Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aravaipa Afternoon

From Superior, one can drive for less than an hour and a half and be at the trailhead of Aravaipa Canyon. That's what I did only a few days ago. It was again over 100 degrees and I needed to traipse around in water.

When hiking in Aravaipa, the trekker has no choice but to wade through the perennially-running creek. I pretty much just stayed in the calf-deep water most of the time. Because no one was around that afternoon, I also availed myself of a swimming hole. Naturally, nudity ensued.

Aravaipa Creek is lined with cottonwood trees and willows and there were thickets of cattails. Dragonflies, butterflies, and damselflies glided over the rippling water. Minnows darted between my feet as I splashed upstream.

In a side canyon, a rare surprise greeted me. Two black-tailed rattlesnakes were getting jiggy with it under a tree. I had never seen snakes copulating before so, of course, I had to watch. The snakes weren't enthused with my voyeurism.

Now, the way snake sex works is this: the male inflates an anal protuberance (called a "hemipenis" which you can see on Wikipedia) that he then inserts into the anal opening of the female. This male anal/penile semen-secreting gland, I have read, is equipped with hooks of a sort that fasten tight to the female. You can see in the third photo how the tails of the two snakes appear to be almost welded together.

"Good thing I don't have to inflate my anus when I have sex," I thought.

The snakes, growing shy over my proximity, soon moved (one of them dragging the other by the genitals) to the safety of a rock shelter.

Shadows of saguaro cacti fell across the creek as I continued wading along. Cardinal flowers bloomed bright red. Watercress formed green mats along the bank. A blue heron languidly flapped above the trees.

As I sit here at the computer typing away, there is still a part of me back there in the timelessness of that verdant desert canyon.

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