Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma iodius)

Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma iodius)
Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma iodius)

A favorite cast member of horror stories and adventure movies, the Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma iodius) is a valuable member of the desert habitat and community. Although their relatively large size can be intimidating, they are reasonably harmless to humans, and their bite is along the lines of a bee sting. This hairy arachnid is known to live in the desert of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah and have a life span of 25 to 40 years

A member of the Arachnid Class of animals, tarantulas come equipped with eight legs, fangs and compound eyes. There body and legs are covered in short hairs and their overall size is typically between three and inches. This class of animals also include scorpions, mites and crabs. The long legs of the Desert Tarantulas equip the animal with amazing mobility over the hostile terrain of the desert southwest.

A nocturnal hunter, this spider lives on just about any animal of the correct proportion including small lizards, grasshoppers, beetles and other small insects. Like almost any other animal, the are a good food source for the tarantula hawks, lizards, snakes birds, coyotes and other small animals. The live in under ground burrows which offer protection from predator’s and heat. Their burrows are typically 6 in 8 inches in depth and are lined with silk to prevent collapse. The burrow opening will be closed in with silk when the animal is in residence.

This species of tarantula is known by may common names including Great Basin blonde, Fresno County blonde, Desert Tarantula, Salt Lake City Brown, Northern Blonde. Some more adventurous people will even keep these animals as pets.

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Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana )

A solitary Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) found near Golbin Valley, Utah
A solitary Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) found near Golbin Valley, Utah

Commonly known as an antelope, the Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) is an even toed or hoofed mammal found in the plains of the western United States of America. The Pronghorn in america is mislabeled as an antelope, which is an old world or African species of Antelope. The Latin name, Antilocapra americana means “American goat-antelope”

The Pronghorn lives in brush and grass lands and deserts and survive by grazing on the vegetation. They typically live in herds which may number in the hundreds depending on time of year and food sources.

They have excellent eye sight use this valuable resource to keep a distance from predators in the wide open habitats they are found. They are also the fastest animal in the western hemisphere and can run at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. The result is a reclusive animals that tends to run when it sees any threat, which means these animals can be difficult to get near. Typically, when I see them in the field, it is their white hind quarters travelling at a high rate of speed away from me.

Males typically stand between 51 and 59 inches in height and weigh between 88 and 143 pounds. The female are about the same height, however, more slight at 75 to 106 pounds. Their coloring is quite distinctive and features large white patches on the rumps, belly and heads with black bands on the face and necks. They boast large eyes located towards the tops of their skulls which have a field of view of 320 degrees. This feature allows the animals to maintain distance and allows them to spot predators while resting in the tall grass.

Cougers, Coyotes, Wolfs and Bob Cats are known to prey on the pronghorn. Additionally, they were a valuable food source for many Native American tribes including the Assiniboine, Rapid and Blackfoot Tribes.

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Goblin Valley Utah

A Goblin formed from a soft limestone, water and time offer a unique hiking experience. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Goblin Valley is located in Utah is a state park and campground which is adjacent to eroded flood plain. Formed by water, time and a soft sandstone, erosion sculpted the limestone into unique rock formations which some have stated appears to be goblins.  The Goblin Valley itself is a day use hiking area which allows one to get lost in the maze of spires and rock formations.

Valley Queen, Goblin Valley, Utah Photography by James L Rathbun
Valley Queen, Goblin Valley Utah. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Each rock spire ranges in height from 3 feet to about 20 feet tall.  The fragile structures litter the landscape and sadly on occasion have been felled by people who do not have respect for nature.  There are three established self, however the Valley of the Goblins is a open trail flat mud plane after a easy and short trail down from the parking area.

Goblin Valley State Park does offer an established campground of 22 campsites just over a hill from the Valley of the Goblins.  The campground features, paved sites, bathrooms, showers, water and dump stations. The campground is very popular destination due to location next to Goblin Valley and is also a wonderful centralized base camp location for exploring the San Rafael Swell.

A solitary Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) found near Golbin Valley, Utah
A solitary Pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) found near Golbin Valley, Utah

We stated in Goblin Valley in the off season several years ago. We were greeted with lots of camp sites available, privacy and a minor wind and rain storm. Despite the less then desirable conditions, we enjoyed our stay and will try to make it back again in the future.

Coyote (Canis latrans)

Coyote (Canis latrans) enduring a snow storm in Joshua Tree National Park
Coyote (Canis latrans)

A symbol of the American Southwest, the howl of the humble Coyote (Canis latrans) is synonymous with wild places. A member of the canine family and cousin to your pet, the coyote is a carnivore, predator, scavenger and survivor and even have a gord named for them, the coyote melon. The mammal is also known as the “little wolf”, “brush wolf”, “prairie wolf” and “American jackal”.

Although not necessarily nocturnal, they may hunt at night in the presence of humans. Regardless, they are more active in the evenings. They prowl and hunt in small groups. Their cries and howls at night are the reason they are known as the most vocal wild animal North American Animals. Personally, I welcome their vocalizations echoing access the desert night.

Coyote hunt reptiles, birds, small mammals, fish and even the larger bison, deer, elk and sheep. They roam up to ten miles per day on a constant hunt for food. In urban areas, this opportunist animal will eat dog and cat food, and known to attack domestic dogs and cats. In Death Valley National Park this resourceful jackal will eat large quantities of beetles and hawkmoth caterpillars for food. They are extremely resourceful and opportunistic survivors.

The coyote is classified in 19 different subspecies throughout the North America. A typical male will weigh between 18 and 44 pounds, while the female tips the scale a at a more modest 15 to 40 pounds. The fair color ranges from a light grey, tan to dark browns or even black depending upon habitat.

Coyote (Canis latrans) enduring a snow storm in Joshua Tree National Park
A extremely optimistic Coyote enduring a snow storm in Joshua Tree National Park waiting for a handout which did not come.

In Native American cultures, folklore depicts the coyote as a trickster. For this Irish American over a certain age, the coyote is call as wiley, known as a super genius and has, upon occasion, ordered an abundance of explosive from the Amce Corporation .

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Silver Star Mine

The Silver Star Mine is a small mine site located off of the Zinc Mountain Road in San Bernardino County, California. The site rests at 4931 feet above sea level in the Ivanpah montains. The lonely site features a small humble cabin the miners used to survive and beat the heat. There is also a wrecked automobile near at the site, which has long since given up the battle against rust.

Silver Star Mine Cabin
Silver Star Mine Cabin

There is not much information available for this location on the Internet and hopefully I will be able to find some eventually. The mine site is also know as the Lucky Lode deposits. The route into the area is reasonably passable and should be suitable for most cars, provided the driver is used to operating on the back roads of the desert.

Silver Star Mine
Silver Star Mine rusted out auto

Some places claim that this mine produced lead, copper and zinc. The fact that this mine is found just off of Zinc Mountain Road offers some credence to a zinc mine. Other online sources claim this is a tungsten mine. A shallow mine shaft is located near the cabin. The shaft contains an old wooden ladder used by the miners and appears to be filled in, collapsed, or suspended after about 20 feet of workings.

Silver Star Mine Shaft
Silver Star Mine Shaft with ladder.

This stark hole in the ground reminds us what a challenges the life of a miner must endure. Hot, dry deserts, narrow, dark tunnels in a hostile landscape.

Silver Star Mine Trail Map

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