Sunday, June 29, 2014

Paw prints

My HH and I went to Kanab, Utah last weekend for a little road trip. When I was still at Petrified Forest my friend Richard, who'd worked at Grand Canyon for a dozen years, marked up a Triple A map called Indian Country, to show us what we needed to see. This map of the Four Corners area - Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado - is worth every penny of the five bucks AAA charges, except HH has a membership so we got it for free.

Richard circled Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, west of Kanab; we saw that Pipe Spring National Monument was nearby; and my boss here, Robin, told us about Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, so off we went.

The state park is pretty but if you go don't pay the $8 to get in if all you want to do is look. There are a couple of pullouts on the road in that allow you to climb a dune and get expansive views of the dunes and the mountains beyond. Pipe Spring began its life as a holding area for livestock that the Mormon faithful tithed to the church. A house/inn/fort was built to enclose a spring and guard against Indian attacks, which wouldn't have happened if our gov'mint hadn't harassed them onto reservations. In any case, those pictures haven't been processed yet. I'm so far behind.

The animal sanctuary is spread out over many acres. Its buildings are miles apart and generally the first stop is the visitor center where you can catch a shuttle that tours all the buildings. There aren't any animals there; they're all housed in other buildings in really beautiful surroundings.

But I want to cut to the chase. We didn't take the shuttle but drove ourselves around and in taking the back, gravel roads we came across a cemetery. As I first glimpsed it through the fence that surrounds it I thought it was a beautiful park, which I suppose in a way it is.

The area the entire sanctuary is in is called Angels Canyon, and what I took to be a park is a pet cemetery called Angels Rest. I've seen people cemeteries that haven't been so lovingly maintained.

Niches in the walls are filled with memorabilia:

pet collars,

photos, notes,

and what I suppose to be cremated remains of beloved pets.

Many graves carry multiple names and most are marked by simple concrete squares,

but some are marked like these three, with professional-quality stones such as you'd see in any people cemetery,

while others have handmade memorials.

There are a few dozen wind chime trees spaced around the rows and arcs of graves.

Each chime is dedicated to someone's pet.

I looked up Reno Rabbits and found this blog that talks about some rabbits that the writer had adopted "from a crazy woman that lived in Reno; she had over 1000 rabbits in her backyard."

I've loved every one of my pets and, while I may not go so far as to bury them in a pet cemetery, I certainly understand the devotion people have. But these two puzzled me. Are the owners also buried here? It looks like that might be true.

I went through an interesting array of feelings about this place. I was creeped out (I did look for a synonym but nothing fit), amused, bemused, and finally touched by an overwhelming wave of others' grief and sadness. The tinkling wind chimes were an eerie sound as the shadows lengthened down the canyon walls and I found myself alone. 

We should all be so loved that we will be remembered like this.

Thought of the day:

Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened. - Anatole France

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cold night, but worth it. Oh, yeah.

I scored a camping permit for Cape Final last weekend. All backcountry camping, on the rim and in the canyon, requires a permit and they're limited. The great thing about Cape Final is it's exclusive - only one permit is given each night, which meant I had the place to myself.

The weekend before, my neighbor's husband Glen and I went out to Cape Final to see what we could see. We got there about 8:30 am, just in time to greet the previous nights' campers as they were leaving, and we were the only ones there. On our way out, a couple of hours later, there was a river of people heading in. The hike is only a couple of miles each way and pretty easy, so that makes it popular with folks who don't want or can't do a challenge. It was good knowledge to have because it told me I needed to be up and out early after my night to camp.

There are so many wildflowers in bloom, and day by day the butterfly population is increasing.

Lupines are now on the decline but last week there were sweeps of their unmistakable color.


Not just butterflies, either; as I've been trying to get close-up shots of flowers like the one above, I've seen insects everywhere. This spider did its best to hide from me no matter which direction I took to get a good view.

Until I gave up because it could move in more directions than I could.

