Bison are back

_40A3761_IR.jpgBison at North Rim, Grand Canyon

Back in the mid to late 1800’s over 60 million bison roamed the plains.  From North Dakota to Arizona herds were plentiful and prolific.

bison54_IR.jpgBison at Raymond Wilderness Area

Until they weren’t.  Hunters decimated much of the herds.  In fact, it was in large part ‘how the West was won’, as hunters kill Native American Indian’s food source.  With only some 23 bison left, concerned citizens the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and the Bronx Zoo, among others isolated the remaining bison to prohibit their extinction.

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Today, bison are being re-introduced and bred under the watchful eye of Game and Fish Departments, National Wildlife Federation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and private organizations across the country.  Today’s bison are carefully monitored for disease and genealogy to assure healthy, robust, diverse herds.

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It’s a real treat to see them grazing on the Plains and to appreciate and observe these large historic animals.

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For more bison pix, see my post here … https://kritterspix.com/2018/11/05/they-are-not-buffalo/

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Ring Tale

We have explored the backroads of Arizona extensively.  Along our travels we have been fortunate enough to see all sorts of amazing scenery, and wonderful animal sightings.  I always feel blessed to have these great animals cross our paths at the same time they cross ours.  Some animals are common to see, elk and deer for instance.  Others, not so much, but we have seen… bobcat, turkey, and even bear.

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On a recent trip to Sedona we saw this elusive little critter practically under our feet.  We spot lighted him with our flashlight and caught a fleeting shot.  It’s a ringtail cat!

Apparently, it’s the Official State Mammal of Arizona (who knew?).  They have a fox-like face with pointed ears and a long distinctive tail.  The ringtail is part of the raccoon family… note, the familiar striped tail.  They live in a riparian habitat in the rocks near water, making Sedona a prime area (apparently).  They are noctural creatures, only coming out at night.  So, we were lucky to catch of glimpse of him.

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We had been taking night shots at an overlook in Sedona when he scurried across us, curious what we were he came back for a another quick look.  Funny how that happens.  Sometimes it is all about being in the right place at the right time.

See more Sedona pix…. https://kritterspix.com/2018/10/30/sedona-az/  and   https://kritterspix.com/2018/10/30/oak-creek-sedona-az/

Fall is in the air

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We went out to check on Fall Colors, but it’s still a little early for this neck of the woods.  Maybe next week will yield more color.

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For now, we were happy to walk through the woods and take in the crisp air… as was this little squirrel we found.

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Winter is coming.  Storms are on the horizon, and we have already had our first snow.  We’ll take it.   Our burnt forest can certainly use a good soaking.

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We’ll make another trek next week to check on colors again.  It’s all good.

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Tinder Aftermath

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Following the Tinder Fire that devastated our communities, I have been intent on capturing the many faces of the aftermath.  You can see my other post here….  https://kritterspix.com/category/pix/   

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In this endeavor I have been faced with the realities that are post-fire – the devastation, the soot, the destroyed vegetation and the re-birth of new vegetation.  What I somehow didn’t expect was the realization that my photos truly are capturing a moment in time that will only be that way for that instant… to never be the same again.

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I took this photo (above), I call Charcoal Tinder, just after the fire and we were finally allowed back in the forest.  This cool tree still has the roots attached, charcoaled that they may be.  It stands as a testament to the resilience of the forest, and the trauma that it saw with fire raging all around.  I flinch to think about it.

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I took these two photos of the very same tree just a week later, I called it Scar Face, now.  It’s the same tree!  It’s roots have broken off and already disintegrated into the charred soot at it’s feet.  The cool branches that stood strong amidst the tragedy of that day… are now gone.  It is already fading back into the earth from where it came.

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It saddens me to realize that what is left now… may not be for long.  Our forest will continue to change.  Trees will fall, leaves will drop, plain sticks and hulks of trees will become more prevalent… until nothing but a heaping pile of remnants remain.  Whoa!  That’s too vivid… but that’s what it looks like on the Mogollon Rim, years after wildfire devastated it’s beautiful landscape leaving nothing but fallen tinder in it’s wake all these years later.

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I remain extremely appreciative and thankful that it wasn’t worse, and that we still have our home to return to, where so many don’t.  We look over a scarred ridge that serves as a reminder of what came so close… and I look toward the green trees amongst the brown ones and smile at their tenacity and strength.

