Monday, June 27, 2011

New Blog

I decided to start a new blog for things like everyday stories and things not strictly nature-related. Click here to check it out! So far it's only got one post and I'm going to do my best to keep them both up...and not double up on anything! Also anything Dave-related (except for hikes) will go there! I know I've been bad about posting on Dave!

Have a great day!

A Few Haikus and a 2 Hour Walk

Instead of just writing about the walk I took last night, I decided to write a couple (or three) haikus, inspired by a fellow naturalist and blogger  (Patricia Lichen)! I was at work in the entrance station with my notebook so this is what I came up with:

Heat waves shimmering,
Animals still and quiet:
Desert's afternoon.

The sun is setting,
Light falling on swarms of bugs;
A light breeze begins.

I walk the creek;
A startled skunk lifts her tail
and I hold my breath!

I also came up wtih:  Even a swarm of bugs can be pretty in the right light! I wish I had my camera...I'm walking again tonight so I'll try to remember it!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Day in the Life: The C Shift

Lately I pretty much only work shifts--either cleaning, in the visitor center or collecting fees in the entrance instead of "quietly going insane" (Edward Abbey), I thought I'd write about the shifts (and everything else!). Tonight I do have a sunset hike so I can write about that later. I actually forgot about the program later so I will work an extra 2 hours that I can take off tomorrow.

The C shift starts at 8:30 a.m. I drop off my lunch and everything at the visitor center, then grab the money box and head out to the entrance station. I will be out here until 12:30 p.m. when it's time for lunch. (I brought cans of soup...) After that I will work until 6 p.m. in the visitor center. We have a large gift shop, museum and art gallery. At 6, I will close everything up: lock doors, take down the flags and count the money. Then I will clean the visitor center restrooms. Normally after that it's 7 p.m. and time to go home, but tonight I will be here until 9 p.m.-ish.

The sunset hike starts at the main Point overlook and we will hike about a mile round-trip around the part of the mesa where the horses were trapped, giving the park it's name--Dead Horse Point. I carry a bag full of animal fur and skulls so I can talk about the animals that live here in the park. A lot of them are nocturnal because of the desert's heat and drought so that's what I focus on, mostly because visitors come in asking why they aren't seeing any wildlife. I think tonight I will be talking a lot about these little gnats that keep hanging around. The don't bite me much but visitors come in with welts all over their arms and legs! They are similar to mosquitoes--the females bite for blood that they will use to produce eggs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Park Ranger/Naturalist...The "B" Shift.

Today wasn't a "typical" day at work but then, we don't have many typical days here ever. Our schedule is divided into shifts so that everything is covered, with an "admin" shift to do paperwork, pay bills, and anything else that needs taking care of. I thought it might be interesting to write about each shift as I am on them during the day. Today I am on the "B" shift. The shift names are pretty much could be called the Z shift and I'd still be doing the same thing (I think...).

I would have left Moab around 10:20 a.m. to be at the park by 11 a.m. but I needed to stop by our region office to pick up some merchandise that had been delivered there--T-shirts and cards designed just for the park by a local artist, who happens to live around the corner from me.

Once I got everything picked up and ready to go, I stopped for "breakfast" at Wendy's (not the healthiest choice but I had run other errands and skipped a real breakfast). I got to the park after a 45 minute drive up Highways 191 and 313. I unloaded the boxes and a bag of my interpretive materials for a program I had given in May at Arches...finally returned it to the Dead Horse Point. Then I got down to my regular shift, which today is cleaning and collecting fees at the entrance station until 9 p.m., counting money and checking the park by 10 p.m.

I gathered my rubber gloves for cleaning and leather gloves for picking up trash and headed up to the Point to clean the restrooms. (I knew I wouldn't have everything finished by 12:30 p.m. when I was to cover lunch at the visitor center) Normally I clean both the men's and women's restrooms at the same time but I found that when it's busy it works best to clean one at a time. I cleaned the women's first, which went by pretty quickly. The men's....was a different story.

I won't go into detail because that's just gross, but cleaning the men's restroom was a little more complicated today than other days. I was about to go in and start cleaning but a group went in and I had to wait outside. One by one they came out and right away I could tell something was wrong. One man said as he passed me, "That's really gross, what someone dropped in that urinal." What?? Then more people came out..."Some people..." muttered under another's breath. Finally a German man came out, the last, and said "I'm sorry for you. Someone misunderstood the function of the urinal." Oooooh I went into the cleaning closet and gathered up some cardboard, just in case. It was pretty bad, but thankfully, not as bad as it could have been and the rest of the cleaning went smoothly.

