Wednesday, July 23, 2014

(Some) wildflowers on the North Rim

I did indeed go to Cedar Breaks last week and for all my good intentions of two nights' camping, I got run out after one. It wasn't rain, although it threatened for a while. It wasn't the cold; I just put on more layers. It wasn't for lack of interest; it's a gorgeous place flush with wildflowers. It was two women who showed up with a pack of kids and who went on, loudly, until midnight. Campgrounds generally have quiet time after 10 pm but I think this bunch didn't/couldn't hear about the rule. I really wanted to stay another night but between them and the guy in the next spot over whose snoring I could hear even with earplugs in, I just couldn't do it. It seems I'm doomed to one-night stands when it comes to camping. HH is wary of me camping by myself in undeveloped areas but I told him my experience that night is precisely why I prefer to be away from humanity. Is it really too much to ask for people to realize that tents are not sound proof? The kids were typical, noisy, having-fun kids all day, which I have no problem with, but I did find it ironic that one of the moms shouted at them that it was time for them to use their whisper voices.

I have a slew of photos from Cedar Breaks that I'm still working on, but on Sunday I went on a different hike from any I've done before here on the North Rim, and those photos are finished. There is no dearth of wildflowers here, either.

The trail I went on is called the Ken Patrick, named for a Ranger killed in the line of duty. It's a 10-miler but I didn't do it all. The middle section is overgrown with thorny locust and even the bit I did was closely grown over, rocky, steep in parts, and isolated. I showed some rare sense and turned around before I broke a body part.

Here's a sweet aster, with a jaunty flip of two petals. Well, I think it's an aster because I just found out today how to discern an aster from a fleabane. They look very similar but the clue is the underside of the flowers. If the green part is neat and orderly it's fleabane. If it's all in a tangle, it's an aster. I don't have any shots of that part of the flower so I'm just guessing that these are asters.

Another aster. Maybe.

There are dozens of sunflower-like species in bloom. This is just one.

 Some sunflower-y blooms with asters and aspens.

These are pineywoods geraniums. Don't they look good enough to eat?

One silvery feather was lying lightly among the flowers.

Hooker's evening primrose. These grow on spindly, wavy plants about a yard high. I've seen them everywhere along the road, and always where there's no place to pull over.

I don't have enough of this plant to identify, but it's a tall narrow spire of flowers.

A native thistle just emerging from the bud. The purple/lavender/pink ones are non-native.

This is part of a tall stalk of flowers and buds. I've not seen this before. It's redroot buckwheat.

This is part of a drooping, tapered stalk of flowers. They're very delicate looking; this is highly magnified. It may be goldenrod.

The grip of one of my hiking poles is in the background, put there for scale but it doesn't work well for that. I've seen these little flowers for a couple of months now. The blossom is maybe 1/16" across.When seen at a distance, the anthers look like tiny dots on the petals.

I'm happy I didn't get any sense to turn around on the trail until I came across these. I was stopped in my tracks. They're not rare but I haven't seen them anywhere else. Another of the volunteers is much more knowledgeable than I, has a $50 book to back her up, and identified this as a campion. I loved these and took about 25 photos. If I ever have a garden again, I'm planting these.

This is just about where I turned around. The steps look easy from here but they were more formidable in person, each about a foot high. Most of the trail was not stepped like this, just steep and rocky.

People put a lot of effort into having a garden that looks as casually elegant as this.

Pussy-toes! That's what this is called. The dried blossom, about 1/2" across, is in the next photo down. The leaves are about the same size, maybe a little smaller.

The papery pussy-toes blossom.

Non-native thistle but what a color!

A short-horned lizard. These lizards have a unique, disgusting defense: they can shoot blood from their eyes to a distance of three feet.

I spotted this photographer at a distance; he was just a speck on the pinnacle.

A clump of asters/fleabane that any gardener would love to have. When I gardened in Washington state, asters didn't show up until late August and into September. When they started blooming, I knew fall was on the way.


Pink skyrocket. I first saw these in almost fluorescent red, and later also in lavender.They may be part of the penstemon family. The flowers grow along a tallish stalk.

A Western fence lizard? If so, Wikipedia says, "Studies have shown Lyme disease is lower in areas where the lizards occur. When ticks carrying Lyme disease feed on these lizards' blood (which they commonly do, especially around their ears), a protein in their blood kills the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The blood inside the tick's gut is therefore cleansed and no longer carries Lyme disease."

The weather is a crap shoot around here this time of year. It's monsoon season and the rain can come at any time (Actually, hello!! the rain can come any time now, for whoever's listening.) but mornings are generally safer than afternoons. I like to head out earlier in the day, when critters are stirring, the air is cooler, and there's less wind to wave the flowers around. It's a nice time to be on the trails.

Thought of the day:

I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
       -  Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More sexy librarian work

I realized that no one's asked me what work I've been doing here and further realize no one probably cares, but in the interest of putting together a quick post and therefore quieting my chastiser, here are a few pictures of my workspace.

