What kind of organisms would live in this god-forsaken place? I am gaining eyes with which to see them. It is marvelous.
Underneath a rock panel near Kachina Bridge, the ranger pointed out a spider web. “When you see a messy web, with a funnel feature built into it, look for a Black Widow spider,” she said. I got down on my knees and peered into the rock crack sporting a dangly web strewn with dead leaves and grasses, twirling in the breeze. Yes! There she was! My second BW spider in a week — I gazed from a respectful distance.
I am learning to locate water by the flora. If I see a cottonwood tree, I know it loves wet feet and there will be water nearby or just beneath the surface. The color green, in this landscape, is the clue of clues: the more green, the more likely one will find water. I love to scan the washes, where all the rainfall runs willy-nilly off the cliffs and travels with great rushing force. After a rain the grasses are flattened all in the same direction, and sand has been moved around. Boulders are shifted, potholes are carved, and water is evident as a dominant power here — despite its scarcity.
Rounding a switchback on a path, seven silent vultures perch on old dead snags, watching for their next meal. Their kyphotic postures help them scan below, hour after hour, day after day. In my campsite, Western Scrub Jays chased each other noisily through the low branches, flashing blue as they went. One landed five feet above my picnic table and studied me and it, carefully looking for edibles to steal. A raven took a position at the top of an old gnarly juniper nearby, emitting an occasional bored ‘croaaak’ while thinking of what to do next. A titmouse fearlessly landed on my table, cocked its head, and introduced itself. Several of these birds will not be found at Arches, with its lower elevation and more brutal temps; Natural Bridges is at the edge of two different biomes, so has more diversity.
May I see more — and then more! Always more.