Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Walking among dinosaurs

I'm getting very close to finishing my work here, and I'm singing hallelujah! for that. It's been intense work, leaving me tired at the end of the day and not much willing to sit at a computer when I get home; both are my excuses for not writing more often.

I started out with about 11,000 slides and as of this afternoon, have digitized and cataloged something fewer than 5,000. As I've worked I've backed up everything to two other external drives (in addition to the one that the original work is on), two of those three drives being my own so I have copies of everything I've done. There are some gems and because they're in the public domain I'll be able to publish some of them here.

Before then, though, HH and I took another look at the Indian Country map that our friend Richard had marked up for us before we left Petrified Forest. Some of the places are inaccessible unless you're a really brave soul, such as Toroweap, an area of the canyon with spectacular views but down a road that predicts a flat tire. In fact, the park's information sheet on the place says 25% of all vehicles get a flat going there and "Services are non-existent: there is no water, gas, food, lodging, or phone service." That alone was enough to keep me away. As the punch line of an old joke goes, I may be crazy but I'm not stupid. So Toroweap is out.

Other places Richard marked were longer than a day trip and since there were a couple of closer places that we still hadn't been to yet, we decided to drive over near Tuba City to see Coal Mine Canyon. On our way we made a quick stop at another place he circled, Dinosaur Tracks, on Navajo land.

You never know with these places. Are you being taken for a ride? How much of a sucker will you turn out to be? We went anyway and it was interesting. There are stands set up with jewelry and other native-made crafts, just like you see at spots along the road all over in the area, and no admission charge for the guided tour of the tracks, just a donation. A tiny lady named Isabelle was our guide. She carried a bottle of water that she sprayed to highlight the tracks that were everywhere. Believe me, there was once a passel of dinosaurs on this land.

I've stuck part of my shoe in the photos to show the critters' size. Even with my big foot, you can see they weren't that big, except for one that I wouldn't have wanted to run into, vegetarian or not.

This one shows claw marks.

Isabelle said a man (presumably a paleontologist) had come from Phoenix several years ago and said this is an egg. There were several individual ones like this, and other areas where three or four were clustered relatively closely, as in a nest.

Here's the big critter. They've helpfully outlined it with stones.

Then we were off to Coal Mine Canyon. After driving past the area on the map where Richard said the canyon was and finding nothing of the sort, I took a closer look at the map and saw it's actually on the opposite side of the road and about 10 miles away. We had a nice drive up and down the road, though, and finally found what we took to be someone's driveway, which it is, but is also the road back to the canyon.

Despite the description on the americansouthwest.net website of its many colors, our first view was a band of white right below the rim. My first thought was, we drove all this way for this? but I got out of the car and walked closer to find hoodoos and the promised colors, and couldn't make my way down the sloping approaches fast enough. 

These photos don't do it justice. We can never get up early enough to get a good morning light, so by the time we got there the sun was high overhead and flattened everything out. I did some software tweaking and prodding to poke some life into these photos, but take my word for it that the real thing is immeasurably better.

The rim is on Navajo land and the canyon on Hopi. It's just the way the boundaries of the reservations are drawn. I could have found a way down but the canyon is sacred land and a guide is required, so I stayed up top. If a guide was required so the tribe could make a buck, I may have taken my chances, but sacred is sacred and I'll honor that.

The sky was cooperative, wouldn't you say? A pretty sky always improves a landscape.

We met two women from Belgium who were in a rental RV and had gotten here ahead of us. I didn't think to ask how they found out about this place. It's certainly off the beaten path and you'd never know it was here from driving down the road, as we ourselves proved, but how smart they were to avoid the crowds elsewhere. They planned to stay the night. Lucky people!


Thought of the day: