A SIGN OF SPRING: The close of January might find you waiting for tax documents to arrive in the mail, or an early Valentine's greeting card, or perhaps a sweater you ordered just before Christmas. But many desert devotees and lovers of wildlife are awaiting a different sort of happening, one that has a way of making a showing come the middle of winter. What's the hubbub? The wait, and watch, is all about Mojave Maxine, a Desert Tortoise who calls The Living Desert home. Yep, that's in Palm Desert, and it is indeed full of wildlife that can be found in arid places. What's the deal with Maxine, and why is she a local -- and, let's be frank, a regional -- celebrity? Because much like a certain groundhog who resides in Pennsylvania, Maxine is a bit of a fabulous foreteller in the spring's-a-comin' department. It isn't about her shadow, though, or anything to do with the blooming of buds or the popping of petals. Rather, all eyes are on Ms. Maxine's scrubby burrow. She's in there, right now, due to the chillier weather, but the day she trambles out will be a big one, on two fronts.
THE FIRST FRONT? The correct guesser of when we'll see Mojave Maxine will win a caboodle of cool things, including "a visit from a Desert Tortoise." It's a contest that's open to kindergartners through twelfth graders from around Southern California, do note, so if you have a young'un in your house who is superduper into all things turtle-related, look into helping your tot submit a guess. The other big front of Maxine's upcoming emergence? Well, it is all about spring's arrival, or at least spring being well on the way. The flowers of the desert, from the Anza Borrego to Death Valley, are making a January showing, so Mojave Maxine may well peek out ahead of her 2015 emergence, which happened on Feb. 9. What will the date and time be this year? That's she'll stand and go for some welcome sunshine? The time is nigh, desert/tortoise/spring supporters. Start here, and check out sweet video of the be-shell'd beauty.