Neighborhood Migrants

Warm days, now noticeably shorter, are giving way to colder nights with the landscape increasingly graced with the colors of autumn in Ohio.

Autumn reflections in central Ohio.

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During the past couple of weeks we’ve made a concerted effort to look for birds passing through Griggs Reservoir Park on their southern migration. We’ve avoiding the temptation to travel further afield thinking it would be fun just to see what is or isn’t passing through our “neighborhood”. There have been reports of birds that have eluded us, such as the Blackpoll and Yellow-throated Warbler, but all in all the effort has been rewarding.

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The Black-throated Green Warblers were very cooperative:

***, (Donna)

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***. (Donna)

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Only one Cape May Warbler was seen:

Female Cape May Warbler

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A fair number of Northern Parula Warblers were spotted:

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This Yellow-throated Vireo is not sure he wants to eat a stink bug:

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We had only one sighting of a Black-throated Blue Warbler:

Good enough to ID the bird but that’s it.

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The fairly common Yellow-rumped Warblers are often seen eating poising ivy berries:

***, (Donna)

 

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A Ruby-crowned Kinglet tries it’s best to hide. To date more kinglets have been heard than seen.

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Contrasting with last year, this has not been a good year for seeing Black-crowned Herons on the reservoir. However, on a resent paddle we were rewarded:

Juvenile, (Donna).

Adult, (Donna).

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While looking for warblers a group of very active Blue Birds was hard to ignore:

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A young male Wood Duck has been hanging around the park for the last couple of weeks. By it’s association with a group of mallards it appears to think it’s one:

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the other birds that have fascinated us while we looked for fall migrants.

An immature Red-tailed Hawk seemed curious about what we were up to.

Something has this Juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker’s attention, (Donna).

A Mallard Duck, bathed in autumn light, swims across the reservoir.

A pair of Northern Flickers, (Donna).

A Tufted Titmouse acts cute like titmouse do, (Donna).

A White-breasted Nuthatch goes about it’s day.

One of the many Cedar Waxwings seen in the park in recent weeks.

A female Downy Woodpecker poses for a picture.

A Great Blue Heron strikes a graceful pose along the Scioto River, (Donna).

This Blue Jay has quite a mouthful, (Donna).

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It’s a dark gray rainy morning as I finish writing this so it’s hard to imagine what nature will offer in the coming days and this is the time of year when things tend to wind down. However, if past experience is any indication, it will only take another walk in the woods to again experience the magic. Thanks for stopping by.

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A Journey Through Early Autumn

Perhaps it’s the flowers or the number of sunny blue sky days that have populated the last few weeks, but so far our journey through early autumn, perhaps a bit warmer than one would expect, has been a wonderful celebration of the time of year.

The low autumn light filters through New England Asters.

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Blue Jays, along with migrants from the north adding to the local population, are commonly heard engaged in their noisy banter as we explore local parks.

Blue Jay, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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By late morning and early afternoon there are always butterflies and dragonflies keeping us company. It has been a banner year in central Ohio for the Common Buckeye. It’s difficult to remember a year when we’ve seen so many. Several years ago it was late September before we saw our first one. At the other extreme we’re not sure we’ve seen even one Morning Cloak this year.  Could the same weather patterns or events be responsible for both of these outcomes? One can only wonder. One interesting bit of information we recently uncovered is that, depending on the severity of the weather, Buckeyes can successfully overwinter in Ohio. This could explain this year’s early sightings.

Common Buckeye, Blues Creek Park.

The underside of the wings, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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With fields of golden rod in bloom there’s no question about the time of year, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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A few days back, while I was fishing, my wife was excited to find a Dainty Sulfur in Griggs Reservoir Park. To make matters worse not only did I miss the butterfly I didn’t catch any fish.

Dainty Sulfur, (Donna). The last time this butterfly was seen in central Ohio in observable numbers was 2012. Griggs Reservoir Park.

Little Yellow butterflies, while not as uncommon, were seen in another area park. We usually observe this butterfly in Florida during the winter.

