Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Thursday, December 20, 2012


So, I moved at the end of the summer. My commute was too unpleasant (35 minutes to work, 45 to get home), and anyway, I wanted to live in a city. I had never lived in a big city before. While technically in Denver, I was in a very suburban area. And while technically able to ride my bike and walk to a few places from my old apartment, it's not very pleasant walking where a steady stream of heavy traffic is whizzing down the four-lane road at 45 mph.

One of the best things about the move was that it allowed me to escape having to use I-25 to get to work. This is the congested highway that runs north-south along the populous Front Range area. Here's a shot of I-25 during rush hour that I took from an overpass near my old place. The traffic is flowing here, but closer to downtown, for a large portion of every evening, it's simply stopped. I don't think Denver traffic is that bad in general, but the horror of I-25 (and Colorado Boulevard, to name another road that should never be part of your commute) make up for the lack of gridlock in the rest of the city.

My new place is in the Cheesman Park neighborhood of Denver, in a converted duplex from 1903, and it has large windows and hardwood floors:

And a rickety sunroom off the back:

There is a small backyard, here dusted with an early October snow:

I very much wanted to have an apartment in a house rather than an apartment building, for several reasons. I hadn't anticipated, though, that it would make my apartment actually feel like a home - I have a front and back door, a back yard, and well, the apartment feels like a house because it pretty much was (the bottom floor of) a house up to a certain point.

A view from the back yard, showing the giant apartment building next door.

I had had a particular... and long, now that I look at it... list of characteristics I was looking for in an apartment:

1. On a quiet street (I'd spent the last 2 years living right next to the highway in the first picture)
2. No more than 20 minutes from work
3. Within biking distance of my 2 closest Denver friends, grocery store, library and post office, plus the bar where I go dancing... together these make up 95% of the places I go outside of work
4. Somewhere I would feel safe walking at night
5. A 1-bedroom rather than a studio, the better to have parties, which I do often
6. On the first floor, so I can get my bike in and out easily
7. In a neighborhood with enough parking that I never have to park more than a block away
8. In a house, not an apartment building
9. With hardwood floors, so I can practice/teach dance moves
10. With some character - not built in the last 40 years and looking just like 500 other apartments in the city
11. With my own entrance or with the ability to buzz guests in (not wanting to go all the way down the hall to let in each of my 12 party guests on a given night), and
12. Under a particular budget (cost of utilities included)

I managed to get all of these except for #2 - it takes me 22 minutes to get to work if there's no traffic. Now that I've lived there for a few months, some things turn out not to be as important - I probably could entertain in a studio if I set it up right, and I really haven't made use of the hardwood floors for any dance lessons. My very favorite thing about the place is actually that the grocery store is 2 blocks away. Though I never have any food in the house now, because I can pop over for just a bagel and a yogurt anytime I want... sometimes I go there 3 times a day. They are open 24 hours. It's a King Soopers, but some of my friends call it the Queen Soopers, because the neighborhood is seen as being pretty gay. I do not know if more gay people actually live here than in other places.

What I do know is that the actual park (above, looking toward the skyscrapers of downtown) has a history as a gay cruising site -- where men go looking for other men to have sex with. It was a bigger deal in the past, but there's still some activity. It doesn't trouble me -- well, it doesn't affect me at all. If I lived next to a park known for drug deals or robbery, that would trouble me. So if you go for an evening walk in the park, you will see men sitting by themselves waiting to see if other men make eye contact with them. You will also see lots of people walking babies and dogs, students studying or playing frisbee, and the occasional person smoking a joint on a bench. I did see a guy walking a pig a few weeks ago, but that is not usual.

This is near my house. The fence is all gone except for the gate, placed so as to block the one place you might want to walk. Footprints in the dirt show where people walk around the gate.

Also nearby... an exercise bike at a bike rack.

A couple of the more charming characters that live in the neighborhood are not people, but mailboxes. These mailboxes, at 12th and Lafayette, lean toward each other as if they are friendly. And in recent times someone has taken to giving them personalities through graffiti. Below, some photos from around the web:

Each time, the post office comes and spraypaints over it, and eventually they get graffiti'd again.

