Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bees, gnats and a freaky-looking chuckwalla

On Sunday, for our last hike before our bigbigbig hike, we decided to hit the Holbert Trail at South Mountain. Kelly has done part of this trail, which takes hikers to a summit with an amazing view of the entire Valley.
We find the trailhead with no problems (for once), and step onto the trail. We hear a buzzing sound that seemingly comes from everywhere.
“Is that … bees?” Kelly asks, horror written all over her face.
I don’t answer her. I just speed up, thinking we will get past it soon. After several minutes, we realize that we are surrounded by tiny wildflowers. And the bees are all throughout the flowers.
So we do what any rational, well-trained hiker would do. We run.
See, we figure the faster we hike, the quicker we’ll finish the five-mile trail. The only problem is -- we’re not runners. We both hate running. So this gets old after about five minutes.
We stop. The buzzing is louder than ever.
We finally pass another hiker, and she tells us that if we can just make it to that tower up there (she points), the buzzing gets much quieter.
We start jogging again. She’s right. About a quarter mile up, the buzzing subsides.
That’s when the gnats begin attacking Kelly, much like they were attacking me on our last South Mountain adventure.
As I listen to her behind me, describing how they are landing on her eyelashes, I catch a glimpse of something grayish move through a bush just ahead of me.
It’s the size of a large bird, so I bend down slightly to catch a glimpse, and I see a GIANT REPTILE WITH A RED TAIL.
I stop dead in my tracks and start slowly backing up.
“Is that a bird?” Kelly asks.
“Nooooooo,” I breathe quietly.
You don’t want be bit by a Gila Monster. It would not be good. We verrryyyy carefulllyyyyy crept past it.
However, after some extensive Internet research (i.e., looking at lots of freaky lizard pictures), I have determined that what we saw was actually a harmless chuckwalla. Our guy looked like this one:

Anyway. We finally get the top of the mountain, and I realize I’ve been on this summit before! Many times! Only then, I had DRIVEN up.
It’s my go-to outing for all out-of-town visitors, the only mountain in the Valley you can drive up. It’s an awesome way to see the Valley from high up without having to hike.
Funny how it always seemed like a long drive.

By this point, the gnats are in full force attack mode.
“Can we go? Can we go? Can we go? Meg, I gotta go!” Kelly yells as I desperately snap two pictures. I turn around, and she’s running back down the mountain, trying to escape the bugs.
After a minor ankle twist, more bugs, and a return to the surround-sound buzzing, we were finally done. And we’d never finished a five-mile hike so fast.
I think it’s safe to say…. We’re ready for the Grand Canyon.


  1. Is there any way you can take up stamp collecting for cancer research? Cause you might want to try that next time. Much fewer things biting you while you do that.

  2. Can you imagine blogging about stamp collecting? Yikes.