#76 - "Back in Rodeo" - Rodeo, New Mexico / Portal, Arizona

Hello friendos. It's been too long. A month, to be exact. After a brief visit to Chicagoland, which primarily was about movies and fine dining, I am back surrounded by the Chiricahua, Animas, and Peloncillo Mountains in the Chihuahuan Desert of southwestern New Mexico's "boot heel".

My drive to Chicago took me through northern New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa before I crossed the Mississippi River and headed east across northwestern Illinois to Joel's home in Hoffman Estates, IL. My return trip to Rusty's RV Ranch I instead headed south through Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri, on to Tulsa, Oklahoma, west across the tip of Texas via Amarillo and then headed south to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

I wanted to go to Las Cruces for two reasons; to visit White Sands National Monument and to do some road cruising for snakes in the Organ Mountains. My short visit to White Sands was spectacular; my intended hunt in the Organs rained out. The monsoon rains have arrived and I am excited to be back in the desert.

  White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Yesterday was a fitting return to my camp at Rusty's as it was "World Snake Day". However, the first reptile I encountered as I left the interstate to head south into the boot heel was a lizard. Jumping out of my truck to photograph the Texas Horned Lizard and record its GPS coordinates for data entry at iNaturalist.org, I felt back in my element.

   Phrynosoma cornutum , Texas Horned Lizard, near Granite Gap, Hidalgo County, New Mexico

Phrynosoma cornutum, Texas Horned Lizard, near Granite Gap, Hidalgo County, New Mexico

I spent the rest of the day setting up camp and cleaning my "Wheelhouse", but even though lightning filled the skies and storms threatened, I drove east toward Animas and then south toward Cloverdale in search of snakes as I had done so many evenings previous. The first creature I encountered was a mature male tarantula (Aphonopelma gabeli) crossing the road. Surprisingly, I came across no others. Normally, when males mature and begin wandering in search of females you see many.

   Aphonopelma gabeli , mature male

Aphonopelma gabeli, mature male

Sadly, my world snake day was mostly road kill. I first found a DOR (dead on road) Western Patch-nosed Snake and then later came across two Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes (WDB) that had only recently been struck by car tires and were in their death throes. Watching them dying is much worse than finding them dead, but both suck pretty hard. The two WDB were about one mile apart and the drivers that killed them had just passed me. Another mile on I finally found a live WDB, this one a beautiful little youngster barely a foot long.

Sleeping in my RV was relaxing, especially compared to the cheap motel beds of the past few nights. I drank one Stella Artois and crashed hard. This morning was cool and sunny. I drank my second cup of coffee Rusty called over to me that there was a big Hog-nosed Snake on the dirt track beside the pond about 50 yards from my campsite. The thick snake hissed and spread its hood like a cobra as I lifted it from the ground so Rusty could look closer. Snake musk filled the air, which is a comforting scent to a madman like me. Although the snake huffed and puffed it made no attempt to bite or feign death. I explained the latter phenomenon in detail in a previous blog entry. I didn't have my camera so I carried the snake back to my truck and then began to try photographing it. It was very uncooperative at first. Rather than coil belly up and play possum, it wanted to slither forward at speed with its hood flared like a cobra. My persistence eventually weared it down and I got good images where I relocated it at the other side of the pond.

  Mexican Hog-nosed Snake [ Heterodon kennerlyi ]

Mexican Hog-nosed Snake [Heterodon kennerlyi]