And again.

The above seems to be in a different style than the others, making me think someone else got in on the action.

This time the writing and the shape of the hearts is different. Does it mean anything?

The eyes on the green mailbox are different this time.

How many artists?

Above is the most recent incarnation, on election day, the drawing and writing back to the original style. I bike past this intersection regularly, but nothing new has appeared so far. Of course everyone thinks it's ridiculous that the postal service keeps painting over them, but I imagine they might think it's ridiculous too. 

Amusingly, while I was searching for mailbox images, I found this: you can now get your very own t-shirt with an image of the Denver mailboxes on it.

Some other observations about my neighborhood: it's pretty clean, and people are weirdly obsessive about picking up lost mittens, scarves, hoodies and baby shoes and draping them over shrubs/walls/branches near the sidewalk, as if the original owner might be coming back looking for them any moment.

Also, there are a lot of hipsters. I am bringing this up not because I want to be another blog documenting (or lambasting) the hipster phenomenon, but because I think it's funny that when I lived in the suburbs and only saw a hipster once in a blue moon, I thought their outfits were extremely stylish and unique. Wearing a fedora with a flannel shirt! But within hours of moving to the city and seeing approximately 3,000 other young people dressed just like that, I realized that it wasn't about trying to have your own look. It was about trying to look like everyone else. If I see one more person with giant glasses, a mustache, a scarf, skinny jeans and converse all-stars riding a fixed-gear bicycle with a PBR in the basket, I'm calling the cops. Which should be this afternoon.

From around the web:

Weirdly, mustaches are a big thing for women now. If you google something like "hipster mustache," a large proportion of the pictures will be women with mustaches. Not real ones, though. That's a little disappointing. Authenticity is, apparently, dead.

That ends my photos of the summer. But I have a lot more from the fall to get to. In my next post, we'll enjoy inauthentic participation in a culture that has nothing to do with hipsters.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Chop wood, carry water

Two (more) adventures with Kris.

Still catching up on photos from the end of the summer... Kris and I rode in the Tour de Fat, which is a bike parade put on by the New Belgium Brewery, makers of Fat Tire beer. It takes place in many cities over the summer. Last year I had done the one in Fort Collins, but this year I did the one in Denver, which was huge. People are encouraged to dress up, and then we all bike extremely slowly through the city.

It was fun getting to ride on streets normally taken up by lots of car traffic, like York (above, with flock of geese overhead) and 13th. Several of the people riding had big stereo systems attached to their bikes, and 80s gangsta rap was a popular choice of music... I think this is a Thing, but I'm not sure what to call it. Anyway, in the below video you can get a sense of what it was like to be in the parade.

Here we are coming up Lincoln, maybe? It was so crowded we had to take our feet off the pedals and shuffle along with dangling feet for much of the "ride." Also below, see some fellows dressed as Mormon missionaries with grade school backpacks, and King Soopers.

Above, Kris stabilizes herself during a stop on the back of one of the stereo setups, which was being pedaled by another king and his jester. The king had a scepter which he swung about meaningfully during the ride, until the head flew off. (If you are wondering whether I was also in costume, well, not really. I was wearing a cowboy hat and a flannel shirt, but I'm not sure that counts as a costume in Colorado.)

We were passed by a cute couple riding with their arms on each other's shoulders. Then a seemingly random  young man with kilt and older woman with sequinned dress decided to do the same, which was even cuter.

Here is some of the bike parking after the parade. There was a festival set up in City Park with beer, shows, and stuff, but after watching the yo-yo show Kris and I had to leave, because we were going backpacking.

We went to Goose Creek, which is somewhere southwest of Denver. We weren't going to be hiking very far, and somehow we decided that this meant we could bring a six-pack of beer. Which is still pretty heavy even if you're only going a few miles... in fact, I'm pretty sure beer weighs the same no matter how far you carry it. So we decided that we should start drinking it as we were hiking.

