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All posts for the month October, 2016

Let’s see if I can get back on this horse here. I try to do NaNoWriMo every year and November is just around the corner. Hopefully I’ll be able to produce at least one blog post a day through the month (though I’ll probably keep going on the every other day pattern for posting). We’ll see what happens once we get there.

In other news, I’m still having trouble reading the issue in one tab while writing in the other, so it looks like I’ll be balancing the issue on my knee for the foreseeable future.

The New Oil Landscape, by Edwin Dobb, photographs by Eugene Richards

It’s interesting that this issue comes along in my reading just as the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline are making headlines, because fracking in North Dakota is what this article is about. Also, the induced earthquakes in Oklahoma have made news recently, though the government of Oklahoma assures us that fracking is not causing the earthquakes. Oklahoma insists that it’s from wastewater wells. I’m dubious about whether that’s for real or not, but I do think that our continued dependence on fossil fuels is a losing proposition in general.

I’ve been pricing rooftop solar and backyard wind turbines. I’d also like to convert my car to electricity some day, but Alex is trying to sell me on biodiesel.

The New Oil Landscape is a long article. I half-expected that it would take up most of the issue because it just kept going and going, taking up pages 28 through 59. I knew that there would be at least one other article because I’d already read the article on bonobos (more on that in a future blog post).

In The New Oil Landscape, we talk a lot about the people affected by fracking, including the workers and a family who were evicted so that an oil company could move their employees into their apartment complex.

Night Gardens, by Cathy Newman, photographs by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel

This is another article that’s pretty much just what it says in the title. Two pages of text on gardens at nighttime are surrounded by photographs of, well, gardens at nighttime. And the White Garden of Sissinghurst in the UK gets a mention. Sissinghurst was the first place we visited when we went on our big UK trip in 2002. The white garden was lovely, but I fell in love with the white wisteria tree hanging over the brick wall. I wish that wisteria weren’t quite so invasive, because I would dearly love to reproduce that.

Instead, I’ve planted two Texas mountain laurels, which are similar in look, although purple, rather than white (the flowers actually smell like grape candy!) but less invasive. Upon doing some research I find that there is such a thing as a white mountain laurel. Maybe something to consider for my next spate of tree-planting.

The drive back to Salt Lake City from Jensen took a bit longer than Google Maps said it would. This was at least partly due to the fact that I was so over the seats in that car.

Once we arrived back in Salt Lake City, I had three goals: 1. to see the state capitol building (and, at one point, I could have crossed a moon tree off my list, but it is dead now); 2. to see City Creek, which was the water source for the early city (and still supplies water to the city today); and 3. to make it back to the airport in a timely manner.

And I achieved all three.

The trip to the capitol building took us up State Street (which makes sense), which eventually becomes one very lane going uphill. It was near the end of the work day (around 4:30 or so), so I figured that most traffic would be headed away from the capitol. I’m not sure why so many cars were headed towards the building at this time of day, but the road was very congested. This was not my favorite part of our trip, and made me wish we had had a little more time and energy on our first day in Salt Lake City to hike up the hill to the capitol. The view of the capitol building once you emerge from this narrow street is very impressive, I’ll give it that.

Once you reach the capitol, you find a street, with the understandable name of “Capitol Street” that makes a circuit around the building. Due to the congestion we didn’t even attempt to make a left and instead just took a right turn. Along the eastern side of the capitol is a very small parking area, so we parked and I got out to take pictures. There was no time to go inside the building.

It was so late at this point, that I despaired of being able to see City Creek until I looked at my phone and noticed that the creek went right past the spot where we were parked. The parking area is at the very edge of City Creek Canyon. So Alex stayed by the car and I took the winding path down into what turned out to be Memory Grove Gardens.

At first, I have to admit that I thought that Memory Grove Gardens looked like a cemetery. I was unaware of the name of this plot of land at this point, but  even the name sounds kind of cemetery-like. The path ended at a replica of the Liberty Bell. As I looked around a saw several marble monuments that looked more than vaguely like graves to my eyes.

