Saturday, June 9, 2012

Owyhee Secrets

Saturday June 9 2012

While out pulling ribbons from the Owyhee Fandango endurance ride, I came across this young gopher snake digging a hole. I didn't want to get too close because while they aren't poisonous, I hear they can give a painful bite, and I didn't want to bother him at the task at which he was very intent, so absorbed that he ignored this beetle who didn't seem to realize he was in mortal danger. (But then, maybe beetles taste bad to snakes.) I couldn't see anything through my camera screen so I was guessing at what I was shooting, and I was holding my arm out as far as possible, but in this video you can still see the excavating skills of this snake.
[video here]

In addition to the Raven cliff nest I stumbled across with 4 noisy fledged Ravens, I discovered a new hidden little canyon and cave as I cut back to my starting point across country. 

Sometimes when you're out in the boonies and you stumble across something really cool, you fantasize that maybe you're the only person to have found it (not counting the Native Americans who lived here before the whites took over, because in 'our discoveries' we never count the Native Americans - but of course they always knew these places first). I'm unlikely to have been the first white person to find this cave, since not far downstream is the Rock Corral and the sentinel caves surrounding it.

But it is likely few modern people have stumbled upon this place, where the cave overlooks an intermittent creek which, by the looks of the thick trees and vines in the middle of it, runs permanently in this little canyon.

I approached the cave somewhat warily (always looking out for cougars!), and while finding it empty of large mammals, found it large and roomy and accommodating - to rats and mice and perhaps bats. The ubiquitous packrat nest occupied the far end of the cave which dissolved up into a notch in the rock wall, and little nests were stuffed in little pockets in the ceiling. 

No old archeological signs, no obsidian, and no mammal footprints or recent bed impressions in the cave, in which I could have comfortably stretched out or sat tall in, but there was a trail (not used recently) which ran from the mouth of the cave down to the creek. Something larger than a rat has used this cave at some point.

The red cliff walls were a miniature rendering of the deep rhyolite canyons that run on this parallel across the base of the mountains - maybe a million years ago it was one of these deep canyons, or more likely, in a million years, it will be one of these deep canyons. And maybe in a million years, some New Age person will stumbled upon this 'Cave Canyon', and wonder who 'discovered' it, long ago.


  1. I love how in touch with nature and your surroundings you are. That's a real gift! I also love that you don't romanticize the harsh and sometimes dangers terrain. You really are something!

  2. Great snake video, Mer! Looks like he/she was making a nest by flicking out the dirt! Crazy that he/she didn't want to gobble up the beetle - would have been filling I imagine.

    Hey, when you're in London for the Olympics, would love to see you if you have time of course.


  3. merri,

    i'm thinking of you today because two doves decided to try to build a nest directly outside my office window, about 10 feet from where i'm sitting, in a little hazelnut tree. the funny part is they really seem to suck at it. every single branch they bring and try to arrange into a nest, falls to the ground below. it's pathetic. apparently they're new to this. i wonder if they'll give up or leave each other in disgust. it sure is entertaining though. there should be a pile of sticks on the ground by tonight.