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:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hoop dancing on the veranda

A little over three weeks ago we were delighted to watch Hopi dancers on the veranda of the Grand Canyon Lodge. The primary dancer is Derrick Suwaima Davis, who has won the hoop dancing world championship seven times. I had the idea this was a sideline of his but a look at the website linked to on his name shows he's very active in the performing arts. We were watching a real professional and professionals in training, his sons.

He asked that no video be taken so all I have are stills.

Here he's getting his sons ready to perform the first dance.

The younger boy is on the left, and watched his brother's moves through every dance.

The singer in the background, Ryon Polequaptewa, doubled as a pretty good stand-up comedian, filling the gaps between performances. He's also a musician and a noted kachina doll carver; you can see some of his work via the link above.

The boys danced by themselves twice, with costume changes between. This dance may have been The Eagle.

Their father joined them for the next one, which might be The Horsetail. Of course we were told about each dance but I never remember.

See the younger boy watching his dad's feet?

HH and I had front-row seats, having turned around the Adirondack chairs that weigh about 100 pounds each, that usually face the canyon. Other people found seats where they could, on the steps on the left that lead to the auditorium or on the wall on the right.

This boy will follow in his father's dance steps.

Then came the dance everyone was waiting for. This hoop dance involved five rings that started on the ground. Accompanied by Ryon's singing and the beat of his drum, and sometimes the boys when they remembered, Derrick (who had earlier joked that people are dismayed to learn of his name, wanting him to have an "Indian name") performed for fifteen minutes or so, incorporating the hoops singly and in multiples, never missing a step. He is a world champion, after all.

It's hard to describe this dance. The hoops were so fluidly used that it was never apparent to me exactly how he got them from one place to another.

Can you do this? Not me. Once, some years ago, I thought a hula hoop would be good for the so-called core muscles, so I got one and used it. Once. It threw out my sacroiliac so badly I never tried again.

I can't imagine the hours of practice that allow him to dance so faultlessly.

How did he get them to interlock? I never saw it.

According to Wikipedia, "the hoops are made to interlock, and in such a way they can be extended from the body of the dancer to form appendages such as wings and tails."

The end of the dance. 

It was an astonishing performance, made all the more so after learning he had driven from Second Mesa to Phoenix to pick up Ryon, and then up to the North Rim that day, a distance of more than 600 miles. Oh, and not to mention that Second Mesa has an elevation of about 5500 feet and the North Rim is 8500. This man wasn't even breathing hard.

Thought of the day:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wretched excess

If you're getting tired of wildflower photos, I may be able to promise that I've just about reached the end.

Last weekend my hiking partner, Glenn, and I made a foray out to Timp Point, a trailhead on the Rainbow Rim Trail. He'd never been out there and I wasn't going to recommend Parasnotowitz to anyone, so we went to Timp. We drove the one highway out of the park to the short Forest Service road on the upper right of this map. Then we made a series of rights and lefts, or maybe it was the other way around, to get to Timp on the lower left. We were the only ones parked out there but as the day went on we met several bikers. This is maybe the only trail around that's open to bicyclists.

Once again, I found a fairly unremarkable trail. It goes far inland through the forest and, with the exception of a few late bloomers, there wasn't much to see. No reptiles this trip.

Here's another view of a cranesbill geranium, petal-less, but with a bud on the next stem over. I'm captivated by the colors.

This is a penstemon. I made a mistake in calling a similar flower a penstemon a while back. I think it was a foxglove, but it's much different from foxgloves I've seen in the wild in western Washington. The description I'd seen for the penstemon said one of the five stamens was bearded, and now I've finally found a flower to fit the description.

Thistles are hangers-on but the earlier blooms are now going to seed. One look at this seed head explains more than anything how easily they propagate.

At the North Timp trailhead, the turn-around point of our hike, we met a bicyclist from Virginia, who lives not far from where I lived. He'd been biking all over the South Rim from Flagstaff to Sedona, and  had made his way around to the North Rim. He'd ridden down from Jacob Lake without cookies!, spent the night at one of the other points, and was on his way into the park. These bicyclists make me feel so lazy, logging 50 miles or so a day. Just the thought of it makes me ache all over.

The view here is lovely. Soak it in 'cause there isn't another.

We hung around for a while before heading back. Glenn is a rock hound with a lapidary setup in his garage, so on our way over he looked for rocks while I looked for flowers. According to Glenn, collectors can take 15 pounds of smaller stones and one rock, meaning something bigger, on Forest Service or BLM land. He'd picked up three or four small ones but at North Timp found his rock, managed to break off part of it, but was still left with a bowling-ball size chunk that he put in his backpack to carry back to the truck. I told him we could drive around to pick it up but he carried it. His pack must have weighed 50 pounds.

