Like I said, the reason for this trip was to attend my cousin’s wedding. The ceremony was lovely, and the reception
was held at a lodge, in an open air canopy building which was situated on a lake with a breathtaking view. I would rather
be waist-deep in a swamp in search of some elusive creature then at a wedding any day, but the occasion was very enjoyable
and I glad I could be there. It was also very nice to see so much of my family which I hardly ever get to visit with.
This is Grand Lake, near where the reception was held
Up until this point in my journey, I hadn’t really looked for any herps. I did go to a couple of spots where I
was told I could find Wandering Garter Snakes, but at the high elevation that was the only snake I would have a chance at
seeing. The first time I really looked for any reptiles on the trip was just outside of Denver at a conservation area. I
was extremely optimistic that I would find some snakes based on the habitat, but unfortunately all I was able to come up with
after flipping hundreds of rocks were two snake skins, and dozens of black widows. The habitat looked so good, I really thought
I would be able to find something here:
Well I wasn’t completely discouraged at the lack of finds, because I knew that I would have the chance to search
some habitat that I had never been exposed to later in the week. Since I am not of age to legally drive a rental car, my
mom was kind and gracious enough to agree to go with me for a couple of days to the western part of the state and into Utah.
Before that, there was another two days of alpine hiking and more opportunities to photograph streams! Here’s just
a few more of the many images I took in the mountains.
As I have stated, my mom was nice enough to drive me and my brother into the range of some reptiles that I really wanted
a chance to see. Most notably, the Midget Faded Rattlesnake, Utah Milk Snake, and Intermountain Rat Snake. Herping in Colorado
isn’t like it is in other areas of the country, and to see one of these species in a night is sort of a long shot, even
in the right habitat. Still, my hopes were high of seeing at least one of the three targets. Now, when my mom agreed to
take me, she wasn’t thinking about what the drive would actually consist of. You see, my mom is deathly afraid of heights,
and many of the roads we were going to be taking were not for the faint at heart. I offered to, and even insisted that I
drive numerous times, but she wouldn’t let me as that would be illegal. She was absolutely terrified for much of the
drive through the mountains, yet she still did it for me, and I can never thank her enough.
Here’s a look at one of the many scenic views along the way to the deserts of western Colorado.
It’s a four hour drive from my aunt’s house to Grand Junction, where we would make our base camp for the
next two nights. After getting closer and closer to sea level, our little rental Toyota Camry found itself in the high desert.
This was the terrain I had been anticipating getting to search for reptiles:
As we drove through the desert I could feel the excitement building inside me. I knew that very soon that I would be
able to hunt in completely new habitat to me, looking for completely different species than I had ever seen. I wasted no
time and got my mom to drop me off on top of Colorado National Monument, and arranged a place for her to pick me up about
six hours later. She was very cautious driving up the cutbacks up the side of the plateau, as there were many spots where
only a foot or two separated the car from turning into a falling object. At some points she almost couldn’t go on,
and I am still grateful for her doing that for me. I picked a trail to hike and went on my way, alone, and in unfamiliar
territory. The temperature was at about 100 degrees, and coupled with the high altitude can make for an exhausting hike,
but I was full of energy and eager to find some reptiles. The scenery was stunning, unlike anywhere I had ever visited:
Before too long, I started noticing small creatures darting up and over the rocks and into the many crevices the immediate
area had to offer. I was starting to see the first herps of the entire trip! I was excited to see these common small lizards
bolting away as I approached. I couldn’t get close to every one of them to get positive IDs, of which at the time I
was not even confident in my ability to identify the new lizards. I saw mostly Tree Lizards, some Side-Blotched Lizards,
Plateau Whiptails, and Plateau Lizards. I also saw a couple of Collared Lizards, which were very brightly colored.
Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus wrighti)
Side Blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana uniformis)