Locusts are also in bloom. They're large bushes covered with delicate flowers and protected by huge thorns.

 Their buds. Amazing, isn't it?

I waited until late afternoon to head in. I'm pretty sure this isn't a hotbed of crime, but I still didn't want an audience to see that I was a single person out there that night. I planned well because when I pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead, mine was the only vehicle there.

Glen and I had found the campsite easily enough, but when I was toting my backpack in, it had disappeared. I hiked up and I hiked down. I followed the trail, I went cross country. I dropped my pack and wandered to places previously unseen, and the campsite was nowhere to be found. I finally said to heck with it and put my tent up on an overlook point, grateful that I'm not a sleepwalker because there are no fences and the canyon is deep.

The view from my front porch.
And in another direction.

 Now I'm running out of directions.
OK, one more. 

I have a new tent, different from last year. I really liked my old one but it weighed six pounds and my new one is half that. Thankfully, REI takes back items even if they've been used so I got all my money back on the other tent. The old one was free standing and the new one requires a couple of stakes. Generally that's a good idea anyway if the wind is blowing, but just to give it what little interior room it's supposed to have, it has to be staked. So I snapped all the poles in place, attached them to the tent, and when I went to pound in the stakes I found I was on solid rock with just enough dirt covering it to get into everything I owned but not enough to sink a stake into. I had to move back on the trail about twenty feet before I found enough dirt to nail the tent down.

This is what I looked like when I finally set up. The big rock at the top of the tent isn't doing anything. I was just too lazy to move it. I hung my pack on a tree, not deceiving myself for one minute that it would keep critters out. When I got my permit, the backcountry ranger asked me to let them know if I had a rodent problem when I was out there. Immediately I was suspicious: what kind of rodents, exactly? Mice. Oh, all right. I thought maybe she meant skunks or raccoons, but I saw nothing at all.

I got everything set up in time to watch the sun fade over the canyon. Even with some cloud cover there wasn't a fiery sunset but a gradual leaving of light that softened the edges of the chiseled terraces and the pinnacles and valleys in front of me. I found a large rock at the edge of the rim to watch from, and drank it all in.

For the longest time since I got there, all I heard was the wind among the Ponderosa pines. Then an intrusion far above me and heading away: the distant, diminishing drone of a plane. I watched its contrail scrape straight as an arrow across the sky until the winds aloft blew it to cotton wisps and the plane disappeared into the clouds. Then another, but traveling in a different direction, and I didn't see it or hear it for long. 

The evening began to chill. A bird chittered close to me and I heard the far-off drill of a woodpecker and the hum of a fly. It was me and nature; what a life.

The rock I sat on offered views that held my attention as much as the ones in the canyon.

And then the light got wonderful, highlighting tips and edges, giving this part of the canyon the look of the Great Wall.

It wasn't a perfect trip. The tent seemed so small, my sleeping bag confining and cold, and I couldn't seem to get comfortable all night long. When the sky lit with pink the next morning I was up and packing to leave. But everything's a trade off. I could have stayed home and not seen any of this.

Thought of the day:

'Just living is not enough,' said the butterfly, 'one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.'  - Hans Christian Anderson

Monday, June 16, 2014

Two old broads on the Widforss Trail

My friend Cheryl and I hiked the Widforss Trail on Friday. Before anyone gets excited about me hiking ten miles, let me just say that Cheryl is 77. As in seventy-seven. Years old. I know!

She was here almost two weeks and left for home this morning. I'm going to miss her. Last night she and I and another friend who works here met for dinner, where Cheryl said we are an inspiration to her. The other friend and I looked at each other with our jaws hitting the floor and told Cheryl that she's the one who's the inspiration. It's true. I've been asking myself, way back in the recesses of my mind, how long I'll be able to do the lifestyle I'm so enjoying now, and across the table from me sat my answer.