This photo is ridiculous. We were trying to build a fire and there was a big log up the hill that looked like we could roll it down toward the fire. Kris went to roll it and it fell to pieces. It was completely rotten, feather-light. We took turns shooting pictures that made us look like Mountain Women.

Some of you may remember my trip with Jess to Dominguez Canyons, in which we accidentally left the stove on all night and used all the fuel and had to cook over a fire for the rest of the trip. You may also remember the trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, in which we set Kris's stove on fire, twice. Well, before this particular trip I thought, "Maybe I should ask her if she's tested her stove since then." And then I thought, "Of course she has." So I didn't ask. But I should have asked.

The stove did not work. On looking into the bottom of it (for the first time ever, possibly), we found that one of the o-rings had been melted a little. It couldn't connect properly to the fuel canister. So we had to cook over the fire. Hey. We had wood-fired pizza, it was great. And beer.

The next day, Kris used my fine-pointed tick tweezers to pull the o-ring out, and put it in upside-down, so that the undamaged side would make contact with the canister. This worked, which allowed us to boil water for oatmeal without my clumsily dumping the water in the fire like at Dominguez Canyons. Then we set our remaining beer in a stream to stay cool, leaving Kris's hydration bladder too so we could fill it up on the way back to camp that evening, and we set off on a day hike to the old pump house.

Goose Creek flows through a valley of granite weathered into knobs and boulders. Some time ago, someone decided that they could make a dam by simply pouring cement into the holes between the boulders. They set up a camp in the Lost Creek Wilderness to accomplish this, but the project was abandoned before completion.

The carved letters on the doorway of this old house read, "Lost Creek Hilton." Below, an oddly weathered granite outcrop.

Mysterious machinery was rusting in the sun at the site of the old pump house.

If you hike a ways on a faint trail past the old pump house, you will come to this overlook of a lovely valley with stream and more granite boulders, with no obvious safe way down into it.

So many giant boulders lay together they formed cave-like environments, with clean floors and fire rings where people had camped, and with beautiful shafts of sunlight for taking pictures.

It was lots of fun. The joy of cave exploration without the cold mud, danger of getting lost, and head injuries of actual spelunking. Although come to think of it, I did still bang my head really hard at one point. Hm. So hard it still hurt an hour later. And then somehow forgot about it till just now.

We went back to camp and found that our beer was gone from the stream, along with Kris's hydration bladder. Kris went up the hill to make sure her wallet was still in the tent (it was). But this put both of us in a bad mood.

I tried my best to imagine that whoever had come by hadn't seen our tent, and stood there by the stream agonizing for several minutes over whether the items were forgotten and ought to be cleaned up, the wilderness brought back to its natural state, or whether the beer & bladder should be left there in case someone was returning for them. They called out, I imagined, searched and searched for some sign of a campsite, but finding none, eventually decided the items had become litter. I imagined it was a mom and dad and small daughter, their first time in the wilderness, and that the father was saying to his little girl, "Yes, I'm not sure but it looks like someone forgot their stuff. It's good to pick up litter, so we'll carry these back to the car."

Because it's just too rotten to imagine that some other hikers deliberately stole our stuff.

Unlike the city or the beach or the park, the wilderness is generally filled with folks who went to some trouble to get there, who did that because they really love to hike and want to do that and nothing else, who are already carrying a lot of their own stuff, purchased at great expense from REI with their yuppie white people money, and who have no inclination to take your stuff as well. Crimes of opportunity -- "Hey, they left their backpack on that towel, man, take it" -- rarely occur when you have to hike for two hours to get to the opportunity, and where everyone in the area is perceived as belonging to the same group (for instance, hikers) as you. I've been leaving valuable stuff around campsites my whole life and have never had anything stolen. The very idea that a fellow hiker or camper would steal something is abhorrent.

But now, not only did we have to deal with that disagreeable thought, we had no beer for supper.

Somehow we survived, and put the fire out and went to bed in the wind and the cold. And some indeterminate time later, Kris woke me up.