Little Yellow Butterfly. Blues Creek Park.

Other butterflies were also present:

Eastern Comma, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Eastern-tailed Blue laying eggs, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Monarch. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

This Viceroy seen at Blues Creek Park can be easily mistaken for a Monarch but it is slightly smaller, a faster flyer, and has similar but different markings on it’s wings.

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In recent days, no doubt due to the extended warm weather, we’ve noticed more dragonfly activity.  The following images are of some of the more noteworthy ones seen. The Wandering Glider is not uncommon but hardly ever lands so it was a real treat to get a picture. This aptly named carnivorous insect is the widest ranging dragonfly and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Wandering Glider, Griggs Reservoir Park.

A Illinois River Cruiser perches not far from the river in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. We believe this is a first sighting for us.

This beautiful Blue-faced Meadowhawk was also a new dragonfly for us. This one was seen not far from a wetland in Blues Creek Park.

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Prairie Dock is a member of the aster family and can grow up to eight feet tall, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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The small furry creatures all seemed busy, usually with a nut in their mouth, and were hard not to notice.

Fox Squirrel. Griggs Reservoir Park.

Chipmunk with a real mouthful, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Curious chipmunk, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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The autumn nights, now longer than the days, usher us too quickly through the season. In keeping with this journey the next post will be about fall warblers as they make their way through central Ohio. Thanks for stopping by.

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A hover fly investigates a thistle flower. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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What Birds Do

Every once and awhile, rather than just a fleeting glimpse, one gets the opportunity for a longer look and the chance observe the fascinating behavior of birds. Sometimes it’s easy to figure out what going on, other times it’s just cute.

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Just above the dam in Griggs Reservoir Park a Green Heron lands and proceeds to do a little preening. At the end of the process it’s hard to know whether he was really happy with the results.

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At Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, with caterpillar in tow, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flys across the trail and lands. As if it were wrestling with a large snake, it takes some time for it’s prey to be subdued sufficiently for consumption. Afterward the bird “seems” to have a pleased look on it’s face.

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***, (Donna)

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At Griggs Reservoir Park an Eastern Phoebe tries different poses in an “apparent” effort to please the photographer.

***, (Donna).

***, (Donna).

***, (Donna).

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Recently being outdoors has been more about insects and late summer wildflowers and a feeling of time fast passing. In the world of birds, outings have been rewarded with herons, cuckoos, and phoebes, etc. However, during today’s paddle on the reservoir a few warblers were seen, so here’s hoping for more sightings in the days to come.

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Journey Back In Time, Mesa Verde NP

One comes to Mesa Verde National Park not for dramatic scenery, although it is spectacular when compared to many places in Ohio, but instead to take a journey back in time and in doing so to be caught up in the wonder of how an ancient people lived.

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The ancient Puebloans called the area home for almost 1000 years and during the last approximately 100 years, before mysteriously leaving around 1300 AD, they built elaborate cliff dwellings. They were hunter gatherers and practiced dry land farming. The ingenuity employed to capture the scarce rainfall for crops as well as other uses was truly amazing. Their pit houses and cliff dwellings, which provided an amazing degree of protection from the area’s mid-day heat, are marvels of engineering. One wonders why such an intelligent culture never saw the need to develop a written language. One answer would appear to do with the fact that written language was developed in “old world” cultures when the complexity of farming and trade practices necessitated the keeping of records. This soon led to language being further developed and employed in other areas of human endeavor. The ancient Puebloans apparently had no such need.

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As early as about 500 AD, before there were cliff dwelling, pit houses on the mesa tops were primarily where people lived. These structures evolved over hundreds of years into the adobe houses we see in the American southwest today.

Cutaway of a pit house. A ladder positioned in the rectangular hole in the center of the roof provided access. The mud roof kept the interior cool.

This particular pit house was incorporated into a cliff dwelling. A common practice.

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This photo, typical of the landscape, shows the mesa tops, cliffs, and canyons that comprise Mesa Verde. Hundreds of cliff dwellings and food storage areas have been found along the canyon walls. There are other cliff dwellings in the west but none this extensive.

Mesa Verde landscape.

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Cliff Palace on Chapin Mesa, the largest of the cliff dwellings.

Cliff Palace.

From the other end.

Cliff Palace window.

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The following photos illustrate how well concealed some of the cliff dwellings were.

Note white arrow,

Enlarged section.

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The mesa edge can be precipitous so perhaps the cliff dwellings were for protection. But from whom? No archeological evidence of violence has been found.

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At it’s peak, 7000 to 15,000 inhabitants may have lived in the area. If that was the case any number of factors, forgetting about an external threat by other indigenous people, may have led to their seemingly abrupt departure.

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Balcony House on the Chapin Mesa:

Balcony House

Balcony House

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Long House on the Wetherill Mesa:

Long House

Long House

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Canyon edge:

In places, Rabbit Bush in bloom and long since dead juniper frame the canyon.

Large rocks often create an interesting counterpoint to the canyon below.

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Fire caused by lightening strikes has shaped the landscape of the mesa tops. Many generations are required for the trees to come back.

The mesa top still shows the effects of a fire that may have burned the area 20 or 30 years ago.

Ute Peak looms in the distance through branches laid bare by a long ago fire.

With little to cause their deterioration fire damaged tree remain lonely sentinels on the landscape.

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But in this dry environment, so vulnerable to fire, life goes on.

Tailcup lupine.

Prairie Sunflower

Rabbit Bush.

This flower, perhaps Munro’s Globemallow, was seen in only one isolated location.

Sulphurflower Buckwheat.

A White Breasted Nuthatch near our campsite.

Raven.

Other butterflies eluded us but we did manage to get a picture of this tiny Western Branded Skipper.

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Barbed wire fence study. One can only wonder at it’s age.

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So after almost four weeks we bid farewell to Utah and Colorado. Now, over a week after our return, the trip is still fresh on our minds and energizes us to think about what might be next. Perhaps the American northwest? Other adventures always await.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

The rig, GMC Yukon/Lance 1995.

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Early Autumn On Griggs Reservoir

After not picking up a paddle for over a month, having been otherwise occupied exploring the American west, the canoe moved slowly. We were pushing southward into a gusting breeze and hugging the shaded shore on the east side of the reservoir as we made our way back to the launch site. A planned “out and back” six mile paddle had turned into eight, sometimes being out in nature is that way. It was an unusually warm sunny September day so the breeze felt good even though it strained our muscles and meant the return leg would take longer.

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Preoccupied with our halting progress we were surprised by an immature Black-crowned Night Heron as it took flight from a shoreline tree and quickly crossed the narrow reservoir. It’s a bird we had hoped to see as it had not been a good year for sightings on the reservoir. So altering course, we headed to the place where it appeared to have landed. It had positioned itself well into it’s intended destination, and while we did confirm it’s identity, wind, obstructing branches, and bad light made a photo impossible. Sometimes a photographer must celebrate the bird in words only.

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However, the morning into early afternoon paddle on the very quiet reservoir did reward us. It was nice being home, experiencing what we think of as our own special place in nature. No long drives required to enjoy a quiet autumn day on Griggs Reservoir.

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We pull out near Hayden Run Falls to stretch our legs. With the recent lack of rain, the falls were more of a trickle.

Pulled out at Hayden Run Falls.

False Dragonhead.

Black and Yellow Lichen Moth, (Donna).

Wolf Spider, (Donna).

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North of the Hayden Run bridge we continued to see wildlife.

Donna takes aim on a Kingfisher.

Not the easiest bird to photograph, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

A Double-crested Cormorant dries it’s wings, (Donna).

On this particular day the usual large number of Great Blue Herons were not seen. Could it be the time of year? (Donna).

Several Green Herons were seen but eluding the camera’s lens. Finally, this one paused long enough for a picture, (Donna).

This male American Cardinal said, “What about me?” as we tried to get a picture of the Green Heron, (Donna).

As I steadied the canoe this Spotted Sandpiper cooperated for a picture, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

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A few Map Turtles were seen, no Eastern Spiny Softshells or Snappers, but this large Painted Turtle really stood out.

Painted Turtle, (Donna).

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It’s easy to “throw the switch” in autumn and move on to other things, leaving nature until next spring. But don’t do it, there are always treasures to be found.

Bare branches frame a hint of autumn across the reservoir.

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Celebration of Color and Form, Capital Reef and Bryce Canyon NP

We were looking forward to cooler weather as we left Arches and Canyonlands on our way to Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon National Park . Several days of waking up at 4 AM to beat the heat, and sometimes the crowds, had taken it’s toll. In addition, shorter drives to trail heads and points of interest, as well as a shuttle bus at Bryce, promised a more relaxed pace.

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Capitol Reef embraces a geological formation called the Waterpocket Fold which is a nearly 100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust, a step-up in the rock layers. The most scenic portion is found near the Fremont River where one can see white domes of Navajo Sandstone and the park’s colorful cliffs. Three steps, each of which occurred over millions of years, created the captivating landscape: deposition, Colorado Plateau uplift, and finally erosion. The erosion that sculpted the current landscape occurred within the last 20 million years with the major canyon formation probably occurred between one and six million years ago. Putting this into perspective, the oldest human fossil is 2.8 million years old while at the other extreme some of the oldest surface rock in north America, between 2500 and 3800 million years old, can be found in the Canadian Shield.

As one hikes the park trails some rock looks as though it was just placed there yesterday.

The Grand Wash Trail.

Along Cohab Trail.

Shaded and sunlit rocks, a challenge for the photographer.

Indian Paintbrush.

Along the trail through the Grand Wash.

“Capitol” and a tree.

Petroglyphs and grass along RT 24 in the park.

More petroglyphs along Rt 24.

Bristlecone Pine.

Capitol Gorge, once the only east to west route through the park.

Chimney Rock near sunset.

Tree and sculpted sandstone.

The Reef.

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Leaving Capitol Reef and travelling about 100 miles to Bryce Canyon takes one to a very different world. Situated along a high plateau at the top of an area known as the Grand Staircase, the park includes a series of natural amphitheaters and contains the earths largest concentration of irregular columns of rock (hoodoos). It’s geology is unique but along with sandstone formations the stretch the imagination the park is home to numerous beautiful wooded and meadow landscapes.

Along the rim trail, a lone pine looks down into the hoodoos.

Hiking down through “Wall Street” from Sunrise Pt.

Looking up.

Along the Swamp Canyon trail grass sparkles in the early morning sunlight.

A Limber Pine casts it’s shadow at the canyons edge along the Rim Trail.

Flowering Rabbit Bush contrasts with the colors of the rock.

Bristlecone Pine.

A view from the edge along the Rim Trail.

Juxtaposition.

Fallen tree, rock, and sky along the trail below Sunrise Pt.

Hoodoos frame a long dead Bristlecone Pine.

Looking up along the trail below Sunrise Pt.

Hanging on at the very edge.

Natural Bridge.

Along the Mossy Cave Trail.

View from the Bristlecone Trail loop.

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As we explored the parks, and hiked the trails, we were always on the lookout for wildlife and we were usually not disappointed.

Desert Spiny Lazard, (Donna).

Black Phoebe, (Donna).

Connecticut Warbler, (Donna).

Young Short Eared Lizard, (Donna).

Hummingbird checks out a flower, (Donna).

Mountain Chickadee, (Donna).

Steller Jay, (Donna).

Eastern Fence Lizard, (Donna).

Weidemeyer’s Admiral, (Donna).

Black-throated Sparrow, an active an elusive bird, (Donna).

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, (Donna).

