June 14, 2011

The wind is still blowing for my Petrified Forest adventures, though June 1 has come and gone. We are thankful for that wind for two reasons: it is getting quite hot, as predicted, (around 90 this past week) and smoke from the huge Wallow fire to the southeast sometimes lies over the whole park at night and in the early morning. It takes the wind, which starts about 9-10AM, to clear it out. As of now, that fire has burned over 700 square miles.

Black-tailed JackrabbitBlack-tailed Jackrabbit

This black-tailed jackrabbit seems interested in my activities - he comes and sits right beside the rig.

I’ve been doing quite a lot of reading this past month….

The Turquoise Ledge, by Leslie Marmon Silko: she says in 500 years the only language will be Nuahuatl (an amalgam of Aztec and other Indian dialects), except for financial dealings which will be in Chinese. I did a little Googling on this subject and discovered that, according to UNESCO, more than half of the 6,700 languages spoken in the world today are likely to be extinct by the end of this century.

On Her Own Terms; Annie Montague Alexander and the rise of science in the American West, a biography by Barbara R. Stein. Alexander(1869-1950) was independently wealthy, fascinated with traveling, collecting fossils, then mammals, birds and, finally, plants. She started, and endowed, both the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Museum of Paleontology at the University of California at Berkeley. At one point, she spent time collecting specimens here having her own Petrified Forest adventures. She never married, but had a companion, Louise Kellogg, for the last 40 years of her life – a “Boston Marriage.”

At Blue Mesa - Petrified Forest NP, AZOn the Blue Mesa Trail

Arnold Berke’s biography, Mary Colter, Architect of the Southwest. Colter lived during that same time period, 1869-1958, and worked for both the Harvey Co. and the Santa Fe Railroad. She designed and decorated several of the Harvey hotels along the railroad in New Mexico and Arizona, and is especially noted for the buildings she designed at the Grand Canyon: Hermit House, Watchtower, Phantom Ranch, Hopi House and Bright Angel Lodge. During her Petrified Forest adventures, she masterminded the renovations and interior design at the Painted Desert Inn.

Good Sam Roadside Assistance
Needleleaf Yucca in BloomNeedleleaf Yucca

I find myself fascinated by these women in the early part of the 20th century. They were determined to do their own thing, irrespective of what society expected of them at the time, and they achieved so much. I keep wondering if my great-aunt Anita knew of these women. In the late 1920s she ended up just north of Jackson Hole, WY, partnering with, then buying out a homesteader and running a dude ranch. Perhaps my taste for rv adventures is due to an inherited trait.

I’ve also just read A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, who worked for the US Forest Service for many years. It's a wonderful collection of his observations of the changes in his landscape, right up there with Walden.

Early one morning I had a new Petrified Forest adventure, spotting two fox kits down near the Crystal Forest Trail. At least I thought they were foxes, but they could have been coyote pups. At any rate, they were very cute and one of them was extremely curious. 

120x240 Faded Logo List

He just sat and watched me as I came closer, while his sibling hid. Mom was nowhere in evidence – probably out hunting for breakfast. You’ll likely need a magnifying glass to see him in the photo – he’s to the right of the clump of grass.

Fox Kit at Petrified Forest National Park - AZFox Kit

On most work days, I walk 4-6 miles on the trails and around the visitor centers here during my Petrified Forest adventures. I’ve been wearing a pedometer and aiming for 10,000 steps per day. Many days I do more than that.

It must be breeding season for the collared lizards – I’ve seen two or three females, and there is usually a male right nearby. The females are much shyer and hurry into hiding the minute I approach, so it’s difficult to get a photo of them.

Pronghorn at Petrified Forest NP - AZPronghorn at Petrified Forest

A pair of Western Tanagers flew in to Petrified Forest a couple of weeks ago. They are beautiful birds, usually forest dwellers, so I assumed they were on their way to the White Mountains, but then saw them again a week or so later. Maybe the smoke is too thick in the mountains – that’s very near where the Wallow fire is blazing away.

Kids Enjoy Petrified Forest Adventures

We see a lot of kids in the park here, especially now that school is out. One of the wonderful programs is the Jr. Ranger Program. They get a book, in which they have to complete several activities while in the park, answer a couple of questions, then get sworn in by a ranger (sometimes it’s me), and they receive a badge and a patch. They are so serious and proud about it, as are their parents.

SBI! Case Studies

One day there were two young boys enjoying Petrified Forest adventures, both with blue jean jackets. The fronts of the jackets were covered with badges from the various parks where they had completed programs, and their mother had sewn all the patches onto the backs. I wish I had thought to take a picture of them.

Prickly Pear in Bloom - Arizona cactusPrickly Pear in Bloom

Friends Jj and Judy Johnson, from Organ Pipe, stopped by to visit one day and enjoy some Petrified Forest adventures of their own; it was great fun to see them.

Yesterday I watched a pair of house finches courting. At least he was certainly courting – singing, flipping his tail up and down, doing little pirouettes in front of his lady. It seemed like she was ignoring him, though she didn’t fly away, so maybe she was just playing it cool.

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Here's a network of people around the world who are willing to offer a night or two of free parking to RVers on their own property. This is a wonderful idea for all those who love boondocking. It costs about $25/year to become a member and there are great perks if you do. Definitely worth checking out.

I saw my first mule deer here in the park recently. He was all alone, walking along very proudly and sporting new antlers. He was quite dark and much bigger than I had expected. I’m suspecting it might have been an elk, not a mule deer. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of him.

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Coelphysis Sculpture at Petrified Forest NPCoelophysis - Petrified Forest's Little Dinosaur

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