The text came in at 6:21 pm.
It included a cool photo, but I didn't really need one to know what it was.
The sender, Cindy at the Dipper Ranch, is a trusted source. And would never cry wolf. Unless there was one, of course.
So I drove up the next morning as the fog started to break on the 2,000-foot Skyline Ridge, and after a chat and hand-off, found a few native-looking corners on the Dipper to photograph the stunning jewel that Cindy had so graciously held overnight for me.
Lampropeltis zonata multifasciata - a Coast Mountain Kingsnake.
A species I've often looked for in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but not yet found.
And while it wasn't my field find, I was still happy to hang with a truly wild one and get some glam shots before she was returned to her home.
Because, as you can see, she was quite the photogenic poser.
I say "she" because I'm pretty sure it was a female. I couldn't feel or pop any hemipenes, and the tail taper and length was smooth and short.
So, not a Coast Mountain King, but a Coast Mountain Queen.
How very Game of Thrones.
As for age, her total length was only 11.5" inches (30cm), so I'd bet she was born last summer.
She has 29 or 30 triads (I can't remember how to count the head and tail), as well as an excellent beauty mark where the 11th-13th triads have merged together.
Both are features that don't change in life, even as she gets bigger and sheds, so can be used to identify her, or any other individuals, that are caught again.
Facial markings can also be distinctive. In this case, hers are pretty typical, with just a hint of red on the top of her head.
As I tried to get artsy, and create a fun "C is for Cindy" shot, the Mountain Queen decided to show me one of her other talents, and casually slithered straight down the post.
She did it by using the splits in the wood - carefully shaping and wedging sections of her body into them as she moved. Nifty trick, and a good adaptation for an animal that lives and hunts among the cracks and crevices of rocky outcrops.
One thing is for sure - my fun encounter and photo foray proves that old adage: it's always good to have friends in high places.
Especially friendly Coast Mountain Queens.