"Do you hear something?" she said. I did. It sounded like crackling. More startlingly, I also saw something -- light playing on the walls of the tent, as if we were back in the city and trees were tossing about under a street light. Our fire had started itself back up.

Well, there was no use groaning about the cold. There was an unattended fire burning in a bone-dry Colorado forest in September. So I put on some clothes and enough boots to cover all of my feet and we stumbled out to look at the fire. It was still in the pit.

We wanted to put it out with even more water than we'd used the first time, but we didn't have much water. There was that stream down the hill, but we didn't have much means of carrying water up from it -- untreated, the stream water would contaminate any container we used, and so we needed to save at least one of our containers to carry drinking water in tomorrow. (We could technically have filtered the stream water, but no way were we going to sit next to a stream for 15 minutes in the freezing cold pumping water that was just going to be thrown on a fire.) With Kris's hydration bladder gone and mine reserved for drinking from, that left us one Nalgene, which we decided to supplement with the plastic bag our pitas came in and another bag, and our cooking pot, so we'd each carry a container in each hand.

As we labored back up the hill it was clear that the plastic bags were compromised, so we tried to go fast. It is very difficult to run up a forested hill in the dark without spilling water out of your cooking pot. We put the water on the flames and the coals until we could put our hands on the coals, and then we went to bed again. In the morning we hiked out.

This is the view from just outside the wilderness area. There was a fire here. All over Colorado are mountainside swaths of bare and blackened trunks, each dead forest ugly and majestic at the same time. The small plants and wildflowers begin again immediately after a fire, of course, but the devastated trunks seem to last forever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


It's definitely no longer summer, but I never did get around to posting about the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, so here it is. I have this account for this post, and in subsequent posts will share my other adventures from the summer and fall, and they will have pictures.

I didn't take any pictures at the festival, mostly because I broke my camera the day before I left, but also because it's difficult to take a picture there that doesn't have topless women in it. The festival is 6 days long and it takes place on a parcel of woodland on the west side of Michigan. It is run and attended entirely by women. I don't have figures, but I believe this year there were something like 400 workers and 3,000 festivalgoers.

To get there, I got up at 4 in the morning and drove to a park n ride in Thornton, north of Denver, where I caught a bus to the airport. I did this because I'd booked a flight that was too early to allow me to leave on the bus from my house. I did that because I didn't want to pay for airport parking. When I got on the airport bus I saw it wasn't like the airport buses that I'd been on before, when I took the bus from home. There was no place to put luggage. It was all seats. And airport employees sleeping in the seats. The bus driver was confused by my trying to pay the fare. I don't think he'd ever had anyone do that before.

Once on the plane I flew to Phoenix, then to Chicago. I did this because a flight that connected in Phoenix was cheaper than Southwest's other options. I stood in the terminal at Sky Harbor looking out on the palm trees and wondered if maybe I shouldn't just have paid $40 more to sleep in, take the real airport bus, and spend 2 hours in the air instead of 6.

But, money is not what I have a lot of. Time is what I have a lot of.

Did you know that Chicago is enormous? Completely overwhelming. I've spent a lot of time in Manhattan and was never overwhelmed by it, so I don't know what it is about Chicago, but this doesn't appear to be an uncommon experience. As I took the light rail in from the airport, the city was mounded on the horizon in a cakelike symmetrical way that did not at all approximate Manhattan. Perhaps what made the city seem so overwhelming is that the light rail comes in at about the height of the second or third story of the buildings, letting you see a lot more than you could as a pedestrian. Your perspective is not limited to the concrete in front of you. The buildings go up and up and the canyons between them go on and on.

I got off the train... somewhere in the city... and met Kris, who'd gotten there before me to attend a bachelorette party. We were very happy to see each other and went to another train station to wait for another train. There was a concession stand in the train station that served margaritas and hot dogs, but it was closed.