I covered lunch at the visitor center, then headed back out to finish cleaning. Our water is trucked into the park--because there isn't any on the mesa top--so we have to check water levels every day. There are four tanks in the park. The entrance station tank holds 1,000; the group site tank holds 2,000 gallons; the main tank for the visitor center, campground and ranger residences holds 20,000 gallons and the tank at the Point holds 6,000 gallons. I checked the water--all good--and headed back to the Point to empty garbages and pick up litter.

After finishing the Point, I headed to the group site. It's small and there are only two bathroom stalls to clean so it went quickly. From there I headed to the campground and cleaned the restrooms. I didn't have time to clean grills or do much sweeping but I got the important parts.

After lunch I headed out to the entrance station. This new one was built a couple years ago and it's really pretty nice. There is a restroom with a flushing toilet, drinking water and shaded windows to keep out most of the sun. My window for incoming traffic faces west, so I have to have my sunscreen, glasses and hat on all afternoon. At around 9 p.m. I start closing up and counting money, then I secure the money at the visitor center and do the late check.

During the late check we check bathrooms to make sure there are no big messes and that there is no water left running. If the water runs all night, the tank runs out of water and we are in trouble! We also drive through the campground to make sure no one has a wood fire, which is not allowed, check the restrooms for messes and running water, and make sure people are observing the quiet time, which is 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

After that I will head home, down the dark highway into Moab. The drive isn't really bad, most of the time. Most of the year there isn't much traffic and the scenery is pretty. One of the ABSOLUTE BEST sunrises I've ever seen was on my way to work one morning. I wish I had been able to take a picture, but I don't think that would have captured it. Sometimes I get to see kit fox, mule deer, bats, owls, poor-wills, porcupine or coyotes. I swear I saw a skunk crossing the road up here one evening but I could have been wrong--maybe it was a porcupine? Anyway some evening I will take pictures of the drive home and post them here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Interp Fun...

While I was at home sick, a co-worker, Mike, changed our desktop wallpaper into a unicorn with a rainbow. Apparently they were joking around about it, then Mike made the comment, "Kim should do a program about unicorns and rainbows!" I heard all this yesterday, so during my break, I sat down at the computer and came up with a program outline, complete with theme, goal and objectives. Even a conclusion! So....I thought I would share that here, in case anyone is interested in an interpretive program (slide show?) about Unicorns and Rainbows...specifically, the Desert Unicorn...

Title: The Desert Unicorn (Unicornus albofurgoldhornii)

Theme: Unicorns can only be found on the Colorado Plateau during afternoon thunderstorms that produce rainbows.

Goal: To introduce and describe the rare Desert Unicorn.


  • Visitors will be able to describe a Desert Unicorn
  • Visitors will understand where, when and who will be able to view a Desert Unicorn
Props: pictures of the Desert Unicorn, its natural habitat and food that it eats; fossilized horn fragments, fur samples.

Program Introduction:

  • Welcome to Dead Horse Point State Park!
  • Park facts
  • Who I am

Introduction to the Desert Unicorn:

  • Unicorns have been reported in historical writings since the time of Ancient Greece.
  • Unicorns (other species) have been seen worldwide.
  • The Desert Unicorn is a unique species, only visible during summer afternoon thunderstorms that produce thunder, lightning and rainbows.
  • Legend has it that Unicorn horns have medicinal properties, but this has been proven to be false.
  • Leonardo da Vinci wrote about Unicorns, specifically, how to trap one.
  • Similar animals include the Narwhal, Oryx and Eland.
  • Desert Unicorns are endemic to the Colorado Plateau.
Relevance of Rainbows:

  • Desert Unicorns cannot handle the extreme heat of the desert during summer. The coolness of an afternoon thunderstorm creates perfect conditions for their arrival to the desert.
  • Thunderstorms provide valuable drinking water to most animals living on the Colorado Plateau, including the Desert Unicorn.
  • Desert Unicorn use rainbows as camouflage—their predators include but are not limited to: humans, mountain lion, coyote, black bear and mule deer. Gnats, or no-see-ums love to prey on Desert Unicorn blood.
  • Desert Unicorns are rare, unique creatures that call the Colorado Plateau home. Very few lucky visitors will ever see one in their lifetimes.
  • Unicorns are common throughout history, but remain shrouded in myth and legend.
  • Desert Unicorns are similar to more commonly seen desert animals. They need water, shelter from the sun and love to keep them alive.

I didn't take this picture...I wish I did! But I found it on