When we see the throng of tourists with kids waiting for tickets, we nearly turn around. Did we end up at Disney land somehow?
Thankfully we persevere, and the crowds disperses a bit once inside. There is a reptile lecture featuring a live gila monster and rattlesnake scheduled shortly after we gain entry, so we hightail it to a small auditorium. There are still noisy kids here, but seeing these animals in the flesh while learning about them is really engrossing. We can see the bulging tail where the gila monster stores its fat, and the pits where the rattlesnake can discern temperature differences of a thousandth of a degree. We learn some really useful facts about rattlesnakes in particular: they can only strike up to two thirds of their body length, they’re almost totally deaf but very sensitive to ground vibrations, snake bite kits are more likely to do harm than good, and a full course of rattlesnake antivenin costs around $100,000.
There are interesting plant and geology exhibits, but the animals continue to fascinate us most. As always, there is a sadness in seeing animals in captivity, but it is also a strong force toward understanding and valuing these amazing creatures that we’d most likely never interact with otherwise. Watching a wolf makes us feel like a brief sighting we had on the Continental Divide Trail in 2004 was a pair of wolves, and observing a bear eating fruit gives rise to primal feelings that videos just can’t invoke.
Exhausted by the crowds as much as anything, we head north in the afternoon and make our camp next to the surprisingly cliffy Picacho Peak, which we plan to climb tomorrow.
11 public photos