Another hour on that train brought us to a suburb of Chicago, where a couple of Kris's friends from St. Louis picked us up. We drove and drove, on past dark, around the south end of Lake Michigan and up along its eastern shore. Then onto dirt roads, up into the woods. We began to pass cars that were parked on the side of the road. They were lined up to enter the festival, which wouldn't open until 1PM the next day. They were lined up on the left side of the road. At some point, the cops came and told us we could line up on the right, and each of the 100+ cars was started and moved a few feet. I didn't completely understand this ritual.

Kris and I set up hammocks in the woods. The next day, as the opening time approached, we walked to the head of the line and, when the festival opened, went in on foot. I didn't have a ticket because mine had never arrived in the mail, so I had to buy a new ticket, the price of which would be refunded after the festival if my original ticket didn't get used by someone else. This is a distressing system for the purchaser -- what if my original ticket was stolen and sold on ebay? -- but I understand why it would be the best option for an organization that cannot afford a lot of overhead.

And what a lovely place, the eastern woods. This is one of the things I miss most in Denver; being in a deciduous forest, where there's actually green and shade. I don't like these forests around Denver, which have only one kind of tree, some dry dark-green conifer that goes up without spreading out much, providing little shade. When you hike in a forest here you spend much of the hike in half to full sun. And the sun is so strong here! I live 5,000 feet above and some degrees south of where I grew up, and the air is so much clearer here, it makes the sun feel like an enemy rather than a friend too much of the time. But in Michgan the summer became a pleasant temperature again, and if I was ever hot I could just get in some shade, anytime I felt like it.

One of our friends from Denver was working the festival and had arrived ahead of time. She had set up our stuff for us, somewhere in the square mile of land the festival is held on. Somewhere my tent and pillow were waiting for me. Somewhere, our friend who knew where my tent and pillow were was working. This brings me to what is simultaneously one of the coolest and most frustrating things about Michfest, which is that there's no cell phone service there.

It's a blissful thing to not be surrounded by people talking loudly to their mothers or having cell-phone fights with their girlfriends while you're trying to watch a comedy act, but it's a bit frustrating to not be able to physically locate the people you care about and want to spend time with, which happened with some frequency throughout the week.

We did run into our friend and she described to us how to find our campsite, in one of the many camping areas on the property. We were quite near the kitchens, which also proved to be the best place to find people. Your friends may or may not be at concerts, or take showers at predictable times or places, or even come home at night, but everyone has to eat. The best way to find anyone was to wait for them to show up at lunch or dinner.

The kitchens were to me the most impressive operation at Michfest. Your ticket buys you three vegetarian meals a day, and cooking three meals a day for thousands of women in the middle of the woods. Partly this is managed with volunteers. Everyone who comes to the festival has to sign up for two four-hour shifts helping out somewhere. I did both of mine in the kitchen, plus helping out an extra shift when they were short-handed, so that might be where I developed my fascination for the machine.

There were two refrigerated trucks, a massive white tent, and some kind of assembly of wood-burning ovens that I did not get to see closely. It was either the Army or the National Guard who came once to learn how the women cooked for so many on wood-burning ovens, so they could adapt the technique to their own operations afield. Volunteers' shifts were staggered so that all through the day, while I was chopping tomatoes or eating or simply walking past on my way to somewhere, every couple of hours there was a new group of people putting on white aprons and listening to an instructory speech from a kitchen staff member standing on an upended white bucket.

After hours straight of slicing tomatoes at a high table with five other women, just slicing and talking, I thought, This is what so much of history has been like for women... sitting around the home with other women, preparing food. For hours and hours of every day. In Africa, in the Amazon, our ancestors spent a lot of time grinding corn or cassava.

When it was time to eat we lined up and filed under another tent to be served salad or burritos from great bins. Mealtimes were made simpler by the requirement that everyone bring, and wash, their own plate and silverware. A rack with hooks between the kitchen and the dishwashing station held hundreds of meal kits in mesh bags between meals.

