A friend once referred to me as a tumbleweed. I wasn't sure—at first—whether I liked the image. But…a tumbleweed, once mature, rolls with the force of the wind. "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). A tumbleweed? Yes. I do try to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 30:21: "And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.'"
Celebrating America’s National Parks, a book on which I collaborated with Florida-based photographer, Clyde Butcher (his images, my words) was released in 2016.
This volume features parks ranging from Maine’s Acadia to Alaska’s Denali to Florida’s Everglades. Shared alongside Clyde’s images, that he captured over a span of 50 years, are the fascinating details I discovered on the histories and heroes, flora and fauna, landscapes and legends of each of the included parks. In these pages, readers learn about the most sublime of earthly spectacles, that is the Grand Canyon, the hoodoo-iferous terrain that is found in Bryce Canyon, and much more.
BOOK DETAILS: Size: 9″ X 9 1/2″, Pages: 192, Reproduction: quad-tone, Images: 108 Full Page, 16 Double Page Spreads.
Also available is a limited edition collector’s set, a signed and numbered run of 250 with a silver gelatin print of the 8 ½” X 5” “Moon Over the Tetons.”
I’m delighted to announce that my photographs will soon be available for purchase at Grand Canyon National Park and via an e-commerce site I will launch later this month (I’ll post a link when the site is good to go)!
The Grand Canyon Association, the park’s non-profit partner, features only a handful of photographers and my work was chosen from more than 400 submissions. My website will not only have Canyon photos, but also images from Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon, Death Valley, Chimayo, Pearl Harbor, Santa Fe, San Antonio and many other locations around the country. The site will also feature photos of wildlife and scenes from “the road”.
Featured photo: Sunset at Navajo Point, Grand Canyon National Park
For nearly a year now, I’ve had the privilege of living and working in Grand Canyon National Park. In late June, I was among some 1,100 attendees participating in one of the four nights of the 24th annual Grand Canyon Star Party. Astronomers from across the country, operating nearly 50 telescopes that were set up behind the Visitors’ Center, invited folks to get a glimpse of the planets in our own solar system as well as nebulae and star clusters sitting millions upon millions of light years distant from us.
The evening took me back to my childhood in Massachusetts where I spent many, many nights out under the stars looking up at a resplendent Milky Way. I am heartbroken to note that, if I were to return to the town of my birth today, it’s more than unlikely that I would catch even a fleeting glimpse of that Milky Way. Eight out of ten Americans today won’t ever live where they can see their own galaxy, their own solar system. More than two-thirds of Americans and Europeans no longer experience real night—that is, real darkness—and nearly all of us in the world live in areas considered polluted by light.
In Episode 31 of On the Road with Mac and Molly, I chat with Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night, about the disintegration of what is natural into what is artificial. In this critically important book, Paul opens our eyes to how much we lose cooped up, as we are, under a perpetual glare.
At one point in the book, Bogard tells of a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York where, he suggests, one can see “real darkness.” There, he notes, fifty million people each year pass by a painting of “a small, dark town, a few yellow-orange gaslights in house windows, under a giant swirling and waving blue-green sky.” In The Starry Night, painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889, we see our world “before night had been pushed back to the forest and the seas, from back when sleepy towns slept without streetlights.” The Starry Night is “an imagined sky inspired by a real sky much darker than the towns we live in today.”
In a letter from the summer of 1888, Van Gogh described the night sky he saw overhead during a visit to a French beach: “The deep blue sky was flecked with clouds of a deeper blue than the fundamental blue of intense cobalt, and others of a clearer blue, like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way. In the blue depth the very stars were sparkling, greenish, yellow, white, pink, more brilliant, more sparkling gemlike than at home—even in Paris: opals you might call them, emeralds, lapis lazuli, rubies, sapphires.”
For most of us today, when we can see stars, most of these appear to be white so the idea that stars come in different colors seems wildly impossible. But, Bogard insists that if one were to “gaze long enough in a place dark enough that stars stand in clear three-dimensional beauty,” one would “spot flashes of red, green, yellow, orange and blue.” When Bogard made the visit to MoMA, he was in search of not only The Starry Night but also Giacomo Balla’s Street Light, a painting, dated 1909, that is so little known that the museum doesn’t even keep it on display. While Van Gogh’s painting depicts, what Bogard calls, “old night,” Balla’s is a painting of “night from now on.” Bogard notes: “In both paintings, the moon lives in the upper right corner, and for Van Gogh, the moon is a throbbing yellow presence pulsing with natural light. But for Balla, the moon has become a little biscuit wafer hanging on for dear life, overwhelmed by the electric streetlight. And that, in fact, was Balla’s purpose. “Let’s kill the Moonlight!” was the rallying cry from Balla’s fellow Italian futurist, Filippo Marinetti. These futurists believed in noise and speed and light—human light, modern light, electric light. What use could we now have of something so yesterday as the moon?”