First, though, my work started with an inventory of articles and other kinds of information that the interpreters use to present their programs. I'm not sure how useful it is because it dates to about the 80s, but I was asked to do it, so I did. In the bottom drawer of the file cabinet that held the articles was a large stack of 11x17 manila folders that held black and white photocopies of plant samples that were collected in the 50s and again in the 70s, each one showing the scientific and common names, where and when collected, and who did the typing of the plant. The originals, it turned out, are in the archives on the south rim.

That work was just a warm up for the real job, which was to first do a quick and dirty inventory of 47 3-ring binders of 35mm slides. Most of them have a label on the spine that names the subject category, such as Flora or North Rim Scenics. Two binders were US history images collected for the bicentennial(!!!) and I don't have to worry about them. A couple more are black and white historical images, very, very interesting, but unfortunately most of them aren't labeled so I have no idea what they're from. Altogether there are eleven and a half thousand slides that need further work.

And what is that work, you ask? What is the work that gets me and the HH a free place to park our house, plug into electricity, all the water we need, and three days in a row off to explore God's little acres? That work is weeding the eleven and a half thousand slides of duplicates, copyrighted material, images from other parks or some other place, the bulk of what I call 'similars,' and others less kindly referred to as of 'dubious value.' Then I am digitizing what's left and cataloging it in Adobe Lightroom.

The first photo here shows my workspace in the conference room of the administration building. The banker's box holds archival slide pages. The slides have been stored in icky plastic pages in the blue binders, which in turn were stored since who knows when in a non-climate-controlled building, open to any kind of critter that wanted to go in. When I started pulling the binders off the shelf I wore a mask and gloves and sprayed everything with disinfectant. Hantavirus, you know. I had heart palpitations when I saw the binders, but the slides are in amazingly good condition. Maybe archivists have been wrong all along about optimal storage conditions. 

That's a light box on the table in front of the chair. This was during the first phase of work after the initial inventory. Take note of the pile of brownish things behind the light table, against the wall. Those are the old slide pages.

Here is what I was faced with, page after full page of slides. Someone went to a lot of trouble categorizing them, and his/her work gave me an excellent framework for a keyword hierarchy I'm building.
This is one of the original pages on the light table during the purging phase. As you can see, some have information written on the mounts, which helps me a lot when I'm cataloging.

Below is the setup for digitizing. The 'image guy' on the south rim scavenged equipment when it was heading to the dumpster and my HH, who knows everything there is to know about this kind of thing, cleaned it up and got it working. The darker box, called a ChromaPro, can be calibrated for different light temperatures but I leave the dials set to 0 and let the camera do the color adjustment. The ChromaPro sold for a couple of thousand dollars when it was new, but in the digital age you can get one on eBay for a couple of hundred. The wooden box does nothing but hold the camera mount. I slip a slide into little grooves over the bright light, take a photo, and then put the slide into an archival-quality sleeve.

See the pile of discarded slide pages growing at the back of the table? I can throw them away but want to see how many I can stack up before the whole pile collapses. I'm achievement oriented and it doesn't take much to count as an achievement. As of today, the stack was another couple of inches taller.

The camera is fixed to the copy stand and it and the box are fired up and ready to go. So far I've photographed and cataloged just over 1000 slides. I'm not doing any cropping or color correction; there just isn't the time. All of the binders you see piled everywhere except for four that I've finished are awaiting photographing. I made one pass at weeding the binders, but in the beginning I was far less discriminatory and kept stuff that should have been pulled. Now, when I'm doing the actual photographing and cataloging, I'm doing another quick and necessarily brutal purge. There's a box off to the right that holds the discards and that pile is also growing quickly. At first I thought I'd have to process about 8000 but now that I'm pickier about what to keep I know it will be less than that.

The photography is the easy part, and the quicker. The cataloging, though, (and I will say it's not assigning numbers like Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress numbers, but assigning keywords) is so brain-intensive, so detailed, that I'm worn out at the end of the day.

The good part about the work is it allows us to live very frugally, see the gorgeous country all around us, and eat Jacob Lake cookies. I switched my schedule around this week and am heading to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah for a couple nights' camping, assuming I don't get monsooned out, on a wildflower hunt. They should be at their peak this week. Yes, I count my blessings, all the time.

Thought of the day:

Be In love with your life. Every detail of it - Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On the way to Kodachrome

I've been, um, chastised for not posting more often. Because I was raised Catholic, I feel guilty and hang my head in shame. I keep saying that there aren't enough hours in the day, and it's true, but it actually couldn't make me happier. I remember times when the days dragged on and on, nothing of any interest to me at all, my spirit bled dry, so to have come back to life and find everything interesting again is a welcome situation.