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Tinder Fire

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It started small… only 10 acres when we first saw it.  (These photos are ALL taken off our balcony.)  The Tinder Fire was 2-1/2 miles from us at Kinder Crossing.  We figured the Forest Service would put it out, and that would be that.  That was Friday.

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But it continued to grow… and fast.  By Saturday it was 500 acres and we were given pre-evacuation notices.  They were just being cautious… right?!  We just lost our truck and camper to a fire a mere 8 months ago.  We just finished settling with the insurance company.  There is just no way we could lose our home to a fire…. right?!

john firehose_IR.jpgWe sprayed water on our trees from a hydrant we had put in months before, and hose lines John had procured … just in case (thank god).

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It didn’t slow down.  It grew.  By Sunday it had jumped the lines and was headed toward us.    Our house is our masterpiece… we have made every piece of furniture in it, all the art… and the house itself.  This can’t be real.

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At noon the Sheriff knocked on the door and said we had to evacuate….  thank you, no thank you.  We’ll stay.

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This beast was coming, and there was no stopping it.  It looked like it was going to go around us and head east with the winds.  But then it caught an ill wind and was headed straight for us.orgsmoke_IR.jpg

There were Hot Shots at the bottom of our hill trying to keep it from coming up our hill and into our subdivision.  John was at the top, using sprinklers supplied by our insurance company fed by water out of an inflatable swimming pool, to douse our trees.  He had two hose lines attached to the fire hydrant to squirt water on the trees and on our neighbors to create a microclimate so the fire would divert.

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It was here.  It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, and I have never been so sick to my stomach.  It was awful.  We were in the middle of it with fire, glow, and smoke all around us.   Flames licking up the trees, moving so fast in these ferocious winds.  It was coming at us from two different directions… from the bottom of our hill and flanking us from across the East side.  John was stomping out flames with his boots in our neighbors yard.  The HotShots came to help and dug a line to keep the fire from crossing over from the East, while they were still working the bottom of our hill.

By 4am it had caught new fuel and was making the movement again toward us.  John was out of water.  He didn’t think he could hold the line.  Thankfully, our fire dept sent 500 gallons to refill our pool so we could activate the sprinklers again.

We were lucky.  We were spared.

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In our subdivision of 60 built homes, we lost 4 homes.  The next subdivision up, lost about 30 homes.  It’s still an active fire, 0% contained, and at 11,000 acres as I type.  There is an awful chance that it could move into the next subdivision, but we are hoping not.  They are working it hard to control this unpredictable beast.

I cannot express my gratitude and joy over being spared.  Tears well up as I even think about the prospect.

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John worked hard and we were able to save our home.  Firefighters across the country rallied around in droves as Coconino County was declared a state of emergency to help us save our homes.  Our own Blue Ridge Fire Department were putting out imminent fires and saving homes right and left.  Some areas are more devastated than others.  It was the worst thing I have ever been through.. but thank god we lived to tell about it – no injuries reported at all – and we have homes to go home to. Unfotunately. some weren’t so lucky. My hearts goes out to them. It is so awful fine people lost their beautiful homes.

For now, we are still here, our subdivision is largely intact.  We are ecstatic.  The roads on 87 are still closed NB and SB, and all the subdivisions have sheriff’s posted at the entrance to them.  If we were to leave, we wouldn’t be allowed  back in.  Having said that, John went to work (the Firehouse) to see what he could do, now that we are safe.

We have no power, but have a generator (thank goodness, as it operated the pumps for the water sprinklers).  It’s a smallish generator (we are lucky to have it, thanks to a neighbor), so we have no heat, hot water or appliances.  But we’re grateful to be here and in our home.

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Spot fires continue, but we have a good vantage point, and John is watching them.

The fire crews have moved on to try to stop the growth, so John just went out to check on a spot fire across the way.  i think I’ll keep him!!!!

Ironically, for being a wannabe photographer, all these pics were taken with my cell phone.  I packed my camera gear, just in case.. and never even thought to dig it out and take a real photo.  We were a little busy.

To the (potential alleged)  firebug who started this… may you burn in hell.

 

 

Starry Cacti

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Admittedly, I am not great at night photography… but I’m learning, and the best way to get better is to go out and shoot.  So I tried my hand at some night shots of cacti.

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The clouds were troublesome… but cool.  It’s tough, as by the time the stars come out the foreground is dark.  Stomping around the cacti had me putting my foot in it – cactus, that is.  Here the moon is just shining through the clouds while the stars try to make an appearance.

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One this is for sure… I need more practice, and look forward to it.