A Winter Visitor Comments on Our Wednesday Hike

We had to roll out of the sack a bit earlier than usual. We had to be on the road by 8 am to get to the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge by 9 am. While for most folks an earlier rise as described would not be a problem, but for us retired folks it is a dramatic departure from normal operating procedures.  As soon as we stepped out the door we were doused with a blast of reality.  The temperature had dropped into the high 30’s and the only warm blooded mammals outside had fur as you can see. So it was back to the trailer to layer up our clothing for the hike.

We got to the Refuge by 9 along with 10 other hardy “”soles” willing to give up there warm nests for a hike up rugged washes and burro trails.  Make that 20 soles since we all started out with two feet.

Chuck and Betty Mulcahy led the hike. They are Docents with Refuge and are both experienced in dealing with us old folks. When we started out they warned us not to pick up anything off the ground and attempt to purloin it out of the Refuge. They also advised that we not pet the wildlife should we encounter any. The likelihood of that is minimal since we made enough sound to make any critters fear for their lives.

Just so we had some experience with the wildlife Betty broke out her collection of Scat. There is a German word for Scat that also starts with an “S.” Small children refer to it as “Poop.” She broke us in by holding up a Donkey Turd and passed it around to the hardier amongst us. Since Donkeys are an invasive species that is devastating the Fauna of the Refuge we wondered what other critters might we not encounter.

Asking an experienced “Scatologist” this question produced a carefully catalogue plastic box with all varieties of Scat for us to peruse. Coyote, Deer, Rat, Sheep, and a few other droppings were intently studied with several cogent questions brought forth. Time for the hike.

They did a terrific job of identifying various plants. Due to the lack of moisture this year on the Refuge most plants resembled the Bryant Garden after several weeks of neglect. Betty found a Wild Lavender plant with a few leaves on it.  She picked one of them and smashed it and we all got to smell her fingers. Since she had not washed her hands after the earlier talk we also got some other unusual odors.

We got a little exercise, had a learning experience, and a good lunch. It was a good day!

We did manage to find an unwary ant lion and warm him up before putting him back into the ground. The only warm places in the first part of the hike were the rocks. As a result there was always jockeying when we stopped for a talk to lean on them. The only problem with that was the space was also occupied by Bees. Chuck explained that the bees were the Africanized variety aka “Killer Bees.” The little critters liked the warmth of the rocks and the colors and perfume of the ladies. It was not a good combination so we moved on quickly.

The adventure was over buy noon and we headed on down to the Meer landing to have a quiet lunch and contemplate the collection of Coots and a slow moving fish. Finally Wildlife! Now we even know why they call the Wildlife Refuge Service “Coot and Carp”

~  James Bryant
December 7, 2011


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