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Tarantula on My Toes, and Other Summer Fun

July 25, 2013

During this morning’s trail run at Santiago Oaks Regional Park, I saw two women running in a sort of frantic fashion toward me as I made my way up Barham Ridge.

When I said my usual, “Good mornin’” one of them replied with, “There’s something on the trail!”

As she pointed behind her, I asked, “A snake?” . . .  to which the other lady replied, “I think it was a spider!”

As they disappeared around a brushy bend, I shouted after them, “They’re OK! Spiders are good!”

Curious (and hopeful . . . it is getting to be later in the summer, when the tarantula guys go out looking for love in the chaparral), I picked up my pace . . . and saw, scooting across the trail, a fabulous & fuzzy tarantula.

I grabbed my little camera out of the (super convenient) front strap pocket of my Nathan hydration vest, placed my left foot gently in front of the tarantula, and waited to see what would happen.

Yes! He was OK with being the subject of a paparazzi photo shoot—he actually paused on top of my foot for a while—and I took a bunch of photos and a couple of short videos.

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Even though he was a pretty good-sized fellow, he felt light as a slightly scritchy feather on my foot. Thanks Mr. Spider! Good luck with the ladies . . . and watch out for the tarantula hawk wasps . . . I saw seven a couple of days ago on another morning run at nearby Peters Canyon Regional Park.

Here’s a link to the short video I made of what happens when a tarantula hawk wasp finds a tarantula . . . followed by a poem that describes the (kinda gruesome) demise of the tarantula after the wasp stings it, paralyzes it, and lays an egg in its big juicy tummy. As the poem’s last stanza says, “The tarantula / which could have lived /another seven years, /remains numb /long enough.”

That went from a pleasant visit with a fellow-ridgeline-loving-creature to thoughts of a grim end . . . yikes . . . so here’s some “happy trails” photos from earlier this month, during a road trip to Wallowa County, Oregon, for the always-inspiring Fishtrap Summer Writing Workshops, with a stop on the way back to hang out near Tioga Pass with family.

On the way we stopped for a night at the Snake River RV Park near Parma, ID. A peaceful place, right on the river, nice people, highly recommend.

On the way we stopped for a night at the Snake River RV Park near Parma, ID. A peaceful place, right on the river, nice people, highly recommend.

"Summer Camp" -- the Nature Conservancy's place for researchers (and sometimes wandering writers) to stay in the heart of the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve.

“Summer Camp” — the Nature Conservancy’s place for researchers (and sometimes wandering writers) to stay in the heart of the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve.

There's lots of room to run on the Zumwalt! (Here, I'm headed toward the Findley Buttes.)

There’s lots of room to run on the Zumwalt! (Here, I’m headed toward the Findley Buttes.)

Oh give me a home, where  the whistling-elk roam . . .

Oh give me a home, where the whistling-elk roam . . .

This triangle let us know when it was time to eat. (That's a Sears Catalog barn in the background . . . almost a hundred years old, full of pungeant odors, a great horned owl, and somebody's lifetime of memories.)

This triangle let us know when it was time to eat. (That’s a Sears Catalog barn in the background . . . almost a hundred years old, full of pungeant odors, a great horned owl, and somebody’s lifetime of memories.)

Nearby Harsin Butte is a fine place to watch a July sunset (and it's open to the public for hiking).

Nearby Harsin Butte is a fine place to watch a prairie sunset (and it’s open to the public for hiking; although there’s not trail–you just get to make your way through the wildflowers to the top, almost 800 above you).

My favorite wildflower grows all over the prairies and forest meadows of Wallowa County. I call 'em mariposa lilies; others say sego, but the genus Calochortus ("beautiful grass") are stunning, no matter what you call them.

My favorite wildflower grows all over the prairies and forest meadows of Wallowa County. I know them as  mariposa lilies; others say sego, but members of  the genus Calochortus (“beautiful grass”) are stunning, no matter what you call them.

This is a  scene from a mine near Tioga Pass (just to the east of Yosemite National Park). A whole mining town--Bennettville--once surrounded this now-deserted area.

Near Tioga Pass, just to the east of Yosemite National Park is the ghost town of Bennettville. Here I’m looking out from the entrance to the old silver mine.

We camped at Saddlebag Lake, where the trails are rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Did I mention the trails were a bit rocky? (That's a stand-up paddleboarder making a little wake on the glassy morning lake behind me.)

We camped at Saddlebag Lake, where the trails are rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Did I mention the trails were a bit rocky? (That’s a stand-up paddleboarder making a little wake on the glassy morning lake behind me.)

A short, steep, but fabulously rewarding hike to Gardisky Lake . . . the trailhead is just down the road from Saddlebag Lake. How many people were out hiking this awesome trail on a mid-summer day, when Tuolome Meadows was crawling with people? Zero here. Just me and the wildflowers.

A short, steep, but fabulously rewarding hike to Gardisky Lake . . . the trailhead is just down the road from Saddlebag Lake. How many people were out hiking this awesome trail on a mid-summer day, when Tuolome Meadows was crawling with people? Zero here. Just me and the wildflowers.

Another must-do, pretty uncrowded hike: to the "hanging gardens" of Mt. Dana. Just park right before the entrance station to Yosemite, and head toward the mountain. In less than a mile, you'll be stunned by meadows thick with wildflowers (watered by seeps on the flank of Mt. Dana).

Another must-do, pretty uncrowded hike: to the “hanging gardens” of Mt. Dana. Just park right before the entrance station to Yosemite, and head toward the mountain. In less than a mile, you’ll be stunned by meadows thick with wildflowers (watered by seeps on the flank of Mt. Dana).

This white-line sphinx moth was just as big as hummingbird. Cool!

This white-lined sphinx moth was just as big as hummingbird . . . and it had a similar sort of  “beak” for getting nectar. Amazing.

Nothing like a campfire to warm and sooth the toes after a long day of wandering the Sierra Nevada high country.

Nothing like a campfire to warm and sooth the toes after a long day of wandering the Sierra Nevada high country.

Last photo . . . one of my favorites . . . prairie smoke on the Zumwalt.

Last photo . . . one of my favorites . . . prairie smoke on the Zumwalt.

Happy (spidery, summery) trails!

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