In his book and in Episode 31 of On the Road, we travel with Bogard around the globe to find night where it still lives…showing exactly what we’ve lost, what we have left and what we might hope to regain. We hear how the loss of night is not only a loss of beauty above us. More light at night does not, as some insist, ensure greater safety and security; properly designed light at night does. Exposure to artificial light at night has been cited as a factor in health concerns ranging from poor sleep to cancer. Light pollution is also threatening the health of the world’s ecosystems as everything from reproduction cycles to migration patterns are adversely affected by artificial light at night. But there is hope. Light pollution is one kind of pollution we can readily fix. And, as the jacket cover of the book proclaims: Bogard’s “panoramic tour of the night, from its brightest spots to the darkest skies we have left gives us every reason to flip the switch—tonight.”
The Adventures of Salt and Soap at Grand Canyon is the true story of two puppies who wandered into the Canyon and maneuvered their way into some great escapades–multiple rim-to-river hikes, a white-water rafting trip, and even a helicopter ride—all while ultimately snuggling their ways into park rangers’ hearts.
The author of this charming book for children, interpretive ranger Lori Rome, adopted this pair of adventurers after meeting them at the bottom of the Canyon at Phantom Ranch, the historic oasis on the north side of the Colorado River that’s tucked in right next to Bright Angel Creek. She took Salt and Soap in as “lost and found items” but, with Lori, the intrepid duo found a home. And home for all of them is now Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah where they’ve been joined by a third dog (another stray, Mo, whose proper name is Morri, after the Morrison rock formation near where he was found).
In this episode of On the Road with Mac and Molly, I chat with Lori about Salt, Soap and their buddy Morri. Lori gives us entrée to her life as a ranger in parks from Alaska to Florida, shares stories about pets and wildlife in the parks, and details her exciting work with mountain lions at Capitol Reef.
Pet Life Radio is the largest and #1 pet radio network on the planet, featuring weekly pet-related talk shows hosted by the most well-known pet experts, authors and radio and TV personalities in the world of animals and pets. With over six million monthly listeners Pet Life Radio has hosted celebrity guests like Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Betty White, Rachael Ray, and many more. Pet Life Radio was honored with a 2012 Genesis Award (Humane Society of the United States), and is the official radio media sponsor of the 2013 and 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.
Pet Life Radio is available free on-demand from the PetLifeRadio.com website and over 30 podcast distributors. The Pet Life Radio live radio stream is broadcast 24/7 worldwide on the PetLifeRadio.com home page as well as to smart phones, mobile devices and cars through mobile apps including iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, TuneIn Radio, Stitcher Radio, Nokia Radio and ooTunes Radio. Pet Life Radio has millions of pet loving listeners worldwide.
On Monday, the National Park Service marked the 58th anniversary of the mid-air collision of two commercial airliners over the Grand Canyon with wreath laying ceremonies at the United Airlines Memorial in Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery and the TWA Memorial in the Flagstaff Citizens Cemetery.
On Tuesday, July 8, a new National Historic Landmark will be dedicated and I’ll be heading out to that memorial service with fellow instructors from the Grand Canyon Field Institute.
The disaster led to the formation of the Federal Aviation Administration and the air traffic control system that we use today.
The Grand Canyon Railway is celebrating the history of vintage rail travel with several steam-powered excursions to the Grand Canyon. On Presidents’ Day, locals and tourists descended on the canyon’s station to take photographs of the 91 year-old Locomotive No. 4960 on the occasion of a special visit. This beauty was built in 1923 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia and was used in a freight and coal hauling service for the Midwestern Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) railroad until the late 1950s. It made its first official run on the Grand Canyon line in 1996 and, today, it is fueled by waste vegetable oil (WVO).
Locomotive No. 4960 will be taking visitors to the canyon on the first Saturday of each month starting April 5 and continuing until September 6. Additional runs will be made on Earth Day (April 19) and on the Grand Canyon Railway’s anniversary (September 17).
According to the railway company, “trains began traveling to the Grand Canyon Sept. 17, 1901 on a spur built and operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company. The Grand Canyon Railway continued to operate until 1968 when the spur was closed. In the mid-1980s businessman Max Biegert purchased the tracks and brought the Grand Canyon Railway back to life with the first train running Sept. 17, 1989, 88 years to the day after its maiden run.”
