Friday, January 15, 2016


At long last, after all the visits over the years, after moving down here, after traveling around most of the state, after hearing about their destruction, after wondering if they even existed... a javelina sighting!

Or most of one.

Let me backtrack a bit. Our Minnesota friends, Les and Peggy,  were visiting us, futilely seeking warmth - bad year, sorry, guys, but still better than Minnesota. They had rented a house in Sedona for a week and invited us to stay with them. There were two bedrooms, a fenced yard for the dogs, a big wood fireplace, great scenery and great company, so the answer to their invitation was never in doubt. The only downside turned out to be the step between the great room and bath- and bedrooms. Yes, turns out my knees are that bad.

We had delayed joining them for a day due to winter weather, heading up Saturday. Even just north of The Valley we could see snowy mountain tops, and those are not tall mountains. It had been an exceptional snow dump for the state. To give you an idea, in the week since the first of the year Flagstaff had gotten 30.6 inches of the white stuff. Anybody connected with the Snow Bowl or area winter activities was ecstatic. The freeway heading up was jammed Saturday morning.

At least we didn't have to head that far that day. Once off the freeway we made a leisurely trek up 179 into red rock country. Seeing them wearing white tops made for a very satisfying shutterbug experience, for while there are not a lot of areas to pull off the road to shoot, there are some along the way and I took advantage. Now I had seen snow on those red rocks before, but it was always a light dusting with the  red peeking through or the snow still falling to blur the details. This was several solid inches of snow with the sun shining on it, blue sky behind.

For the record, there were still bits of snow when we left.

We spent the afternoon all together driving the back roads searching out good views and opportunities for photos, even sitting on a big log streamside relaxing to the flow of the water. They have a sizable SUV with room for four and a cargo space for dogs to move around in. During our stay we checked out the drive up Oak Creek Canyon into the snowy ponderosa pines near Flagstaff, the charm (and shopping: see the Turquiose Spider if you head that way) of Jerome, the airport road overlooking the whole of Sedona, and finally Sunset Crater and Wupatki. I've started erasing the bad pictures but last I noted the count, there were still 279 left on this particular SD card.

With all the driving around, our wildlife sightings were limited to the ubiquitous ravens and a single roadrunner. Around the house we were renting there were other small birds, flying in to dip their bills into the backyard pond when it wasn't iced over, or land in the pyracantha bushes to feast on the thousands of bright red berries. I recognized the cardinals, but need to work on other bird identifications.

There had been a fairly large prickly pear where the street met the driveway. It needed to be avoided on the way in and out, or while taking pictures. On our second morning our early walker returned for breakfast with the report of its destruction. Pads had been bitten off and chewed, remaining pieces of the plant scattered over a wide area. Closer inspection revealed hoof prints.

Conclusion: javelina.

It provoked much discussion, including whether or not we should notify the landlord so he wouldn't think we or the dogs had damaged it. With the bites out of the pads and hoof prints, we figured no blame would attach to us. Dogs would have done neither, nor would a careless vehicle.

The morning walkers noted more damage and hoof prints down the street the next day, indications that at least one was "scouring" the neighborhood. The prints came in two sizes, leaving us wondering if there was an adult with young, or whether front and back hooves come in different sizes.

While the dogs were out to wander the yard, I was gazing out the window to see if they needed attention. I saw movement just outside the fence, looking just in time to note the animal's rear  covered with black hair/fur with single white hairs scattered throughout as it disappeared behind one of the many bushes along its path. Wolf? Coyote? The dogs were totally unconcerned, which was reassuring. Or upon reflection, stupid. At its stolid pace the snout appeared in a gap between bushes for just a moment but is was enough for identification: javelina!

I never glimpsed a whole animal. I did, however, manage to draw Peggy's attention to it quickly enough that she also caught a quick bit of movement. Unlike me, busy calling the dogs in "just in case", she walked over the the fence trying to catch another view.

No joy.

But at least we could both now say we had sort of seen one.

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