Thursday, May 28, 2009

The very first photos I ever took with my real camera...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wildlife count for my trip to and from Lander:

4 pelicans
1 golden eagle feeding on what appeared to be a pronghorn (how a car managed to hit one is beyond me)
dozens upon dozens of live pronghorn, home on the range
a close-encounter with 2 sandhill cranes, heard but not seen (dinosaurs!)
several mule deer
an osprey (!)
a single, lonely wapiti
several hawks/falcons (of varying browns and grays)
several turkey vultures
two herds of wild (feral? the debate rages on...) horses

and 4 genuine cowboys!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Colorado Sahara

Where are the camels? Replaced by bison, you say? I'm not sure I believe you...

This is young petrified sand dune! Underneath all this dune is this crusty stuff that is what the sand dunes in the park will look like millions of years from now. The dunes are not active, so they never change, leaving the sand to harden and the iron to solidify in interesting ways...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (the "preserve" part indicating that in some places one is allowed to hunt, but not the bison, which are livestock, not game... ah, an argument for another day). This time of year, the creeks are flowing with shallow and warm snow melt and the dunes are swarming with weekend sunshine revelers and picnickers...

Monday, May 18, 2009

So, I'm Twittering?

Nomad On The Move


Last weekend we celebrated spring in the "traditional" Celtic fashion by going to a Beltane Festival. We went to one in Edinburgh, the oldest of the "new" revival festivals, last year and had a blast (so much so that I broke my ankle in revelry), so we though we'd hit up this one.

It was a good time, all-night drumming, fun music, dancing, rain, mud, chanting, fire (most importantly). Unfortunately, I felt rather out of place, as the entire rite here in the US is religious in nature. Religions of all kinds freak me out, so I wasn't big into the praying and worshiping mother earth stuff. In Scotland, celebrating Beltane isn't at all religious: the dancers and musicians are all paid performers, putting on a show. Beltane is conducted out of historic and cultural context, and there is no praying or worshiping. It's a public event.

Beltane here in Colorado is a bunch of people in elf ears and dragon-master costumes pretending to follow a Celtic tradition that was really just made up in the 1800s and added to by social and religious rejects throughout the decades. The Maypole was fun, but traditional? Medieval? It was Germanic in origin, but largely used as a territorial marker that other villages would pillage to make statements. The dancing around it part is only recent, and certainly nobody in Scotland has ever done it...

No matter, it was a nice weekend of music and drums and dancing and drinking and hippie-dressing and swimming in the freezing creek and mud and not-showering and fire and being outside. Some of my best shots from the weekend:

A close-up of the finished Maypole

The completed Maypole... took a while

A wayward tractor on the festival grounds

Dancing Hippies!

Friday, May 15, 2009

(Ball) Park Day!

So, here at NPCA, we're allowed to take park days: days when we head out to parks and get paid to go. So what better way to celebrate this little tradition than take in a day of baseball, one of the US' most notorious cultural resources!

The Boss Lady!

Megan and Dan, concentrating hard in different directions

The Gang's All Here!

Dan, scoring the game

Guy, being a cool guy

View from our seats and the ballpark

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I don't think I ever posted photos from Manitou Springs, CO!

Our Bed and Breakfast, Avenue Hotel

The town clock tower on the main drag

Jonmikel taking a photo of a lead pipe?

The Main Drag: by snow (above) and in the evening (below)

One of the original springs in town... they keep them flowing and put up nice little displays around them...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oysters at Point Reyes National Seashore

I like oysters, really I do. And then I read this series of articles about oyster farms in a national park unit. and the whole thing makes me 1) never want to east oysters and 2) never go to another park unit, not for any environmental reasons, but because the entire issue is so mean and nasty and ridiculous.

Check these out for background:

So this issue has been raging for months now. An oyster farmer wants to renew his lease. This oyster farmer bought the lease (which includes the farm and the land) from the previous owner, and this farmer knew that that lease would expire in 2012. That was stated CLEARLY on the contract, as are all such leases with the National Park Service. Now, he wants to renew the lease.
So the issues are as follows: the farmer wants to renew the lease and claims that it is an historic farm and a valuable cultural resource in the park (which it is, and this in and of itself highlights the complications between natural and cultural resource management). NPS says, “No.” Farmer then goes to court claiming that NPS is trying to end his lease early, which would be illegal. NPS says they are not. NPS commissions a report to see if the oyster farm is harming the otherwise pristine coastal environment; the report comes back and says, “Yes, it is.” The farmer sues. Outside researchers go in and find out that NPS more or less made the report up, even though it IS quite likely that the farm is not-environmentally sustainable. There is a very angry back and forth for a good long while, during which report after report for both sides comes out, each building on a growing stalk of anger and mutual disgust. Newspapers and the media have a field day. Insults and insinuations and lawsuits are thrown about liberally.