It's amazing what you see in one direction that you didn't see going the other way. Heading back to the truck, I found this strange plant, one I've never seen before and sure hadn't seen it earlier. It has a waxy look and feel to it.

Here's a different view of the same plant. The yellow-green disc is about an inch across. I don't know what stage of bloom it's in but I think the drooping parts are spent flowers.

There were a couple of feathers lying along the trail. This is probably from a flicker, a member of the woodpecker family, and is the underside; the top is all black.

When we got to our turn-around, Glenn asked if I'd seen the skeleton. What?! What kind of skeleton? He didn't know but it was something big. How in the world did I miss this, which he pointed out to me on our return trip? There are no elk here and it's much too big for a deer, so it could be a cow. There's open range between the park and Jacob Lake, (in fact, the bicyclist said on his way from Jacob Lake he rounded a curve and found a cow grazing on the side of the trail) so HH surmised this one could have wandered off from the herd. What surprises me is that scavengers didn't scatter these bones.

I've worked thistles to death, I know, but there's no way I can ignore their glow. You'd think they could light the night.

Almost every bee I saw on the thistles were this kind, and all of them bottom-up into the center of the flower. This one's a good pollinator; it's covered!

What a find! Who's ever heard of a polka-dot feather?

Luckily, yesterday I was on-site when the Bookmobile from Flagstaff appeared. I've seen the monthly schedule but have somehow missed it every time. I turned in my driver's license to the librarian/driver (who, interestingly, is about my age and got his library degree the same year I got mine, and got it at Wayne State University in Detroit, where I got my undergrad degree. It really is a small world.) I'm now a happy owner of a Flagstaff Public Library card. The more library cards, the better. He just happened to have a book on bird feathers - that's it, just feathers - and I found this one. It's from a woodpecker, either a downy or hairy; I couldn't tell the difference between the two birds from the photos.

Along the trail, a gigantic bee-like thing lifted off from a thistle and came at me. I warily stepped back and watched it lumber away. Later, I saw another one working so hard to get from flower to flower and was able to get a few shots off. This flower is a little on the small side, but it still shows the gigantitude of this critter, which may be a carpenter bee. Wikipedia says males don't sting and females will only if provoked. I wonder if walking into the bee's flight path counts as provocation.

So, to get off the subject of wildflowers after this, here are some of what I dredged from the archives to cap the season. I know the names of some, but not all. If you're sick of them, it's best to stop reading now.

Salsify. These are the showgirls of the floral lineup. They're three or four inches across in exuberant bloom.

This is salsify's seedhead. When I saw the first one, among what looked like buds, I thought this plant went from bud directly to seed. Later I saw that the salsify closes after bloom, then forms a seedhead "bud," and then opens to a three-inch puff of shimmer. They're really beautiful.

I found this on the Widforss trail some time ago, nearly at the far point of five miles in. I wanted to see it in bloom but wasn't willing to go back out there just for that. Later I saw milkweed in bloom along the highway and recognized that it was this plant. Here is another delicious color combination.

 A white lupine along the path I walk to work.

Out in The Basin lived this soft lavender lupine among its brilliant purple cousins.



No idea what this is, but in looking at slide after slide of flowers in the park, I know enough to say with some uncertainty that this is a composite. Each little bubble in the center is a flower and each thing we call a petal is a ray flower. 

Pinedrops! I saw a slide in the collection I was working on and thought this was the same. It's a root parasite and doesn't come up every year. There was a small cluster on the Widforss, I think, and they were the only ones I saw anywhere. They're endangered in Michigan and threatened in Wisconsin, New York, and Vermont.

I found this along a path that leads to the Grand Canyon Lodge. It was only an inch or so off the ground but when I saw the purple I got closer. The camera revealed these delicate clusters.

A sego lily. I didn't see a lot of these and they weren't around for long.

Locust blossoms. They're the rose on the thorny shrubs that take over paths and wild country very quickly.

Here's another low-growing flower, name unknown.

Not a wildflower but a grass. It would be possible to study grasses all summer here. We noticed one day that in plain view of our house, we could see at least a dozen different kinds. This is one of the more unusual ones. When green, it's loosely closed but opens like this when it's going to seed.

Funny, but I just now noticed the bug on the petal. I took the photo because of the backlighting and never noticed the occupant. Observant, huh?

Last one here, but at least hundreds more on the hard drive. Wild roses had been in bloom in several places, but never where it was safe to stop along the road. We finally found one I could get to.


Thought of the day:
Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing exceeds like excess. - Oscar Wilde