Archive for December, 2010
Back to some chronological leaping around. A couple of days ago, I added to the account of our November travels through Utah. Today, I’m jumping forward to yesterday. I would like to share some photos taken over the past forty-eight hours, illustrating what the dogs and I did in lieu of celebrating christmas. The night before last, I presented good friends with a 12 x 16 inch canvas of the “Nevermore Cat”. As most of you know, it is based on Paul Gauguin’s 1897 painting Nevermore. In 2008, I had created a smaller version on some canvas board, but decided to make a larger version on a stretched canvas, this time working from a better photograph of their cat. My friends were surprised and pleased when I handed over the finished painting. (Note: Click on all photos for larger views).
Yesterday, I spent the morning working around the place and then playing guitar for awhile. Around noon, a friend called to ask if I might like to go for a walk around town. I’m always game for that as Bisbee is a place unlike any other. For those who harbor an appreciation of art, architecture, building materials, texture, and history, there is much to see. I never fail to see something new each time I go for a stroll with my camera. Yesterday proved to be especially nice as there were so few people out and about. That’s a rare thing as there are usually dozens of tourists wandering around the streets on any given day.
My friend and I are both art and architecture junkies, so our attention was drawn to stone, tile and ironwork, old doors and windows, cast-iron manhole covers, metal rain gutters, crumbling concrete walls, graffiti, hand-painted signs and lettering on brickwork, and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t even begin to go into here.
As mentioned, each time I wander around town, I see something that I’ve never noticed before. Yesterday’s coup was the above panel of an agave and kangaroo rats, and its twin, a panel of a yucca and a horned lizard.
For some time, I’ve been meaning to stop and photograph the wonderful gate and figures created by metal sculptor, Benjamin Dale. If you have spent any amount of time walking around Bisbee, you will have encountered his work. More examples can be found on his website.
Our afternoon walk-and-photo session was cut short when we ran into friends who were heading over to Whitewater Draw to visit the Sandhill Cranes. My friend and I decided to join them, tossed our binoculars and cameras into the van, and made the short drive to the playa where the cranes gather between foraging forays. On this occasion, they were on the east side of the playa, affording a very good view. We remained for an hour or so before heading back to town. I arrived home in time for my evening walk-about with the dogs before making our dinner – leftover stir-fry from the previous night. Not your traditional holiday fare, but then, who keeps track of this kind of thing anymore? Not I.
I continue with the account of our travels through Utah in November. The last post featured several of the old buildings encountered along Route 89 between Sevier and Kanab.
Based on the writings and photos in this blog, it probably seems as though the dogs and I are always on the move. While it’s true that we do cover a lot of distance during our autumn travels, as often as possible, I try find suitable places where we can rest and also do a little exploring. Over the past three migrations, the high desert region around Kanab has become yet another home to us. Yes, if you travel enough times through an area, you will become grounded by that place. You’ll get to know where to find fresh produce, the location of the regional BLM office and local library, the gas station where your Canadian credit card will work without a hassle at the self serve pumps. Stay a little longer and you’ll learn the short cuts from one part of the county to another, talk to local people and find out about interesting sights that aren’t described in any tourist guide, meet other travelers who share the secret locations of their favourite campsites, hiking trails, or rock art sites. Stay in a place less than three days and chances are that you will miss out on all of the above.
The area where we camp is on the high desert west of Kanab, at an elevation of about 6000 feet (1800 meters). The geology is fascinating – wind-eroded layers of Navajo sandstone forming undulating cliffs of yellow through pink. It’s a place of sagebrush, juniper and pinyon. I’ve posted more than the usual number of photos because I wanted to share how it feels to wander through this landscape. I tried to narrow it down to the usual 4 or 5, but soon realized this was an impossible task. Even with this collection, it seems that I’m not doing the place justice. You will just have to go there yourself.
When in this region, I usually camp at a little BLM site. As we travel through either very early or late in the season, we are most often alone, or see only another camper or two. That’s how I prefer it to be. When camped alone, I leave the blinds pushed up so that we can gaze out upon the landscape, and watch the moon and stars wheel across the night sky.
We awake to the sound of Ravens investigating our campsite – a common event when camped in the high desert. Lying in bed, I watch the dawn light illuminate the bark of a towering Ponderosa, staining it a rosy pink. I notice that the leader and several other branches are missing. It seems a wonder that this grove of tall trees manages to survive in such an arid place.
The dogs and I are in no hurry to rise as, in spite of the warm rays of light, it is yet quite cold. We lie looking out across the landscape, watching as the sun climbs higher. Soon the air temperature in the van will rise rapidly. Our neighbour from last night drives off to put in a day of work at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. He had stopped around the previous evening to say hello to Sage and Sabrina. We stood talking a short while. He told me he drives quite a long distance to stay in this area while doing volunteer work for a couple of weeks three times each year. He has been doing this for the five years since his wife died. He says it is therapeutic – it helps him to feel better. There’s another lone man camped nearby, also volunteering at the sanctuary. I wonder about his story. Is it similar? I ponder over how strange it is that I cross paths with others such as myself – people whose lives have been so radically disrupted by fate – all of us now searching for some way to find meaning in what remains.
Our campsite borders on a geologic feature known as the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Some areas of the dunes are now preserved for nature observation and scientific study. Other large sections are now part of an extensive ORV trail system that spans hundreds of miles of southwest Utah. This unusual landscape is home to several rare species of flora and fauna. It is the only place where the rare Coral Pink Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle (Cicindela limbata albissima) can be found.
By day, the dogs and I go for walks on the nearby sand dunes. There are animal tracks everywhere. It seems that even the smallest expanse of sand is criss-crossed by mice, rabbit, deer, birds, beetles or any one of a number of other creatures that forage about between the sagebrush and other vegetation.
People often say to me that they don’t like the desert because it’s so dry and lifeless. I wonder that we can be thinking of the same place. Their desert is a silent, hostile place, devoid of all life. My desert is filled with the scurrying of tiny lizards, the slow and ponderous progress of pinacate beetles, the chirps, whistles and songs of birds, and the busy foraging of rodents and other wildlife. Can these two visions of one place exist in parallel?
By November, daylight hours become noticeably less. We end our walks by four so that I have time to cook dinner and clean up before darkness falls. I sit in my folding chair while the dogs stretch out on mats that I put down to keep their coats free of sand and stickers. Most nights, we share the same food. I’ve found they do better and keep well on my own cooking as opposed to purchased dog foods. After clean-up, we go for a last walk of the day and then find a place to watch as the sun sets and the stars come out to play. That is how we live our days on the high desert.