Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 11, 2010

Peekaboo Springs, Needles: packed with surprises

Kathryn and shield pictographs at Peekaboo Springs

Sunflowers gone wild... tens of thousands of them

…or is it LIFE, packed with surprises? Every day is such an adventure. It’s an adventure to wake up and be breathing.

As three of us undertook a ten-mile hike in the gorgeous summer weather, we were not prepared for the audacity of the day’s gifts to us. It’s as if the Giver of all good gifts delighted to open his hand and unleash nonstop beauty and joy, just for us. Endless fields of sunflowers welcomed us to the parkland, an oddity in any other August. A Collared Lizard (my favorite reptile, remember?) startled us at the beginning of the hike, and a Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard (second fave) at the end. Cumulus clouds shadowed us, keeping the heat down and providing much-needed shade intervals as well as photographic interest. Most of the hike was high on the exposed sandstone benches, giving birds’-eye views of the canyons and washes, with stunning vistas across miles of national parkland. Vast stone walls were pierced by clefts and openings that gave sneak previews into upcoming canyons. A powerful panel of pictographs awaited us at the 5-mile far point, infusing wonder and intrigue as we pondered the inhabitants who painted them 800 and 3000 years ago. As we started back, we stumbled upon an area of ancient granaries, finding seven (7!) structures in one little neighborhood. To top it off, a majestic golden eagle posed for photographs as we drove out of the park. I could hardly take it all in; it is securely in my top five favorite hikes of all time. I must go back, in another season. I may take with me those who have eyes with which to see and savor the beauty; I may journey alone with my grateful heart.

Collared Lizard studying me

My hand... another's hand. Eight centuries apart.

Kathryn & Mariana hike the Needles.

This sentinel stands watch over the pictographs

Peek-a-boo!

A granary for crop storage -- sadly, some oaf "helped" rebuild the top

Useful 12-rung ladder, courtesy of NPS

Rocks have such beauty.

August 7, 2010

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

[Continued from yesterday]

Collared Lizard! Gorgeous! Click to see reptilian skin texture up close.

The rest of our day, in pursuit of a third sheep which we never find, is filled with ancillary discoveries that make up for the missed animal. A Black Widow web (one of many) catches my eye, messy-looking with stiff sticky threads. The widow is not in sight. A Collared Lizard, my favorite reptile ever, runs in front of us and strikes an extraordinary pose. Its yellowness assaults my eyes and we inch nearer to study it in detail. I pull out my camera and Bill suggests I approach it from the side so it can see me and not be startled. He seems to know everything about every creature out here, not to mention the local geology, botany, and meteorology. I wonder what it must be like to be so attuned to your small corner of the world that you know it inside and out, backward and forward. Actually, I marvel. I want to be wilderness-wise like that.

Similar to these granaries, which are in Canyonlands at Aztec Butte. (file photo)

At another stop, we pause on the high cliffs to view the mouth of Indian Creek where it meets the Colorado. Bill points out three ancestral Puebloan dwellings built into the side of the wall below us, and I study them through binoculars and marvel again. There are hundreds of archeological sites in Canyonlands; I’ve seen only a few. This must be remedied.

With an hour of daylight left, neither of us is in a mood to leave this place and find ourselves indoors. We strike out to the far end of an outcropping where we can sit and watch the day wind down. Not a sound reaches our ears but a distant hiss of a small waterfall, 1200 feet below and around a bend, and later one languorous canyon bird. Sitting in silence, gratitude wells up in both of us for the unexplainable gift of another day in a spectacular wilderness.

Alpenglow on the Wingate sandstone, three minutes before sunset

We’d better get back to the truck. I see a twinkle in Bill’s eyes as he asks, “Old route, or new route?” “What?!? You have routes you’ve not yet walked?” “Well, I may have, but I’ve forgotten. Old route, or new route?” “NEW!” We head off toward some white rock biscuits, way bigger than ourselves, wondering with the waning light if we’ll be stuck in the dark because of my choice. Gotta take risks. Gotta take chances. Gotta live on the edge.

It’s fully dark when the truck meets up with the stream bank that had the quicksand. We motor across the shallows without incident. Venus is in the western sky, and Bill stops the vehicle to mount the spotting telescope on his window. Mars, Saturn, and Mercury are all in close proximity to Venus tonight, and we study them in turn. The Milky Way arcs across the heavens, beckoning me to sleep beneath it. Thoreau’s words — the title of this post — reverberate in my jubilant soul.

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