Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Well, many things have happened since my last blog entry. I have simply been too busy to write anything about them. I traveled out-of-state on three consecutive four-day weekends, using the remainder of each shortened week to work extra hours, buy and sell a car, and pack up and move to Utah to begin my new job.

My first trip was to Canyonlands National Park, with Jess. On the way there, we stopped and looked at some dinosaur tracks; the three dark spots in the pic below are the indentations made by the dinosaur's three toes.

Me at the trailhead. We intend to hike to the Colorado River, 10.8 miles away and 2000 feet down.

Some lovely patterns in the Navajo Formation on our trail. The Navajo is the formation I will be studying this summer, many miles to the north of Canyonlands.

Jess and I were backpacking down off the Island in the Sky toward the Colorado River, which you can see at one point in the distance in the upper-right quadrant of the picture. We had to climb down more than a thousand feet to get into the canyon you can see in the middle of the picture.

The view up towards where we came from, from our campsite that night. We only got about 7 miles before it got dark, still several miles shy of the river. It was perfectly quiet and very peaceful there, until a strong wind whipped up in the night that lasted most of the rest of the weekend, turning the 70-80 degrees forecast when I was planning the trip into more like 40-50 degrees, which we weren't really dressed for.
I make a pizza dinner. This picture nicely shows the appaling state of my hair, which is probably more of a mop right now than it's ever been in my life.

Me eating, and on the hike back out.

Two different sizes of ripples preserved in two pieces of sandstone along the trail.Jess hiking out. Climbing the more than 1000 feet needed to get out actually proved to be less stressful to our bodies than the unrelenting downhill hike in, but the damage was done. Jess's thighs were so ruined by the backpack that the rest of the weekend she was able only to totter about, holding on to me if we had to descend stairs. (She did manage one handicapped-accessible trail in Arches on her own.)

The next morning we drove into Arches National Park and cooked breakfast, with a view of Balanced Rock...

...and the Fiery Furnace...

in the distance. The Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of sandstone fins through which you are allowed to wander if you purchase a permit at the park visitor center. It is very nice, quiet and pretty, with no marked trails.

I took this picture of a beetle at the end of a set of beetle tracks because I am always delighted to find the maker of tracks. Looking for tracks is part of what I will be doing this summer.

More shots from Arches, with the La Sal Mountains in the background.

On the way back home, Jess and I stopped at the Thompson Springs petroglyph site, at which can be found many petroglyphs and pictograms from many different periods, starting many thousands of years ago.

Then we came home. I bought the car on the left to replace the car on the right. They both happen to be Mazda Proteges. I wasn't looking for another Protege, but the nicest-looking car I found happened to be one.

The weekend after that, I went to Houston to visit Jordan, my friend from field camp. Remember Jordan? Jordan's boyfriend had paid for a friend to come visit her, and she chose me, so I must say thank you Niall (and Jordan!) for allowing my visit.

Jordan's car's tire exploded as she was driving me home from the airport. We sat on the side of the highway for an hour, cars passing other cars on the right and whizzing past us at 75 mph, as AAA struggled to figure out where we were.

Houston has a small and extremely unexciting downtown compared to Denver. But that's all I know about it as mostly I hung out by the pool and played with Jordan's cat, Mr. Peppernut. Jordan and I:

Also, we went to a Thai restaurant that had some very strangely named dishes. Below, find: "Broccoli is a Push not Bush" and "Paeneng is Curry so Hurry," among other gems. Click for detail.
Then. The next weekend, I went with DP to NM. We stopped first in Taos, where visited the Rio Grande gorge and bridge...
...and stayed at a hostel called the Abominable Snowmansion. We got a private room, the bed of which happened to have a memory foam topped mattress, which I thought was a very fine deal.

We also went to Santa Fe, which I have no pictures of... everybody knows what Santa Fe looks like, right? ...but I do have this video of a male pigeon trying to get noticed by a female:
And we did some fossil hunting outside of Santa Fe, where DP gets her first practice using a rock hammer, trying to break an ancient brachiopod out of some limestone.
Mostly in New Mexico we ate good food and slept.

On the way back we stopped at Great Sand Dunes National Park, where DP took these excellent pictures of me:

...and then we came home, and I had a few days to prepare to leave for the summer. In the meantime I was working (manning a booth doing science demonstrations) at Elitch Gardens, which is a large amusement park right next to downtown Denver. I took this shot from the ferris wheel. (I had to text my boss to say I would be a few minutes late that day as I was stuck on a ferris wheel.)

On my drive to Utah I noticed that there was still a great deal of snow in the Rockies. This shot was taken from the interior of a rest stop.

It has been very cloudy and rainy here, and cold, though the sun peeked out briefly a couple nights ago to allow this shot of the swollen Green River, Blue Mountain and a farm which are all across from the housing area where I am staying.
Right now I and my fellow interns are in a house--which has delightful things like NPS signs in the garage--

but will be moving into smaller apartments once they are ready for us. Which is too bad, because from the current house I can watch a colony of prairie dogs that begins 20 feet from the windows. As I write this in the growing dusk of Friday night, one is picking up pieces of grass in its little paws and putting them in its little mouth.

There are also a lot of birds here...

...perhaps Abby can tell me what these are. I tried to catch them in nice, still poses.

We have been out in the field a couple times. Here, my supervisor, the park paleontologist, points out one of things we are looking for, which are traces of burrows in the Jurassic sandstone.
Also, see if you can see the tracks made by a large scorpion on this slab. The scorpion put down its feet close together as it walked, leaving sets of three dots on either side of its body.

One day we also went to look at the dinosaur quarry, for which the park was created, but which has been closed for several years as the building housing it was condemned. I will be telling more about that in a future post, but if you would like more information right now, check out this blog.

The quarry face is enclosed in a plywood sarcophagus to keep it from harm as a new building is being constructed around it. We went inside the sarcophagus to see the stunning number of dinosaur bones preserved in the rock. I have seen photos of the quarry from when it was open and they simply didn't convey to me the sheer size of the face and number of bones. This picture, taken in the dim light available, only hints at the full picture in the gleam of a few bone surfaces, from a partial spine and a limb bone, both on the right side of the frame.

We received the very exciting news that later on in the summer, once the building is up and the sarcophagus is down, we will be assigned the task of vacuuming the construction dust off the bones to prepare them for display once more. It is a huge surface to cover and should take most of a week. (The new building will reopen to the public in October.)

Today we drove up one of the scenic drives in the park, taking in views of the Yampa River,

Green River,

and Mitten Park Fault.
This is a truly beautiful park that is mostly wilderness and I encourage all my willing friends to make the drive out to experience it.

Finally, I leave you with a final piece of arcana, which you must click on and read for yourself: