We are fully staffed for our spring coverage, or at least as fully staffed as we will be. This week just flew by and we have expanded our VC hours to 6pm. Last week was “Fee Free” week at NPS sites so it was very busy. I got a kick out of seniors who still wanted to show their pass. I know I will when I get it in 268 days but who’s counting!
What a mix of visitors too! Folks visited from New Zealand, Italy, France, Ireland, UK, China and, of course, all across the US. Interesting happenings this week included a group of three twenty-somethings who intended to run the Syncline Loop trail. This is our most difficult trail even though it is only 8.3 miles. We rescue more people on this trail than any other due to the terrain. Fortunately Hunter and I were able to talk them out of it and gave them an alternative that was much safer.
It was fun to have people from Maine and as close to MDI as Mariaville which is just the other side of Ellsworth. We had a long chat about Acadia but I found I had to really think about the Acadia trails with so much Canyonlands in my head.
I did my first TOW (Table of Wonder) which is whatever we’d like it to be to share with visitors. I expanded on the skull theme I had used for Jr. Ranger Day showing raven, peregrine, great horned owl, mule deer and bighorn sheep skulls. I researched some facts on the sheep and deer to add to details I had already printed up for the birds.
Bighorn sheep numbered approximately 2,000,000 in the southwest when the first explorers came west. In 1964 when Canyonlands was established only 100 remained in this area. NPS worked to grow the herds and was so successful they were able to relocate some to Arches NP and Glen Canyon NRA to help expand the population. Today there are nearly 3,000 in Utah alone with 300+ in Canyonlands. Both the males and females grow horns but only the males’ curl broadly. The horns can weigh up to 30 pounds which is more than the rest of the bones in their body. Bighorn are rarely seen but I picked the right topic for my TOW. Two visitors stopped when they saw the skull. They had sighted three rams just outside the park and a ewe on the Shafer Trail just below the mesa.
Mule deer are a different story. They were rarely reported by early explorers and considered almost extinct around 1900. Then, in our infinite wisdom we began eradicating their natural predators such as the wolf. Their population skyrocketed with Utah now claiming over 300,000. They look like a white tail that we Easterners are so familiar with except their ears are very large like a mule. Hence their name. They also have an unusual gait when startled. It is called stotting. They jump with all four feet off the ground at the same time as if they are on springs. Still graceful but boing, boing, boing.
I also have to share that I had a validating experience this week. I don’t often need the validation but as I ease into retirement this was a priceless experience for me. I was on the VC patio with my very interesting TOW. There was a gent on his cell. I wasn’t eavesdropping but you couldn’t help overhear him. He had just arrived and was busily explaining to his boss why he was on vacation but no one really seemed to know he was going to be out. He’s a salesman and he was slinging his story about how he covers his customers even when he’s away, how hard he’s been working, how he doesn’t want to burden the other salesreps with his customers. It was a lengthy conversation that he clearly wasn’t winning. I thought… how nice that I am not in that situation. I looked out from the patio to my amazing office view over the canyon to the La Sal mountains on the horizon. Ah!
We’ve had some precip lately. I say precip because it’s been everything you might expect with rain, snow, sleet and hail. But, always something positive! The wildflowers are loving it.
Top 5 this week:
5. Learning more about bighorn sheep and mule deer
4. Appreciating my office view even more on that certain day
3. Watching wildflowers popping everywhere
2. Hiking Delicate Arch
1. The dozen red roses Jim gave me when I visited SLC