of shape. Carol was recovering from an injury. Rolf was just fine. The last mile and a half had over 20 fallen trees on the trail. Some were quite huge. I helped Barb cross one giant log by telling her to imitate Winnie-the-Pooh and hug it. There she was belly down straddling a steeply inclined trunk, neither leg reaching the ground. Some elderly lady. I though the bark would slow her down but she started slipping downhill. I moved to grab her and Barbara grabbed my belt to slow the slide. I did a little Judo and sat down to use my weight to drag her over the last bit. Rolf enjoyed the spectacle.

I hope to be so lucky to be able to hike at elevation with my wits about me at 77 (and a half).

Thistle gone to seed.
Thistle gone to seed.
Portal Rodeo Hiking Club. Barbara, Carol, Rolf. I took the picture.
Portal Rodeo Hiking Club. Barbara, Carol, Rolf. I took the picture.
Wall Flower. You heard about her. There she is.
Wall Flower. You heard about her. There she is.
Columbine
Columbine
Yarrow
Yarrow
Healing in Progress. It's beautiful.
Healing in Progress. It’s beautiful.
Thurber's Cinquefoil
Thurber’s Cinquefoil
This dead tree has been on the blog several years in a row. It won't last much longer.
This dead tree has been on the blog several years in a row. It won’t last much longer.
There were still a few very sweet red raspberries.
There were still a few very sweet red raspberries.
Mossy grotto
Mossy grotto
Flea bane and Indian Paintbrush
Flea bane and Indian Paintbrush
Yarrow's Spiny Lizard
Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard
Yellow composites covering a burned hillside
Yellow composites covering a burned hillside
Burnt trunk in the Chiricahua wilderness.
Burnt trunk in the Chiricahua wilderness.
Pleasing fungus beetles
Pleasing fungus beetles
A Gypsy Carpenter selfie.
A Gypsy Carpenter selfie.
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