Fall caching; squirrel on the move.
This is a cautionary tale.
A chipmunk spent its morning trying to pilfer any bit of food it could find from my campsite. The food was packed, hung, and covered. There were no bits lying around, no dirty dishes, no tossed veggie scraps. The chipmunk tried every angle, checked every stuff sack and container to no avail.
Meanwhile, a squirrel spent its morning dashing through the campsite. It collected cones in trees near the lake, ran through camp with a cone in its mouth, and then into the alders along the edge of the lake’s outflow meadow. A few minutes later, having stashed the cone in some secret place, it would run back to camp, stop to look at me over my pack or across the fire ring, and then continue on its path. It didn’t disturb any of my things or even sniff at the stuff sacks. Every five minutes it made another roundtrip through camp.
After a couple of hours, the chipmunk was still angling for something easy and free, although it seemed to have less enthusiasm at this point. It stopped to scold me occasionally as if to say, “How dare you! Where is my breakfast?” It would disappear for ten or twenty minutes and then reappear to once again check every item. Just in case.
The squirrel also scolded me but it was because I inadvertently stepped into its path when it was crossing camp. Halfway through the morning, the squirrel stopped for a snack – a cone he found near one of his supply trees – and then went back to work.
Returning to my briefly unguarded teacup, I found two tiny droplets on the rock next to it. Inside the rim of the cup, there were two little, wet paw prints. The cup was otherwise undisturbed, not knocked over, no floating debris, just two perfect paw prints.
I took this photo by predicting the squirrel’s movement along the same path through camp. It was reliable, as is his winter food supply. The chipmunk only got wet feet for his morning’s work.
On the executioner’s block: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
It is already true that one can be dropped on any commercial strip in the USA and have no idea where they are. Each is so much the same, so not unique, that Chattanooga and Bakersfield look much the same. We have eradicated the prairies, slaughtered the forests, and filled the wetlands, must we also quash the individuality of the national monuments and make them conform to the ideals of capitalism, consumerism, and corporate expansion? What of calm, contentment, and courage to step outside of the box, to appreciate the subtle realm of time, space, and light that is not under our control? Where will we go for peace when we have used up all that is wild?
You have seen my photos over the last year. Many of those photos were taken in national monuments (including the two on this page). If you enjoyed my meager attempts at conveying the intensity of these landscapes, you will enjoy this (free ebook) photographic journey through the national monuments by exquisite landscape photographers
And, I hope you will send comments in support of retaining the national monuments.
Stay the executions.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Sunrise in the town of Joshua Tree, complete with Airstream.
Sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park. Rock on.
Sticks and stones.
Hiding in the rocks.
Spectacular Joshua Tree.
Everything in the desert is spiky, pokey, and sharp.
Each year about this time I send a review of the year in photos I’ve taken along the way to people I know and love. It’s my annual Solstice letter without all the words, short and sweet. Below is this year’s installment. I offer this with gratitude for the people I do not yet know and love but who find the energy to spend time with me here. I hope it takes you on roads you have not taken enough this year.
Walla Walla impossible green
Mount Hood through the oaks of Washington
Blue and yellow make green
Desert virga, California
Dragonfly, North Dakota
Full circle, North Dakota
Travelers: Monarch butterfly, tamarisk, and the Cimarron River, Oklahoma
Evening glow, California
Grizzly River bowl, California
Crater Lake morning, Oregon
Fire sunset, Steens Mountain, Oregon
Mars-wanna-be, the Sun, during fire season on planet Earth
Indian Beach, Oregon
Saddle Mountain, Oregon