My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Serendipitous Times Two

 Dateline: November 5

On the day we had to leave Zion, Lucy and I got up early and had our camp packed up and were ready to travel by 7:00 AM. We took the Zion to Mt. Carmel Highway to the East Entrance of Zion.,continuously stopping to take pictures of the huge beautiful formations in the early sunlight. (This highway is a HUGE engineering feat- check the link for more details.)  Lucy was teasing me about stopping so much when we did yet another stop.  But this time another car pulled in behind us and the driver jumped out and  invited us to go see petroglyths. Of course both of us were ready to follow him - he was too young to think this might be equivalent to going to see his etchings. And he had a female companion with him.   We had a wonderful time walking a draw through  a masonry culvert, built along with the highway by the National Park Service, and then going back another eighth of a mile or so and finding many beautiful petroglyths. Then it was my turn to tease Lucy about my impeccable sense of timing. But it was pretty amazing that we happened to stop just before the other couple did. And this was the only stop of maybe 20 where anyone else had stopped with us.

Walking through the tunnel under the road

We found petroglyphs at two spots.  They are not advertised but there are  informational signage near them.  They have a fence in front of them to keep people from touching them but some are in poor condition.And many were where I couldn't get a decent picture of them.

This looks like a cat chasing a deer to me.

Look hard to see two dog-like animals

This looks like a crab which made no sense to me

We also got to see this beautiful view from the trail

After we left Zion, we were soon in the Grand Staircase-Escalente National Monument  and stopped several times to take pictures and go to a  Visitor Center where we browsed the exhibits and  watched a movie about the area, before taking a scenic drive. (About the time we reached the visitor center, Lucy decided she wanted to see more of the area and gave up a day in Santa Fe to stay here.)

A few views from our scenic drive:

This was part of a group of derelict houses/barns. They must have a story.

Just when I thought we might be ready to start driving without stopping, we found another beautiful Visitor Center that had a unique design based on an Anominite. Lucy walked in and asked, " Who designed this? "  "I did", answered one of the staff.

Big Waters Visitor Center

We found out that this person was Merle Graffam, a local guy, self-taught in paleontology, who had discovered several  new species of dinosaurs in the immediate area and was now  working as an interpreter of the site.  With great enthusiasm, (both his wild enthusiasm and his hair style made me feel that he was kin.) he told us the story of the dinosaurs in the land of Laramidia in a way that transported us there.

The red dot in Laramidia is now in this monument

The left side of the mural showing earliest dinosaurs and sea creatures

Merle discussing the dinosaurs with us

He explained the mural which was the pictorial history of the different dinosaurs  discovered here, and explained how scientists had found and excavated them all. (The dinosaurs are painted in order of their appearance on earth.) He handed us pictures of several of the dinosaurs, including Nothronychus graffami, named for him after he discovered  its toe sticking out of the ground.  (It's the one that is upside down in the mural because that is the way it was found.   It's believed that it was a land dinosaur that was killed and carried by a river  60 miles into the ocean where it finally sunk and was buried in the mud.) As soon as he finished talking to us, he left.  We would have missed this wonderful opportunity to meet a person so closely involved with the discovery of many new dinosaur species  and have such a personal interpretation of the area's paleontology, had we arrived only five minutes later.

The right side of the mural showing some of the latest dinosaurs to develop as well as dinosaur-birds.  There are several links there between dinosaurs and birds.

 Deinosuchus, the 29 foot alligator relative that could kill dinosaurs
This area doesn't have the stunning scenery of Zion and Bryce, but has it own beauty and  is an exciting, dynamic place to visit if you are interested in dinosaurs. It's also extremely wild, has no developed campsites. and you need a permit to camp there. And it's unique in that the Bureau of Land Management manages it.

These rocky outcroppings were scattered across the prairie

Another beauty
Merle also reminded me that some of us skim across the earth and only see the most visible essence of things, while others stay in one place and dig deeply todiscover the totality of things and experiences. Merle's way of seeing reminded me of William Least Heat Moon's book on PrairyEarth, which is the study of the deep history of one county in Kansas.  Both groups are kinds of  travelers, one moving through space and the other through time.   And the third group of people barely move and see almost nothing.

While this was waiting to be posted, I  was reading Life Nomadic, by Tynan.  This is a wonderful little book with lots of good ideas about how to go about living without a fixed address. He also has found lots of good quotes. This one really matches what I was thinking about listening to Merle's talk.:

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started...and know the place for the first timeT.S. Eliot

On the home front, I've been up several hours, making curried butternut squash soup for supper, trying to get more of my junk put away, cleaning up from a major cooking day yesterday, and getting ready to go paddling this morning. Then I need to rush home and work on getting pansies and other baby plants in the ground.  This requires major weeding to get rid of Burmuda grass first. I also have to remember to get the turkey out of the brine - will cook it tomorrow, then slice and put away, separated into light and dark meat batches in gravy for Thanksgiving on the Neches River.