Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grabbing the porcupine

Every town has its own character. For this reason, I like to talk a little bit about the places I've visited or stayed (or stayed near). Each little town is like a person, with its own quirks, history, and look. Vernal, UT would be a very bland, noisy person, whose main distinguishing characteristic was that he was obsessed with dinosaurs.

In some cases the dinosaurs are anatomically correct museum representations, but mainly they seem to exist for the purposes of advertising the hotel swimming pool, or the possibility of Eggs any style, Bacon, Cinnamon Rolls and much more.

Vernal is noisy because the main street in town is a four-lane highway down which trucks continually rumble. The town is not particularly pedestrian friendly nor charming in any way, but there are three bookstores within a couple blocks of each other downtown, which is more than I have known many... possibly any... other small towns to have, and which hopefully speaks well of the populace.

The angel Moroni, who tops Mormon churches and temples. I have heard that the Uinta Basin, in which Vernal rests, is especially insular; that Mormons traveling from elsewhere, used to receiving a warm welcome in whatever LDS church they find themselves, will be met by stares upon entering a church in the basin. But I haven't experienced anything like unfriendliness myself. Everyone in town has been very nice to me, and for some reason everyone apologizes compulsively and repeatedly whenever they or their shopping cart could be construed as being the slightest bit in your way in the grocery store.

A business near the grocery store. I don't know why you would give a dog cats too... possibly in the interests of choice... but the fellow on the sign looks satisfied.

This van advertises that you can get all of your "I love drilling" materials here.

This is the only gas station I have ever seen with "tacos" in the name.

Finally, Zions Bank, perhaps the most interesting thing about Vernal. Back in 1916, the clever builders of this bank found that it would cost less to mail every brick from Salt Lake City to Vernal than to ship it conventionally--so that's what they did. Each of the 250,000 pounds of brick were mailed via USPS to Vernal, at seven cents a pound, after which the USPS wisely decided to change its policies.

While out hiking the next day, I found these:

They are ichthyosaur vertebrae. Ichthyosaurs were giant marine reptiles that looked a lot like angry dolphins. Since these bones were found on BLM land, I documented the location and we later called the local BLM geologist to see what he wanted to do about them. No answer yet!

A few pictures from around the park:

The last picture is swirly because it was taken through the heat of a campfire, to which I was invited by some random campers who were next to where I was reading in my hammock. They offered me beer and elk steak fajitas, but I was perversely looking forward to the spam and baked beans that I had at home and declined the latter.

An amusing set of instructions for a new hard drive in the office. Please click and read the first four instructions. My favorite is buried in #18, a commandment absolutely Biblical in its sweep and tone: "And the apparatus shall not be exposed to dripping or splashing, and that no objects filled with liquids, such as vases, shall be placed upon the apparatus."

Part of our job here has been to perform an inventory in the park's collections of specimens. The National Park Service's method of ensuring the integrity of its collections is to generate a random list of specimens for each park each year, and two (2) pairs of eyes must then verify that each of the specimens remains in the collection and undamaged. Equipped with a printout, my field partner and I began opening drawers. Some of what we found:

Each of those is a tooth, glued to a pin that is stuck into the cork of a tiny vial.

Actual size.

The park has all kinds of things in its collection. I opened this drawer to find two unknown rodents that were stretched in such funny positions, so endearingly loaf-of-bread-like, that I was compelled to immediately pick up the nearer and take a closer look at it. After a moment I realized that my fingertips hurt badly. I had just picked up a baby porcupine. The tiny barbs in its hairs were on the verge of puncturing my skin in about a hundred places, but I managed to put it back delicately without experiencing any damage.

Last weekend I didn't put up a blog entry because I was back in Denver visiting friends. I had a wonderful time. The first wonderful thing was this bit of graffiti, on the way:

Jesus is comming.

I was in town for Pride, which is a weekend filled with extravagant outfits and episodes of public drunkenness that are alternately amusing and disturbing.

I most enjoyed dancing in the open-air country tent. Here I have a clip of the dancers, which does not include myself, but does include a very dashing DP (in cap and capris).

This coming Tuesday I am headed off on a great adventure, my first river rafting trip. We are going down the Yampa River to monitor the beetles that have been introduced to combat invasive tamarisk trees. It will be a five-day trip down what is one of the most desirable rivers for rafting in the country. The Yampa is the only major tributary of the Colorado River that remains wild and undammed. Relatively few permits are granted, with only 5% of applicants accepted. It flows through gorgeous thousand-foot canyons. Because there is no dam to control flows, the river is, well, out-of-control right now, with near-record discharge levels. This is a ride that many rafting afficionados would pay a great deal to take. I do not know anything about rafting and would be happy just drifting down some lazy creek on a pool toy, but it seems instead that I am actually being paid to go on a once-on-a-lifetime excursion. For my birthday, no less.

For some images of the Yampa River, its canyons and rapids, simply check out these results from Google.

I don't know when I will next be able to do a blog entry, but I hope to have good stories and pictures!


Kristin said...

Happy Birthday Jo - your doing it right!

Mom said...

Four questions/comments:

Don't let a dog have Typical.

DP is certainly dashing and gracefull, as always.

Do we know when Jesus will Com and what exactly will that entail? Possibly related to Communism?

I was in NYC last Fri, Sat Sun and the PRIDE was spectacular!

OK, more than four.

Happy early B'Day.



Matthew Nielsen said...

I rode my motorcycle past that graffiti today. I thought about stopping to take a photo but didn't -- I'm glad you did.