Tag Archives: beaver dams

Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines

Desert storm with rainbow

This is the third part of a three-part entry. To read part one, go here. To read part two, go here.

Glancing at Belle, I can tell she needs water, and soon. I lead her away from the beaver ponds before she’s tempted beyond her ability to resist to drink from its giardia-laced teapots. I hurry her to the shade of a big juniper, another of my stops, and sit down in the dirt beneath a broken branch that hangs across the trail. Obviously, Belle needs more water than I can provide by cupping my hand. I relent and pour her a drink in the canteen lid. She laps four or five lids full then lies down in the shade without my prompting, her shoulder pressing against my knee. She pants rapidly but seems to have gotten enough to drink, refusing another offered lid.

Looking around inside the juniper’s shadow, I notice a single penstemon blossom, looking like a wind sock on a pole, glowing red against the litter. Its color leaps to the eye from a backdrop of live blue-green and dead brown juniper stubble; last year’s curled, tawny oak leaves; green wisps of grass growing in a clump; spider webs clouded with dirt and other debris; and round, purplish-blue juniper berries dropped into grey-toned soil speckled with blacker grains, probably of decayed organic material. From somewhere up-canyon, a canyon wren’s laugh pipes its downward-falling scale. Continue reading Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part One

As often happens, this offering of field notes runs long–so long I’ve broken it into parts.  Even more of interest to me than usual unfolded during this trip to Crossfire Canyon (not the canyon’s real name).  Because of the nature of this experience, some of the material leans toward the technological, so many thanks in advance to those who read the series all the way through.

In the planetary equivalent of a full house, a total lunar eclipse late on December 20th combined with the arrival of the 2010 winter solstice on the 21st to lay down a winning cosmic hand.  My family and I watched part of Earth’s occulting of the moon.  It was like seeing the moon speed through its full set of phases, waning then waxing in a few hours instead of a month’s time, with the “dark phase” played by the moon wearing a smoky red vizard. Except we didn’t make it to that climactic red phase.  When the shadow-serpent had swallowed two-thirds of the egg, clouds from a drenching storm out of the Pacific that had discombobulated parts of California rolled into southern Utah and eclipsed the eclipse. Continue reading Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part One

Field Notes #9: How I celebrated winter solstice

Warning!  Warning!  Long post.

Dec. 21st, a.m.  As I started out, temperatures bumped around in the low 20s.  A ragged ceiling of waxy yellow clouds sometimes let through bright sunlight.  Mostly, though, the cloud cover took the polish off the snow.  An unexpectedly cold breeze chilled the denim of my jeans and cut through my gloves, making my hands ache.  I pulled the overlong sleeves of my parka’s polar fleece liner over my gloves to better protect my hands. Continue reading Field Notes #9: How I celebrated winter solstice

Field Notes #8

October 2, 2009.  This morning, as I walk down the road toward Crossfire, I barely avoid stepping on a small, silver-and-grey-winged butterfly sitting on the pavement, trying, I think, to warm itself after our first night of ice-on-the-dog’s-dish cold.  The insect’s coloration matches that of surrounding gravel.  Only its thin wings and their accompanying shadow tip me off in time.  I veer.  Very slightly, the upfolded wings lean away from my foot swinging past.  It’s hard to not step on something that looks like a piece of your path. Continue reading Field Notes #8

Field Notes #7, pt. two

Guest post by Saul

Mom came home at just after 11 AM on Saturday and told me that she wanted me to finish what I was doing and go down into Crossfire Canyon. She explained that the creek had stopped flowing, leaving some fish stranded in a puddle, at the mercy of garter snakes.

I was working at the time and it took half an hour to finish what I was doing, devour some watermelon and put together a my gear: a butterfly net, a metal bucket, a notebook and some water. At last, I rolled my bike out of the garage and took off. Continue reading Field Notes #7, pt. two

Field Notes #7, pt. one

This is the first part in a two-part Field Notes entry written by two authors.  I’ll take the first part, my son Saul the second.  It wasn’t my intention to put up Field Notes again so soon, but this story is just too good to wait for.

July 11, 2009.  As I take Coyote Way into Crossfire, I find its coyote gate keep reduced to little more than a fur doormat.  The carcass’s light bones seem to be floating away downhill.  Many are missing.  So that took, what?  A little over three months?  Three months for decomposition to the point of fur and bleached bone. 