City Creek, Memory Grove Gardens Park, Salt Lake City

City Creek, Memory Grove Gardens Park, Salt Lake City, 2017

I spent quite a bit of my childhood visiting a great-aunt and great-uncle who lived down the street from a cemetery, so I’m no stranger to spending time in cemeteries. I thought it might be disrespectful to take pictures, though. Then I noticed some people walking dogs and decided that if it’s okay to walk dogs, it’s probably okay to take pictures there.

I think I saw some kind of sign indicating that this was a park at this point. I’m trying to remember (it was two and a half months ago and the Google Maps car has apparently not been along Canyon Road down there yet). I think the sign indicated where the off-leash area for dogs stops. So I got some pictures of the park, the creek, and the walls of the canyon and went back up to the car. I had been down there for a while, and Alex was about to come down after me.

We got back in the car and filled our gas tank at a very small gas station down the street from the Temple and then headed back to the airport. And even with the late start and everything we still got there in time to recharge our phones before we got on the plane (I also caught a Ponyta at the gate).

Like Fox Park, Leon Vista Park is another park that more or less is just a trail head for the Leon Creek Greenway. It is a very nice trail head for the Leon Creek Greenway (and leads to an area that is probably my favorite section of the greenway so far), but that’s basically all it is.

McAllister Park on the other hand, is a very different animal.

At what I estimate to be over a thousand acres, McAllister Park gives the impression of being larger on the inside than it is on the outside. The park is bounded by five pretty busy streets, and while driving on most of them, you would never guess that a park of that size lurks back there. The first time we went to McAllister Park, I parked my car by one of the playgrounds and Alex and I walked. And walked. And walked.We had no idea how much park was there until we explored. And after two more visits, we still haven’t seen all of it. There is one part of the park that heads off to the northwest and I have never been able to find that path at all.

Raccoon footprints McAllister Park, 2014

Usually my pictures are all, “look at this vista,” “look at this architecture,” “look at this historic site.” So here’s “look at these raccoon footprints.” Because raccoon footprints. McAllister Park, 2014

My most recent visit was an attempt to continue the Salado Creek Greenway. I had followed the greenway from Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park to U.S. 281, but no farther. There is a nice parking lot for the trailhead in McAllister Park. This parking lot also serves the dog park which is in that corner of the park. Then you walk for nearly 3/4 of a mile (1.2 km) before you even get to the greenway. Now that we’re aware of that, we need to set aside more time than we had that day to try it again. We will make it someday, though.  Or maybe I’ll attempt it myself on a day off now that Alex is back in school and the weather is cooling off.

With four picnic pavilions, a dog park, two playgrounds, sports fields, and more than 17 miles of hiking and/or biking trails, McAllister Park is not what you’d call a quiet place to contemplate nature in solitude. If you are the kind of person who likes to people-watch, or who just feels safer with potential witnesses around, McAllister may be your kind of park.

McAllister is a park, so some of the paths are paved and level, and thus wheelchair accessible. Some paths are less so and accessible by wheelchair users with great upper-body strength. And some are just dirt paths and only accessible to people traveling on foot (and not even them, sometimes, when it’s been raining).

Living with the Wild, by David Quammen, photographs by various photographers

In this final installment of Quammen’s article about Yellowstone, he talks about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He discusses where the term came from, the area it relates to, and how the park itself is impacted by things that happen in the “greater ecosystem” in general. You see, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is not just the park itself, but the surrounding area.

One of the biggest problems is that, well, there are people in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and people have an impact everywhere they go. Most notably, once an animal leaves the park itself, it becomes potential prey for human hunters. And since the park is not fenced off, animals are entering and leaving the park all the time.

Additionally, some of the bison can carry brucellosis, a disease that can be transmitted to cattle and that causes cows to miscarry their calves. No cases of brucellosis being transmitted to cattle from Yellowstone bison have been found yet, but the potential is there, which causes conflicts between ranchers and the park.

The copy of the issue that I have (and likely the same layout that everyone got) suddenly stops in the middle of a sentence on page 137. We go on to some other material for four pages, and then we pick up where we left off on page 142. There is no “(continued on page 142)” or anything.