Utah Prairie Dogs had their “towns” not far from the Bryce Canyon NP Lodge. The Utah Prairie Dog is the western most of the five species that inhabit North America. Limited to the southwestern quarter of Utah, the Utah Prairie Dog has the most restricted range of all prairie dog species. (NPS), (Donna).

Clark’s Nutcracker, (Donna).

Sagebrush Lizard, (Donna).

Immature Western Bluebird, (Donna).

Mature Mountain Bluebird, (Donna).

Hedgerow Hairstreak, (Donna).

Melissa Blue, (Donna).

Rock Wren, (Donna).

 

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As we wrap up our stay at Bryce, our westernmost destination, we look forward to a different type of adventure at Mesa Verde NP where we will travel back in time. Thanks for stopping by.

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Arches and The Canyonlands

Before leaving Montrose, a check of the forecast for Arches and Canyonlands National Park for the time we would be there indicated that midday temperatures were going to reach 100F. With that in mind it was obvious that getting an early start each morning would be the plan. It had been at least twenty years since I last visited Arches. At that time I was touring on a BMW motorcycle which was a concession to the fact that I wasn’t going to live long enough to see the American West using my favorite mode of transportation, a bicycle. However, as with most motorcycle trips it had essentially been a “fly by”. We would try to dig a little deeper this time.

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The arches are the reason folks come from all over the world to Arches NP and they are certainly worth the effort. Some are more spectacular or beautiful than others while some seem to defy anything we thought we knew about how arches and the laws of gravity work. However, to really appreciate the park’s uniqueness, it is also important to notice the other things. Strange, sometimes human-like, rock formations grace the landscape. At first glance one might think that the wind has sculpted the sandstone but that is not the case, rather in this arid place it is the endless effect of water, it’s freezing and thawing, that works the artistry. Shrubs like blackbrush and purple sage favor the shallow sandy soil, while greasewood and Mormon tea favor the alkalinity of the soil in this unimagined place. The dominant plant community in the parks, the pinyon-juniper woodland, find a home in the fractured bedrock.

The unique landscape of Arches NP.

Tunnel Arch.

Landscape Arch.

Rockscape.

Broken Arch.

Delicate Arch at sunrise.

Another view.

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Signs from the past chipped into the desert varnish that often covers the rock. What signs will we leave?

Skyline Arch.

Tower of Babel

Purple Sage.

Sculpture.

The hardscrabble evidence of an early settler.

Double Arch.

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Our visit to Canyonlands differed from Arches in that we were mostly looking down at spectacular views from high mesas. In Arches, the sandstone, the result of an ancient sea, is a light yellow-orange in color. All of the formations consist of Navajo Sandstone dating from about 174 to 163 million years ago. In the Canyonlands, more layers are usually visible. Ancient sand was blown into the area from sea beds forming the white bands in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Red bands came from sediment carried down by streams from adjacent mountainous areas long since gone. These layers of sand were laid down on top of each other and created the park’s distinctive rocks.

Before sunrise near Mesa Arch.

Grand View trail, Canyonlands NP.

Morning sun.

Distant mesa.

The Colorado River.

A cave provides shelter from the heat.

An old cowboy camp took advantage.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch.

The canyonlands.

The Grand View point overlook.

Early morning along the canyon rim.

The Needles Area, Canyonlands NP.

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To take a journey back in time on the human scale Newspaper Rock was a mandatory stop as we left the Needles Area of Canyonlands NP. 

What’s the person in the middle doing?

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While I was captivated by the landscape my wife was looking for any critters that might appear.

Prairie sunflowers defy the arid landscape.

Longnose Leopard Lizard, (Donna).

Desert Spiny Lizard, (Donna).

Western Whiptail Lizard, (Donna).

Pale Evening Primrose.

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As I write this, we just finished exploring the 800 year old cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people in Mesa Verde NP. When I think of the fascinating geology, beautiful scenery, and intriguing history of the America west, I am in awe and we have barely scratched the surface. I hope this post wets your appetite for new adventures, perhaps in the American west. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Photos by Donna

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