Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My house is packed, I'm ready to go

The job here is done. This morning I turned in my uniform shirt, jacket, and keys, and the external drive the project is on. Lightroom, the software I used to catalog the digitized slides, says there are 5,424 of them, so I weeded about half from the original count. Every single one of them (I hope) has a caption and at least one keyword; most have several attached to them. I learned a lot from being here, about Lightroom, about doing a project of this size single-handedly, about not wanting to live at this elevation again.

There were 47 binders of slide pages to start with. I decided not to digitize several of them because of irrelevance to the park - two binders of slides assembled for the Bicentennial - the Bicentennial!, flora and fauna, people and places not here, and a couple of binders of wonderful black and white historical images with almost no identifying features to them. What a shame.

This is the final pile of old slide pages  that I replaced with new, archival ones.

I thought about the project I worked on at the museum in Washington, DC, and am quite sure the contracted amount was $5 per image. At that rate, I donated more than $27,000 in work to the park. Now, if I could only deduct that value from my taxes. What I am allowed to deduct is 14 cents a mile travel expense going from one park to the next, a drop in the bucket when fuel costs $100 a day when we're on the road. Thank you, Uncle Sam!

We're heading out Friday morning, will stop in Flagstaff for a night or two, and then spend a couple of weeks in Tucson before going to Tumacácori, near the Mexican border, for 6-8 weeks. Then, if I pass a background check, which I'm fairly sure I will because I had my fingerprints taken and sent off to the FBI from Petrified Forest and no one came to arrest me, we'll be at Death Valley for the remainder of the winter. Sea level!! Next summer is up in the air a little, Olympic? Glacier? Yellowstone?, but I'm shooting for Zion in the fall. It's much too hot in the summer.

HH and I took a day trip to Zion several weeks ago, and when his son visited us last weekend, we went again. It's another jewel in the National Park Service's crown. When I first left my house and was making my way down to Petrified Forest, I got as far as a couple of miles from the east entrance but realized I didn't have time to go in because I had places to be. When I finally got back I saw it was worth the wait.

On the way into another entrance, you go through Springdale, an upscale little town that reminds me a bit of a much smaller Lake Tahoe. Throughout the town are these whirligigs, which made me pull over to the curb the first time we went, enchanted, all of them twirling and spinning in the wind. I wanted one of each.

It's nice that each park has its own style of entrance sign. Zion's isn't fancy but I like the lettering.

At Grand Canyon you are looking down into the canyon; at Zion you look up, out of the canyon.

When HH and I went the first time we zipped right in, got a parking spot at the visitor center, and had no trouble moving around. This time we waited in line at the tunnel, a 1.1 mile, unlit passage through rock, that was completed in 1930. As we waited to pass through the park's entrance station, a travel trailer ahead of us was being measured by a ranger. Any vehicle exceeding a certain height and width has to pay an extra $15; tunnel traffic is restricted to one lane so the oversized vehicle can be driven down the center line. The website says it's for a tunnel escort, of which I saw no evidence, so I think it's more of a nuisance tax. We waited for quite some time, but it was such a beautiful day it didn't really matter.

We went on a short hike to the lower Emerald Pool, crossing the Virgin River. I noticed a different hike in the park newspaper and asked at the backcountry desk about it. Only 12 permits a day are given for a one-night wilderness campsite on this particular hike, which the backcountry ranger told me is about 40% through the Virgin River. Didn't sound so bad until I read that the river temperature that day was 58 degrees. The river part of the hike is described as walking on algae-covered bowling balls, hiking poles and boots with good ankle support strongly encouraged, and am now rethinking how bad it sounds.

One of my perks for volunteering this summer was an annual national park pass (value $80). I'd never been offered one before even though I qualified, but I'd read about it and asked if one could be ordered. It takes me past my oh-god-62nd-birthday next year, when I will be able to get an old-folks' lifetime $10 pass. I got to use it on this trip and was somewhat disappointed that the gate-keeper didn't seem even a little impressed.

The hike we were on took us past and behind waterfalls that were flowing pretty well in September and must be gushers in the spring.

This is the Lodge area, with a restaurant, shuttle stop, and close to the trailhead for the Emerald Pools. Look at the color of the grass! I thought it was fake, but it's not. Cool green, lots of shade, and a world-class view all in one.

Here's to a new unknown, unforeseen adventures, unimagined places, and friends not yet met. Life is good.

Thought of the day:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going. – Paul Theroux