And what was there to do when I wasn't in the kitchen? At any given time, there might be five different workshops going on, latin dance, writing, car repair, meditation, and improving your communication in relationships. There were three stages and a movie screen, and spoken word performances, independent films, comedy acts, and of course music played through the afternoon and evening. At night there were parades and firepits and parties and dance parties with a DJ, and a coffee shop under a tent with books and games and hay bales for seats, so that at any time between 8AM and 2AM the festival was quite like a city, with any number of places to go and things to do at any moment.

You could hop on the tractor for a ride across town to listen to the drummers at the Triangle firepit. The tractors are all driven by women. They are maintained by women; women also set up the stages and the sound systems, the outdoor open-air showers, the great tents that house the child care and the health care stations.

A composite day for me:

8AM - Wake up, no matter how tired I am or what time I got to bed the night before, because the crazy people with African drums have started playing already, and musicians are already rehearsing on one of the stages, full-blast.

8:30 - Go eat, because I am starving. Having food available at only three discrete mealtimes during the day means I have to employ the sort of forethought I never have to apply to food at home. After the first starving day, Kris and I began hoarding fruit and chunks of bread from breakfast in our backpacks.

9AM - Go to a workshop to learn salsa, merengue and bachata.

12PM - Eat lunch, because I am starving. Possibly eat a second lunch.

1-2:30 - Stand around outside the kitchen tent talking with friends and hoping that my crush will wander through.

2:30 - Go to a workshop to learn sex things.

4PM - Go back to my hammock and try to take a nap. End up spending the whole time talking with lovely neighbors from Madison.

5PM - Eat lunch because I am starving. Stop at "porta-Jane" on the way and read the latest postings which are now covering the inside of the plastic structure with notices about workshops, advertisements for sex toy shops in Chicago, and invitations to theme parties at the Twilight Zone camping area. Take an hour to eat because I put so much food on my plate, hopefully enough to last through tomorrow morning, that it literally takes an hour to get it all chewed and swallowed.

6PM - Find my friends at the acoustic stage, where a performance is winding down.

7PM - Spend an hour walking around the forest trying unsuccessfully to find Kris.

8PM - Go to Night Stage, where everyone goes for the big-name performers each night.

10PM - Leave Night Stage because I am not that interested in the performers, and wander around with some other people looking for things that look cool, like parties, or campfires. Spend the last half-hour wandering around in the dark by myself before going to sleep.

Many people I know who have been to Michfest remarked that it was the safest they had ever felt in their life. Not only is your person safe, but your belongings are too. Kris and I would leave our backpacks anywhere, for hours, and come back to find them untouched. It's also a very friendly environment. You could grab anyone if you needed help with anything.

Also, people followed rules. I have never seen so many people following rules at once in my life. About how short your chair must be to use at concerts, about not making noise, or not playing any music that had men's voices in it. But it's an odd kind of music festival. It attracts people who believe in particular ideals, rather than people who just want to get stoned and party and have sex (though I'm sure there was plenty of all that too).

I was told that about 90% of the attendees are queer, which makes it a neat reversal of real life. All of the dating- or relationship- related things I went to just assumed that you were gay. Also, it's really nice to be out and about and not have to wonder, Is she or isn't she? Which is just a thing that straight people take for granted. By and large, if you meet a cute girl at a pub, you're not going to be agonizing inside your head, "God, do you think she's straight??"

One of the things I found most interesting about the festival was that it devoted great thought and resources to four particular minority groups: deaf women, disabled women, women in recovery from substances, and women of color. The first three had their own camping areas: I walked through the deaf women's area once late at night, and was nearly blinded by the high-powered lanterns that enabled them to see each other signing. Their were sign language interpreters for every performance.

Forest paths were made wheelchair- and scooter-friendly by being covered in strips of carpet turned upside-down, the woven backing on top. There were buses to take those with mobility issues from one venue to another. There was another whole camping area for the women in recovery, with all kinds of 12-step meetings all day, and the concert areas had sections for substance-free seating. The women of color had their own gathering tent and firepit, where--unlike the other kinds of areas mentioned above--only they were allowed to enter, and they had many events of their own throughout the week.