I came to the Grand Canyon to learn, to experience and to become better equipped to serve as an advocate for wild places and wildlife. Now that things have settled a bit and I’ve been able to establish a workable studio and writing schedule, I’m ready to dig in. Next week, I’ll start learning how to do condor monitoring (telemetry and more) and will likely devote a late morning every week or every other week looking for activity. As I write this, most of the condors are at the canyon’s river or in Utah (where it’s warmer) but a chick did fledge a few months ago and, yesterday, a ranger told me he thought he’d seen a condor floating just below Kolb. California Condors are the largest land bird in the U.S. (nine-foot wingspan!) and their numbers had gotten down to just two dozen. They’ve been brought back from the brink of extinction and now number in the hundreds. I am SO delighted to have been offered this opportunity to work with the park service and am eagerly awaiting my first glimpse of a condor!!!
A couple of posts ago, I wrote about having been visited by a deer mouse. The little one had taken up residence under our refrigerator and had demonstrated extraordinary boldness, approaching me one morning again and again. Until…
Mac and Molly, our two Old English Sheepdogs emerged from the bedroom, raced toward me and tussled to capture the “prize” that had positioned itself under a stool on which I was seated. The mouse escaped and I am delighted to report it hasn’t been seen since. There’s no evidence of its presence anywhere in the RV and it hasn’t peeked out at me from any possible ports. Mac and Molly, it would seem, scared the daylights out of the mouse. I am relieved this is so but we do remain on guard. Deer mice are found throughout this region and have been identified as carriers of the hantavirus which is conveyed to humans through contact with the animals’ feces and urine. The first sign of infection is a fever that appears within 7-10 days of contact. I’ve learned that two persons had been infected with the virus here at the canyon. One died.
Around the same time of my deer mouse encounter, I discovered that a ringtail (the state mammal of Arizona) had shown up at Kolb Studio. A woman first alerted me to having seen it peering out of a dormer window. A humane trap was set out for it in the attic and, one morning, the young ringtail (which seemed quite docile and curious) was taken out and released at Desert View.
The day started with a white-out with the canyon completely obscured from view. Then, in–what seemed to be just moments–the fog dropped and settled below the rim. As noted on Twisted Sifter: “The phenomenon is known as ‘temperature inversion’ where warm air acts as a lid to seal cool air near the ground, trapping fog in the canyon and preventing it from rising. According to the National Weather Service, the atmosphere’s temperature profile is most prone to inversion during the winter, when long nights allow for air near the Earth’s surface to become unusually cold.”
Some of the best photographs of the inversion were taken by Park Ranger Erin Whittaker and are found here: http://www.twistedsifter.com/2013/12/grand-canyon-floor-filled-with-fog-november-2013/.
Another fascinating phenomenon made possible by this weather event was the Brocken Spectre with Glory which my husband experienced. With bright sunshine behind him, his shadow was projected onto the fog and a rainbow encircled his shadow. Neither Gene nor I had our cameras with us so we were unable to record what happened but a friend at the canyon (Mike Buchheit) did capture his own experience of this. His photo can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/grandcanyonassoc.
Another experience of the Brocken Spectre with Glory in another part of the world is depicted in the featured photograph (details below):
Glory with Brocken Spectre created by the author’s shadow on a rising cloud at a South ridge of Peak Korzhenvskaya during a summit day on August 14th, 2006, classic route from Moskvina glacier. Part of a photo collection of Pamir 2006 expedition led by Dmitry Shapovalov.
I’m still struggling to overcome the Internet connectivity issues here at Grand Canyon that have prevented me from posting on this blog in recent weeks. I have hundreds of photographs to share and have been working on stories about the geological features, wildlife, hiking trails, and human history of this Natural Wonder of the World. This has been just one of the “hostage” situations in which I’ve been involved in recent days.
On Halloween, an 800-pound 12-point bull elk kept us captive in our truck for a half hour while he munched on the vegetation just outside our RV door. It’s wise to give these guys a wide berth (150 feet or better) at any time of year but especially during rutting season (which is now) when they’re more aggressive and protecting their cows and calves.
After this bull had his fill of the fare he found on offer in our lot, he sauntered off into the woods and we were finally able to bring our own groceries into our living quarters. Each night, as we walk Mac and Molly (our two Old English Sheepdogs), we look up to see a splendid display of the Milky Way and, as we go, we listen for the bugling of the elk.
This morning, a deer mouse, that’s taken up residence under our refrigerator, startled me with its boldness. He?/she? peeked out from its hiding place, ducked back, but then emerged into plain view and inched towards me. I warned: “uh-uh, too close,” and it returned to its hiding place. Only moments later, however, it RAN towards me until I, again and more forcefully this time, told it to back off. We played this game for a few minutes until Mac and Molly entered the picture. They came racing toward me from the bedroom and started tussling under me, competing for “the prize” that had, apparently, snuck under my seat. The mouse escaped and hasn’t been seen since. Mac has positioned himself at the base of the refrigerator and Molly hasn’t left my side. Knowing my M&M are on guard freed me the rest of the day to focus on writing.