Saturday, October 20, 2012

Facing my fears on a Scorpion Hunt

I’m not sure if I was getting to know my enemy or facing my fears, but when I heard White Tank Mountain Regional Park was doing their last scorpion hunt of the year after the sun went down on Friday, I had to check it out.  Not only did it sound cool - I mean, what's cooler than seeking out scorpions in the middle of the desert at night, but I would be learning something.  Plus, the event was only $6 - so can't beat that.

Since I moved to Phoenix, people have been freaking me out with their scorpion horror stories,  such as how they like to hide in your shoes and how you can’t put your dirty clothes on the floor as they will hide in there.  Others have told me how they stepped on one getting up at night and going to the bathroom and a woman at my hair salon said she found one in her bed. Ugh!!

I’ve heard that you shouldn’t squish them (not that I had planned to do that) as their babies will squirt out and then you’ll have a scorpion infestation in your home.  And I’ve heard that they are immune to bug spray, but they don’t climb.

My co-worker, who moved here from Texas and is new to the whole scorpion thing too, is convinced they are bees without wings – which you know must  be the premise of some sci-fi series somewhere or maybe Spider Man’s next villain.  He won't go anywhere near a place that could have scorpions (or bees). Of course, in Arizona scorpions are everywhere.

Now that I was totally paranoid and dumping out my shoes every morning, it was time to see what scorpions were all about.  Plus, it gave me an excuse to buy a black light flashlight, because apparently that’s what you need to see them at night.

What did I learn on my scorpion hunt? Lots of cool stuff like:

1.       Scorpions glow under black light, but it’s not the purple glow like they show on the flashlight package.  Instead, they glow whitish-green – like glow in the dark T-shirts.

2.       They can climb – at least the bark scorpions can.  These are the smaller scorpions that are brown.  These guys are usually hanging out in trees and hang upside down so they can sting their prey as they go under them. (Yes, I was itchy the whole time and no longer run or hangout under trees).

3.       They are fast, but not as fast as roaches.  This is good news as that means I can catch them or get something to trap them with.

4.       Their sting won’t kill you – unless you happen to be allergic or elderly.  They say less than 5 percent of people stung require medical attention, which is good to know. The larger black scorpions (Desert Hairy Scorpion) that tend to hang around under bushes and rocks have a sting that will hurt as much as a bee sting.  The little bark scorpions will hurt more.

So did I see any scorpions on my hunt?  Yup.  I saw over 30 in just a quarter of a mile.  I had no idea there would be so many and will never be able hike in Arizona without knowing they are there – and watching me from the bushes, trees and rocks.

Events at White Tank Mountain:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Arizona Ostrich Farm: Best $5 I’ve ever spent

I’m not really one for crowds so try to avoid amusement parks, cheesy tourist attractions and fairs.  I’ll even forgo wine festivals – however, I will keep track of the wineries and restaurants participating and will go check them out when they are less busy.
But I have been known to randomly drive by something touristy and check it out just because it’s there. 

And the Ostrich Farm I drove by on the weekend was there…AND it had real live ostriches. How could I not stop? I mean, I've never driven by that before.

O.M.G…you need to stop by this place if you need a quick pick me up.  I had no idea what to expect and it turned out to be amazing – and cheap.  Just so you know, it’s not fancy and it won’t take you long to go through the grounds, but it’s super fun.

Here’s how it works: You go through the gates and pay $5. This gives you a bucket full of green food bits, a gold coin and a container full of syrup.

I must have had the “now what?” look on my face as the cashier laughed and asked if I was a first timer. Um…yeah. I was an ostrich farm virgin.

PHOTOS: Ostrich Farm
Turns out the farm has more than ostriches and you get to feed all the animals from the yummies in your $5 bucket. 

First up were the donkeys.   As a wandered up to their fence they all lined up in row down it - waiting as patiently as donkeys can.  Again, I had the “now what” look, but thankfully they had a sign.  It read: Put one piece of food in your hand and hold your palm flat.

Really? Won’t they eat me? 

Nope. I followed the directions and one by one the donkeys gently ate the food out of my hand.  Cool.
But that was just the beginning. I did the same thing with the deer who were even more fun than the donkeys (and a little more slobbery).  They didn’t just line up in a row, but once you finished giving them their treat, they ran to the end of the line to get seconds!

Then there were the goats.  I LOVED the goats, because these aren’t just any old goats. These are “goats in the wall.”
What? You don't know what "Goat in the wall" are? Don't worry. I wasn’t sure what this was either, but it’s hilarious.  As you walk around the grounds, you’ll see this wall with round holes in it.  The holes are just big enough for the goats to pop their heads through.
While this is funny enough as you have a dozen goat heads looking at you, what pushes it to hysterical is that the goats make kissy lips at you in an effort for you to give them treats.  Hee hee hee hee!!
Of course, I was talking to all the animals like some sort of crazy person. Good thing there was no one else around.
Then it was time for the ostriches, which  I admit were kind of scary. 

After dealing with all these friendly kissing animals, it was strange to see these tall birds. There was no friendly sign saying, hold your palm flat. Instead their sign read: Yes, ostriches bite. We're not responsible for accidents.

Yeah, I’m just going to toss you the food from a safe distance - and keep my fingers safe.

Finally, they had Lorikeets.  While the goats were my absolute favorite, the birds were amazing too.   They are located in a little hut off to the side.
You go through the door and it’s peaceful - except for the chirping.  Looking lost, the woman inside told me to pick a place in the room, hold out my hand and open up the syrup in the container.  The birds would fly over to me.
And they did. 

In seconds I had 3 Lorikeets sitting on my arm with their cute little claws wrapped around my thumb and fingers (by the way, their claws feel warm).  They licked they syrup out of the container with their little bird tongues and I almost wished I had more to give them.

It was a fantastic, impromptu trip. Totally recommend it.

If you want to find it online, it's the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm (I didn't see any roosters there).