Quammen has no answers to the questions about what will happen to Yellowstone in the future. One of the people he speaks with, Dave Hallac, former chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources, says that Yellowstone is facing a “creeping crisis”and doesn’t hold out much hope for the park. Is Hallac right? The scientists involved with Yellowstone are hoping they can forestall the crisis and save the park.

Other Material in this Part of the Issue

Voices: Bill Hoppe (Rancher, Wolf-Release Critic)

Voices: Leo Teton (Member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Fort Hall Reservation, Idaho)

Dance of the Bison and Elk, a pictorial

Land of the People, another pictorial

Voices: Becky Weed (Rancher, Belgrade, Montana)

I know that the traditional image of dinosaurs is as being an interest that children outgrow, but I have to admit that I’ve never outgrown my interest in dinosaurs. So when I was looking at routes between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone and saw Dinosaur National Monument on there, I knew that we had to visit it.

In 1908 a group of paleontologists had found the femur of a Diplodocus near Vernal, Utah. Most of the bones had already been removed from that area, but farther on, they found a line of Apatosaurus tail bones. This area became the Carnegie Quarry. I cannot find any definitive answers regarding how many dinosaurs have been found there, but the tail bones they found were part of an entire Apatosaurus which is now on display in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.

Alex and I arrived relatively early that morning, driving through the rain from our hotel in Vernal to the Jensen entrance to the park. We nosed around in the Visitor’s Center for a while and then took the tram up to the Quarry Exhibit Hall, which encloses what is left of the original Carnegie Quarry. And there’s really not much left of the quarry. There’s a diagram showing that the current Quarry Exhibit Hall area is about a quarter of the size of the original wall. If you take it in three dimensions, it’s an even smaller proportion than that.

Alex and I spent quite some time looking at the bones in the wall. I took lots of pictures and asked two women working there what I should make sure to photograph. The one who answered me said that she liked an area that was mostly spines.

spines, Dinosaur National Monument

The wall of spines, Dinosaur National Monument, 2016

There is also a spot where visitors can touch one of the bones in the wall. Of course Alex and I had to touch it, because why pass up an opportunity like that?

About a thousand years ago, this area was also home to the Fremont, a Native American people. The Fremont left their mark on the region as well (though more intentionally than the dinosaurs did). Some of the rocks of the park have petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are designs carved into the rock and pictographs are designs painted on to the rock.

We had to hit the road if we wanted to spend any more time in Salt Lake City, so we only went to the closest section of petroglyphs, in what is known as the “Swelter Shelter.” I had seen pictures of the drawings of humans out by McKee Springs, but the road out there is dangerous when it’s raining, so we opted not to go out that far. Maybe someday, though.

Sorry for the gap, but I’ve been stressed out lately and so dealing with that took precedence over blogging. I need to get more prewritten posts racked up before this happens again. Oh, well, this is a learning process, isn’t it?

Now, on to the issue.

Into the Backcountry, by David Quammen, photographs by various photographers

In this part of the issue, we talk about wolves, grizzlies, and elk. Quammen spends a while talking about changes to the environment and the introduction of lake trout to Yellowstone Lake. You’d think that lake trout would thrive in Yellowstone. And you’d be right. The problem is that the lake trout are thriving just a little too much. Grizzly bears eat cutthroat trout. The cutthroat trout eat bugs on the surface of the water and come into the rivers to spawn which make them available for the grizzlies to eat. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

The lake trout outcompete the cutthroat trout and are also basically unavailable to bears. The lake trout eat crustaceans from the bottom of the lake and also spawn down there, meaning that their nutrients are locked inside their bodies for too long to support the grizzly.

As a result, for the last five years, Yellowstone has hired a company from Door County Wisconsin which brings boats and nets and slaughters literally tons of lake trout every day. The dead lake trout are then dumped back into the lake so that their nutrients will be available to the ecosystem once again. Quammen doesn’t believe that this will end the reign of the lake trout, but the humans are trying the best they can to restore the balance to the ecosystem.

Other Sections in This Part of the Issue:

Voices: John Craighead, wildlife biologist

The Carnivore Comeback, a pictorial of predators

Tracking the Wildlife Highways, another pictorial, this time of migrations, including a section on the migration of pronghorn.