Going slow during rides sometimes has its benefits. You’ll find new lines on a trail, or discover a new lookout point on a climb. Yesterday, during the heat of the day, Cari and I went to ride in the Verdugo mountains, my go-to ride spot in Los Angeles. Now, I’ve spent many hours climbing these steep beasts since moving to LA and in that time, have witnessed a broad selection of wildlife ranging from gray foxes, bobcats, rattle snakes, king snakes, red tailed hawks and even a weasel scurrying through the brush. Most of these animals I came upon while descending and spooked them on the trail but I rarely see anything other than the occasional gopher snake while climbing.
Due to yesterday’s heat, we were going really slow and it seemed that most of the wildlife had taken to the shade. While I was climbing up one of the last kickers, I heard something rustle in the dried out vegetation on the road and saw a full-grown adult horned lizard. Now, while on previous ventures into the deeper parts of the Angeles National Forest, I’ve seen baby horned lizards, literally dozens of them scurrying about but have never actually seen an adult in the wild. When I was younger, I had quite the collection of herps (a reptile or amphibian – from the Greek root herpet-, meaning “creeping”) and owned one as a pet. Their docile disposition make them great for a pet so I put my hand down in front of it like I had done before and the little horned beast walked right onto it, seemingly posing for the photo.
When horned lizards are spooked, they’ll actually shoot blood from their eye and puff up. This deters young coyotes from picking them up in their mouths and is a strong indication that they don’t want to be bothered. Usually, I err on the side of “observe, don’t touch” but this guy wasn’t displaying any defensive behavior. I couldn’t resist taking this little dude off the road and into the neighboring brush, but not before taking this photo. The last thing I’d want would be someone stepping or riding over him.
This might seem like a very nerdy thing to write about, but it goes to show that sometimes, taking things slow, observing the environment and having your senses heightened can lead to chance encounters…