Tag Archives: keeping notes while hiking

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 #6

June 2, 2009. I hiked into Crossfire Canyon via Coyote Way.  The morning had a warmth to it I didn’t feel while I walked topside through currents of wind blustering north out of some rise of weather.  But as I followed the trail down into the canyon the breezes thinned.  Then holes formed in them, holes of heavy warmth and stillness where plants stood as motionless as they appear to in photographs. 

This corner of southeastern Utah hosts above-average vigorous winds, so plants are more often astir than not.  The junipers—Utah and Rocky Mountain—come alive in the breath of this place. On blustery days, a juniper tree dances and sings.  Its singing is a sigh of sliding volume, rising at times to a breathy roar.  As it dances, as much as the top two-thirds of the tree leans and rocks back, how far and how often depending on the size of the tree and the strength and constancy of the wind.  But each branch moves independently, maybe only by a little, from those surrounding it, all together undulant in the waves of wind.  Thus may a juniper approach in its rootedness the suppleness of a belly dancer. Continue reading Field Notes #6

Getting digs in: On the 6/11 SE Utah artifact raids

Saturday, June 13.  As I was coming up out of Crossfire I heard voices.  Much has happened lately in our small, southeast Utah town, so I was curious about who might be coming into the canyon.  I saw a woman on the rocks above me, well off the trail, turning back in response to a companion’s call.  Picking up my step to be sure to meet them, I caught up with the two retirement-aged women—out-of-towners—as one helped the other over the arched rebar cattle guard at the trailhead.  They had no idea I was there.  I greeted them then asked where they were from.  They were coy about saying, replying only that they were visiting.  “You?” they asked.  I answered I lived up the road but was not originally from the area.  “Are you going to see the cliff dwellings?” I asked.  There’s a nice Ancestral Puebloan (“Anasazi”) structure at the base of the cliffs, a little off the beaten trail.  “Yes,” they said.   Then one of them pointed to the yellow, green, and white, heavy-gauge metal, BLM sign posted at the trailhead announcing the canyon’s September 2007 closure to off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and displaying the extent of the restricted area.

“But we really wanted to see this,” one said.

“This sign?” I said, puzzled. Continue reading Getting digs in: On the 6/11 SE Utah artifact raids

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 #3

April 21, 2009 (pre-Earth Day)

Today, as I head out for the trail into the canyon that will take me past the dead coyote, I decide to call that trail Coyote Trail, or maybe Coyote Way, to remember that coyote mouldering at the trailhead.  As I pass those remains, I try to satisfy my curiosity about the animal’s gender, but the back legs are frozen together in a rigor of modesty.  A cloud of black flies on and around the carcass goes a-buzz at my intrusion into its community feast and fur-lined creche. Continue reading Field Notes #3

What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008

Parts of this entry rise a little above-average personal in nature.  I don’t mean to make this an “alms before men” post.  I want to try to show how easily — for me, anyway — thinking can slide between my experiences with animals and the ones I have with people.   Also, I don’t remember ever having written down the “Hillbilly Dilly” episode noted below, and since the hummingbird called it to mind, after my not thinking about it for many years, I imagined the moment right for the telling.

April 22, 2008

At the cliff this morning, I find a colony of white-throated swifts fully active, hunting the wild blue, tangling into the wind gusts that stream through the canyon’s channel and splash against its rocks.

A vulture passes by, very low, slightly out from the ledge where I sit. 

A swift just cut in quite close, the vrrrrr of its wings as they sliced air sounding like a miniature jet.  A pair of hawks circle high overhead.

Will eagles come?  I barely finish writing the question when I look up to see a golden eagle, juvenile or maybe second year, brown feathers flecked with white.  As I gaze up at the eagle, a black-chinned hummingbird rises like a helicopter into my line of sight, directly between the eagle and me, probably examining the burgundy tones in my shirt, faded overall but most vivid in the cuffs.

Continue reading What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008

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