We’ve had a run of hot weather, so I’m curious about how the beaver ponds in Crossfire are faring, especially the last one located along my route.  Around this time last year, that pond dried up completely.  Dozens of small fish locked in between its dams died in the mud as its last pocket of creek water turned inside out, summer’s heat having emptied it of its currency.

As I approach the dam, I can see the creek bed below it has run dry.  That means there’s no flow out of the dam.  That probably means … yes, the pond is empty. 

But walking to the bank and visually following the curve of the muddy pond bottom to its lowest point, I discover a puddle, three feet long and two feet wide, sunk in a crease.  Its murky, greenish-brown surface roils.  Desperate fish, I think, trapped in the last shreds of water heating up fast in the rising morning temperatures, losing oxygen, losing volume.  Continue reading Field Notes #7, pt. one

Field Notes #5

From time to time, someone asks why I don’t write about the meaner, nastier side of nature, especially the predator-prey drama.  Until I go on that man-eating African lion-hunting trip or bag me an Alaskan grizzly or happen to be on hand when a puma takes down a mule deer buck, I just don’t have much to offer on predator vs. prey.  Sorry.

However, something did come to mind the other day, musings upon a kind of predator-prey relationship that I jotted down in my hiking journal as I strolled through Crossfire.  It isn’t pretty, but I thought I’d pass it along.

Warning: This post shows Patricia in a mood.  If you’re in a mood today,  you might want to skip this one.   

May 21, 2009

Overcast, humid, cooler-that-has-been morning.  I set out for Coyote Way, the trail leading down into Crossfire Canyon.  As usual, I pass my mouldering friend, the dead coyote  lying off to one side of the trailhead.  I stop to look at him whenever I take this path.  

After a month of decompostion he looks considerably worse for wear, though that lovely triangular earform still holds up well.  Gone, the shine and softness his coat had when he was first dumped.  Matted patches have loosened, as if he were going through a heavy shed, or they have been peeled back in the course of some other scavenger’s work.  A gaping entrance into his inner cavern has formed in his side.   His coat has taken on the patina of old carpet across whose nap mud has been tracked and into whose fibers a wide variety of liquids has soaked.  The flies that earlier clouded his vicinity have gone through their cycle; no insects are visible, though something must be creeping through the body. Every time I stop here, I wonder how and why this animal died.  Anything could have happened, but the dominant reason folks kill these animals—if, in fact, he was killed—can usually be summed up in this word: competition.

 A week ago, winds blowing up out of the canyon carried the scent of the coyote’s chemical crush into the earth.  Today, cliffrose pollen lightly perfumes breezes swirling past. Continue reading Field Notes #5

Earth Day 2009 (Field Notes #4)

Forgive, please, the late, overhasty and not especially informative nature of this post, but I wished to get something up for Earth Day before the opportunity passed.  As usual, consider yourself invited to report on your own Earth Day activities in the comments section.

Here in SE Utah, Earth Day opened gorgeously.  Warm and blue.  To the south, only a few drawn clouds showing, thin as weeds that snow flattened.  Around the Abajos to the north rise those striking cloud formations that always provoke my wonder.  Can’t remember what they’re called, but I think of them as the “jellyfish formations,” because to my eye they resemble man-of-war jellyfish: small, top-heavy clouds trailing long, wispy tentacles of vapor that appear to dangle into lower reaches of the atmosphere.  As I’ve sought to understand those cloud structures, I’ve read what’s actually happening is that the tentacles are water vapor rising out of unstable air, seeking a more settled region of the atmosphere.  Once the vapor finds that more stable region it forms a cumulus cloud, which may in turn provide the seed of a cumulonimbus cloud, a thunderhead. Continue reading Earth Day 2009 (Field Notes #4)

Field Notes #2

April 13, 2009

Why do I still do this?  Why, at my age, do I follow as if I were nine years old unmarked, unpaved trails away from what I know into the wilds of what I don’t know?   That’s how this striving creation—part light, part water, part air, part earth, and all aspiring flesh—shows itself to me, in the mutual bodying forth between us. It seems an involvement composed of equal slices revelation and formation, since in discovery, everything changes, the New erupts into being, not just in me, the older wide-eyed child, but in this juvenile Creation.

Today, I begin at the Crossfire Canyon’s cliffs, taking inventory of the birds.  A few days earlier I saw cliff swallows flash between the rims, returning or passing through.  Had they stayed or gone?  To find out, I take to the air myself, or at least to the boundary between earth and air, the rimrocks.  Continue reading Field Notes #2