Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 24, 2011

Up side / Down side

Find our yellow tent hiding in this photo.

Just for fun I’ve tried to summarize my backpacking trip into two lists. Here they are:

UP SIDE: Being in the fresh air 24/7. Stunning scenery. The smell of sage. Finding artifacts everywhere. Sleeping on the ground. Pushing my body nearer to its limits. Climbing down a ladder into an ancient kiva. Sound slumber. Relying on maps because there are no trail signs anywhere. The fine taste of camping food, no matter how humble it is. Learning about ancestral people from a millennium ago, solely via what they left behind. Silence. Getting along fine without a toilet or outhouse. A Mountain Bluebird that made us do a double-take, it was so blue.  Lavender-scented sunscreen. No cell service. Drinking our tea out of the pot because we had no mugs. Seeing few humans. Watching what the sun does to the rocks at day’s beginning and end. Being okay with physical discomfort. Claret Cup Cactus with many scarlet buds. Finding out how strong women really are. Stumbling upon a Peregrine Falcon pair. Training my eye to see likely places where we’d locate ruins. The fine taste of filtered spring water. Lizards. Studying a strand of black hair mortared into an ancient granary. Never having to go inside. Holding pottery shards. Attending to the sun and the sky. A cozy sleeping bag. Rock scrambling. Feeling a strong sense of connection with everything around me. Hiking twenty miles.

Does tree-climbing increase happiness? Or do happy people climb trees?

DOWN SIDE: None. Except possibly the pricklypear glochids that lodged in my left thumb when I reached out to stabilize myself. But I got ‘em out. Mostly.

Put those two lists on your scales and weigh them. And then borrow a backpack and go into the wild! Take a child, a parent or grandparent, a sibling or a friend with you. If you have limitations that prevent you from going, rent a wonderful documentary about backpacking a major trail, pop some popcorn, and enjoy it vicariously.

April 14, 2011

How many birdsongs can my head hold?

Rock Wren, singing from a... rock! (google images)

Have you any idea how many bird vocalizations contain a trill? A whistle? A buzzy note? Just try memorizing several dozen. The nuances that differentiate them are minimal, but the more I listen to them the more unique their finer distinctions become. I can start to detect things like the increasing volume as the song of the Black-Throated Gray Warbler goes on, or the breezy nasal quality of the Mountain Bluebird. Today in my Breeding Bird Census many things did not go as I had hoped, but I will concentrate on the positives — e.g., I correctly identified a Rock Wren’s song! Thank goodness for small victories.

A trying day can often be redeemed in the kitchen. In the vegetarian spirit of House 3, a big bowl of salty edamame was shamelessly enjoyed as an appetizer before I concocted some avocado-and-mozzarella quesadillas for our main dish. I’m rather enjoying the culinary stretching.

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