We took our time on the trail. It took us about eight hours, less a half-hour to stop to talk to a Preventive Search and Rescue (PSAR) ranger who was on patrol, another half-hour to talk to a German couple who gave a roll of the eyes when I mentioned George Bush (apologies to the Bushies out there, but ain't America great that we can say things like that?), and another half-hour or so for lunch, but even so, at that rate we moved at a mosey. It was fine.

This trail was high on my list because I read somewhere that there are a lot of wildflowers there; it did not disappoint.

Not a dozen steps onto the trail and we found this cute rodent. Chipmunk? No, a ground squirrel. I'd never heard of ground squirrels until I got to Arizona. That's how travel is educational.

There are full, lush stands of ferns, mostly full-fledged, but some still have emerging fronds.

And so it begins - uphill. Why does everything seem uphill around here?

The Widforss flirts with the canyon rim, curving inland more often than offering views of the canyon. Some people give a waggle of the hand when asked how they like this hike because they prefer spectacular views all along the way. I compare it to living in the Pacific Northwest: yes, it rains a lot, but when the sun and mountains come out, you can't imagine a more beautiful place to be.

I've noticed this cross-hatching on tree stumps and wonder if it has anything to do with encouraging faster decomposition. A hiker before us, though, took it as an invitation to set up a game.

I checked out a wildflower identification book from the park library and think I've discovered a half-dozen new species because I can't find most of the flowers I've come across, but this one is in it. It's a bristly hiddenflower, from the borage family. It's a perennial, growing about three feet tall, and has large flower clusters at the top of the stem and smaller ones at stem/leaf junctions. The flowers themselves are less than 1/2 inch across.

The trail skirted the canyon again, here giving a look at the Transept Canyon.

Who could not enjoy a walk in the woods when it's like this?

This silver-blue feather was just a couple of inches long. Maybe from a Stellers jay or a western bluebird? The electric blue at the tip makes me think jay.

The sinuous elbow of ponderosa pine made me think of my sister, who'd love to have it for her woodworking. Beautiful lines.

More canyon.

I would say this is perennial cranesbill/white geranium with its own personal pollinator, except the book's photo shows petals that are pointed rather than clipped like these, which you can't see, and there are ten stamens here as opposed to five in the book. Otherwise, it's identical!


I was sure this was Solomon's Seal or false Solomon's Seal, but when checking online (because the book didn't have this either), these flowers don't look anything like it. These could be last year's flowers but if they were, they weren't brittle as they should have been.

Fire scars are on the trunks of these ponderosa pines. The one on the right is dead and has fractured into a huge splinter. Ponderosas can withstand fire better than some other trees because they have very thick bark and they self-prune - they shed branches that form several feet up the trunk which offers protection from ground fires.

This is a new pin needle cluster, just emerging from a sheath that encapsulates the needles. I need to find out more about this because I haven't seen a lot of this cottony stuff.

Here we were nearing the turn-around at Widforss Point, and lunch.

Thanks to a ranger for clearing the path.

I also need a reptile book. What great camoflage!

I was surprised to see prickly pear cacti at this elevation but here's proof.

The view from Widforss Point, well worth the hike.

Hiking compadres, ready for lunch and to sit for a while.

Someone left this message right next to the trail.

I have no idea but can't wait to see it in bloom. The bud is about four inches tall.

Heading back on the trail, and why is it uphill? Wasn't it uphill coming in?

Another new species. At first I thought the petals had insect damage but not all five; they're just deeply lobed. Pretty, and not more than an inch across.
I thought this might be elderberry, a member of the honeysuckle family, but it's not tall enough. Elderberry is at least six feet tall and these are about three. Nice bugs, though.

The park brochure says to allow two hours for the five-mile round trip, which has to be a typo. Even four hours for the ten-mile hike would be moving fast. More and more, in so many aspects of my life, I'm learning the truth that it's not the destination, it's the journey that matters.

Thought of the day:

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and invigorating rivers, but as fountains of life. - John Muir