When I moved from the Puget Sound area, where I trekked the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, to Wickenburg, I wondered what opportunities existed around my new home. People here seemed to have either a horse, four-wheel-drive vehicle or both and of course “shanks mare.” I settled for a jeep and “shanks mare”–the jeep to get me to and from the trailheads and the “mare” for greater intimacy with terra firma, plants and wild life.
Mostly it’s the scenery trekkers enjoy but occasionally one comes across an inhabitant, those hard-to-spot dwellers of the desert. It is a delight to experience one of those rare encounters–like finding a baby desert tortoise or watching quail parents herd a Gila monster out of their neighborhood.
On a recent outing, our party came across the baby tortoise while mapping a trail along the Blue Tank Wash East of Wickenburg for the Wickenburg Conservation Foundation (WCF) Trails Committee. It was not more than three inches long resting in the path, apparently enjoying the warmth of the fall sun. During my dozen years of trekking around the Wickenburg area, I’ve seen only one other tortoise and that was near the intersection of Turtleback Wash and the Hassayampa River. It was a dead adult about 14 inches long lying on its back. Was death before or after ending up turned over?
The quail “episode” happened during a jeep ride through Cemetery Wash two years ago. Normally quail are quick to fly when approached but not this time. How come, I wondered? I slowly climbed out of the jeep and walked within several feet of the activity before I was able to understand the encounter–quail parents were “herding” a Gila Monster by taking turns pecking at its tail. I surmised the quail did not appreciate having their eggs on the monsters menu. After watching several minutes, I slowly turned and returned to the jeep, leaving the actors to their script.
“If you pack it in, then pack it out” is the tenet of people who appreciate the beauty of Wickenburg’s surrounding area. Litter is an encounter that no one enjoys. It is disgusting to come across discards and realize how some folks have a total disregard for our scenic area. If you find trash left by some slob, please join me and take a moment to pick it up.
An additional note:
A volunteer group has been formed under the auspices of the Wickenburg Conservation Foundation (WCF) to document routes, conditions and points of interest of the many horse trails, 4-wheel roads and footpaths around the greater Wickenburg area. The primary purpose is to help Wickenburg planners negotiate with developers to ensure that, despite development, the area can retain a world-class system of interconnected trails. Too many trails have already been lost to development and it is imperative to locate and map those that remain. If you are interested in helping with this effort, you may contact Penny Pietre at PENNY@WCO.ORG or myself at AZDIGS@GMAIL.COM, 928-684-5816. Tracking data is acquired and logged using a global positioning system (GPS)—one can be provided if none is available to you. A brief training session on settings and operation is necessary so that quality data is acquired.