We had the most magnificent thunderstorm last night - lightning flashing simultaneously all around, immediate explosive thunder - the granny of all thunderstorms. It was great! I wish I could have been out to see it but that would have been pretty stupid. When I was at Petrified Forest I had a wide open view of anything coming from the north or east and some of the west, so I could watch the monsoons roll in, but I'm in a forest now with not much of a view other than trees.

But on with today's show. A couple of weekends ago HH and I went to Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah. It was another place circled by my friend Richard on the Indian Country map. Here's the bad part of going anywhere away from the rim. Well, there are a couple of bad parts, including it taking forever to get anywhere, but the worst bad part is no matter where you go, you go through Jacob Lake. Jacob Lake is the intersection of Highway 67, the only way in to the north rim, and Highway 89 - or 89A, I can never remember - that goes up to Kanab and points north and west, or east to Lee's Ferry and on to the south rim and Flagstaff. Jacob Lake is the sticking point because it has a tiny restaurant and a bakery. When I heard bakery I concurrently heard angels singing because I thought I'd be able to get bakery bread, but it's not that kind of bakery. It's a cookie bakery. Just cookies. There's a discount for multiples of four and hasn't that turned out to be the road to hell. If you're going to get four, get a bigger discount by buying eight. What the heck, twelve!! My favorite is the gingersnap, about as big around as a salad plate. HH likes the chocolate chip with pecans. But they also make zucchini lemon, a weird combination that works very well. And lemon sugar, raspberry lemon, German chocolate, oatmeal raisin, a bunch of others, and Richard's favorite, one called parfait that has big chunks of chocolate. Once the bag of cookies is in the car all bets are off. My next door neighbor here, Linda, says she's gone so far as to throw the bag to the back of her SUV but it never works; they're still in the car and resistance is futile.

So we were fortified with sugar and butter as we headed north to Kodachrome Basin. There's a long way around or, alternately, a backcountry cutoff that we bravely took. Part of it is a good gravel road and then it changes to graded dirt, remarkably good, then it deteriorates to a take-your-chances, pitted track that had a dip in it with just feet and feet of mud all the way across it. By the time we got to this we'd gone about 85% of the way and I was not inclined to turn back. (I don't know that it was 85% but we'd gone a long way and so I made that up.) Lucky for us, another vehicle had gone through the mud so we followed its tracks and obviously survived. 

The payoff for all this risk-taking was a beautiful back road with interesting geology and lots of wildflowers.

Prickly poppy.

Bee plant, lacking one.

I don't know.

Also, this shimmery grass, soft as fluff, that's a field of white from a distance.

We made it to Kodachrome. According to the park's website, "The color and beauty found here prompted a National Geographic Society expedition to name the area Kodachrome, after the popular color film, in 1948." It reminds me of a mini Monument Valley.

Nice storms moving in but staying at a distance made for photo opportunities.

It was blisteringly hot. I don't know what's the matter with me because we leave the house for great adventures and I don't take my hiking gear with me. This has become a habit that's increasingly annoying. I did have my hat and walking poles, but only a bottle of water, not my Camelbak, and sneakers, not my hiking shoes. No SPF shirt. Any long hike was out of the question, but I did take a short jaunt to Shakespeare Arch.

I had it in mind to continue the trail on what was described as a strenuous hike over slickrock, but when I saw the actual trail, I slunk my way back to the car.

We continued around the park, catching views of the cloud-show the weather was performing - always one of my favorite things about the southwest.

Some of the 67 formations in the park.

We went on an easy half-mile nature trail that was the best one I've ever been on. It's not that it was all that educational, although if I'd taken the time to read the signs I might have learned something, but the variety of geology around the loop was a nice feature.

Then there was this lizard that I saw only because it moved. If it had rested there vertical to the tree and not moved I might not have noticed it.

One last view inside the park. The storm was moving in and we had a few hours' drive ahead of us.

This wow! formation below outside the park stopped us in our tracks. I sent the photo to the Petrified Forest geologist, the new PhD, because I figured this would be Geology 101 to him, and this is what he replied: 

"So this is what we in Geology call a 'cross-cutting' relationship and we use it to determine the order of events. 
1) lower brown sandstone is deposited in ancient times. (I don't know the age of these rocks just from the photo.)
2) the darker reddish brown layers were deposited. 
3) then there was a collapse into a subsurface void distorting all of the beds that were present at the time. 
4) erosion leveled the top of the distorted beds. 
5) the uppermost horizontal layer was deposited. 
It looks like all of these past processes have created a good place for modern water runoff, which exposed this structure and has caused the small gully at the base of the cliff."

Pretty cool!

I'm conveniently not remembering the fate of the cookies, whether we finished the bag on the way home or actually saved some for later, which is a near-impossibility. We headed out to Bryce Canyon this past Sunday and while HH made a legitimate stop for gas, I hustled to the bakery for cookies. I won't admit to how many I got, but will admit we ate them all before lunch. Hey, it is a long drive.

Thought of the day:

There is little in life that could not benefit from a little love, a little time, and a stick of butter. - Anonymous, via Pinterest