Sunday, April 28, 2013

Settling in

Last night I spent a pleasant hour with the other volunteers, sitting in a circle, drinking wine and hard lemonade, talking about nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. I learned not to mention Obama. There are three couples here, our four rigs lined up side by side. They will all be gone by mid-June and I hope more are coming in because the volunteer coordinator said operations can't continue without volunteers. It seems to me that the visitor center is entirely staffed by volunteers, and I know a couple of them at least are also rovers: they head out to the trails and points of interest to interact with visitors and answer questions. I watched my neighbor, the one who lent me the heater, draw in a crowd at the visitor center like an ice cream truck in a neighborhood thick with kids. It was something to see. This man was a linguist in the Navy and later a preacher, talents he put to good use. It's obvious how much he enjoys staffing the desk.

The geology of the park dates to the Triassic era and someone asked him when that was. I had to look it up myself and learned it predates the Jurassic era and sometimes it's called the Dawn of Dinosaurs because they started appearing then. I don't remember how many millions of years ago it was but it's a lot. The volunteer surprised me and probably everyone else there with his answer, saying he's a creationist and then he referred them to books on the shelf that would answer the question. You could almost hear a pin drop and then the crowd broke up. On one hand I think he could have answered the question along with a disclaimer but on the other hand I admire him standing by his values.

While we were sitting there one of the rangers on patrol stopped for a few minutes. Someone asked her where she'd been at one point last year and she said she'd been at FLETC. That's the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia and where I met the ex-husband. We were there in 1977 and '78, which I mentioned to Mel, the officer. She went blank for a split second and then said she hadn't been born yet. Thank you for that, Mel. Neither were my kids but somehow that seems different.

Theft of the petrified wood is a big problem here. Some estimates put theft at 12 tons a year, and at 150 pounds per cubic foot, that amounts to 160 cubic feet if my math is correct. Assuming people aren't heaving logs into their cars, that's a lot of small chunks going into pockets and under seats. Mel told of a couple on their honeymoon who were caught with 125 pounds of it in their van. Their uncle said it was ok to take it and they took his word for it. I wonder if he ponied up the $2100 fine for them. Another person was reported by one of the volunteer rovers who saw her put a piece in her pocket, and when Mel showed up she asked the woman if she'd taken any pieces. When she said no, Mel said she felt justified in asking her to empty her obviously bulging pockets. Probable cause, after all. I don't know what that fine was.

Today I walked back to the Painted Desert Inn and learned of a trail that leads into the valley. It's an elevation change of about 300 feet in maybe 2/10th of a mile. Steep, slippery with gravel, and just beautiful. When I get the Internet straightened out this week I'll be able up to upload some photos. I saw the steepness and decided to go for it, thinking my mother, god bless her, would never have been able to walk a trail like this one at the age I am now. I was sucking wind on the up-slope, mind you, and my heart was pounding loud enough to hear, but I could do it and it makes me very grateful for my health.

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Thought of the day:

 Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. (Buddha)

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