While everybody is busy being angry at one another, the most important aspect about this situation is being entirely ignored: the fact that the lease is up in 2012 and NPS is completely free to renew it or not and does not have to give any explanation as to why. Whether or not the farm is harming the environment, or whether or not NPS lied, or whether or not the farm is a significant cultural resource worth protecting, or whether or not the farmer is a jerk is entirely moot. Complete non-issues that everybody is making into the ONLY issues. If NPS decides to nix the renewal of the lease, there is nothing anyone can do about it. If NPS decides to keep the lease, environmental organizations will sit around fuming incessantly for a while until another sexier issue comes up. This back and forth is totally useless, and yet nobody seems to recognize that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bears in Alaska...

Check out the story, here.

Outraged, I am. But at bears? Anchorage is a sprawling city in the middle of a wilderness, and growing every year. City dwellers are swiftly moving into the areas once left to grizzly bears—or brown bears, as Alaskans modestly call them—taking up prime foraging (and yes, hunting) areas. In a move I would have once assumed belonged in Washington, DC or (gasp!) Denver, CO, “locals” (I use the term loosely to refer to people who live in Anchorage, as most were not born there nor have lived there for any significant amount of time) have decided that the bear population in the city, and the problems that come with it, are the bears’ fault.


In the article above, it discusses the bear issues: a growing number of attacks within city borders (and forgets to mention the growing number of idiots in Alaksa). The people they interviewed for the article are, by and large, people who genuinely believe that bear-proof trash cans are a waste of time and that it would simply be easier to just shoot all the bears. One woman, a native of Washington State—where there are no grizzly bears—complained that she moved to Alaska and now she’s afraid of the bears! My solution: GO HOME.

If you can’t live in Alaska, don’t move to Alaska. Don’t try to turn Alaska into Seattle, just because you decide you life is too boring for coastal Washington. Therein lays the problem: the growing number of people who move to remote areas but don’t actually want to LIVE in remote areas. They want to bring the cities with them, which (in my humble opinion) completely destroys the point. People from New York, DC, Seattle, Portland keep moving to Alaska, building homes on the outskirts of town, buying small yappy dogs (which are wonderful, easy-to-access bear food), and refusing to follow (logical and simple) bear safety policies (such as don’t throw your garbage on the street, don’t wander in the woods alone, carry bear spray, etc.) and then blame the bears. Buying a bear-proof garbage can isn’t silly, it’s for your own good; but those who move to the area from outside Alaska find it to be a hassle, and would much rather argue that it’s the bears who should die for their laziness. The article above even mentions that generally, people in Anchorage don’t use bear-proof storage containers. I dunno, in Gardiner, MT, they’ll arrest you for that.

I will never be one of those people with a “Native” bumper sticker on my car, and I believe that if you want to live in a small rural town, you should. But if you can’t handle the wild, don’t move to it. Don’t kill wildlife because you can’t take a few small steps to avoid violent confrontation. Don’t blame the bears because of the growing number of morons in Alaska.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Well, at least my oxen didn't drown while crossing the river...

A panorama of Independence Rock, facing east

View of the foothills from the side of Independence Rock, facing south

1850 signature on top of Independence Rock

This one if courtesy of Jonmikel... a grave of a Mormon pioneer on the Oregon Trail

Maybe if he jumps far enough, he could hit Oregon! (facing west)

Facing southeast, on top of Independence Rock

Jonmikel, posing in the wind, photo looking West

Friday, May 8, 2009

On Sunday, we headed out to Sinks Canyon State Park (future dinky job opportunity?) to see what all the fuss was about. The Sinks and the Rise are interesting and rather mysterious geologic features: the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie (don't ask for a pronunciation lesson, I have not a clue) River flows into the Sinks, a narrow underground cave that has never been seen by human nor mapped at all, and rises again a quarter of a mile downstream at the aptly named Rise, a calm pool of water home to tame trout. It takes several HOURS for the water to flow that quarter of a mile-implying a very complicated set of unground passges through which that water must pass), and not all of it makes it to the Rise. They dyed it a few years back to see, and some of that water was never seen again (my bet is that some rancher 50 miles away was very surprised when blue water showed up in his wells). It is, undeniably, pretty cool, and the mysteries of the world continue to inspire ghost stories and Land of the Lost (the 90s one!) type myths...

Thursday, May 7, 2009


We hit expectedly unexpected weather at our campsite in Atlantic City. The forecast called for rain and we got... snow. And ice. We listened to the ssssslllliiiiiiish and thump of wet snow sliding from the sides of the tent all night, and when we awoke in the morning, a thin layer of ice glistened on the tent, the car, the trees, and small blossoms that had dared to brave the cold to wake up. The cacophonous sounds of nature accompanied the sunrise and ice melt, a praiseful mass more joyous and more pure than any that could be found in a church. Hawks and woodpeckers ruckused around the still barren trees, ravens and small songbirds harrassed each other in what almost resembled brotherly affection. Small ground squirrels braved the raptors' hungry moods to look for treats that may have slipped from our meager campsite breakfast.

We even got to see a great-horned owl last night, a mighty barrel with wings, sluggish with surprise and with a steely yellow glare that could stop an angry alligator.