Tag Archives: San Juan County Utah

Field Notes #10

March 15, 2010.  This winter paved the desert over, storm after storm laying down two-to-three feet of whitetop, setting spring back by more than half a month.  Since December 21st, I’ve been out only rarely, the deep snow creating hazards well beyond my abilities to negotiate them.  Who knew that when I moved to southeastern Utah I’d find myself wanting a pair of snowshoes?  Last year I hiked all the way through winter, staying home only when snowfall piled up over eight inches, which it hardly ever did.

I tried going out yesterday.  An overnight cloud cover had insulated the ground against a freeze.  The result: dense but soft snow, still ranging in many  place from 10-20 inches deep, and on bare ground mud so fluid that, holding still, you moved, gliding on a sloppy escalator whichever direction happened to be “down.”  Every step on snow resulted in a 10-20 inch drop straight to the ground, a vertical fall I’ve learned to move with on a limited basis. The body learns from falling, but when it happens every footstep, you expend a great deal of energy moving the least distance forward.  Meanwhile each footfall on mud resulted in movement barely under control in an only slightly less vertical plane.  Downhill in spots I surfed muddy rolls and creases, riding the soles of my shoes like mini-shortboards. Continue reading Field Notes #10

WIZ’s late summer/early fall gallery

We’ve added new pictures to the revolving gallery, not many because we spent much of the summer working at surviving rather than traipsing about the backrocks looking for photo ops.  You’ll recognize a few favorites we left up: the aspens in Kane Gulch, scarlet gilia, the boot and hoof prints, etc. 

Here’s a list of the new pics.

One of ten Elberta peaches our sapling trees produced this year–their first crop.

Tha Hurd: these are the horses I’ve been writing about in my “Horse opera” posts, minus the palomino gelding.  Left to right: the rear end of the palomino foal, its mother (I thought she was a palomino, but now I think she might be a bay with a flaxen mane), the silver dun (note her cool dorsal stripe), and the yellow dun stallion.  In the foreground, my daughter Val and her ponytail.

Pepis wasp–also called a tarantula hawk–on horsetail milkweed (also there’s an ant).  We had a stand of this erupt in the yard this summer.  It’s considered an invasive species and is also toxic to stock, but we have no stock.  The variety of insects the milkweed drew into the yard astounded and delighted us.  I think it valuable for how many species it supports.  Tarantula wasps up to two inches long flew in, following scent trails of the milkweed’s pollen.  Our European paper wasps visited the milkweed, along with golden digger wasps, mud daubers, American paper wasps, and a host of others we have yet to identify.  

A butterfly–species unknown–and a wasp or hornet–species also unknown–on the milkweed.

Grizzly bear prickly pear fruit.  These turned even redder before dropping off the pads. 

Masonry walls in a side canyon emptying into Crossfire Canyon.  These walls and structures whose photos we’ve added date back to later stages of the prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) occupation of southeastern Utah and other Four Corners states. 

An Ancestral Puebloan structure tucked into a narrow alcove in the same side-canyon.  

A detail of the double lintel beam in the above structure.  I thought it was interesting as well as pleasing to the eye.

Masonry structure from another angle with interesting shadow and light play around it.

A masonry doorway into another structure in the side canyon.  I love this doorway–it looks like it leads into deeper mystery.  Or maybe into Shelob’s lair.

An upright lizard, a fence swift.  These lizards seem to like having their pictures taken.  Other lizards won’t stand for it.  What I really want is a picture of a collared lizard or a Colorado collared lizard.  Very flashy, and they will also smile for the camera.

Close-up of a horse skull that I found, part of a nearly complete skeleton.

A detail of the above horse’s cervical (neck) bones, still mostly articulated.  I find this picture fascinating.

Fuzzy stuff–not entirely sure what it is.  Old man’s beard, maybe?

As usual, profound thanks to son Saul for taking all these pictures.

The Downstream Principle of Language

I’ve cross-posted this over at the onymous blog Times and Seasons in  follow up to a three-part series I wrote there a couple years back.  If you wish to read the original series, the introduction to the T&S post contains links to all three parts.

September 17th marked the two-year anniversary of the closing of Crossfire Canyon (real name: Recapture Canyon) to off-highway vehicular (OHV) travel.  Since then, the canyon has become an even more volatile epicenter of rhetorical and legal power struggles over land use policy.  Private citizens, environmental and off-road advocacy groups, and the federal government have all entered dogs in the fight. Continue reading The Downstream Principle of Language

Horse Opera, Pt. Two

In Horse Opera, I told how a silver dun (also called grulla) mare helped protect and nurture a colt born this spring to another mare in my neighbor’s small herd.  As I witnessed the social dynamics of the herd shift with the colt’s arrival, the grulla emerged to my awareness as an intelligent, loyal, and brave soul, frequently placing herself between the foal and his aggressive yellow dun father, at times driving the stallion out of the herd to stop his bullying the mare-foal pair.  The grulla helped raise the baby, forming such a close bond with him that my youngest daughter took to calling her “Nanny Horse.” Continue reading Horse Opera, Pt. Two

What’s really wild

A little over four and a half years ago my family moved from Payson City in Utah County to a new home at the desert’s edge in San Juan County, Utah.  Living on the Colorado Plateau has been something of a dream come true. Besides reintroducing me to a more natural (for me) environment, living here helps me cope with the pressures of caring for a high maintenance, special needs child.  Even on days when I can’t leave the yard I can walk out on the rickety second-story porch and see the trunk of a rainbow standing only a few hundred feet away or take in the silky ripple of cloud shadow and sunshine across the pinyon-juniper forest stretching miles to the south.  Thunderstorms in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and southeast Utah ring and electrify our kiva-roof sky.  At night, a very good view of the Milky Way’s spiraling embrace and the ceaseless anthesis and waning of moonlight keep imagination astir nearly until the moment I fall asleep. Continue reading What’s really wild

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

Amy Irvine McHarg wins Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers

The Ellen Meloy Fund has awarded their grant of $2000 to Amy Irvine, author of Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, to support her work on her upcoming book, Terra Firma.  This is the fund’s fourth annual grant.

She competed for this grant last year, too, when the award went to Joe Wilkins.

Since then, Trespass has garnered a wide readership.  Like Terry Tempest Williams, Irvine comes from Utah Mormon pioneer stock and engages in broad social criticism of her native culture, especially its land use practices. Continue reading Amy Irvine McHarg wins Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers