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high desert. small house.

A Weekend of Animal Discoveries & Rough Roads

Wow, what a weekend! We did both a local hike and a far away rockhounding trip.

Saturday

We closed up shop, took care of errands, fed the dogs and then relaxed. Prior to starting dinner, we decided we wanted to do a medium-length hike. Our nearest option was the trail system in and around Gomez Peak. Brian wanted to do the 3-mile trail but I convinced him that the 25 minute loop was a better fit (based on being nearly hungry and a thunderstorm developing nearby). Boy, did I make the right call!

We found this awesome beetle and later identified it as the ‘glorious scarab beetle’!

From Wiki and the Forest Service:
Chrysina gloriosa is a species of scarab whose common names are glorious beetle and glorious scarab. The adults are 25 to 28 millimetres (0.98 to 1.10 in) long and are bright green with silver stripes on the elytra. The adults eat juniper leaves at a high elevation and are able to camouflage by blending in with plants.

Strangely enough, it has two scientific names – Plusiotis gloriosa and Chrysina gloriosa – both of which signify similar things. “Plusiotis” is greek for wealthy, while “Chrysina” is greek for gold. This scarab is deserving of these rich names for its body resembles something of value.

The discovery came the same day as a customer visiting us at work and telling us his employee came in with what he believes is a ‘golden scarab beetle’. After throwing it in the trash TWICE (apparently it was alive when the employee brought it in), he finally looked it up online and discovered that people are willing to pay for the dead beetles. He found one sold listing on eBay for $150!

We ended our exciting Saturday with one of our meal staples – taco night! We sautéed 2.25 lbs of ground beef in our cast iron skillet and then mixed it with two packets of taco seasoning. While the meat was cooking, we microwaved a large can of refried beans, into which we stirred 1-2 cans of roasted green chiles. When those two things are ready, we assembled a sort of taco dip into individual bowls – beef, beans, sliced roma tomatoes, a big dollop of sour cream and an equally generous amount of guacamole. Brian usually eats his with chips; I enjoy mine with a fork.

Sunday

We woke early on Sunday and farted around the house for a few hours. When I could no longer suppress the urge to be productive, I got dressed. The first task that was calling to me was the planting of a gift I had been given more than a month ago with explicit instructions to put it in the ground within a week. I am good with animals; not so excellent with plant care.

Finally, the firestick is in the ground! This succulent is officially called Euphorbia Tirucalli. It can get up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide; its tips will turn orange/red in the winter.

Next up, before lunch hunger fully kicked in, we decided to get the Fit ready for market. We removed all remaining objects, took it to the vacuum station near the laundromat for a thorough cleaning, wiped down all plastic surfaces to remove dust and then swung by the car wash for a complimentary car wash (courtesy of our recent service visit to the Toyota dealership). While we were at the grocery store, we used the large, vacant parking lot to take photos.

Wow, what a shiny car! And it gets 38 mpg!

Dear all car salesmen we talked to in the last few months – This is a true example of ‘folds flat’ seats. No incline whatsoever.

After a quick visit to the grocery store for a 10 pound bag of chicken quarters, we fed the dogs, loaded up and hit the road. Destination: Top secret rockhounding location about 2 hours from Silver.

We had planned on grabbing the delicious Hawaiian Burger at our favorite local taco stand, but unfortunately, they were closed on Sundays. We decided it was the perfect opportunity to try the restaurant we had heard about in Lordsburg – Ramona’s Cafe. We ordered the Combo Plate 1 and…

…the house burger. Everything was fine and the service was excellent.

Brian had originally wanted to go to the Turkey Creek Hot Springs but after researching the road, I found that July and August are known for flash floods. When I told him this, his response was, “Well, I guess that means nobody else will be out there.”

Considering the recent flash flood in AZ that killed several members of one family had resulted from a storm that occurred 8 miles upriver of them, I did not think it was worth it. The road to Turkey Creek is insane as it is. We will take it on in September or October.

We headed instead to a favorite rockhounding location.

We discovered our access road had been washed out. Thankfully, a few vehicles had navigated the questionable terrain and had flattened two tire tracks worth of dirt. We sort of high-centered on the right running board but the tires still had traction. In the process of crossing, we collapsed more road, compromising our return journey.

