Wildlife/animals


Mystery in the Mud

Outside Yuma, Arizona—not far from the Mexican border—my husband and I got lucky in finding a dispersed camping spot along the Senator Wash lake front. The reservoir water level had receded, leaving extra beach space, and I spent hours soaking in the view while walking a swath of dried lakebed. Strangely, the mud had dried into zillions of baseball size pockmarks. I wondered if some special property of the soil caused it to dry with depressions. Had some aquatic species somehow excavated indentations? Too small for people tracks…dog, coyote, bobcat, deer? Maybe, but probably too small, and anyway, that many […]


Best Thanksgiving Ever

A few years ago I managed to gather our family in a beach house on North Carolina’s Emerald Isle for Thanksgiving week.  I’m still overjoyed when I think of it.  We walked the beach, played in the waves, collected lost treasures, watched dolphins, danced, cooked, explored the island, and bonded.  Some met our baby granddaughter or new son-in-law for the first time.  Our three-year-old grandson met the ocean.  He ran 50 yards to escape an incoming wave.  How was he to know how far that wave would chase him?  My mother, who was still adjusting to life without her husband […]


Celebrity Vendor

Kevin Costner introduced himself to me as I waited in line for the train to Machu Picchu.  He was amazingly well disguised as a Peruvian jewelry vendor, but he couldn’t resist leaking the plan for his upcoming sequel. He and Julia Roberts were going to start filming Dancing With Llamas the following week.  That was about five years ago, so I expect it will be showing anytime now.


Critter Fix

Inches from my head was a critter scratching, skittering, gnawing, hellbent on creeping me out and doing a fine job of it. I wondered if it was looking for a secret passage through the propane tanks, storming the storage compartment under our bed, or using the headboard as a jungle gym. Wherever the intruder was, it was not the nature I’d come to commune with. Other pests we’ve picked up  over the years have been more considerate-except that mouse that built a nest on our pickup’s engine and started a family overnight. The festive looking light strings I noticed under […]


Civil War and Plague Isolation Survivor 2

When the American Civil War broke out, Jacob Evans joined the northern army, hoping to help save the Union. He was a teenager when he marched off with his regiment. They were rugged men battling fleas and lice in huts made of logs and dirt.  Worse, when officers weren’t savvy enough to order the latrines to be dug downstream, sewage leached into the men’s drinking water. Many of the soldiers came from isolated farms and had little immunity against diseases we now immunize for. One sick soldier could wipe out a camp in short order. Ninety-five men died of disease […]


Colorado Mother of the Year

In 1884 Tom and Alice Glover drove up Colorado’s Grand Valley in a covered wagon to start a new ranch along the banks of Parachute Creek. Alice held their baby daughter Queenie. When they arrived, Tom pitched a tent for the family to live in that summer. Once the camp was set, he found a couple cowboys to help him build a ranch. While the men were building, Alice was on her own to make the camp a home. On wash day she carried water from the creek to heat in a kettle over a fire. She made her own […]


Trailside Shopping Ops

Cottonwood campground in Big Bend National Park, Texas, has many usual campground attractions and way more.  We watched coyotes trot casually across our backyard.  Roadrunners scurried a few steps, cranked their tails up and down, scurried, cranked, scurried, cranked. Then a neighbor alerted us of spectacular nature trail sunsets–and shopping.  Not just any shopping, illicit border infiltration shopping! Before we got to the nature trail to peruse the wares, we discovered another shopping outlet on a scenic overlook.  As we took in the view, Steve noticed a man across the Rio Grande who climbed into a boat and rowed our […]


Rowboat to Mexico

Red flags lofted at the suggestion of a side trip to Mexico, so I asked the Information Desk staffer in Big Bend National Park. “You are safer here than in your home town,” she claimed.  (Apparently she considers the Mexican village of Boquillas part of Big Bend.) The next surprise was the Port of Entry, a nice official building on a dirt path leading to the Rio Grande River–no road, no bridge, no Immigration officials, just a friendly Parks employee who prompted us to check and see if our passports were expired or we’d picked up another family member’s by […]


Hi Jolly Who?

A sign pointing the way to Hi Jolly Monument caught my eye in Quartzsite, Arizona, so I checked Google and found that yes, I wanted to see Hi Jolly Monument.  Hi Jolly, AKA Hadji Ali, was a camel driver recruited from Syria to help run Jefferson Davis’ experimental transportation project.  Who knew that the US imported 74 camels to haul freight across the “Great American Desert in the 1850s?” If only the Civil War hadn’t trampled the effort, the Southwest might be crawling with camels today, and camels are cool! At least some of the Corps’ camels were freed to […]


How Do These Holes Happen?

I hadn’t expected anything like this when we hiked to one of the highlights recommended in Big Bend National Park.  Tinaja is Spanish for pond, so I’d assumed oasis which would naturally be a big draw in arid Big Bend.  The formations were even cooler though, especially when a fox trotted into the canyon and left a deposit in my path.  (Apparently he was delivering a message: get outta my yard!) On seeing the tinajas, the holes’ symmetry made me wonder if people had somehow bored them.  But who would have taken so much trouble, and why? A month later […]