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Desert Breeze to Mountain Stream

Monday, 19 May 2003
written by Teresa

Zebra Tailed Lizard Whoever named Red Rock Canyon State Park has clearly never been to Utah. The connection between the place and the name is tenuous at best with hints of pink colouration giving a blush to some of the land. The campsites are strewn out along a cliff where would-be Hoodoos struggle to emerge from the soft rock face, eroded into grains on the desert floor before attaining their goal. Broad washes of sand sweep down from the higher ground, dry in the spring heat but ready to channel the flow-off in the event of a thunderstorm. Spring flowers litter the floor among the scrubs, cacti and Joshua Trees. The ancient Creosote bushes continue growing in their unassuming spindly way, slowly edging outwards from their dying centres to create hollowed circular formations up to eleven thousand years old. Even at this time of year, the mid-day sun is intense, enticing the numerous lizards into classic poses, camouflaged on the sand or rocks, streaks of movement as they take off at our approach. Stealthy patience or luck are required to catch them with the camera, the hotter the temperatures the faster their little legs move, with speeds of up to eighteen miles an hour having been recorded.

Total Eclipse With darkness falling on to the stark beauty of this landscape comes the moon, shrouded in the cloak of a full lunar eclipse. Rising on her steady path, the ambient light fading, her surface suffused in the dull redness of shadow, until just past the zenith, a thin sliver of bright white light cradles her left curve, slowly spreading across the surface, revealing her true nature. Superstition, magic and mystery surrounded these astrological events in ancient times and even with our present knowledge there is something wonderful and somehow eerie about the sight of a red moon.

The glowing coals of a campfire are often an incentive to toast marshmallows and on this occasion, try out our newly purchased extending fork. I have to admit that before meeting Sterling I had never seen, much less eaten, a toasted marshmallow nor did I have any knowledge of the fluffy white confectionary. I know this may seem inconceivable to American readers but I can only liken it to the fact that in England we donít have Maple Syrup on our pancakes, primarily because we donít have pancakes other than the crepe variety. While we do have campfires, the chances of sudden and unexpected downpours are forever with us and our national sweet tooth is not quite so developed. Marshmallow I digress. Sterlingís whittling days may be a thing of the past. One of his first missions when arriving at a new campsite had been to track down a suitably long twig and fashion it into a sharp point on which to impale and roast the sugary delights. Up until now we have always thought this was a satisfactory method and besides which, Sterling enjoys the regression to his boy-scout days. However the newly acquired piece of equipment is metal and has the effect of liquefying the centre of the marshmallow while toasting the outside, resulting in an intensely sweet, exquisite oral experience that demands to be repeated again and again. Iíve never really understood the lure of the marshmallow before but now Iím hooked and the new bagís half empty.

Up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, in the Sequoia National Forest, Hobo Campground is nestled beside the fast flowing Kern River. The Kern River The steep valley sides are strewn with light coloured granite outcrops and boulders and the high desert gives way to a burst of deciduous trees along the waterway, providing a home to numerous birds and mammals. The deep waters produce areas of surface stillness reflecting the intense green of spring vegetation and true blue of the clear sky. The distant roar of water in the rapids further downstream blends with the constant call and song of birds as they go about springís business. Bullockís Orioles are two a penny and the Acorn Woodpeckers have clearly been taking fly catching lessons from the Black Phoebes. They perch on branches over hanging the flowing water, foraying out into midair, catching flies on the wing. Some minutes later they adopt the more characteristic vertical stance on the side of a tree and the reverberating tapping can be heard as they remember what species they belong to. The California Ground Squirrels and their fluffy young play amongst the boulders while a flotilla of Mallard chicks goes by on the river, herded by their mother. It is an idyllic place and sitting on the riverbank doing nothing more strenuous than watching millions of gallons flow by, all is well with the world.

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