Cows! Trooper, who usually travels without a crate, loses his mind at the sight of cows. When he started jumping against the side of the car, I leapt into the back seat to restrain him. He then started to act like I was beating him up, so I opened Sydney’s crate and switched them. Take that, bad Trooper!

The more interesting animal discoveries happened during the return leg. While I was doing the dog switch, Brian suddenly braked among the cows and shouted, “dung beetle!” He got out and started taking pictures. We later learned several fun facts:

  • Dung beetles are beetles that feed partly or exclusively on dung. A dung beetle can bury dung 250 times heavier than itself in one night.
  • Many dung beetles, known as rollers, roll dung into round balls, which are used as a food source or breeding chambers. Others, known as tunnelers, bury the dung wherever they find it. A third group, the dwellers, neither roll nor burrow: they simply live in manure. They are often attracted by the dung collected by burrowing owls.
  • The are in the same family as the scarab beetle we discovered – Scarabaeidae.
  • Dung beetles are currently the only known non-human animal to navigate and orient themselves using the Milky Way.
  • The ancient Egyptians believed that the dung beetle was only male in gender, and reproduced by depositing semen into a dung ball. The supposed self-creation of the beetle resembles that of Khepri, who creates himself out of nothing. Moreover, the dung ball rolled by a dung beetle resembles the sun. Plutarch wrote:  …into a round pellet of material which they roll up by pushing it from the opposite side, just as the sun seems to turn the heavens in the direction opposite to its own course, which is from west to east.[26]

A real dung beetle, toiling away among the chalcedony.

When we hit the messed-up section of road, we took a few minutes to examine our options and plan for a successful crossing. Naturally, we took a couple more pictures.

You can see here that the road breaks down to basically nothing. It really is a wash that the main road crosses. These pictures do not do the situation justice. Wide-angle iPhone cameras tend to flatten the image out.

I ended up staying outside of the car to help guide where Brian should put the tires. He aimed for the left tire to stay in the more developed track. That way, if the right side of the car smooshed the road to bits and lost traction, we would have a solid footing on the left side.

Once we hit the main dirt road, we were able to cruise along at 30-35 mph. That is, until we found a giant millipede. Brake!

We reversed so hastily that we ran ourselves off the road and into the ditch. Thank goodness for AWD.

This is the first one we found. It was fast and very squirmy.

While Brian took photos of the first one, I started walking along the road and found a second, MUCH BIGGER one. This is me trying to wrestle him onto my hand. He was much slower and compliant.

Wow, so big! We are fairly certain this is the desert millipede, Orthoporus ornatus. I was comfortable handling them because I had encountered an incredibly large millipede in my invertebrate class in college, likely the American giant millipede, Narceus americanus.

We then proceeded to notice them everywhere! Here, this one is eating this horrible nettle plant.

As we neared the highway, I looked back and noticed that a monsoon had opened up over the area we had been in. It is a darn good thing we crossed that bad section of road in time.

A tarantula we discovered upon turning onto our street. I chose not to pick him up.

We drove through another couple of rain showers, effectively cleaning the car. Sydney was glad to finally arrive at the reliable shelter of our house, where she could hide from the God of Thunder. Our dinner and a movie consisted of leftover taco fixings from the night before and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid*.

*An excellent movie from 1982, staring Steve Martin and Rachel Ward. Among other hilarious moments, it has a great coffee preparation scene.

2 Comments

  1. Cool that you guys are getting out and exploring the area. As an avid 4-wheeler, there are two things you should never leave home without: a small shovel and some kind of traction device.

    Shovel: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Military-Folding-Survival-Emergency/dp/B0196GAYR2

    Traction device: https://www.4wheelparts.com/Winches-Winch-Accessories/Rampage-GripTrack-7702.aspx?t_c=18&t_s=190&t_pt=9592&t_pn=RPP7702

    If anything, I’d buy a shovel, at the least.

    • Thank you for the links! As we were carefully navigating the rough road that day, we more than once brought up our missing shovel. We carried one in the Fit but never moved it over. Even if it never gets used, it would be reassuring to have it on hand.

      Also, that griptrack looks smart – like exactly the thing we’ve wished for whenever we’ve been stuck in New England snow.

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