Here is a photo one of our friends took of me and Kris, at the night stage. We were there just over a week, but it felt like a month. I came back from it a very different person -- something about being surrounded by 3,000 friends and potential friends, and so much acceptance and caring. I felt much softer and more open. This proved impossible to maintain once I returned to real life. The loneliness for a few weeks after coming back was terrible... it makes me wonder anew at our modern age, where I live alone in a box, and each of my friends is in their own box miles away from me. It was so different.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wonder Woman all day long

Since my last entry, I've been to the mountains, to a glacier, to Utah and Michigan, as well as having fun in Denver. Here are some photos!

Friends play volleyball in Denver's Wash Park at Dusk.

St. Mary's glacier... yes, it still has snow. That's what makes it a glacier.

Some photos from Denver Pridefest...

I believe that once upon a time, gay pride was about being visible, speaking out against oppression, and celebrating culture. Now it appears to be mostly about selling things, often through the use of terrible puns.

The country tent was disappointingly empty this year... here, Kris and I dance all alone.
And Cori and I...
And Kris and Cori.
Below, an amusing still from one of my videos.

The Denver Dyke March. I was walking in this by accident. I was supposed to be volunteering for it, but they didn't seem to need my help.

Then I had a birthday party. It was Lesbian Laser Tag. We had a long lull in between the two games you get for a birthday party, and I guess you're supposed to have ordered pizza so you can eat it then, but I did not order pizza. So my friends all drifted over to the liquor store just outside and then stood around drinking out of paper bags. Below are my friends from book club... we're very classy.

One day I got up at 5 AM and drove up into the mountains and hiked a long way so that I could photograph wildflowers in the morning light. So here are lots of pictures of wildflowers.

Abby and I had a white board we would use to let each other know our schedules... I came home one evening to find this on it.

Then I went to Utah. Not because of that, just because I wanted to. Paleontologist Randy Irmis was doing some research in Dinosaur National Monument, and I wanted to visit him and also my boss from last summer when I worked in the park. I arrived about sunset time.

It brought back a lot of memories to see the storm cloud forming over Blue Mountain... many evenings from the employee housing area I watched the exact same show as it got dark.

Dan Chure, the park paleontologist, unrolled a cast that had been made of the track site I discovered last year. This is a good way to preserve and study the 200-million year old tracks, which were in a not-very-accessible location in the backcountry.

Here's a photo of me with the actual tracks, from last year.

I suppose it isn't very easy to tell what you're looking at on the cast, but there are some left and right footprints made by a small mammal-like reptile walking diagonally up a dune face. (The tracksite is very exciting, as it also contains footprints made by spiders and scorpions.)

I was well cared-for during my time there, as Randy's group had a mess tent with all manner of food and alcohol that I was allowed full access to in return for volunteering my labor.

Prospecting for fossils in the park.

Excavating the ichthyosaur I discovered last year...

It turns out that one of the park's interns this summer was a fellow student from URI.

I collected invertebrate fossils outside the park to give to friends.

And I finally got to see the quarry visitor center, which had been undergoing reconstruction the previous summer. The huge wall of bones is now attended by new interpretive signs.

I took that picture on the sign! The caption says, "Removing small fossilized animals from the rocks formed in lakes and ponds is delicate work." Except that's not what my former boss and his fellow researcher are doing. They're just kneeling on the ground pretending to look at things with hand lenses, because the exhibit design team needed a photo for the sign.

The wall of bones itself is as magnificent as ever.

The morning I left, I went back to the ichthyosaur site to see if they had uncovered anything else. Here are some bones that look hairy because the roots of surface plants have grown into them... bones, or fossilized bones, contain minerals not in the soil, so plants seek them out.

Vertebrae with roots.

I spent a couple hours shoveling in the hot sun. Not quite as glamorous as Jurassic Park.

Abby's going away pool party was not long after I got back. Abby has now started law school in San Francisco and I miss her!

And then I went to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. I meant to talk about it in this blog entry, but it's taken way too long to get it finished and uploaded, so this is all there is until next time. But more adventures soon.