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Writers' Club of Whittier

Chasing Butterflies by Sherry Novak


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Saguaro National Park campgrounds were empty when we arrived on a steamy August evening. Apparently everyone else knows to avoid summer in Arizona. My friend and I figure it’d be wise to get the tent up before dark; we don’t camp often and it’s borrowed gear. But, first, we have to take pictures of the covey of quail bobbing around the bushes and the lizards skittering with their tails up like scorpions. The fiery sun dips down silhouetting giant cacti against a shamelessly pink sky. A couple cowpokes on horseback would complete the wild west picture. Two motorhomes lumber into camp, air conditioners humming. Night falls fast.

Heat lightning and the low rumble of distant thunder add more sultry to the air. Only a sprinkle is forecast. Coyotes howl from a faraway canyon. We lay out our cots and sleeping bags, unzip all the “windows.” There isn’t a breath of breeze. I rustle out my small flashlight for a trip to the bathroom. I make my tent-mate escort me. Not two feet from the flap door something scuttles under my light — a tarantula! First I want to scream, pack up and look for a motel, on second thought we get out our cameras and take pictures. In the bathroom, thank goodness not an outhouse, I find a big, fat frog and a couple praying mantises.

Back at our nylon abode my roomie crashes out immediately. I wonder how I let myself get talked into this. What’s an insomniac to do in a dark tent? It feels so vulnerable having only a thin piece of cloth between you and the wilderness. Throughout the night the wide circle of howling coyotes grow closer and closer. Have any campers been eaten lately? Bugs chirp, twigs crackle, night birds call. At one point I hear something sniffing next to the tent. The lightning stops, the sky clears and I can see the Big Dipper through the net window. Stars blaze deep and infinite.

The next morning we decide to go peruse the welcome center and come back later to break down our tent. There’s the spectacular panoramic window view I remember. A lady ranger asks what we like to photograph as we have our big cameras hanging around our necks. Birds, bugs, butterflies, most anything we say.

“Have you seen the sulphur butterflies?” she asks. “They’re right down this path in the sugar bush.”

A desert turtle is sunning himself on the sidewalk, so lazy he doesn’t bother to move. Twenty paces and down a few stairs we enter butterfly paradise. Cream-colored sugar bush flowers and blooming cacti are aflutter. Besides sulphurs, we count at least ten varieties. We photograph for hours and decide to stay over night. Happy campers, we come back again the next day to chase butterflies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMEuedrVb6E

Author: Sherry Novak

Sherry Novak's novel 'The Chick Sexer' will soon be released.

18 thoughts on “Chasing Butterflies by Sherry Novak

  1. Thanks for “taking me” camping. You really put me there — and I didn’t have to leave home.

  2. Great writing. I felt like I was there, too. But I’m glad I wasn’t. My idea of roughing it is Motel 6! Blessings, Kay

  3. Thanks for your comments!
    Yes, I’ve never had a neutral camping experience — it can be wonderful or awful! I’ve “weathered” a thunderstorm in the Sequoias and freezing nights in a tent at Lake Tahoe. One very hot, windy night on Padre Island, I thought we would surely blow into the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. Wonderful, the way you write put me into the real nature, like it. I like outdoor and camping, I must try
    your style so I can feel the earth, nature and the universe…. aki

  5. Your video was super!
    Camping in Saquaro was so cool (saves a lot of money). We took thousands of photos on that trip! The butterflies made it all worthwhile. Looking forward to another trip there.

  6. Very interesting story, gave a good idea of what it feels like to go camping. Beautiful pictures of so many different types of butterflies, must have an excellent camera. Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a trooper!!! ….. But worth it for the beautiful butterflies ??!!!!

  8. Thanks for your comment, Hideko. I know you like camping — as long as you’re not required to cook!

  9. You two are great photographers and have taken the most amazing pictures of a variety of beautiful butterflies. I respect Sherry’s courage to camp out in the wilderness and conquered tarantula in the restroom. Lol

  10. Who’s afraid of a little tarantula? No ROTFLOL with a giant spider on the loose.
    Thanks for your comments, Katie, especially from a fellow photographer.

  11. Loved your commentary and video. Sounds fun to me and hope I get a chance to see this in the future. Planning on spending time exploring birds and butterflies in Arizona in my retirement years. Hope some of it will be with you my friend. At least you didn’t have any snake encounters. I think that would be worse than tarantula.

  12. Hi, Debra! Thanks for your comments. I bet your garden is full of butterflies right now. Added any birds to your life list lately?
    Snakes would be scarier. I was telling a young man at Whittier Narrows Nature Center, who is a herpetologist, that I had never actually heard of anyone personally having been bitten by a rattlesnake. He said his friend was bitten & the anti-venon & medical bills cost over $300,000.
    Yes, can’t wait to go exploring again! Let me know when you’re ready to go.


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